By on January 16, 2014

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“You can have any car you want. So long as it’s a Toyota or Honda.”

My parents had offered to split the costs of a new car with me back in 1994. That matching policy eventually included an awful lot of disclaimers and exclusions.

“No V8! No V6! No turbo! No stick! No convertible! No small car! No! Nein! Nyet!”

I eventually settled on a red Toyota Camry Coupe that served me well for 12 years and nearly 240k miles. It’s still on the road, which is funny because my brother, who had an equal bent on the Toyonda reliability supremacy, did something unusual recently.

He bought an Audi. Then he did something even stranger than that… he bought another.

Now the first Audi he bought was a lease. So that doesn’t count for very much. But the second one he bought outright for his college attending daughter. A sharp girl who simply couldn’t give two flips about the brand of car she drives.

It was a used, CPO, three year old Audi A4. Even with a few minor electric bugaboos, the car went out the door real quick. This car buying decision was highly unusual for a guy who kept up with cars and had bought nothing but new Hondas and Toyotas for nearly 30 years.

He knew all too well about the historical reliability issues with VW products. He even enjoyed the two Toyotas and one Honda he bought before going completely cold turkey on them about 10 years ago. When it came to spending that large chunk of cash on a daily driver, he crunched the numbers just like he always does on a spreadsheet, and checked off the usual must-haves.

But those numbers and wants yielded a final decision that was far different than those times of 10, 20 and even 30 years ago.

The 1984 Celica Supra. The 1994 Camry Wagon and the 2003 Honda Pilot have all given way to a 2012 Audi A6 and and a 2013 Audi A4.

I can see three big reasons why this happened.

The first is the length of warranties for used cars Certified Pre-Owned programs. The pushing of long-term warranties into the late model used car market have enabled brands that were once reliability pariahs, to become unusually competitive to today’s once untouchable reliable brands.

The removal of repair risk is a game changer for car buyers like my brother. Just as the Treasury guarantees their notes regardless of the current debt, that CPO warranty is guaranteeing the manufacturers product regardless of it’s potential repair issues. That vehicle may have thick black dots on Consumer Reports. Or even a long list of complaints about a specific mechanical issue that is a mere Google search away. It doesn’t matter, at least for right now. Because all those parts that may go south are covered to a further extent than the boring new car alternative.

The consumer’s perception of a CPO vehicle is that the warranty will make the repair costs for that sporty, fun, prestigious vehicle similar to the most drop dead boring, toaster personality, reliable competitor. Perception is often the only reality that matters in the marketplace, which is why late-model European models in particular have largely adapted a process of catering to the lease crowd first and the CPO seeking customer later.

So why buy a new boring or cheap car when a three old fun-to drive alternative offers more bang for the buck and a better warranty? For those who are used to trading or selling their car once it hits 100,000 miles, the broadened CPO programs have greatly expanded the scope of vehicles that are considered reliable enough to handle that mileage period.

The second reason for the decline of reliability based car buying, is that cars are increasingly  seen as a durable goods in the marketplace. Old diesel benzes, Volvos, Toyotas & Hondas were once the gold standard  for those who were seeking long-term car ownership.

Now, even the worst brands are assumed to have lifetimes well into the double digits. Some may last as long as 15 or 20 years in many parts of this country.

There is a long list of legitimate reasons why this has become the case. The institution of lean production methods. The development of polymers, petrochemicals and other materials that have longer lives and better resistance to age and wear. Even the shuttering of unprofitable brands has enabled certain manufacturers to focus more on the quality of their offerings, instead of what could kindly be called a pointless plentitude of cosmetic primpings.

There are countless honest to goodness reasons why the 10 to 15 year old car of today is seen as capable of lasting 20 years or beyond, and that psychological reality has made reliability seem to be more of a rule and less of an exception.

The final issue I will cover here (I’m sure all of you will chime in with other good ideas) is that the internet has essentially wounded the standard bearers of reliability information in the automotive industry. I can go to carsurvey.org and find over 100,000 feedbacks from folks who have actually owned and kept specific vehicles. Edmunds, Yahoo!, MSN, Kelly Blue Book, a long, long list of automotive sites that provide information to a mass audience now offer reliability information and insights for essentially nothing. Want to go deeper? There are hundreds of enthusiast sites that make the car buying experience as detail driven as you want it to become.

