New online tool allows prospective car-buyers to search by safety rating

Person driving car
New 'safety rating' search criteria is expected to help purchasers make wise decisions. Photo credit: Getty.

A new online tool allows prospective car buyers to include a minimum safety rating in their search for a new - or used - car.

Auction website Trade Me added the feature which allows users to select from a list of safety ratings, along with other key search criteria, such as make, model, price-range and year.  

Indicating the likely performance of a vehicle in a crash, safety ratings range from 1-star to 5-stars. The tool is provided in conjunction with Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, to help people stay safe on the roads.

Trade Me head of motors, Alan Clark, confirmed the ratings are compiled by Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency and published on the Rightcar website. NZ Transport Agency senior manager of road safety, Fabian Marsh, said the new tool will help prospective buyers think about safety - as well as price.  

"Increased visibility is a huge win for our 'Safe Vehicles programme' and a great step to ensuring people think about safety when they are purchasing a vehicle," Marsh said. 

According to the Rightcar website, examples of cars with '5-star' ratings are the BMW I (2014-2020), Holden Spark (2016-2019), Honda Jazz (2014-2020), Mitsubishi Mirage (2013-2020) and Volkswagen Passat (2015-2019).

Based on 2020 Trade Me data for vehicles of the year 2015 or later, the average listing value was $13,872 for a Holden Spark, $15,861 for a Mitsubishi Mirage and $29,767 for a Volkswagen Passat.

In addition to the safety rating feature, buyers who want to know what their current car is worth, or are researching prices of different vehicle makes and models can use the online price-guide feature.  

Based on data entered, such as make, model or year, the tool provides a low, mid and high price range, based on current listings on the website.

Aaron Dickinson, head of product at AA Insurance, said that claims data shows that some cars are involved in more accidents - and are more frequently stolen - than others. 

Past driver behaviour and the type of vehicle they drive are used to calculate the 'premium' - which is the cost a customer pays to insure it.

"We apply factors like age, location and vehicle details such as the year of manufacturer, make and model to come up with an individual’s vehicle insurance premium," Dickinson said.

He said that modern cars generally have better safety features than older models, but the cost of repairs can be higher than people expect.

"Even damage that seems like it only needs a simple repair is posing new challenges for car repairers and insurers because of technology, eg bumpers with blind-spot and parking sensors, and windscreens with inbuilt sensors and cameras."

He said that as new car technology built specifically for safety is currently more expensive to repair, in the short-term, insurance premiums are likely to be higher.  However, he expects technological advancements to lower the number of car incidents in the future, keeping insurance costs in check.

"[We] use technology such as online claims processes and chatbots for more efficient windscreen claims and have created a motor repair apprenticeship programme (2nd year) to counter industry’s skill shortage, which has also affected repair costs," Dickinson added.

The 'safety rating' is a search filter available on Trade Me, including its mobile apps. Search options include 'any rating', or users can select from 1 star or above, through to 5-star.

People can now search online car listings by safety rating (bottom right).
People can now search online car listings by safety rating (bottom right). Photo credit: Supplied/Trade Me.