By on September 16, 2013

FR-S engine

Car reliability has improved dramatically since the 1990s, much less the dreadful 1970s and 1980s. But is it yet safe to buy a redesigned car in its first model year? Or do early buyers still serve as unpaid beta testers?

TrueDelta updates its reliability stats quarterly in part because this allows us to report on redesigned cars sooner. The latest update includes owner experiences through the end of June 2013 (scores elsewhere are about 14 months behind).

Among models that were redesigned or refreshed last fall, can you guess which group scored well, which has had a few problems, and which earned some (now rare) unhappy faces?

Group 1: Audi A4 (and related models), Honda Accord, Lexus RX, Nissan Pathfinder / Infiniti JX

Group 2: Acura RDX, Buick Enclave / Chevrolet Traverse / GMC Acadia, Dodge Dart, Ford Escape, Ford Fusion, Mazda CX-5, Scion FR-S / Subaru BRZ

Group 3: Ford C-MAX, Hyundai Santa Fe, Nissan Altima

Even in the unhappy group, most of the reported repairs involve minor problems (e.g. a vibration-prone mirror in the CX-5, a chirping fuel pump in the FR-S, and flaky power tailgate latches in two Fords). Few cars have serious problems during the warranty period.

This update also already includes the 2014 CX-5. It scored about the same as the 2013. Initial data on the 2014 Mazda6 and Subaru Forester suggest that both have enjoyed a smoother start than the CX-5.

The most consistently reliable model in the survey continues to be the Honda CR-V. Also worth noting: the current BMW 3-Series and 5-Series seem much more reliable than their predecessors, at least so far.

The next update, in November, will include more solid results for the early 2014s. The more people participate, the more models we can cover (for the past 15 model years) and the more precise these stats will be.

To view over 600 updated repair trips per year stats:

Car Reliability Survey results

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta, a provider of car reliability, real-world fuel economy, and price comparison information.

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107 Comments on “Guest Post: TrueDelta Reliability Update...”


  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    Michael,
    As is commonly discussed here, the real reliability we want is post warranty. How long in years miles should a modern car be economically viable, and how often does it strand you or need to go in for repairs post warranty?

    Frankly, it seems to me that almost all new cars are in the shop once a year or more for an oil change, and very little goes wrong that adds to that schedule unless you buy something on the very bottom of the quality rankings. The difference between best and average is like less than in four years to less than 2? Wow, who cares?

    You do better than most on giving up real info. IMO, a cost of depreciation is a concern in the 4 year 60k period. Time in shop, breakdowns, and cost of repair is what I want to know about in the “second life” of the car. Does that make sense? Can you do something like that?

    • 0 avatar
      ash78

      This is a big part of why brand reputation follows marques around for so long — almost all new cars are insanely reliable compared to, say, a 15-year-old daily driver or kid-hauler that gets beaten every day.

      I’ve been reading and contributing to TrueDelta (on and off) for more than a decade and one of the big problems Michael has is getting high participation rates from people with older cars. The internet was far less mature back when he was trying to sign us up. And when you buy a used car today, it’s hard to tell how much of the reliability–or lack thereof–was due to poor prior maitenance or inherent in the car itself.

      • 0 avatar

        Landcrusher,

        I’d love to cover older cars better. As ash78 notes, though, it’s harder to get enough participants for these. Also, that farther back you go once you’re over 100k miles the more it matters how well a car has been maintained.

        We did recently add some charts that show the percentage of repairs by problem area to the problem descriptions pages. It’s quite clear from these that, for nearly all cars, the percentage of repairs involving critical systems increases as cars age.

        • 0 avatar

          Bingo ! Car companies car about “delivery defects”, but longtermers are concerned about that 75 to 125 k area, where the accountants saved $2 where “no one will notice”, like the guy who in a saab 900 removed the door in the floor where you service the fuel pump. They saved $2, you drop the whole tank and a simple switch out is a nightmare.

          Contrast BMW, where the whole car is designed to be fixed, and I’m not saying that with sarcasm. It is much easier to fix.

          • 0 avatar
            MBella

            “Contrast BMW, where the whole car is designed to be fixed, and I’m not saying that with sarcasm. It is much easier to fix.”

            Wow, that’s funny. Every time I work on a BMW I’m so amazed how the exact opposite is true.

          • 0 avatar
            golden2husky

            ……saab 900 removed the door in the floor where you service the fuel pump. They saved $2, you drop the whole tank and a simple switch out is a nightmare…..

            Funny that. Even GM put a hatch in the trunk of its hoary W bodies….

          • 0 avatar
            highrpm

            BMW much easier to fix???