You don’t need to subscribe to anything. You don’t need to wonder what the real difference is between a half blackened oval and an almost fully blackened oval with a strange dot in the middle. You can read actual personal feedback from folks who have owned the specific model that interests you and if you want to learn more, just keep reading… and reading…

This access to knowledge has changed not only what people buy, but what they’re willing to spend. A young person may not have a fondness for older cars in the beginning of their search for a daily driver. But if they reads a long list of happy feedback from a brand that is defunct, or a model that is no longer sold, that consumer may just decide that the popular reliable car is not worth what could amount to a near five-figured price premium.

A 15 year old so-called beater car, at least according to the information in front of them, can do the commutes just as well as a five year old car that would put them in debt. So why not? After all, many of those older beater cars still look great, drive well, and last for the long haul.

There are a long list of reasons why reliability is becoming more of a given and less of a means to differentiate one car over another. So feel free to share your thoughts, and to those of you who offered me a Happy Birthday yesterday, thanks. I am still thankfully young in what may very well be a long, long period of middle-age.

 

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196 Comments on “Hammer Time: Is Reliability Getting Old?...”


  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Yeah but, historically there’s not some HUGE chasm between new and CPO prices – so long-term reliability for people buying used is still just as important. A fancy CPO Audi is still expensive, and he will still wanna dump it as soon as the warranty is over – showing how important reliability is once you don’t have the coverage.

    It’s easy not to care when you’re fully insured against event X.

    • 0 avatar
      vvk

      I don’t know about Audi but a basic BMW 5-series that costs $45k brand new is fairly easily obtained for low-$20k as CPO. Or buy one from a private owner and get an extended warranty.

      A friend of mine purchased a 2008 CPO 528i stick with few options and 40k miles about 2 years ago. He paid $21k. It had new tires and additional 2 years of prepaid maintenance, too.

      • 0 avatar
        Dan

        There are 1,783 CPO 5-series listed on cars.com right now. A total of 11 of them are listed under $23K, and we all know what a stealership advertised price is worth.

        Fairly easy indeed.

        • 0 avatar
          vvk

          Ever heard of negotiating?

          But yes, finding a good used cars typically takes a few months, sometimes much more.

          Especially when looking for manual transmission.

          • 0 avatar
            Dan

            So we’ve progressed from “fairly easy” to “takes a few months, sometimes much more.”

            Any other sound advice for prospective buyers?

          • 0 avatar
            vvk

            What is your point, Dan?

          • 0 avatar
            Menar Fromarz

            so heres the fun part. I am currently trying to sell a 2009 HD duramax 4 door PU for my MIL. about 30 k miles. one owner. And priced at half what they paid new. So? Against a dealer, that will offer a CPO or financing, and for which the buyer will pay the 6-10K more than we are asking, no one seems to want it! CPO coupled with the low financing rate that we are not able to offer means a tough sell for us. Wanna good PU anyone?

    • 0 avatar
      ect

      I had 2 A4′s in a row, which covered the period from 1995 through 2013. The first one held up very well for 8 years, as did the second – though there were some significant repairs in year 9, and the transmission gave out at the end of year 10. In my experience, Audi build great cars, and sell them at a significant discount to BMW (the power of branding!). Count me satisfied.

      I haven’t bought a used car since 1973, so I don’t pretend to be an expert on that process. Generally, though, if the choice is between (a) buying a car new for $40,000 and keeping it 8 years, or (b) buying the same car 4 years old for $20,000, and keeping it 4 years, I prefer option (a). Overall capital cost is the same, total repair cost should be lower, and at least I’ll know it’s been well taken care of during those first 4 years.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        So you mean you’d rather have a new car than a used one? Groundbreaking.

        • 0 avatar
          ect

          My point simply is that the economics don’t necessarily make buying used a lower-cost option, if you plan to keep the car for a longer period of time.

          When I was in my teens, my father’s habit was to buy a 3-year old car and keep it for 3 years. He figured he could buy it for 1/2 the cost of new, so he saved the cost of those first years of depreciation.

          But the market has changed, and it seems to me that cars don’t depreciate the way they used to – possibly, at least in part, because they’re better built and last longer.

