Special Report

Most Unsafe Cars on the Road

Halfpoint / Getty Images

Thanks to improvements in both vehicle and highway safety standards, driving deaths in the United States remain close to their lowest point in decades. According to a new report released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in October, 36,560 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes in the United States in 2018, which is about 10,000 fewer than 30 years prior, despite there being far more vehicles on the road. 

Vehicles sold today are, on the whole, relatively safe, thanks in part to increasingly strict federal regulations as well as technological improvements such as collision avoidance, anti-lock brakes, smart airbags, and adaptive headlights. Here is some next-generation technology that could soon be in every car

Still, there have been a few rare cars sold in the United States in the last decade that have received subpar scores on major safety tests. 

The NHTSA, a federal agency, rates thousands of sedans, wagons, pickup trucks, SUVs, and vans with scores of 1 to 5 stars for their frontal crash, side crash, and rollover safety. The NHTSA also assigns a 1 to 5 star rating to each model for its overall safety rating. Each of the vehicles rated for the 2019 or 2020 model years has a 4 or 5-star overall review. In previous model years, however, a number of vehicles received 2 or 3 stars. 

24/7 Wall St. listed all 35 examples of models the NHTSA gave an overall safety rating of two or three stars from 2011 or later model years. 2011 was the first year the NHTSA began issuing a more rigorous set of tests and safety standards. In some cases, different versions of a particular model received different scores. In those cases, we listed the lowest-rated model. These cars are grouped by model year but are otherwise in no specific order. The cars pictured represent the model and model year but not necessarily the precise model variation with the lowest NHTSA rating. 

These cars are relatively unsafe compared to other modern vehicles with across the board 5-star safety ratings. Compared to vehicles from even earlier decades, however, when safety standards were not nearly as rigorous, the cars on this list are much safer. Click here to see the deadliest cars in history.

Click here to see the most unsafe cars

Source: IFCAR / Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

1. 2011 Buick Lucerne
> Model variant with low rating: 4-door FWD early release
> Overall NHTSA safety rating: 3/5 stars
> NHTSA frontal crash rating: 5/5 stars
> NHTSA side crash rating: 2/5 stars
> NHTSA rollover rating: 5/5 stars

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Source: RL GNZLZ / Flickr

2. 2011 Ford Escape
> Model variant with low rating: Hev SUV 4×2
> Overall NHTSA safety rating: 3/5 stars
> NHTSA frontal crash rating: 3/5 stars
> NHTSA side crash rating: 3/5 stars
> NHTSA rollover rating: 3/5 stars

Source: United States Department of Transportation / Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

3. 2011 Ford Ranger
> Model variant with low rating: Regular Cab PU/RC 4×2
> Overall NHTSA safety rating: 2/5 stars
> NHTSA frontal crash rating: 2/5 stars
> NHTSA side crash rating: 3/5 stars
> NHTSA rollover rating: 3/5 stars

Source: IFCAR / Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

4. 2011 Honda Civic
> Model variant with low rating: 4-door FWD
> Overall NHTSA safety rating: 3/5 stars
> NHTSA frontal crash rating: 4/5 stars
> NHTSA side crash rating: 2/5 stars
> NHTSA rollover rating: 4/5 stars

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Source: IFCAR / Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

5. 2011 Honda CR-Z
> Model variant with low rating: hatchback FWD
> Overall NHTSA safety rating: 3/5 stars
> NHTSA frontal crash rating: 3/5 stars
> NHTSA side crash rating: 3/5 stars
> NHTSA rollover rating: 5/5 stars

Source: IFCAR / Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

6. 2011 Mazda Tribute
> Model variant with low rating: 4-door SUV 4×2
> Overall NHTSA safety rating: 3/5 stars
> NHTSA frontal crash rating: 3/5 stars
> NHTSA side crash rating: 3/5 stars
> NHTSA rollover rating: 3/5 stars

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Source: IFCAR / Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

7. 2011 Mercury Mariner
> Model variant with low rating: 4-door SUV 4×2
> Overall NHTSA safety rating: 3/5 stars
> NHTSA frontal crash rating: 3/5 stars
> NHTSA side crash rating: 3/5 stars
> NHTSA rollover rating: 3/5 stars

Source: IFCAR / Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

8. 2011 Nissan Versa
> Model variant with low rating: 4-door FWD
> Overall NHTSA safety rating: 2/5 stars
> NHTSA frontal crash rating: 3/5 stars
> NHTSA side crash rating: 2/5 stars
> NHTSA rollover rating: 4/5 stars

