Everything you need to know about ANCAP safety ratings

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There are a lot of numbers when it comes to buying a new car. Overall mileage. How fast it takes to reach the speed limit. How many bums it can fit on seats inside. But safety is one of the more critical considerations for buying a new car for you, your family, and even people outside your vehicle.

This is where the ANCAP safety ratings step in.

What are ANCAP safety ratings?

ANCAP is short for Australasian New Car Assessment Program which, though a mouthful, goes a long way to explaining what it’s all about. In practice, ANCAP safety ratings are a star-rating system, ranked from zero to five stars. The more stars a vehicle receives in its appraisal, the better the rating.

While car manufacturers make claims about the safety of their vehicles, ANCAP is an independent safety authority for appraising vehicles on several key metrics. ANCAP is used to evaluate new passenger vehicles, SUVs and light commercial vehicles. The official ANCAP website lets you check hundreds of appraised vehicles by make and model, vehicle category, safety rating (including zero stars and unrated vehicles), fuel type, and the year the vehicle was rated.

From a top-level perspective, the ANCAP’s goal is to push for safe vehicles, roads, and road users. Linked to these strategic objectives are ANCAP’s four key focus areas: assess, influence, advocate, and innovate.

What’s included in the ANCAP safety ratings?

ANCAP ratings factor in safety considerations for both occupants of a vehicle and pedestrians outside. New vehicles are appraised in terms of what would happen in the event of a crash, with the most common types used to determine the ratings. Additionally, a new vehicle’s technology is evaluated in terms of how well it can minimise or even avoid a potential crash.

It’s important to note that as standards change, so too do ANCAP safety ratings. This is why the vehicle search results prominently display the year a vehicle was tested. Basically, a five-star car from 2015 (when ANCAP first kicked off) will likely have some difference in reactive and proactive safety features compared to a vehicle from 2022.

To receive a coveted five-star ANCAP safety rating, a vehicle must meet the highest standards in all ANCAP tests and include advanced safety-assist technologies.

How do you interpret ANCAP safety ratings?

At the top level, a five-star ANCAP safety rating for a vehicle means it’s very safe. But as flagged above, read this in the context of the year that score was awarded. The later the year, the more impressive the score, and the more aligned it is with current vehicle safety standards, as determined by ANCAP.

The calendar year for a safety rating is also included by ANCAP to incentivise vehicle manufacturers to continually improve safety features. Digging deeper into the vehicle results on the ANCAP website, though, there’s a percentage breakdown of a vehicle’s safety inclusions across four key categories (for all vehicles appraised from January 2018) that are used to determine the overall star rating.

It’s worth flagging that a five-star rating doesn’t mean a vehicle scores 100% in each of these categories. Let’s use the five-star 2022 test for the 300 Series Toyota Landcruiser as an example. The four areas of evaluation are Adult Occupant Protection (AOP), Child Occupant Protection (COP), Vulnerable Road User Protection (VRU), and Safety Assist (SA). For context, the Toyota Landcruiser scored 89% for AOP, 88% for COP, 81% for VRU, and 77% for SA.

Here's how each ANCAP category breaks down:

  • AOP: Weighs up how protected adult occupants are, seated in the front and back (second row) of a vehicle during the most typical forms of serious injury crashes.
  • COP: Considers how protected a child occupant is, seated in appropriate child restraints in a back seat, as well as the ability for a vehicle to adequately accommodate an array of child restraints.
  • VRU: Evaluates the front of a vehicle in terms of minimising injury to a struck person, plus an assessment of a vehicle’s ability to avoid or mitigate hitting a cyclist or pedestrian.
  • SA: Appraises the inclusion and effectiveness of any active safety technologies that are part of the vehicle and designed to assist the driver in minimising or preventing the impact of a crash.

What tests are performed as part of ANCAP safety testing?

The ANCAP process involves physical crash tests alongside evaluation performance tests of relevant active safety systems. Physical crash tests are designed to simulate common types of vehicle crashes, including:

  • Vehicle frontal impact
  • Vehicle side impact
  • Vehicle run off road
  • Vehicle rear-ending
  • Vehicle pedestrian strikes

The impact on both adult and child occupants is evaluated as part of these tests by using a range of specialised crash-test dummies.

As for performance tests of active safety systems, the standards from 2020 onwards include autonomous emergency braking (AEB), automatic emergency steering (AES), lane support systems (LSS), and speed assistance systems (SAS). ANCAP notes that the overall star rating a vehicle receives is limited by its lowest performing area.


ANCAP is short for Australasian New Car Assessment Program. According to ANCAP, it’s also more commonly abbreviated to ANCAP SAFETY.
We believe ANCAP safety ratings are good because they evaluate the common type of vehicle collisions and the safety features that can help minimise these collisions. The higher the star rating and percentage breakdown for the four key appraisal categories, the safer the vehicle.
The ANCAP safety ratings are evolving as new technologies are introduced. That said, according to Car Expert, a new vehicle is well on the road to a good rating if it includes the following safety features:
  • Electronic stability control
  • Emergency braking assist
  • Head-protecting airbags
  • Intelligent seat-belt reminders
  • Three-point seat belts
  • Top-tether child-restraint anchor points
Nathan Lawrence
Written by
Nathan Lawrence

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