            Congratulations. You literally had my jaw drop with your comment.

            I have owned several BMWs, and bought/sold many through our dealership. The one thing I would absolutely NOT say about them is that they are easy to fix.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            http://autos.yahoo.com/blogs/motoramic/bmw-m6-owner-goes-hulk-over-defects-smashes-163648995.html

            Take a look at the top comments from BMW techs.

        • 0 avatar

          We have 3 old cars. I own an ’89 BMW for 2 years, bought an ’03 Mercedes from an inlaw and the fiancee has an ’04 TT.

          We keep meticulous records, and have them on all the cars from prior owner.

          Is something like this what you are looking for? I’d be happy to add anything.

    • 0 avatar
      fredtal

      It’s already there. You look up the car and year and read what the owners are saying.

    • 0 avatar
      afflo

      Yup. I’m most interested in the 75K-150K, and the 150K+ range – that’s where the powertrain warranty is dead and gone, but cost-cutting in components starts showing up. I don’t want a car that wants a new transmission at only 100K!

      It seemed that 10 years ago, people with GM cars were ALWAYS replacing water pumps and alternators, and considered that to be just a normal thing. I had a GMC Sonoma that was showing signs of shoddy build quality early on, and a friend with the two-years earlier version of the same vehicle (S-10) started having to replace components left and right around 70K. I ditched it as quickly as possible.

      Making it to 100K with minimal issues is expected on cars these days. How they do after that is very important to me. It’s what happens afterwards that sets cars apart… and it takes a decade to even START to change perceptions. I put a lot of miles on cars – my current ride is 2.5 years old and almost at 49,000 miles. 100,000 isn’t just some theoretical distant horizon to me!

    • 0 avatar

      not to toot my own horn, but that is(at least in theory) the purpose of a project I started with Steve Lang ala http://www.tradeinqualityindex.com/ (the data here doesn’t have as many metrics to measure, and mostly just tracks powertrain issues)

    • 0 avatar
      jeffzekas

      My problem with True Data: BMW is shown as “reliable” cos owners do an INSANE amount of preventative maintenance (i.e. replacing radiators BEFORE they break). If ALL repairs, both preventative and breakdowns (as well as “normal wear” since Beemer brakes only last 30K miles) were factored in, then it would be apparent that the 3-series is one of the LEAST reliable vehicles ever made! The situation reminds me of my brother’s Austin Healey: it was “reliable” only because he was changing out parts every weekend! And his Healey was probably the ONLY Brit car which has travelled 60K miles with no problems– Which proves that if you are totally OCD, then ANY car, even a Yugo, will appear trouble free.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    “Car reliability has improved dramatically since the 1990s, much less the dreadful 1970s and 1980s. But is it yet safe to buy a redesigned car in its first model year? Or do early buyers still serve as unpaid beta testers?”

    Absolutely yes to the latter. I wouldn’t be surprised if its gotten worse since the 90s in the lease queen brands.

    Also, the other side of this is I work in software and I’ve watched the norm go from well thought out extensively tested software to get it out as quickly as you can and hotfix it for months/years. While this is quite unprofessional, software generally speaking isn’t difficult to deploy. Automobiles aren’t nearly as simple or cheap to “hotfix”.

    • 0 avatar
      fredtal

      My 1999 Silverado came out with rear disc brakes. Soon afterwards GM went back to drums. In the mean time, I’ve rebuilt them twice as the emergency brake won’t fully release. My solution is not to use the brake unless I’m parking on a hill. That is the sort of problems that can surface on new model.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        My father was a GM guy from way back, but he always told me you never buy GM in the first year and I never have.

        • 0 avatar
          NormSV650

          I got two 2013 Buicks without a glitch have 13K combined. Yes, they can see 40 mpg per tank full too. :)

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Good luck to you sir. When I looked into the engine (2.4) that powers the Verano, I saw an issue where the timing chains wore out prematurely at 80Kish out of the reach of most warranties (which may have been corrected by MY12). In the case of most people they don’t care for they lease or trade prior to this mileage. However if I buy a primary vehicle I’m going to be putting many years and 100-150K on it, and that’s the sort of thing I look out for in my purchases.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      I’ve basically been a beta tester with my last two new car purchases. It probably serves me right for buying first model year, early production Ford products. Regardless of the manufacturer, I have had better luck with last model year before redesign vehicles, and relatively simple trucks. The Dodge, Chevy, and Ford work trucks I’ve owned shall all run until the end of time.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I also typically buy late in the model run for the same reasoning. I have only intentionally bought once in the first year of any new or used car, and I got burned (although in the car’s defense, it was quite old at the time of purchase, so it could have been a wash).