          The last 2 times I was in the market, I looked at the option to buy used for 50% of the price of new, and the answer was I’d have to buy a 4-year old model. If I assume that I’d dispose of the car when it gets to be 8 years old, that tells me I’m capital-cost neutral on buying new vs. used. Sure I have a preference for new, but it’s the numbers that drive the decision, along with my willingness to drive an older car (without feeling any shame).

          If the numbers went the other way, my MBA-wife-of-Scottish-descent would ensure that no preference of mine had any bearing on the decision…

      • 0 avatar
        vvk

        I bought my first SAAB in 1994, a 1986 900S 16V with over 100k miles on it. I drove it all over North America, participated in many HPDEs, changed motor oil every 10k miles with cheapest 10W-30/20W-50 on the shelf and sold it in 2007 with 320k+ miles. It cost me zero dollars and zero cents to operate in the last 5 years beyond gas, motor oil and wiper blades. Even at the end, when its old tires were almost completely worn out, it went through deep snow like a tractor. Original engine, gearbox, clutch… The high school kid who bought it from me wrecked it within a week :-(

        • 0 avatar
          Idemmu

          That sounds like what happened to my 1997 900s. I sold it to a co worker’s kid. Prior to selling it, i installed shocks and brakes all around, and cleaned it up nice so the kid could have a cool first car for a long time. He wrecked it a week after i sold it to him. Ahh life. I wish i kept it.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Happened to my 87 5000S as well. Mine was in nearly mint condition, save for electrical issues and lifter ticking (LOLZ). My mom saw it at a gas station <2 months later, wrecked at the front.

            I remember he had bought my car as a replacement for his gold 4000 Quattro, which he had wrecked.

            That kid single-handedly destroyed the only two vintage Audis in Dearborn County, Indiana.

    • 0 avatar
      Maseraudi

      OK so the real truth about cars is that we buy what makes us look good to feel good about ourselves. This is all we wanted to know… Thank you, you can close this blog now…

  • avatar
    86er

    I think reliability is increasingly being taken for granted.

    At the same time, while you can read the usual plethora of criticisms about the usual suspects in the European and American companies, you can also read a host of complaints from owners of Japanese cars.

    How much of it is misinformation or (perish the thought) disinformation cannot be ascertained.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Belated greetings ! .

    I’m past middle age but still acting childish with cars , you can too .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    Syke

    Reliability is not everything. Crunching the numbers and hanging on to the nickle until the buffalo screams is not necessarily enjoyable car ownership – unless the owner is someone who is indifferent to, or actually hates, car ownership and only wants a daily appliance.

    I’ve driven a lot of Toyota’s (this includes Lexus and Scion). My toaster is the only model I’ve found since the demise of the Celica that is fun to drive. So, Toyota is pretty much off my list when hunting for the next car.

    I will not own a boring car. I’d much rather put up with a car that’s in the shop monthly, yet gives me a rush every time I take it down the driveway than something that’s low cost, insanely reliable, and puts me to sleep on the daily commute. When I don’t use my motorcycle, of course.

    My ultimate dream car, what I’ll someday, somehow own? Just for the joy of having one? A used Ferrari. I’m primarily working on the $4-5k annual service costs their so famous for. Someday.

    And piss on your Corolla or Camry.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      It’s a lot easier to make a boring car exciting, than to make a junky car reliable. That LS400 up top is only a suspension and 2JZ swap away from humiliating a CTS-V.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        That one needs some different wheels, or darker lower trim or something. It doesn’t look quite right.

      • 0 avatar
        CoastieLenn

        “That LS400 up top is only a suspension and 2JZ swap away from humiliating a CTS-V.”

        Sure, and then after the purchase price of the engine, the obnoxiously expensive go-fast goodies, the astronomically expensive suspension, man-hours and tuning time… you will be within a couple grand of a lightly used CTS-V but not be able to claim ANY of its reliability or creature comforts.

        But hey… at least you’re driving around in a 20 year old Lexus, right?

        • 0 avatar
          bumpy ii

          Naw, my cousin knows somebody who tuned a 900hp Supra last week. He can get you hooked up fo’ sho’.

        • 0 avatar
          CougarXR7

          I have a ’95 LS400 as my daily driver. Best car I ever owned. As far as performance mods, all I’ve done is modify the factory air filter housing, and plan to install headers later on.

          My “dream” car is a bright yellow C5 Z06.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          @Coastielenn

          And after all THAT, you have a car with an interior that looks like a really nice old Camry.

