Stars on cars

What is the Stars on Cars program?


A number of safety-conscious car dealers in South Australia are displaying ANCAP crash test ratings on all 5 star rated cars in their showrooms. The star ratings provide important information about how safe a vehicle would be in a crash.

The ANCAP (Australasian New Car Assessment Program) tests new vehicles under controlled laboratory conditions to determine how well they protect occupants in a crash. Each car is then given a rating out of 5 stars depending on its performance in the crash test. The number of stars the car scores reflects how well it is designed to protect the occupants. For example, each additional star rating provides around 12% more protection against a serious injury in a crash.


To promote the purchase of cars with very good crash test ratings the department is encouraging dealers to display star ratings on all 5 star rated cars in their showroom and lots. 

stars on cars


Research shows you are five times more likely to survive a serious crash when driving a safer car. 

What to look for

With nine out of the 10 top selling cars in Australia having a safety rating of 4 stars or more, it’s not difficult to find a safe car. Many dealerships are displaying the safety ratings of 5 star rated cars with the stickers and swing tags pictured. Look out for these stickers and tags when making your purchase decision.

What to ask for

It is important to know that buying a safer car does not necessarily mean it will cost you more. In many cases, reasonably priced vehicles score more stars than some of the more expensive models. So check the vehicle’s star rating and the safety features that you can expect in most 5 star rated vehicles.


For a car to get a 5 star rating, it must have Electronic Stability Control (ESC). Different manufacturers have different names for ESC - for example Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) and Electronic Stabilisation Program (ESP). ESC is a computer-based system that helps drivers maintain control of their vehicles, particularly in adverse conditions such as wet weather. It continuously monitors a vehicle’s speed, steering wheel angle, direction of travel and cornering acceleration, automatically applying individual brakes if there is a risk of skidding or overturning.

Crumple zones

These protect the occupants by absorbing the energy generated on impact during a crash. Specially designed crumple zones give way, whilst maintaining the structural integrity of the cabin to protect the driver and passengers.


Most new cars now have driver and passenger airbags. However it is important to realise that these alone are not an adequate safety measure in a serious crash. There are many 2 and 3 star rated vehicles on the road that have airbags but are lacking in some of the other features discussed here.

Side impact protection 

To protect passengers in side impact crashes, we recommend cars that are fitted with side and curtain airbags. Curtain airbags usually drop down from the top of the side window, creating a cushion between the occupant and the side of the car and protecting the head and shoulders. Side airbags usually activate from the seat or door panel, protecting the torso. 

Reinforced occupant compartment

The cabin of the car is designed like a cell, making it impossible for the engine to breach the compartment in a front-on crash. This also ensures that the steering column, dashboard, roof pillars and floor panels are not excessively pushed inwards onto the driver and front-seat passenger. Ideally, all doors should still open and close after a serious crash.

Seat belts

The oldest and still the most effective vehicle safety feature is a seat belt. Increasingly car manufacturers are installing three-point lap-sash seatbelts in the middle of the back seat, instead of the single lap belt which is not as effective in a serious crash. Check that the car has a seat belt warning chime to alert the driver when seat belts have not been fastened.


These should be fitted to all seats in the car, not just front seats, to prevent serious whiplash in a crash. Whiplash is a leading cause of injury in minor crashes and can cause significant spinal, neck and head injury in more serious cases. 

More information

ANCAP (Australasian New Car Assessment Program) web site


ANCAP 5 Star rating
the mirror hanger

star rating sticker

 5 star car sticker


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