        • 0 avatar
          fredtal

          The problem I have had is that the old model just isn’t as nice as the newer model. Now I’m shopping again for a new car and I really want to like the new MQB A3 as it looks to better than my current 2007 A3.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I have the opposite opinion as each model seems to be worse in some way than the last (generally speaking, not referring to VW specifically).

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            @28-cars:
            You do have a seemingly valid point because it appears the vast majority of issues today tend to be electrical in nature, not mechanical. I blame that on poor manufacturing of the circuit boards as wave-soldered connections simply aren’t able to withstand seasonal severe temperature shifts from sub-freezing (temperatures at or below 30°F) to desert heat (over 100°F). Your typical electronic device–even when ‘toughened’–has a recommended operating temperature from 40° to 90° and they use the same soldering techniques.

            Vehicles subject to extreme temperatures and the myriad of different shocks and vibrations typical of everyday driving over a variety of surfaces need something more reliable than a simple dot of tin/antimony to hold components in place and maintain connectivity. That is, unless you simply want to force people to replace their car every 5-6 years.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            “That is, unless you simply want to force people to replace their car every 5-6 years”

            I think you’ve hit things right on the nose, Vulpine. In terms of the specific electrical issues you brought up, I blame globalization. The boards and other electronics are no longer built to suit the model or its application, but will be genericized by the board manufacturer. A heavily electronic/computerized car combined with electronics outsourcing to the lowest bidder seem to lead to electrical maladies on a grand scale.

          • 0 avatar
            afflo

            I would expect globalization and using off-the-shelf components to improve quality over multiple incompatible proprietary designs.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @afflo

            Ah perhaps, but without electrical defect data either point is difficult to prove. Assuming you’re correct though, what would you attribute the increasing number of electronic issues toward?

          • 0 avatar
            afflo

            I would assume it’s due to quantity. More electronics with more interconnections to more sensors and components leads to more possible points of failure.

            Look at ABS/ESC/Traction control alone – sensors on each wheel, and a computer system that monitors the wheels, yaw, accleration, and can intervene in the brake application, steering assistance, and of course throttle (which is now multiple electronic circuit board, servos, sensors, etc).

      • 0 avatar

        Ford has had more first-year glitches than others lately.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          Fiesta, Focus, Explorer, Fusion, and Escape all seemed to have their fair share of teething problems. It took too long for fixes on some of them too (I fixed the Explorer A-pillar rattle with tape while waiting for a corporate fix). It seems Ford has been addressing customer issues faster, but early job products still have the issues.

          They’ll get the F-150 right, but I am interested in what will happen with the next Mustang and Edge. Hopefully they’ve learned from some of the recent launches.

        • 0 avatar
          TrailerTrash

          is this just increased due to the software of theirs? Or is it the mechanics stuff? Seems to me the recalls I see has everybody in the news.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Its been both. The biggest issues have been MFT and other stupid QC issues that are mostly supplier issues. The customer doesn’t care if its a supplier or assembly issue though. They just want their car to work.

            Michael has written about some of the issues before. He was one of the few people that wasn’t so narrowly focused on MFT that they forgot about everything else, along with the slow reaction time by Ford.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            Ford is infamous for chiseling the quality out of their suppliers, as Firestone could tell you. There are no excuses for the garbage Ford produces now, just rationalizations.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            We agree CJ. It doesn’t matter what the issue is, its on the manufacturer. Ford is responsible for their suppliers and what they produce. I’m not making excuses for Ford, just pointing out that they can’t seem to get a handle on the supply chain.

            As much as I like my current Ford products, I find the continuing trend of buggy launches disturbing. Its almost as if certain departments don’t sweat the details. I know plenty of people that work at Ford that do sweat details though. The company can get so many things right on a vehicle, only to have something stupid undermine the whole product. Eventually its fixed, but not after a bunch of people are frustrated.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            @BBall40…: If Ford specifies parts from a third-party manufacturer, then Ford is responsible for that specification and if the part fails due to that specification then it is all Ford’s fault; just as it should be any other manufacturer’s fault if a third-party part fails on that manufacturer’s specifications.

            If, on the other hand Ford, Chrysler or whomever purchases off-the-shelf parts off of some other company’s specification, then that other company is at fault. Whether it be tires, electronics or adhesives, whomever creates the original specification should be at fault for the failure of that product.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            vulpine-

            While I agree with you, consumers still look at who they bought the product from. If the adhesive that holds up your headliner fails, 3M isn’t going to be your first call.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            In your argument here, BBall, Ford at least has a finger to point; I can’t say the same thing about the old Firestone Tire thing from the rollover Expeditions where Ford set the specifications for the tires AND proceeded to under-inflate them.