          • 0 avatar
            tonycd

            A really nice old Camry lined with polished lumber and premium-grade leather hides. You know, the Lexus LS kind of Camry.

            As for CoastieLenn: A well-maintained Lexus LS at any age has NO “reliability or creature comforts”? Do you read what you typed before you hit “submit”?

    • 0 avatar
      NoGoYo

      “I will not own a boring car. I’d much rather put up with a car that’s in the shop monthly, yet gives me a rush every time I take it down the driveway than something that’s low cost, insanely reliable, and puts me to sleep on the daily commute.”

      Hear hear man, hear hear!

      I’m all for the “don’t buy boring” train. I still want an IROC-Z, regardless of how bad an idea buying an old Camaro may be. I want to go fast and look cool while I’m still young!

      • 0 avatar
        frozenman

        You have convinced me, after 14 yrs of Honda and Subaru ownership experience I need something to hone my troubleshooting skills on! “Use it or loose it” as they say :) 2007 Saturn Vue 3.5 here we come! Oh wait….

    • 0 avatar
      daiheadjai

      “I will not own a boring car. I’d much rather put up with a car that’s in the shop monthly, yet gives me a rush every time I take it down the driveway than something that’s low cost, insanely reliable”

      I feel like this is something that’s easy to say until you actually do it.
      And then comes the buyer remorse.

      But hey, an old Jag XJ looks great at all times – even on the side of the road with the hazards on and the hood propped open.
      Part of the rush is the suspense from finding out if it will make it down the driveway….

      I think “fun to drive” should not come at the expense of decent reliability. A fun car isn’t as fun when it’s loaded on a set of jacks most of the time. Luckily, it seems we are living in good times in that regard – most of the fun cars out now appear to be pretty reliable (Mustang, Miata, Toyobaru, even the maligned Teutonic marques). Good times for us all.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “I’d much rather put up with a car that’s in the shop monthly, yet gives me a rush every time I take it down the driveway than something that’s low cost, insanely reliable”

        It would be a lot more fun driving the car if it wasn’t always up on a lift.

        • 0 avatar

          That reminds me of the time someone with an Elan mocked the Miata as being a soulless Japanese knockoff. I asked him how many times he’d driven the Elan in the past year. His reply was opaque, but suggested that the number was low. I enjoy being able to go for a drive whenever I want to, without worrying about things like “will it start” or “will it go up in flames”

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            In terms of discussing a daily driver, I have a hard time reconciling some of the comments being made insinuating or outright stating that the highest level of reliability isn’t of utmost importance.

            I can think of few things worse in terms of vehicle ownership experience than not having a vehicle start or run properly/safely, and having to have it towed or be driven in for service, given all the other hassles and time demands of modern life, due to faulty components or assembly.

            A hobby/track/pleasure vehicle is an entirely different paradigm.

  • avatar
    LesM

    Reliability and durability are two different things.
    It’s really rare to have a “no start” issue on a modern car, but that doesn’t mean that they will last longer.

    For one thing, the Big 3 don’t stock parts past 10 years, so you are screwed if you need something model-specific. I lost a good Ford Probe because the fuel filler neck was biodegradable unobtainium (couldn’t pass emissions with that code).

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      Not sure where you got that 10 year rule from, but I have no trouble buying parts for old domestic iron. And the aftermarket and used market have made it really easy to get stuff – even obscure parts…like a sending switch, float, gasket, lockring, and mounting straps fro a 1972 Fury……

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        Drivetrain parts aren’t too hard, but interior and exterior stuff can be a bear. Take it from someone that spent over two years searching for fog light housings on an ’89 Bonneville until I just gave up and modified a set off an Oldsmobile.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Even if the costs are covered, the time and headaches aren’t.

    Still, the availability of data is a game changer. For example, I’m really hoping to get my wife a Saab wagon, B6 PAssat 2.0T wagon, a Tiguan or a CX-7 for her next car. The last 3 all have a huge design flaw with their DI & blowby recirculation systems that makes for nasty carbon buildup. Knowing this, I can anticipate the costs into the budget, get the work done and address the design flaws, while giving wifey a car that we both would enjoy driving at a decent price. 20 or even 10 years ago the info necessary to make such a decision was simply not available.

    And of course, cars in general are just better made period.

