The 12 Least Safe Automobiles of All Time

When you’re buying a new car, there are many characteristics you look for, and many decisions weigh on your mind.  A 2005 study found that 40,000 Americans die each year in car accidents,but unless you’re buying a minivan or other family vehicle, safety may not be your first concern: Do I want 2 doors and sporty or 4 doors and practical?  Should I go for the Bose sound system?  What color would I look best in?  However, after reading this article, maybe you’ll prioritize safety a bit higher in your next search for a car.  These are the 12 least safe cars of all time.  






12. Chevrolet Trailblazer, 2009 – It’s blazing trails all the way to the cemetery.                         clip_image002Recently ranked among the lowest-scoring vehicles in the Forbes Most Dangerous Vehicles list, the Trailblazer ranked especially low for its poor performance in rear-end accidents and roll-over propensity. 


11. Kia Rio, 2009 – Lots of vowels, not so much protection.                                                                  clip_image002[9]Also bottom of the list on the Forbes Most Dangerous Vehicles list,the Rio scored so low because unless you get hit from the front, you can expect a trip to the ICU. 



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10.  Chevrolet Corvette, 1984-1988 (at least) – That midlife crisis is really becoming an issue.         clip_image002[12]For these first two, it’s not the cars themselves; it’s the people that drive them.  Since 1984, the IIHS (Insurance Institute of Highway Safety) has been tracking car occupant death rates, and the Corvette was always near the top.  Something about those racing flags make drivers think they are, well, racing.  Unfortunately from 1984-88, this meant that more than twice as many people died in Corvettes than other cars. 


9. Ford Mustang, 1984-1988 – The ultimate meathead car has, not surprisingly, meathead results.    clip_image002[14]As with the Corvette, it’s not that the car is poorly made, it’s that there’s just too much testosterone flowing through America’s veins. From 1984-88, it was barely second to the Corvette in occupant deaths. 


8. Smart Fortwo, 2009 – It’s like that kid from your chemistry class: very smart in the classroom, not so smart out on the street.                                                                                                                      clip_image002[16]The Smart Car has many benefits, like its ability to use a bike rack to park and its hilarity as a practical joke for your 16 year-old.  However, safety may be an issue.  Although tests have shown that it fares well compared to other vehicles of its size (you know, all the ones from Toys-R-Us), it went airborne when it hit a Mercedes C-Class at 40 mph in one test.  The C-Class isn’t exactly a tank, either.  Well, it’d still make a sweet golf cart. 


7. Yugo GV, 1985 – It’s fine if you don’t need it for more than 40,000 miles or live anywhere windy.  clip_image002[18]Widely publicized as the car that was blown off a bridge by a gust of wind, the good ol’ Yugo was also called “barely” a car and “disposable.”  The engine would often bust after less than 50,000 miles due to a belt issue (and really just a bad engine), and

it was common to hear customers complaining of many parts simply falling off.


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6. Bricklin SV-1, 1974-1976 – Picture running a full sized engine in a car made of children’s plastic.  clip_image002[20]Not only were the very, very heavy doors in a gull-wing design that was just bound to slice off a finger or two, the car was made of fiberglass and bonded acrylic,which at the time was not perfected, and resulted in a body that couldn’t handle the heat that an automobile gives off.  The best part: SV-1 stands for “Safety Car 1.”


5. Chevrolet Corvair, 1960-1963 – Thanks for putting Ralph Nader on the map, Chevy.                      clip_image002[22]The example for which Nader’s book Unsafe at Any Speed is best known, the 1960-63 models of the Corvair had engines in the rear, often pumped toxic fumes into the inside of the car, and had a steering column which was known to impale drivers in accidents.  Nader’s main focus was an issue with the suspension that caused unsafe conditions to drivers, and required owners to keep the tires at higher air pressure than recommended.


4. Peel Trident, 1966 – Main selling point: if it runs out of gas, you can always play soccer with it.  clip_image002[24]With a weight of 198 pounds and enough space for Verne Troyer to sit comfortably, the Trident is really no more than a backwards and motorized big wheel that you don’t have to pedal.  Good thing Hummer wasn’t around in 1966.


3. Waterman Aerobile, 1957 – There’s a reason pilots have to go to flight school.                          clip_image002[26]Waldo Waterman was intent on making the first flying car, and succeeded.  Two Aerobiles even made flights from Santa Monica to Ohio.  It’s not that this isn’t a feat of engineering, it’s that your average Joe honking in traffic and flipping the bird to other drivers shouldn’t have the option to take flight.  Ever.


2. Briggs & Stratton Flyer/Smith Flyer, 1915-1925 – No doors, no windshield, no protection of any kind? No Problem!                                                                                                                                      clip_image002[28]In the Guinness Book of Records as the most inexpensive car of all time, The Flyer is little more than a combination of a sled, a bicycle with a lawn mower engine (a whopping 2 HP, it was actually later used for lawn mowers and small motorized equipment).  Not exactly a demolition-derby-ready vehicle, but then again, at least it doesn’t spontaneously combust (see #1).




1. Ford Pinto, 1971-1980 – Sometimes fender-benders get blown out of proportion, other times they just get blown up all together.                                                                                                                clip_image002[30]The little engine that couldn’t, the Pinto is a perfect of example of how American car manufacturers let the foreign manufacturers jump into the U.S. market.  When your car is infamous for catching fire or exploding when rear-ended at non-fatal speeds (a design flaw involving the fuel tank), it’s time for the market to get some new options.  Ford didn’t do itself any PR favors; it is commonly alleged that the company weighed the costs of paying off potential lawsuits or fixing the manufacturing issue ($50 million vs. $120 million), and well, let’s just say Ford wasn’t laying off any lawyers in the late 70s.

Everyone knows that the road is a dangerous place.  However, choosing the right vehicle can go a long way.  A look at the Forbes Safest Cars of 2009 list reveals that its best to go for a Honda, an Acura, or a Subaru, as these three brands made up 11 of the 15 vehicles on the list.  All the vehicles on the list scored high on the safety tests, and most importantly, not one of them is known for exploding.   

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