      • 0 avatar
        bludragon

        It depends when you plan to sell the car. If you buy new, and sell after 3 years, then you are likely better off with the 1st year model run since that will hold value better than the last year model run. If you are buying 3 years old and keeping until 6 years, or buying new and keeping for 10 years, then it makes sense to go with something after the mid-life refresh. (most cars seem to have a 6 year model run, with a refresh after the first 3 years).
        Buying something after the 1st year gives time for minor glitches to be worked out. Generally these are not things that will leave you stranded and are fixed under recall anyway. Buying something after the mid-life refresh means any bigger issues are likely to have been worked out. I’m looking at the extra oil injector, better gearbox and stronger fuel pump in my s2 RX-8. Also the HPFP and water pump in an N54 engined BMW – I had a 2007 335i (first model year of the e90 with N54 engine…).

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    At one time I would have been strongly on the ‘opposed’ side of the issue. Cars like the Pontiac Fiero and Pontiac Aztec seem to be prime examples. However, in two different cases since 2000 I’ve changed my mind.

    In 2002 GM’s Saturn division came out with an all-new car–for them. The Vue was Saturn’s first SUV and was originally intended to carry one of the first automotive continuously-variable transmissions. I liked the concept but fully understood that the concept wasn’t fully tested in an automotive platform. On the other hand, while they were waiting to work out the bugs in the CVT, I managed to order a Vue with an Opel sport 5-speed transmission. In the 8 years I owned it, I put over 120,000 miles on it with only one major repair under warranty–a McPherson strut–and sold the Vue to my father-in-law still on the original clutch plates. A remarkably reliable vehicle.
    In 2007 my wife and I decided we needed something that could handle these nor’easter blizzards a little better than the Vue. We also were VERY intrigued by the new style Jeep Wrangler with its 4-door Unlimited. Granted we waited until late in the model year, but we made the decision to buy and went to our local dealer. Too late, they didn’t have any ’07 models with the equipment we wanted so we ordered an ’08 and took delivery on Halloween of ’07. Again, now six years later the new model has been solidly reliable for the most part–though we did develop an electrical problem that was covered under warranty.

    So I have twice purchased a car essentially in its first year of manufacture or redesign and in both cases been pleased with the results.

    • 0 avatar

      These days even with first-year cars it’s not really a question of how many problems you’ll have, but your odds of having a single repair trip in a given year. Even for the worst cars your odds are about one in two of having no problem in the first year are about one in two.

      The 2013s haven’t been around long enough to calculate these odds. But here’s what the worst of the 2012s we have stats for looks like:

      http://www.truedelta.com/FIAT-500/lemon-odds-1014

      No repair trips: 57%

      1-2 repair trips: 41%

      3+ repair trips: 2%

      This last could be a little higher, given the sample size, but clearly it’s not high.

      • 0 avatar
        parabellum2000

        I wonder how many of the more than 3 repairs crowd just have high expectations. I’ve been in for more than 3 repairs in the year since I bought my Golf TDI. One was a very minor leaky door seal, the next was rattle in the passenger side door, then my driver side door was speaker developed a buzz (I actually had to use an audio test disc so the tech could hear it), and finally the keyless starting would occasionally fail to start the car.

        Of all those issues, I’m fairly certain the average person would have only complained about the keyless starting and maybe the door seal.

        Since I’ve always done my own maintenance and most repairs, I hold the manufacturer to a very high standard. Basically, if it wasn’t acceptable on my car with 100,000 miles, its not acceptable on a new car. I think most people just ignore minor quality issues.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I’ve had something like 6 first-year cars over the last 34 years. Some were excellent; some were terrible.

    I wouldn’t shy away from a first-year car just because it’s first-year. Some last-year cars are pretty bad; I had one of those, too.

  • avatar
    mike978

    Good to see you back Michael. Hopefully you will pop up now and again to give reliability updates.

  • avatar
    ash78

    Both of our cars (VW Passats) are from the first year of their respective models, the latter a heavy facelift. Oddly, both are MORE reliable compared to almost everyone we’ve talked to. It’s almost like they tried harder on the smaller production runs, then got lazy as demand ramped up.

    My old man spent a long time in aircraft manufacturing and says there’s something to this concept, but it rarely outweighs the normally solid advice to NOT buy the first year.

    That advice also needs to be taken with a grain of salt where a car is the first-year example in the US, but is otherwise well proven in another market.