    • 0 avatar
      rox1

      Bingo! You beat me to the punch. From much personal experience, I’d rather have a Toyota or Honda that doesn’t require me to visit the dealer often or spend all outdoors to keep it in good running condition. The extension of warranties does nothing to alleviate the headaches of frequent visits to dealers and – later – independent repairmen, irrespective of the monetary cost.

      Case in point: A close friend of mine has a very recent vintage Audi Q5. The thing has given her nothing but headaches virtually since she drove it off the lot. She has bluntly told me she “hates it” and can’t wait to get rid of it. And, it doesn’t matter how many “free” visits with cappuccino she gets from the dealer.

      Also, the supposition underlying this post is that Europeanish cars (like Audis) are inherently less “boring” than Japanese cars. I beg to differ, however many times the mantra is repeated in the auto press.

      • 0 avatar
        steevkay

        I’m glad someone said this; I’ve never driven any European cars, so I’m really curious as to how much better these cars are than Asian/American cars, which I’ve always driven.

        I find that I’m able to enjoy the majority of cars I drive for one reason or another. Hell, I drive a 2009 Accent right now. Is it awesome? No. Is it terrible? Compared to a Porsche, probably. In general, though, it’s not terrible. With a small 4-cylinder that optimistically makes 110 hp, you’d think it’d be impossible to have fun, but I do. The steering has enough feel for me to know if I can push a little more, or if it’s starting to slide. The gearbox is ancient (4-speed auto… seriously? in 2009?) but I know how to control the throttle so it’s in the gear I want when I power out of a turn. Steering is quick and precise enough for me to pick an apex and hit it. Floor the throttle, and you get a lot of noise and a bit of movement. You know what? That still makes me laugh; it’s as if the car is trying to be something it isn’t (I’m a fast car, I really am! grrrrr….)

        I’m not saying my Accent is great (I swear at it everyday, but I still love it) but I still have fun in it. The only car that I didn’t have any fun driving was my friend’s 2000-2001 Toyota Camry, mainly because I couldn’t feel a damned thing through the steering wheel. Having V6 power though was somewhat startling after driving around in an underpowered econobox everyday…

        • 0 avatar
          KixStart

          “I’ve never driven any European cars”

          The European machines I have driven definitely feel different, handle better even.

          But so what? I’m not going to the track; I’m commuting. Good fuel economy in bumper-to-bumper traffice, good fuel economy on the highway, low maintenance, low depreciation and the confidence that I will arrive on time are far more important than the speed I can achieve through a slalom I’m never going to attempt.

          • 0 avatar
            NormSV650

            And Kixstart drives a battery powered car. Ho-hum.

          • 0 avatar
            Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

            Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it. The lack of noise in a modern EV’s cabin is quite relaxing, and being able to hammer the go pedal at will and get instant silent response at a stoplight is pretty fun.

          • 0 avatar
            KixStart

            Norm,

            I own a battery asisted car, which my wife usually drives.

            My usual car is a used stick Corolla that I found with high miles, so I got a good price. After a few years in my hands with my short commute, mileage will be normal for that model year and I’ll be able to sell it for a decent price fairly quickly if my needs change.

            If I am compelled to change jobs and take a longer commute, the fuel economy won’t punish my wallet.

            I have driven many different things and I own what I own because I am in touch with my needs and not out to impress people who I probably wouldn’t like, anyway.

            Doctor,

            That is a common theme among Volt owners. I haven’t noticed the Leaf people remarking on it so much. I expect it’s part of the reason people buy Teslas, though.

            I do get a bit of a kick whenever Mrs. Kix whirrs in and out of the driveway.

            As it happens, I bought this particular daily driver not too long ago. GM started offering really cheap leases on the Volt a couple of months later. Had I been in the market at that time, I’d have given it some thought. I’m not normally a lease person but $169/month for a new car is fairly tempting. Instant torque would be interesting, although here in Minnesnowta, useful torque is often limited by available traction.

        • 0 avatar
          vvk

          Much, much better. Completely different feel that Japanese have tried to replicate with almost no success. An equivalent good Euro car to your Accent is something like Peugeot 106 I rented once in Europe. That was a CHEAP small car, retailing for under $10k, depending on local tax. It was certainly one of the best cars I have ever driven. Smooth, fluid handling, amazing ride, terrific interior room. The tiny Michelins provided outstanding traction even when driven HARD. I love European car feel and all I have owned have been extremely reliable and economical to run. I buy them used from caring owners with complete records, no exceptions.

