Top 10 Vehicles With the Worst Safety Ratings

The Chevrolet Aveo has topped our list of the 10 most dangerous vehicles for three years in a row. Expect to pay $100 to $400 extra in car insurance rates.

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A former insurance producer, Laura understands that education is key when it comes to buying insurance. She has happily dedicated many hours to helping her clients understand how the insurance marketplace works so they can find the best car, home, and life insurance products for their needs.

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He has an MBA from the University of South Florida. Jo...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder & CFP®

UPDATED: May 20, 2020

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Here's what you need to know...

  • No car is perfect when it comes to safety but manufacturers are attempting to make cars safer
  • Technical advances like crumple zones, reinforced cabin beams, and electronic stability control have reduced fatalities and severe injuries
  • Unsafe vehicles may mean you will have to pay more expensive car insurance rates

Some recent makes and models of vehicles simply don’t pass muster when it comes to safety ratings, according to the Insurance Institute For Highway Safety’s 2009, 2010, and 2011 rankings.

We called three major insurance companies to ask them how much more they’d charge to insure these cars. You might be a little surprised by their car insurance comparison statistics.

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Below are the top 10 most unsafe vehicles:

1. 2009-2011 Chevrolet Aveo

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image source

A three-time loser in the rankings, 2009, 2010, and 2011 Aveos all made the most dangerous list.

The car doesn’t handle rear impacts nearly as well as front-end impacts, meaning that if drivers get rear-ended at high speeds, they’re in trouble.

Insurance Premium Increase – This vehicle had premiums ranging from 10 to 40 percent higher than average, which equals an extra $100 to $400 in car insurance rates.

One agent, Steve, summed it up for us, “The Aveo is not the best car for safety on the road, so driving record is really important here. A good driver would probably only pay about 10 percent more; a bad driver, especially in the 2009 model, I might not even give him a quote.”

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2. 2010 Kia Spectra

A recent entrant, the Spectra topped the 2011 ratings for among the highest deaths per million drivers due to poor protection on the rear and sides.

Insurance Premium Increase – 20 to 50 percent

One agent said, “Kias are relatively safe. Keep in mind that 102 deaths per million vehicles is pretty minor all around. That said, even fender benders are more likely to cost me. So I have to price accordingly.”

3. 2009-2011 Nissan 350Z

The 350Z is on the list because it’s a sports car. Not only is it small and thus not likely to come out better in a collision, sports car drivers are known for their love of speeding.

Insurance Premium Increase – 15 to 45 percent in addition to the usual sports car premium.

Amanda, an agent we interviewed, summed it up like this, “You want me to insure a sports car? That’s not cheap. You want me to insure a sports car that’s slightly more likely to kill you? That’s insane. I’ve given cheaper rates to Porsche drivers.”

4. Hummer

yellow hummer luxury car

Hummers are awful in terms of rear-end safety, making them dangerous to drive, especially since they can cause a lot of collateral damage. But that’s not what makes them so unappealing.

Insurance Premium Increase – 50 percent or more, and that’s if you can find an insurer.

One agent explained, “They’re a defunct brand, with a bad safety rating across the board, expensive parts, and a tendency among drivers to be more likely to drive badly because they feel safe even though they aren’t. So not only will they wreck, and every Hummer I’ve insured has wrecked, they’ll cost a fortune to fix.”

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5. Any SUV manufactured before 2004

SUVs post-2004 tend to come with electronic stability control, a vital safety feature that has rendered them much safer than other classes of cars.

But before then, without the ESC, they were major rollover risks compared to other vehicles.

Insurance Premium Increase – 15 to 75 percent

“It’s because teenagers and bad drivers are driving them,” says an agent. “They’re old, so they’re filtering down to the market of people who just need a junker and may not be the best driver.”

6. 2010 Chrysler PT Cruiser

The PT Cruiser may look unique, but those unique looks come with a cost.

The PT Cruiser is less safe than others in its class when it comes to side or rear impacts.

Insurance Premium Increase – 25 percent at least

“It really depends on the driver in this case, because, again,” emphasized an agent, “these cars aren’t nearly as dangerous as much older models. But being hit anywhere but the front means a higher cost of repair, so the premiums reflect that.”

7. 2010 Toyota Sienna

 image source

image source

The Sienna doesn’t do well with rear impacts which is a problem since it’s a minivan.

Insurance Premium Increase – 30 percent or more, depending on who’s in the back seat.

One agent actively dislikes this vehicle. “If a guy with a family walks in, I’ve got to ask myself how likely it is his child is going to be injured. It’s the worst part of my job by a country mile. They’re not deliberately risking their kids. But I have to charge accordingly. Thankfully I’ve never had an accident.”

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8. 2011 Nissan Titan

The Titan is the least safe pickup on the market, according to many, thanks to its poor side-impact performance.

Insurance Premium Increase – 10 to 60 percent

One agent laid it out for us: “It really depends on use. If this is tooling around a construction site, not really on roads, whatever. If it’s on the roads a lot, it’s at risk.” Another stated that “pickups, in general, are not the safest class, and honestly Titans aren’t that popular anyway, but they’re just more dangerous for the class.”

9. 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt

The Cobalt doesn’t actually have an area in which it’s worst. It’s just all-around mediocre in terms of safety.

Insurance Premium Increase – 10 to 25 percent

The agents agreed that the Cobalt is riskier but not as bad as some on this list. “Put it to you this way, I probably wouldn’t buy my kid one, but I wouldn’t warn an adult who knew what he was getting into away from it,” one told us.

10. 2010 Kia Rio

The Rio is another 270 degrees car, a car where only the front end does well in crash tests.

Insurance Ratings Increase – 20 to 40

“It’s small, it has bad crash protection, and it’s everywhere,” said one agent.

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A Few General Tips

The insurance agents we surveyed shared a few tips with us on how they determine insurance rates for specific vehicles:

  • Side and rear impacts are the biggest problems making those the factors agents most closely scrutinize.
  • Even the worst current model cars from insurance research are leaps and bounds better than cars from five years ago. This is especially true of SUVs.
  • A black, gray, blue, or red car will tend to blend into the background for other drivers and make an impact more likely. Painting your car a more visible color will lead to premium cuts.
  • Driving record also matters. A driver with a spotless record in a bad car may not notice a change in premiums simply because their careful driving counteracts the risks of the car.

Remember, always check the safety ratings of a car before purchasing it, and when you’re not sure about a car’s insurance, look to this website for answers.

We’ll run your insurance needs by dozens of insurers and find you the best possible rates. We’ve even got the tools to help you find the insurance rates on a car you’re thinking of owning.

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