    • 0 avatar

      You might be onto something with regard to VW. For some reason owners have reported considerably more repairs for the 2012 Jetta than for the 2011. I suspect that the initial cars were more carefully assembled or more thoroughly inspected.

      Normally I wouldn’t blame assembly, but with these cars rattles are the most commonly reported problems.

      • 0 avatar
        sastexan

        The rental 2012 passat I had had serious creaking issues with less than 5000 miles (I think it only had 1800 miles if my memory serves me correct).

      • 0 avatar
        GiddyHitch

        There’s typically a price reduction schedule built into the component and subassy orders so one imagines that there are some corners cut as anticipated manufacturing efficiencies never materialize but bottom lines still need to be met.

  • avatar
    ovrtme76

    I saw my car’s(Subaru BRZ) in the lead picture and got a bit worried. But yes, my car has the “crickets” from the fuel pump, I only hear it at idle with the windows down. I tend to spend more time at “a bit” higher revs, so no big deal. At least while its still under warranty.

    • 0 avatar
      grdotnet

      I’ve got the crickets on mine too but I seem to have been spared the leaky taillights and a few other quirks so far. Now I just hope the rumors of injector seal failure prove to be unfounded.

    • 0 avatar
      sastexan

      I have an FR-S and so far, have had ALL of the early production demons (March 2012 build, VIN in the low 1200s). Crickets, idle dip, rear package tray creak, taillight condensation, and passenger auto window up/down defect.

      And of course I always report on http://www.truedelta.com after each visit!

      Really glad to see Michael back over here posting.

    • 0 avatar
      krayzie

      Okay good luck on the direct injector seal guys. Got the new firmware yet to fix the transient table on WOT? Don’t think you guys want an engine replaced under warranty due to damage done already.

  • avatar
    65corvair

    My ’11 Ford Fiesta, an early build has been a terrible car.Too bad, as it is a nice little car. Bought an early build Neon in ’94. It was very reliable. My next car will have to have one year of great ratings, no matter who made it.

  • avatar

    I think users of TrueDelta need to carry the gospel far and wide. Otherwise many reasonably popular cars cannot get significant stats. Of course it says well of Michael that his site reports when numbers of reporting owners are insufficient, instead of giving a meaningless rating out of an average of two votes. Nonetheless, IMHO it is a problem. And no, I do not drive McLaren F1.

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    Glad as others to see Michael back and wish there were most posting by him concerning issues and more importantly, hot issues that nobody seems aware of.
    One question I have is where do you go if you find yourself in Something Is Wrong Pergatory?
    I mean…where does one go to find out about issues the automaker is kind of keeping on the silent about?
    My MKS has suddenly developed a clunking sound when it reached 20 to 25 MPH and coasting (like coming to the top of a hill and taking your foot off the peddle to coast) downshifting. There is a clunk on the last down shift and then every time I just ever so slightly touch the peddle. It clunks into gear.
    After months of taking it to Ford..they say it is now the new “normal”.
    They had me drive other MKSs with the same trans and they do not make the noise…but they still insist it must be a new driving style of mine!

    This is a terrible feeling in stop and go traffic jams on a freeway.

    Where do you go for this information? If it was out of warranty…they would have no problem taking her apart and charging me for each step until solved. Not so if on their dime.

    This manufacturer stall is nuts!!!!

    • 0 avatar

      For a specific problem like this one I’d search a forum for the MKS, and if I found nothing post about the problem to see if anyone else had had it. You might also try a forum for the Taurus SHO, as it might be more active.

      • 0 avatar
        TrailerTrash

        this is a game for younger internet savey users. I google all types of things and I get pornography, advertisements for MKS…you know…everythng EXCEPT what I am looking for.
        I will tell you this….every car comes up BUT the MKS. Seems like this is an issue with more than Ford.

        This is why, Michael, I originally posted my wish for TrueDelta to have this hot issue or quetion search on its site. It would be nice to get a more focused location for us owners to search for like issues.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      Is it an AWD MKS?

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      It could be anything from motor mounts to subframe bolts or sway bar end links. If it only happens while shifting, it could be another whole bag of anything. Ford has had some issues with the PTUs in their AWD vehicles. I don’t know if they have the ability to reflash your transmission like they did with my last Focus. That seemed to correct my poor shifting issues.

      • 0 avatar
        TrailerTrash

        see…i think so as well. i tried to ask them if they considered this happening due to pressure being taken off during the coasting and foot off the gas and then the slight increase at peddle tip in.
        I wondered why as well a mount or bolt could not be experiencing the decrease and increase in pressure….
        They all look at me as if I am out of my league and should keep my mouth shut and the explanation to the experts.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          I had an MKV GTI that had its subframe bolts replaced with strong ones from a Passat. The bolts were stretching out over time, and caused a clunk while driving and turning at low speeds.