          • 0 avatar
            jacob_coulter

            I think somebody is drinking the Kool Aid.

            You can find cars made in Japan that have excellent handling. You can also find Japanses cars that are more comfort oriented.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            @Jacob_coulter

            But the Japanese have yet to manage to blend the two the way the Europeans manage.

            I think fundamentally, especially for the Germans it really comes down to a home field advantage of the fact that the unlimited speed Autobahn is a daily fact of life. Even in the rest of Europe, speeds are higher than in America or Japan, especially on windy back roads. So the cars are engineered to handle that environment very, very well. And thus they also work very well in the less demanding environment over here.

            But to truly know why a BMW drives the way it does, you merely have to drive one for a few minutes on the Autobahn. And as I have said many times, if that difference is lost on you, enjoy your Camry and spend the extra $15-20K on something that you do value, whatever that may be.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            krhodes1,

            What the Japanese do manage to blend is balljoints and control arm bushings lasting longer than 60-70k miles. Worn out front ends are absolutely endemic to BMWs and Audis, not sure about Mercedes.

            Hook up a shop scan tool (not a simple OBD-2)to a 5 year old German luxury car, or anything British for that matter. I can almost guarantee that 5-10, if not 15 fault codes will pop up. In day to day driving you won’t notice this, it’s mostly for weird things like a warning that the trunk light is out. But it speaks volumes to just how complex and just how NOT well made these cars are.

            Get off your high horse where anyone not driving a European car is some sort of pleb. Some of us are just as enthusiastic and knowledgeable about cars, we just have different priorities in our daily drivers and can appreciate a car that can get by with just oil/brakes/tires for 10 years.

    • 0 avatar
      ash78

      “Even if the costs are covered, the time and headaches aren’t.”

      Bears repeating. Unless you’re a single gearhead who lives next door to his mechanic (and works walking distance away), professional repairs are a headache.

      When I was tinkering on my own car on weekends and could rent something for a couple days when needed, no biggie. It’s a whole different story for my wife and two young kids. Not only do they have ZERO time for professional work downtime (I DIY almost everything), they also can’t be stranded or driving around in an unsafe state. It’s a tough position to be in.

      I say this as I drove my wife’s car to work today to have tires mounted and the car aligned, then I’ll walk 10 blocks to the shop, drive the car 20 minutes home, then bring my car right back to work. It took almost a month for us to coordinate this half-day visit.

      A third car is starting to sound really feasible…

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        I am a firm believer in N+1 when it comes to cars, assuming you live somewhere that the added cost of another car is not egregious.
        I’m at N+4 at the moment, but that is a hobby. :-)

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          N + 4? Damn son!

          I guess I’m N + 14, but I don’t count company fleet vehicles. I’d still have to get to the company yard.

        • 0 avatar
          davefromcalgary

          So, I am replacing the Alero. It still works, but I am starting not to trust it for the long trips.

          Provided I can store it, you think its worth keeping as backup?

          With 300,000 kms and a rebuilt title, I doubt its worth more the 250 bucks on trade.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I find the two car strategy to be a wise one. Alero becomes the run around town/winter beater and a new whip becomes the primary.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            If you have room, I would. But, I love me some Oldsmobiles.

          • 0 avatar
            davefromcalgary

            I would just have to pay for another parking spot at my home apartment complex, and keep the Alero on fire and theft with a valid plate and sticker.

            Since I am single and the only driver listed on my insurance policy, I can drive the Alero every once in a while without having to call and add/change insurance. I just have to inform them I am driving the secondary car that day.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Dave is your Alero the 2.2 or the 3400?

          • 0 avatar
            davefromcalgary

            2.2, 5MT.

