Car buyers putting looks before safety

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Most of the UK’s car buyers care more about how their new purchase looks than how well it is rated for safety, according to new research.

A survey of buyers’ priorities by Co-op Insurance revealed that the safety performance of a vehicle only just scraped into the top ten considerations, behind other factors such as value, brand and even colour.

In fact, only 4 per cent rated safety as their number one priority when looking for a new vehicle. Almost 80 per cent (79 per cent) said that car safety was very important to them but almost three quarters (71 per cent) still didn’t include it in their top five considerations.

In order of priority, the top ten considerations for car buyers were:

Price

Value for money

Brand

Mileage

Colour

Appearance

Performance

Fuel economy

Size

Safety

In addition, more than half (54 per cent) of drivers didn’t ask any questions about safety features when buying a new or used car.

The Co-op suggests that an ever-growing list of technical jargon and acronyms is confusing buyers and 77 per cent of people survey by the insurer said they would welcome a more proactive approach to highlighting safety features from retailers.

Features such as electronic brake distribution (EBD), electronic stability control (ESC), automatic emergency braking (AEB) are increasingly offered as standard on modern cars but many buyers say there is not enough high-quality information explaining the features and how they work. Sixty-three per cent of those questioned said they wanted to see clear safety information included in all car documentation at the point of purchase.

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.”

As part of its research, the Co-op teamed up with the UK’s official crash test centre - Thatcham Research - to come up with a list of the UK’s safest affordable used family cars. All the cars have a five-star Euro NCAP rating and cost less than £15,000 second hand. Volvo’s V40 hatchback came out top, with VW’s Golf and Nissan’s Qashqai making up the top three.