          They need to check all the front suspension connections and work from there. Motor mounts should be checked as well.

          • 0 avatar
            krayzie

            Speaking of subframe bolts I just bought a subframe collar kit for both front and back on my MkV Golf GTI. The thing clunks on turns and slow speeds even when stopping. My alignment goes out of wack constantly because of it. How can VW let this happen!!

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            I hear about that product. TyrolSport makes it? I heard its an even better fix than the Passat subframe bolts. I sold my GTI, but there was no clunk after replacing the original parts. Hopefully it works for you.

        • 0 avatar
          Hummer

          Go to a different dealer, I’ve had to do that in the past, your small town dealers are much more likely to do right by you, as well as your very high volume dealers.

  • avatar
    Onus

    My experience with ford trucks is the first 2 models years usually are oddities.

    They end up changing something after that and stick with it. It’s usually random stuff like wiring, engine internals change, plugs, switches, radiator, etc.

    Sometimes ford even changes things in the middle of a model year for no apparent reason. If you’ve worked on a ford you know what I’m talking about.

  • avatar

    #1 Considering many new models are LEASED and not kept past 35,000 miles – would that be a measure of initial reliability? What is the range of initial reliability? Up to 10,000 miles? Up to 20,000?

    #2 Do high performance cars get special treatment considering owners usually monitor them way more closely than your average “appliance buyer” tooling around in a Camry, Accord or Altima?

    Also, do they get hits for wearing out their moving parts faster than regular cars (brakes, tires, etc)?

    #3 I really like the graph that breaks down service issues into individual components and trouble areas. That’s good because it should help reduce the poor reliability when the major complaint is the infotainment system rather than the mechanical reliability (i.e. Ford sync).

    • 0 avatar

      We don’t count brake pads over 24k miles or tires in the repair stats for this reason.

      Usually I don’t see much evidence that some owners pay much closer attention than others. The Scion FR-S might be an exception. I’m not sure how many people would have considered the fuel pump chirp a problem if it hadn’t been discussed on forums.

      • 0 avatar
        Dan

        I don’t know about survey results but reading the model specific forums shows night and day differences in attention and priorities.

        Eg. Wrangler forums are mostly about mods. While the JGC forums don’t seem to mind that they took the car in four times in the first couple months for electrical problems yet they go into conniptions over misaligned panels, wind noise, tiny cosmetic flaws in the paint or wheels.

      • 0 avatar
        epsilonkore

        Its the ONLY problem I have had with my FR-S worth noting. I park my car in a garage at home and work, I am often in tunnels at a standstill or in at drive through… the sound that fuel pump makes when bouncing off the concrete in said locations is BEYOND annoying especially with a window down. The fix is simple, dont use fuel with more than 5% ethanol. Too bad pure gas stations and anything OTHER than 10% are difficult to find (and pure is a good bit more expensive… though it DOES reward with slight fuel economy bumps and a small but noticeable power bump in the FR-S). Unfortunately I dont believe Subaru/Toyota has fixed the pump reliably (it starts again on new pumps just a few thousand miles after install) so I am just going to wait it out before I have mine replaced. It ISNT a reliability issue, the car runs great, but that noise, at its worst, sounds like an AC belt squealing on an old 1979 AMC Concord.

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        If your losing brake pads in 30k miles your either racing or something’s wrong!
        I can’t say I’ve ever replaced brake pads before 80k miles on any of my vehicles, and those at 80k were with heavy towing.

        • 0 avatar
          afflo

          Glad it’s not just me. I’d be very concerned if it were anywhere south of 60K, and still annoyed under 70-80K. I’ve always rowed my own, so I thought maybe it was due to people riding the brakes more and not using the gears to maintain speed with automatic transmissions.

          • 0 avatar
            MBella

            It depends on the car and the compounds they use as well as the brake distribution. European cars usually have softer pads that wear out quicker. GM cars have really hard pads that seem like they last forever, especially on their trucks.

            On my parents’ ’08 Accord, they have a heavy brake bias to the rear that eats the tiny rear brakes. At about 65,000 miles the original fronts still have about 40% pad life remaining while I replaced the rears for the second time a few months ago.

            There are plenty of variables that effect brake pad life. Someone who drives a lot usually gets more miles out of their pads because those miles are usually on the freeway and the brakes aren’t used enough to cause wear.

  • avatar
    carguy

    Thanks for the update Michael.

    I had no idea that Nissan was having such widespread problems with the redesigned Altima.