Source: Thomas doerfer / Wikimedia Commons

9. 2011 Ram 1500 Crew
> Model variant with low rating: PU/CC 4WD
> Overall NHTSA safety rating: 3/5 stars
> NHTSA frontal crash rating: 2/5 stars
> NHTSA side crash rating: 5/5 stars
> NHTSA rollover rating: 3/5 stars

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Source: IFCAR / Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

10. 2011 Toyota Camry
> Model variant with low rating: 4-door FWD early Release
> Overall NHTSA safety rating: 3/5 stars
> NHTSA frontal crash rating: 3/5 stars
> NHTSA side crash rating: 3/5 stars
> NHTSA rollover rating: 4/5 stars

Source: United States Department of Transportation / Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

11. 2011 Toyota Corolla
> Model variant with low rating: 4-door FWD
> Overall NHTSA safety rating: 3/5 stars
> NHTSA frontal crash rating: 4/5 stars
> NHTSA side crash rating: 2/5 stars
> NHTSA rollover rating: 4/5 stars

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Source: U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration / Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

12. 2011 Toyota RAV4
> Model variant with low rating: SUV AWD
> Overall NHTSA safety rating: 3/5 stars
> NHTSA frontal crash rating: 3/5 stars
> NHTSA side crash rating: 4/5 stars
> NHTSA rollover rating: 4/5 stars

Source: Scott Olson / Getty Images

13. 2012 Acura TL
> Model variant with low rating: 4-door 4WD Early Release
> Overall NHTSA safety rating: 3/5 stars
> NHTSA frontal crash rating: 2/5 stars
> NHTSA side crash rating: 4/5 stars
> NHTSA rollover rating: 5/5 stars

Source: United States Department of Transportation / Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

14. 2012 Chevrolet Silverado 2500
> Model variant with low rating: PU/CC 4WD without side air bags
> Overall NHTSA safety rating: 3/5 stars
> NHTSA frontal crash rating: 3/5 stars
> NHTSA side crash rating: 4/5 stars
> NHTSA rollover rating: 4/5 stars

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Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

15. 2012 Dodge Caliber
> Model variant with low rating: 4-door FWD
> Overall NHTSA safety rating: 3/5 stars
> NHTSA frontal crash rating: 4/5 stars
> NHTSA side crash rating: 3/5 stars
> NHTSA rollover rating: 4/5 stars

Source: United States Department of Transportation / Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

16. 2012 Fiat 500
> Model variant with low rating: hatchback FWD early Release
> Overall NHTSA safety rating: 3/5 stars
> NHTSA frontal crash rating: 4/5 stars
> NHTSA side crash rating: 2/5 stars
> NHTSA rollover rating: 4/5 stars

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Source: RL GNZLZ / Flickr

17. 2012 Ford Escape
> Model variant with low rating: Hev SUV 4×2
> Overall NHTSA safety rating: 3/5 stars
> NHTSA frontal crash rating: 3/5 stars
> NHTSA side crash rating: 3/5 stars
> NHTSA rollover rating: 3/5 stars

Source: Rudolf Stricker / Wikimedia Commons

18. 2012 Ford Transit Connect
> Model variant with low rating: VAN FWD
> Overall NHTSA safety rating: 2/5 stars
> NHTSA frontal crash rating: 3/5 stars
> NHTSA side crash rating: 2/5 stars
> NHTSA rollover rating: 3/5 stars

Source: Bull-Doser / Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

19. 2012 GMC Sierra 2500
> Model variant with low rating: RWD without side air bags
> Overall NHTSA safety rating: 3/5 stars
> NHTSA frontal crash rating: 3/5 stars
> NHTSA side crash rating: 4/5 stars
> NHTSA rollover rating: 3/5 stars

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Source: OSX / Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

20. 2012 Hyundai Santa Fe
> Model variant with low rating: SUV AWD
> Overall NHTSA safety rating: 3/5 stars
> NHTSA frontal crash rating: 4/5 stars
> NHTSA side crash rating: 2/5 stars
> NHTSA rollover rating: 4/5 stars

Source: United States Department of Transportation

21. 2012 Jeep Liberty
> Model variant with low rating: SUV 2WD
> Overall NHTSA safety rating: 3/5 stars
> NHTSA frontal crash rating: 2/5 stars
> NHTSA side crash rating: 4/5 stars
> NHTSA rollover rating: 3/5 stars

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Source: United States Department of Transportation / Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

22. 2012 Lexus ES350
> Model variant with low rating: 4-door FWD
> Overall NHTSA safety rating: 3/5 stars
> NHTSA frontal crash rating: 4/5 stars
> NHTSA side crash rating: 2/5 stars
> NHTSA rollover rating: 4/5 stars

