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If a milking stool is a stable way for a farmer to sit and milk a cow, why wouldn’t this same stability translate to vehicles? Was this the thought process behind the very first car having only three wheels? Possibly. Cars with three wheels have been around from the beginning of the automotive industry, but it’s a wonder they’ve survived.

Why aren’t cars with three wheels more common?

Although practicality dictated a single front wheel and two in the rear made more sense on early cars, the rough roads told another story. Cars with four wheels are more stable and allow the front and rear wheels to track through the same road ruts and tracks. Early roads weren’t paved or as smooth as the roads of today, which made a huge difference during a drive.

Here are five of the worst cars with only three wheels

Reliant Robin

Green 1977 Reliant Robin parked
1977 Reliant Robin | Wikimedia Commons

The Reliant Robin tends to be at the top of every list of terrible three-wheeled cars. Thankfully, strict regulations never allowed this car to come to America. The Robin had a fiberglass body on a steel frame, an 850cc engine, and a single front wheel. This car had the basics with wipers, turn signals, and seats but not much else.

Peel P50

Man demonstrating just how small the Peel P50 really is
Peel P50 | Wikimedia Commons

This tiny car is still in production and is in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the smallest car ever made. That doesn’t make it a good car. The Peel P50 barely offers room for one person, is powered by a small 49cc motor that only makes 4.5 horsepower, and has very little protection for the driver. This is one of the worst cars with three wheels ever produced.

The Hoffman

1951 Hoffman in a museum
1951 Hoffman | Wikimedia Commons

In the 1950s, car design took every avenue possible. We saw some amazingly attractive cars and some real dogs. The Hoffman was in the second category. Jalopnik tells us this car is widely regarded as the worst German car of all time. It used an air-cooled 200 cc two-stroke engine and was a monstrosity that was hated by many.

Bond Microcar

Red 1964 Bond Microcar posed at a car show
Bond Microcar | Wikimedia Commons

One of the most ridiculous three-wheeled cars ever made is the Bond Microcar. This car brought undeniably attractive styling, but it needed one more wheel to be something people wanted to drive. Driving this car was a terrible experience, especially on the busy streets of England. Power came from a 2-cylinder motorcycle engine that pushed 8.5 horsepower to the wheels. Strangely, nearly 24,000 of these Bond Microcars were sold.

BMW Isetta

BMW Isetta - One of the worst cars with 3 wheels ever made
BMW Isetta | Getty Images

In some markets, this car had four wheels, but in Great Britain, it only had three. This little BMW was strange and interesting, with a large front opening door and room for two people; the 300cc four-stroke engine gave it just enough power to drive along at low speeds. The Isetta may look cute, but an accident in this car wouldn’t be as it barely offered any protection to the passengers inside.

How stable are cars with three wheels?

Amazingly, for lateral stability, a three-wheeled vehicle with two wheels on the rear axle is more stable than four-wheeled vehicles. Unfortunately, many of the cars with only a tripod of wheels on the ground weren’t built with two wheels at the rear.

Are three-wheeled cars safe?

Many of the cars are built with only three wheels shared motorcycle platforms. The added wheel provides more stability than a motorcycle but not more safety. Most of these vehicles are open-air and doorless, offering only slightly more protection than you would find on a motorcycle.

Next, check out five historically awful Buicks, or watch Jeremy Clarkson roll a Reliant Robin in this video below:


6 of the Most Popular but Worst-Made Cars in Automotive History