Cash for clunkers: Victoria tests safe car grant scheme for young drivers


Young drivers in regional areas are 15 times more likely to be killed in an accident. In what is believed to be an Australian first, the Victorian government is offering $5,000 to those willing to trade in their old car for something newer.

Young drivers in Victoria considering upgrading an unsafe old car could receive up to $5,000 to help them buy a newer model, thanks to an expansion of a scheme called ‘Unsafe2safe’.

The Victorian Government is currently carrying out the second phase of a trial with 1,000 motorists – those aged 18 to 25 from regional areas – who are willing to buy a newer, safer vehicle from a dealer.

In addition to age and geographic restrictions, those wishing to participate must hold a Victorian driving license and be the registered owner of a vehicle aged 16 or over – and with a safety rating of two stars or less (or not not be classified).

Eligible candidates can apply to be part of the trial program, with 1,000 drivers to be selected at random.

For successful entrants, the state government will pay up to $5,000 to a participating dealer for a car that is 10 years old or younger and has a high safety rating – with the buyer to pay the balance and associated fees .

Vehicles costing no more than $30,000 with a five-star ANCAP rating less than six years old — or a used-car safety rating or four stars or higher — will be considered, while probationary license holders will be limited to non-prohibited vehicles.

Vehicles that have been recorded on the national register as a recoverable loss are also excluded.

Old vehicles traded in by eligible drivers will be dismantled and scrapped under the $6.9 million program.

The first phase of the trial started in 2021, with young drivers from the Ballarat and Bendigo areas who have already started the process of cashing in their old car for something newer and safer.

Now Unsafe2safe has been extended to include all of regional Victoria.

Young motorists in regional areas are the main target of the program, with data showing that this group is 15 times more likely to be killed in a car accident than the state average.

In January 2021, the Government of Victoria announced it would explore a trial for low-income motorists in regional areas to access “affordable, short-term leases on newer, safer cars”, according to a press release at the time.

While safety is the central idea behind the schemes, removing older cars from the country’s roads – and lowering the average age of the Australian fleet by one year – “would save up to 1,377 lives and create a $19.7 billion in trauma and reduced emissions over 20 years,” according to a 2017 study by the Australian Automobile Association.

The same study found that lowering the average age of the Australian car fleet by one year could also reduce road accidents by around 5%, thanks to safety technology such as electronic stability control ( ECS) which can prevent a skid.

Similar government programs offering cash for older cars – colloquially known as “cash for scrap” – have been implemented in countries like the United States to help stimulate the economy during recessions.

A similar idea was floated by the federal government in 2010 under the guise of improving emissions – known as the “cleaner car rebate” – but the proposal was eventually scrapped, with funds instead allocated to victims of the floods that occurred during the period.

Those interested in learning more about the scheme can visit the VicRoads website by clicking here, while inquiries can be made through the unsafe2safe page on the Engage Victoria website, available here.

Ben Zachary

Ben Zachariah is an experienced automotive writer and journalist from Melbourne, having worked in the automotive industry for over 15 years. Ben was previously an interstate truck driver and completed his MBA in finance in early 2021. He is considered an expert in the field of classic car investing.

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