Source: Kevauto / Wikimedia Commons

23. 2012 Ram 1500
> Model variant with low rating: Regular PU/RC 2WD
> Overall NHTSA safety rating: 3/5 stars
> NHTSA frontal crash rating: 4/5 stars
> NHTSA side crash rating: 3/5 stars
> NHTSA rollover rating: 4/5 stars

Source: CZmarlin — Christopher Ziemnowicz / Wikimedia Commons

24. 2012 Ram 2500
> Model variant with low rating: Crew PU/CC 4WD
> Overall NHTSA safety rating: 3/5 stars
> NHTSA frontal crash rating: 2/5 stars
> NHTSA side crash rating: 5/5 stars
> NHTSA rollover rating: 3/5 stars

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Source: order_242 / Wikimedia Commons

25. 2013 Chevrolet Silverado
> Model variant with low rating: 2500 PU/RC RWD
> Overall NHTSA safety rating: 2/5 stars
> NHTSA frontal crash rating: 2/5 stars
> NHTSA side crash rating: 2/5 stars
> NHTSA rollover rating: 3/5 stars

Source: Vauxford / Wikimedia Commons

26. 2013 Ford Transit Connect
> Model variant with low rating: VAN FWD
> Overall NHTSA safety rating: 2/5 stars
> NHTSA frontal crash rating: 3/5 stars
> NHTSA side crash rating: 2/5 stars
> NHTSA rollover rating: 3/5 stars

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Source: Courtesy of GMC

27. 2013 GMC Sierra 2500
> Model variant with low rating: PU/RC RWD
> Overall NHTSA safety rating: 2/5 stars
> NHTSA frontal crash rating: 2/5 stars
> NHTSA side crash rating: 2/5 stars
> NHTSA rollover rating: 3/5 stars

Source: GPS 56 / Wikimedia Commons

28. 2013 Jeep Compass
> Model variant with low rating: SUV 2WD
> Overall NHTSA safety rating: 3/5 stars
> NHTSA frontal crash rating: 3/5 stars
> NHTSA side crash rating: 4/5 stars
> NHTSA rollover rating: 4/5 stars

Source: Courtesy of Chevrolet

29. 2014 Chevrolet Captiva
> Model variant with low rating: SUV AWD
> Overall NHTSA safety rating: 3/5 stars
> NHTSA frontal crash rating: 3/5 stars
> NHTSA side crash rating: 3/5 stars
> NHTSA rollover rating: 4/5 stars

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Source: order_242 / Wikimedia Commons

30. 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 2500
> Model variant with low rating: PU/RC RWD
> Overall NHTSA safety rating: 2/5 stars
> NHTSA frontal crash rating: 2/5 stars
> NHTSA side crash rating: 2/5 stars
> NHTSA rollover rating: 3/5 stars

Source: Courtesy of GMC

31. 2014 GMC Sierra 2500
> Model variant with low rating: PU/RC RWD
> Overall NHTSA safety rating: 2/5 stars
> NHTSA frontal crash rating: 2/5 stars
> NHTSA side crash rating: 2/5 stars
> NHTSA rollover rating: 3/5 stars

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Source: Photo by Scott Olson / Getty Images

32. 2014 Toyota Tundra
> Model variant with low rating: PU/EC 2WD
> Overall NHTSA safety rating: 3/5 stars
> NHTSA frontal crash rating: 2/5 stars
> NHTSA side crash rating: 5/5 stars
> NHTSA rollover rating: 3/5 stars

Source: M 93 / Wikimedia Commons

33. 2015 Chevrolet Captiva
> Model variant with low rating: SUV AWD
> Overall NHTSA safety rating: 3/5 stars
> NHTSA frontal crash rating: 3/5 stars
> NHTSA side crash rating: 3/5 stars
> NHTSA rollover rating: 4/5 stars

Source: Courtesy of Chevrolet

34. 2015 Chevrolet Silverado 2500
> Model variant with low rating: PU/EC 4WD
> Overall NHTSA safety rating: 3/5 stars
> NHTSA frontal crash rating: 2/5 stars
> NHTSA side crash rating: 5/5 stars
> NHTSA rollover rating: 3/5 stars

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Source: Courtesy of GMC

35. 2015 GMC Sierra 2500
> Model variant with low rating: PU/RC RWD
> Overall NHTSA safety rating: 3/5 stars
> NHTSA frontal crash rating: 2/5 stars
> NHTSA side crash rating: 5/5 stars
> NHTSA rollover rating: 3/5 stars

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