    • 0 avatar

      There’s no clear pattern to the reports, so I’m not sure what to make of this myself. There’s a good chance that the stat will improve with the next update, in November, with a preview for members starting in less than a month. Or, if the repair frequency continues to be high, we should at least have more clarity as to what is behind it.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    I’m interested in post-warranty myself, go onto carsurvey and there will be a fair amount of reviews that’ll say “Power Windows broke just outside of warranty”, amongst others. Plus, theres always “sealed 4 life” witchcraft to be weary of.

    My only issue with buying later models is that they often lack the features of earlier models in the middle of a models lifespan, its difficult to decide if I should buy a later fully refined model or the nicer middle-model.

    I do avoid first years though, if carmakers didn’t re-do their cars so often we wouldn’t have so many one-year troubles.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I’d just be happy with trivial changes from year to year, seems to me to just be a waste of money to completely re-architect a platform or drive train every three years.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        Agreed, slight improvements and if neccesary face lifts would be nice, its a bit silly how many cars are often “redone” every three years and often the major changes are crazier styling, less over hang, and a wider stance.

        I blame Japan for this.

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          You can blame Japan. In the Pre-Malaise Era – right after the Jurassic Period, Detroit regularly recycled mechanical designs over and over, but put new bodywork over the same decade old platform. Enter Japan, Inc. and that all changed. Japan did full redesigns every 4 years back then, which forced Detroit and to a lesser extent, Europe, to drastically shorten real design periods. Japan eventually extended the design cycle to 5 years to save money.

  • avatar

    A friend just had to replace an alternator on an ’08 camry with 60k.

    on my ’08 civic, on which I’ve put 25k (it’s at 60k now) I’ve only had to replace a thermostat.

    • 0 avatar
      CobraJet

      Had to change the alternator on my 07 Impala at about 80,000 miles. I really think the crappy NAPA battery took out the alternator as the battery had to be replaced at the same time. Probably had an internal short. At any rate, the alternator was super-expensive. It is a Bosch unit that has some sort of clutch on the pully. Never seen one like it.

  • avatar
    oldowl

    Do TrueDelta reliability data track closely with other sources, e.g., Consumer Reports? Or are there marked differences?

    • 0 avatar

      Often they’re similar. But we all ask different questions, so the results can vary without anyone’s being incorrect.

      One thing to realize is that these stats are about 14 months ahead of CR’s. To compare the two it’s best to look at our stats from May 2012. Similarly, to get a sense of what CR’s results might be like when they update again next month, look at our May 2013 stats (which covered through the end of March).

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I’ve been very fortunate with my primary drivers, almost all wearable items (tstat, filters, seals, etc) and fluids save two rads in my Saturn (82K-164K), the power steering rack in my Grand Prix (at 70K), and misc sensors in both. My secondary drivers or Sunday cars have been much more PITAs.

    I think the Saturn would have been fine with the factory rad except around 110K I took it airborne one night after hitting a deer carcass and the rad broke, its actually been one of the most reliable used cars I’ve ever had.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Some of those Saturns never cease to amaze me wit their reliability, I’ve even seen one that was missing a fender driving about. I’m surprised that they’re often more reliable than standard Chevys of their time.

      Though it seems to be earlier Saturns and the fairly rare but neat Astras that’re reliable.

      • 0 avatar

        The earlier saturns were not all that reliable. First, there was the (very common) oil use problem. A lot of them were using a quart every thousand. I think that’s where I got to in my ’93. I had an alternator go at 80k. At about 130k the thing began to have problems every two months, including–mid 140s–an electrical problem that was a nightmare to diagnose. I htink I took 5 trips into the dealer in 10 days over that problem. The engine would just lose power, and often stop, although sometimes I could get it going again. The car would start after it stopped, but it woudl do this at like 20-30-40-45mph. (I don’t remember what it is, it’s almost a decade int he past).

        It was a fun car to drive, though, unlike the later saturns

        http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/the-truth-about-saturn/

  • avatar
    slance66

    My 07 E90 BMW 328xi just had two gaskets fail, creating an oil leak onto the exhaust (smoke, smell) with 7 days left on my CPO warranty (63k miles). Covered, but I just barely made it. This is the first issue the car has had in my 3 years. It’s a first year of a sort, 2nd year E90, but first with that engine.

    Our 2007 Lexus RX350 is similar, first year and it has had far more problems than I’d expect of a Lexus/Toyota. Michael’s numbers show this as an unusually poor year for that model.

    My 2001 Volvo S60 was a first model year, bought new. Pretty solid, although it had electrical glitches (fuse for moonroof, lights) and ate up suspension parts (tie rods).

