Here’s How Rust Can Alter The Way An Older Car Crashes

2003 to 2008 Mazda6 Crash Test

Forget about performance, the greatest changes in the automotive industry over the past few decades have taken place in the name of safety.

New cars are safer than ever and that’s a good thing. But let’s say you don’t have the money to buy a new car or just aren’t interested in one. Older models still had to pass rigorous safety tests, so they’re just as safe. Right? The answer could depend on how much rust the car has.

Numerous automakers, like Volvo are working towards making road fatalities a thing of the past by coming out with all sorts of technology. But after watching the videos below, it looks like the age of a vehicle and the amount of rust it has plays a large role in its ability to maintain its crashworthiness over time.

Researchers at Villaagarnas Riksforbund, as Autoweek reports, a nonprofit Swedish organization, along with some assistance from insurance company Folksam decided to put their theory to the test with a couple of used vehicles.

Crash testing older cars

The cars included the Mazda 6 and Volkswagen Golf. The VW was from the 2004 to 2008 generation, while the Mazda 6 was in production from 2003 to 2008. So the cars aren’t exactly that old, but they both had a fair amount of rust.

To see how the cars held up in an accident, the researchers imitated a front and side impact, following EuroNCAP’s standards. We should point out that the researchers didn’t use EuroNCAP’s current standard, but the guidelines for when the cars were new. New cars must meet much stricter guidelines than before.

Both videos reveal that the old, rusted cars couldn’t match the crash safety levels they once did when they were new. The Mazda 6, which you can see immediately below, had a noticeable amount of change when compared to a new model.


“When the Mazda 6 was tested in the frontal test, the car was deformed so that the driver’s seat ended up leaning against the interior of the car and the crash test dummy hit its head in the B-pillar,” said the organization. Hitting your head on the B-pillar, in case you were wondering, is a bad thing.

When new, the Japanese model managed to earn a rating of a “weak four (26 points)” on EuroNCAP’s five point rating scale. The old was demoted to a “weak three (18 points).” That may not make a lot of sense, but the major take away is that the researchers believe that passengers are at a “20 percent higher risk of being killed in a real accident, because of the rust.”

The Golf did surprisingly well. It, compared to when it was new, lost just one point in regard to its crashworthiness. On EuroNCAP’s five-point rating scale, a new Golf of that period scored a “weak five (33 points),” while the old one managed to receive a grade of a “strong four (32 points).”

No two cars will rust similarly, so if you see a couple of rust spots on your car, don’t freak out. But if you’re one of those people that only buy used cars, like me, it’s better to take some time to find one that doesn’t have a lot of rust, because your life could be depending on it.


  • LeStori

    Puts real meaning into the term “Rust bucket” .

    • Loquacious Borborygmus

      Rust in peace.


    All manufacturers giving 12 years of warranty from rust, so even in 2006 made cars had to be like new. Safety suffers because of accidents, and every bad or even good repair strongly decreases safety and strength of car structure, not because of rusts.

    • ace_9

      All manufacturers? 12 years? Really? Are you living in some wonder land ? 😀 You are probably just a little bit naive. Did you ever read the actual warranty conditions for a car? Even if the rust warranty is so long-term (and I don’t know any manufacturer claiming 12 years in my country), it most certainly does not mean that any rust is a warranty void and you get a free repair. The actual conditions are usually saying in small letters, that this warranty applies only for rusting through the body panel, NOT the surface rust. Basically, there has to be a hole in the metal or the metal part has to be composed of rust in the entire thickness to qualify for a warranty.

      • RDS Alphard

        Maybe in the US, it’s 12 years.
        Remember how Toyota had to recall all the rusted Tundra?

        But no everywhere else.

        • ace_9

          Tundra wasn’t recalled specifically because of severe frame rust that impacted the structural integrity of the car. It wasn’t covered by any warranty. It was a result of a lawsuit.

      • ZYGIUS

        So sad you’re liwing in such poor third world country… For repairs i know better than you, and if you think welded car is so strong and safe like new, i don’t have what to say more… Btw in the normal world, damaged cars gets utilized, not putting back together by certified shops form the scrap…

        • ace_9

          I guess you are an american? You sound like one. Prove your 12 year rust warranty from every manufacturer. And you obviously have a strange sense of “good repair”. Good repair for me means following manufacturer instructions how to repair damaged parts that might look quite bad. The repair shops are using the same techniques as manufacturers or the advised methods. I didn’t say anything about welding everything together somehow and putting it on the road. See “Fair Repair SKODA” on youtube.

    • brn

      A rust warranty doesn’t mean it will be like new for the term of the warranty. If you read the warranty, it typically allows for a fair amount of rust, before they’ll do anything.

      • ZYGIUS

        Until it won’t appeal on safety or structure strength, so rust can’t affect car safety, btw in my country if car is strongly rusted it will not get a technical inspection mark

        • ace_9

          Yeah, good luck at proving at court that rust impacts structure integrity and that the car was otherwise handled and parked in normal conditions. Because that is actually the only way of how someone could get a compensation for a rusty car after let’s say more than 5 years. Not through some fantasy 12 year warranty. And technical inspections and checking for rust are normal everywhere. That has nothing to do with some warranty.

  • Kagan

    The smaller golf is safer than bigger mazda.

  • a4c

    Well, if you compare with the new one, rust doesn’t seem to be the case.

    rusted one:
    new one:

    And second thing: new one has side airbags/courtains which rescued dummy’s head from hitting B-pillar.

    • ace_9

      Seems remarkably similar. Maybe the A pillar went a little bit closer to the barrier? But that might be just a timing thing… I would say, it’s the same. Rust or no rust…

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