Motorists calling for a crash course in car safety

19 July 2016

  • Appearance miles ahead of safety when it comes to car buying decisions
  • Despite this, over three quarters of UK drivers believe safety ratings should be increasingly highlighted when buying a car
  • Drivers calling on the industry for a safety report on new and used car purchases
  • Co-op Insurance reveals UK’s Top 10 safest used family cars

New research from the Co-op Insurance has revealed that the safety of a car is not on the shopping list for the majority of car buyers across the UK, with only 4% placing car safety at the top of their buying criteria*.

However, despite this over three quarters (77%) of drivers are calling on the motor industry to be more proactive when it comes to highlighting both new and used vehicle safety features.

The research has revealed that whilst 79% of consumers describe car safety as very important when buying a car, 71% don’t place safety in their top five buying criteria, with price, value for money and car brand  taking precedence in the buying process.

The top ten things that prospective car buyers prioritise when choosing a car:

Top 10 car buying considerations

  1. Price
  2. Value for money
  3. Brand
  4. Mileage
  5. Colour
  6. Appearance (if there are scratches)
  7. Performance (how fast it goes)
  8. Fuel economy
  9. Size
  10. Safety

When it comes to safety, over half of drivers (54%) did not ask any questions about safety when they were making their car purchase. This despite features like Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), Lane Keep Assist and Blind Spot Detection now being widely available on many affordable used cars.

This may be because motorists are left confused by a deluge of jargon, acronyms and a lack of quality information when it comes to understanding car safety according to the new research released by Co-op Insurance and safety experts Thatcham Research.

Over two thirds (68%) have no idea what the safety rating of their own car is, and more than half (54%) didn’t ask about car safety at all when making a purchase.

The confusion is thought to stem from a rise in safety jargon, with a third of consumers calling for a motoring equivalent of the ‘homebuyers report’ but for car safety, and 63% wanting clear safety information included in all car documentation at the point of purchase.

Top 5: Confusing car safety jargon

Jargon Translator % left confused
1. AEB Systems Automatic Emergency Braking 77%
2. ESC Speed Control 73%
3. Mid-speed Collision Mitigation System Collision warning alarm 71%
4. ISOFIX Attachment clips for child safety seats 60%
5. Fatigue Detection Drowsiness alarms 59%

The used car market is changing dramatically, as newer models are often made to a higher quality than in decades gone by. Two thirds (66%) of motorists believe that a new car is automatically safer than a used car, however many older cars can often be a safer option. According to Thatcham Research, a driver of a Euro NCAP 5 Star rated car, has a 60% greater likelihood of walking away from a crash compared to someone driving a 1 Star car.

To help demystify some of the safety technology commonly available on reasonably priced second hand cars, Co-op Insurance has teamed up with Thatcham Research – the UK’s official crash test centre - to devise a formula ranking Britain’s safest affordable used family cars, providing unique insight into choosing the safest car for your family and improving road safety in local communities.

The Volvo V40, with safety pack, has been awarded the top spot and is the Co-op’s Safest Used Family Car of 2016. In runner up positions are the Volkswagen Golf and the Nissan Qashqai. All of the vehicles should cost no more than £15,000 on the second hand market.

UK’s Top 10 Safest Used Family Cars

Make and Model Year
1. Volvo V40** 2012
2. Volkswagen Golf 2012
3. Nissan Qashqai 2014
4. Peugeot 308 2013
5. Vauxhall Astra 2015
6. Mazda 3 2013
7. Mercedes A Class 2012
8. Honda Civic 2012
9. Mazda CX-5 2012
10. Fiat 500L 2014

James Hillon, Director of Products at Co-op Insurance said:

“The impact that road incidents can have on communities can be devastating. Car safety is so important, not only for drivers but for all road users.“Our research has found that price dominates buying decision and safety just isn’t front of mind when consumers shop for a used car.

