The most common clunkers are pickups and SUVs from the ‘90s, all of which have safety equipment that is inferior to that of their newer counterparts. Consumer Reports used the example of a Ford Focus (a popular car being purchased through the Car Allowance Rebate System), which has a zero to 60 stopping distance of 137 feet on dry pavement and 147 feet on wet. Compare that with a common clunker being traded in, the Ford Explorer, which stops at 148 feet dry and 181 feet wet.
The rollover rate of mid-90s SUVs and pickups is also fairly high, and these older cars usually don’t have side-impact and side curtain airbags or electronic stability control, which have now become largely standard. In fact, stability control didn’t even exist when many of these cars were built, but it will be mandated for all vehicles by 2012.
Three of the top five best-selling cars in the CARS program — the Toyota Camry, Corolla and Prius — have stability control standard for the 2010 model year, while the Ford Focus and Honda Civic have it as an available option.
Cash for Clunkers: The Safety Advantage With New Cars (Consumer Reports)