The Top 5 Worst Cars of All Time

Written by Thomas Wilkins

Thomas is an intern at Your Auto Advocate. With previous experience as a newspaper writer and editor, Thomas is excited to help consumers navigate the confusing realm of car buying and ownership.

July 15, 2020

After forty years in the automotive industry, Ray Shefska has seen his fair share of great cars. Those same forty years have also given him a look at some of the worst. Let’s check out his top 5 worst cars of all time!

#5 Ford Pinto

“It didn’t have very many problems other than the fact that if it was rear ended, it would probably turn into a fireball,” says Ray. “I had to appraise one. I was always afraid to drive it on the street. I was always wanting to make sure that nobody was too close behind me.” Due to the tank being located at the rear, a simple fender bender could go from inconvenient to deadly in a matter of moments. “It was probably the only car that Ford ever sold that came standard with an asbestos driving suit,” Ray jokes. 

The Ford Pinto was in production from 1971–1980. It didn’t take long before The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) became aware of the Pinto’s penchant to catch on fire. Ford ultimately recalled 1.5 million Pinto’s in 1978 and faced 117 different lawsuits from consumers as a result of the vehicle’s poor fuel system design.

#4 Chevrolet Corvair

“Ralph Nader wrote a book about it entitled Unsafe at Any Speed. I believe that even included while parked,” Ray remarks, “It was supposed to make driving better because the weight of the engine was over the drive wheels.” This very innovation was the Corvair’s downfall. The rear engine placement resulted in very poor handling, which in a performance vehicle means lots of accidents. The Corvair was also notorious for housing toxic fumes. “Chevrolet had not quite figured out how to keep all the fumes out of a cabin from having the engine in the rear,” Ray says.

In production from 1960–1969, Chevrolet produced and sold nearly 1.8 million Corvairs. And ironically, Motor Trend awarded the Corvair its “Car of the Year” award for 1960. Nonetheless, the Chevrolet Corvair comes in at number 4 on Ray’s list of the worst cars of all time.

If you’re thinking about buying a car, you might enjoy this article: Buy or Lease: How to Decide For Your Next Automobile

#3 Renault Le Car

“Renault never really made good cars, but that was a fine example of their worst car.” Ray says. The Le Car was known for being uncomfortably small, yet painfully slow. It also had a nonexistent parts network, which left countless drivers stranded with an unfixable car. “It was a true piece of crap. Often referred to as the Renault Le Toilet,” says Ray.

The Renault Le Car debuted in 1976 thanks to a partnership between Renault and American Motors Corporation and was in production from 1976 to 1983. For a brief period of time a Le Car Van was in production, but traction was hard to come by, with only 450 Le Car Vans built between 1979 and 1983.

#2 Chevrolet Vega

The Vega was known to have problems regarding its reliability, safety, and engine durability, but what made it infamous among car experts was its propensity to rust. “The Vega was known as perhaps the biggest rust bucket ever produced in the United States,” laughs Ray. “I’m pretty sure that they actually started rusting during production.” The Vega was also often reported to be prone to engine fires, due to leaking valve-stem seals. As Ray puts it, “The Vega was another fine example of why Chevrolet should not have been in the small car business during that time period.”

The Vega was in production for model years 1971–1977. It didn’t take long before the Vega encountered issues. By May of 1973 three recalls in three successive months plagued the Vega. Ironically, the Vega received awards from Motor Trend, Car and Driver, and the American Iron and Steel Institute in 1971, 1972, and 1973.

#1 The Worst Car of All Time, the Yugo

“The Yugo, as it turned out, was the world’s first disposable automobile,” says Ray. “It was like the Bic-Click of automobiles. Once the ink ran out you threw away the pen. Once that first full tank of gas ran out, you threw away the Yugo.” The Yugo will go down in history as one of the most poorly made cars of all time. One Pittsburgh dealer even offered a free Yugo to customers buying other cars at full price, but had thirteen out of fourteen buyers turn him down. “The absolute worst automobile ever sold in this country, it was just unbelievable,” sighs Ray. 

The Yugo ranks number one on Ray’s list of the worst cars of all time. Fortunately only 141,651 were ever sold in the United States.

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1 Comment

  1. DrPinWV

    I think the Renault Dauphine was worse than the Le Car. I had a Dauphine when I was 16, back in 1969. The car was only 7 years old and had under 40,000 miles on it. Nevertheless, the starter motor burned out. I could not afford to replace it – that’s assuming I could find the part – and so I started the car with a hand-crank the rest of the time I owned it. Yes, the car actually came with a hand-crank and instructions on how to use it. A car made in 1962. That is a sign of bad things to come.

    I had dinner with some younger colleagues in France a few years ago. They were amazed when I told them I had a Dauphine. Evidently they never met anybody who had admitted to buying one.

    I had a buddy who bought a new Le Car in the early 1980’s. It was okay for a little car – until it spontaneously burst into flames while parked outside his apartment. He only had it for about a year.


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