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    Another vote for older models, but I still think TrueDelta is a great tool.

    Nowadays, cars are to the point where lemons are outliers. My guess is the worst brand vs the best brand is probably separated by around 1-2 unscheduled visits to the dealer.

    It’s when you get to that 50k-100k mile mark that quality differences really become apparent.

    I’m sure in some sense it’s not scientific because proper maintenance is difficult to monitor, but I would be fine letting the chips fall where they may and derive your own conclusions about brands and their owner’s maintenance.

    • 0 avatar

      I always wondered, with respect to my parents’ ’57 Chevy, how much of its going geriatric around 75k was the fault of the manufacturer, and how much was my parents’ fault. My guess is that it was probably more the manufacturer.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        The 1957 Chevrolet was still head-and-shoulders above its competition – the 1957 Ford and Plymouth. There was a very good chance that the rust on the 1957 Plymouth, for example, would be so widespread by 75,000 miles that the car would have to be junked.

        A 1957 Chevrolet may have been a lousy car by our standards, but compared to its competition, it was a veritable Lexus.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        Compared to its competition – the 1957 Ford and Plymouth – the 1957 Chevrolet was a veritable Lexus. There was a very good chance that a 1957 Plymouth, for example, was virtually rusted away by 75,000 miles.

  • avatar
    ajla

    1992 Bonneville 217000 miles: erratic idle-possible vacuum leak. No dealer visit expected.

    1989 Allante 164000 miles: squeal when steering reaches full lock. No dealer visit expected.

    1989 Buick Electra 139000 miles: no issues to report.

    I question the usefulness of this information.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    My 2012 Civic (first year of the oft-derided 9th generation) had a “loose gascap” message light up at random one day leaving work, it went away on its own in a day. A minor but known issue on the forums. Also, sometimes there’s a click/clunk when the clutch is pushed in and released. Again, a known issue on forums, no word on if it affects how the drivetrain works at all. Lastly, in hot weather 2 of the stereo buttons that surround the volume knob (select Folder Up, Down) seem to stick in the pressed down position, so you press it again and it pops out. This only happens if you press it a certain way. The car has 19k miles on it now.

    All minor things that I haven’t taken it to the dealer for, but I do see them as flaws.

    My parent’s 2007 made in Japan Fit has had a rattle in the dash on cold days with the heater on basically since new. Nothing besides that in 40k miles.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I do contribute to TrueDelta and have for the last few years, almost since I joined TTAC. Mike runs a good site.

    Their data is valuable, and I hope data received by them is accurate. I am as accurate as possible. If my cars had issues, I didn’t hide behind vanity or wanting to falsely represent what I drive as a good car if it was not. I’m happy my last three rides have been great cars – my old 2004 Impala, Wifey’s 2002 CR-V and my current 2012 Impala LTZ (so far).

  • avatar
    White Shadow

    I think new cars have reached a plateau in terms of reliability. Why? Well, new cars are getting more and more stuffed with all kinds of technology, so it just makes sense to me that more stuff means more opportunity for something to go wrong. Think about it…. even a modestly priced car today (take a fully loaded CX-5 for example, since it was mentioned in the article) can be had for $30K and includes stuff like rain-sensing wipers, blind spot monitoring, smart city braking, etc…

  • avatar
    romanjetfighter

    I don’t really care about fixable issues post-warranty anymore. I care about fit and finish. I hate creaking and rattling. My 4 year old Camry’s doors creak when I hit bumps, the whole transmission tunnel covering groans when I lean on the armrest, the IP creaks when I push to open a compartment, etc. How on earth do you fix that without taking it completely apart?

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    The quality of motor vehicles has indeed improved over the past 20 years, especially the US manufactured vehicles from the Big 3.

    A lot of this has to do with competition. Even globally outside of the US vehicles are shipped around the world from many countries and the quality of a vehicle is significant for a company to sell.

    I do agree with Vulpine that vehicles aren’t designed to go much further than 200 000km or 10 years. They are designed to be recycled.

    It isn’t only motor vehicle quality that has improved, most items we use within our households have improved.

    Much of this improvement is due to the reduction of humans involved in the design and manufacturing process.

    Computers, the end all and be all of our modern society.

    IC’s are in most everything we use from a toaster to measuring oxygen levels in our intakes.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      Don’t think you can say that 10 years is a design parameter. My station car is 21 years old and spent its entire life outside. Given to me by my mother, it only has 130K on it, but it is a very high cycle car. The first half of its life it was used nearly daily for only a few miles a day. Such use brings out the end-of-life for odd parts, like the springs in the driver door handle (inside and out), the ignition lock, etc.


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