“At the Co-op we are keen to help educate people not only about car safety, but about what they should be thinking about before they even set foot on a car forecourt. By knowing more about the safety options that are available, we hope that this will lead to more informed buying decisions and, hopefully, safer choices leading to safer roads.”

Mike Bristow, from Brake said:

“Vehicle safety technology can be crucial in protecting drivers, and more vulnerable road users should they be involved in a crash. These statistics show that many people feel vehicle safety is important when buying a car, however it also highlights a lack of understanding of what is available to help keep them safe. We need to ensure there is comprehensive and clear information available to drivers on safety when purchasing a car, helping to protect all road users.”

Matthew Avery, Director of Research at Thatcham Research said:

“What is clear is that if you have £15.000 to spend, there is a good choice of new and used cars that have excellent safety features to choose from.   The key safety questions to consider when purchasing a used car are:  firstly what Euro NCAP rating does it have - five stars are what you should be looking for; does it have AEB fitted?, And thirdly, what other safety technology options, often found in safety packs, are available.”

Quentin Willson, motoring expert, said:

“With so many more used cars sold every year than new this is a vital source of information to keep consumers and communities safe. Buying second hand doesn't mean second rate for safety and now we have a guide to help buyers make the very safest purchasing decisions.”

Key safety considerations when purchasing a used car

  1. Check what Euro NCAP safety rating the car has – this gives a guide on the crash worthiness of the car and its ability to avoid a crash in the first place.  A 5 Star rating is what you should be looking for
  2. Does it have  AEB (autonomous emergency braking) fitted - AEB is a safety technology first used on production cars in 2008 that monitors the traffic conditions ahead and automatically brakes the car in an emergency situation if the driver fails to respond. It is proven to prevent crashes and is a feature fitted to many widely available used cars 
  3. What additional safety features are available - look for cars that have an additional safety pack that can include technologies like lane keep assist, that actively helps you stay in lane. Active Cruise Control takes the burden of long journeys by keeping you at a safe distance from the car in front, Driver Monitor Systems stop you falling asleep at the wheel and High Beam Assist automatically dip your headlamps.  And for your most valuable passenger, ISOFIX child seats that make buckling and unbuckling them a doddle.

For more information please contact:

Jenna Moss
Press and Media Relations Manager
0161 767 4354 / 07770 441 828

Sarah Dawson
Press Officer

Note to editors                                         

*Research conducted by ICM Unlimited questioning 2,000 people in June 2016
** With safety pack

How the vehicles were chosen:

Our criteria:  The criteria used were that all cars needed to have a five-star EURO NCAP rating, have CO2 emissions of 120g/km or less and be available to purchase on the second hand market for £15.000, making them accessible to more people.  They were then evaluated further on crash worthiness that included ratings for adult, child and pedestrian protection and the availability of Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB)

About The Co-op Insurance

The Co-op Insurance is a UK-based general insurer that operates principally within the personal lines segments of the motor and home insurance markets. The Co op Insurance underwrites the majority of business written, supplemented with some small lines of business where The Co op Insurance acts as a distributor or has a 100% reinsurance arrangement in place.

With more than 1.18m customers, The Co op Insurance is committed to ‘Doing the Right Thing’ and always strives to treat customers and members fairly. The Co op Insurance pioneered the way in lowering the insurance premiums of young drivers as the first major insurer to launch a pay how you drive telematics insurance product for young drivers in 2011. Since launching the scheme, The Co op Insurance has saved its young drivers more than £7.2 million in their first year of driving.

About Thatcham Research

Thatcham Research is the independent voice of automotive safety & repair, advising motorists, insurers and vehicle manufacturers to help reduce accident frequency, severity and costs and to realise the vision of ‘Safer cars, fewer crashes’.

As well as its world leading crash and track research, Thatcham Research tests and accredits crash repair parts, vehicle repair technicians, and a number of other products and services within the collision repair industry for insurers, motor manufacturers, equipment manufacturers and suppliers.

A founder member of the international Research Council for Automobile Repairs (RCAR), Thatcham has also been a member of the European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP) since 2004.