            Driving across the prairies in -30 Celsius on Jan 4 2014 caused the clutch hydraulic pressure to disappear, and I had to limp it home. Pressure has since returned, but 1st and 3rd gear synchros are buggered. Its still completely drivable, but a bit…grindy. Other issues include an e-brake that fails to release, and it refuses to idle when it gets below -10 Celsius. I was planning to buy something new in summer, and I was dealing with these issues, but the new transmission issue has had me move up my timeline. That being said, the car still gets me around just fine, so I am trying to take my time and buy the right car. Something I will like. I figure it would make a decent backup car, given that its paid off and it wouldn’t cost me much to keep it around.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I would definitely hang on to the Alero for the 5spd factor alone. I find keeping my Saturn on the road was wise because despite the fracking revolution, oil will be kept artificially high as long as possible, and even if it were to come down the politicians will swoop in with higher taxes. I personally drive about 10-12K per year and I split the mileage among my three cars. Get something fun but different and slowly start to put new parts and fluids in your Alero. The 2.2 is a great motor and it sounds like other than wear issues you may eventually need clutch work. I think when that day comes its well worth doing.

          • 0 avatar
            davefromcalgary

            Yeah, its an easy car to work on, and it would be nice to be working on it not wondering how I will get to work on Monday.

        • 0 avatar
          bumpy ii

          N+5, but if we’re counting turnkey-ready stuff, then N+3.

        • 0 avatar
          fvfvsix

          @krhodes1

          +1 on the extra car. We’ve been running 3 (or 4 at times) for about 4 years now. It is truly liberating when you don’t have to worry about potential downtime due to maintenance issues or accidents. Not to mention – variety is the spice of life :)

        • 0 avatar
          Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

          My other car is a BMW R1150GS.

          If/when I can afford a Model S/X though, I would look seriously into getting a beater pickup truck for the odd long-range trip or motorcycle tow.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        My local Lincoln dealer picks my car up from my work for oil changes. They would do the same for more extended services and drop off a loaner.

        • 0 avatar
          Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

          My Chevy dealer does likewise, and will top off my gas tank at my Volt’s service intervals.

          I really do have to remember not to refill my tank about 3 months before my next service interval (rotating tires, checking hoses/cables/seals/etc) :/

      • 0 avatar
        dswilly

        Agree. As I mentioned in my other post I was the full-on DYI guy, brakes, rotors, struts, oil, gaskets, radiators, etc. Now with a young family and busy schedule we don’t want a car down. Both our cars, 09 BMW X5 & 012 VW Routan are on the CPO covered maintenance/towing program. I like it a lot even though we have only needed it once. I even have a third car, a 82 Toyota 4×4 PU but the kids won’t fit in it and my wife won’t touch it.

      • 0 avatar
        KixStart

        “A third car is starting to sound really feasible…”

        More stuff in my life? No, thanks.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        If your wife has her own car and so do you, another might make three in your family, but really only two would be yours. Go for it.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      With the internet it’s much easier to get very detailed information about specific models. Rather than general perceptions about a brand, one can find the most reliable model and trim level configurations plus any modifications and maintenance to keep it reliable. A manual transmission 4 cylinder Accord or Civic is generally very reliable while the automatic versions don’t last as long. A non-turbo, non-DSG, Volkswagen costs less to keep on the road than one with either of these options. Some specific Toyota models have serious issues and some specific Mercedes models are reliable if well maintained. Armed with this information it’s possible to avoid the lemon models from the reliable brands while finding hidden gems from brands consumers shy away from.

    • 0 avatar
      dswilly

      Not sure how other brands CPO programs work, but with our 09 BMW X5 we get a loaner car whenever it needs service, which so far has been once. This applies to both scheduled maintenance (it has extended maintenance as well) and warranty repair. It’s really a painless experience, drop off the car, walk over to the loaner X1,328xi,X3, whatever and go. Return when done, no charge.

      Depending on your lifestyle this can make a big difference in how you approach service,repair, etc. As a full-on ex-DYI guy, it’s worth it for us to have a loaner car and be up and running with two cars at all times, we both work with serious commutes, manage the kids, I drop them off, wife picks them up, etc. To be down a car or require pick up drop off, etc. is a serious PITA for us. I like the CPO program we have, it’s nice.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        I like CPO programs too. I think it really depends on the brand. One reason I ended up with an MKT instead of a Flex is the differences in coverage. Ford just gives you powertrain coverage and no perks. Lincoln gives full coverage and a suite of things that make life easier if there is a car issue. Plus the Lincoln dealerships around here, no shared Ford/Lincoln stores, are much nicer than the Ford dealerships.

  • avatar
    ash78

    For all my complaints about our two decade-plus B5 VW Passats (all Audi guts underneath), financially and practically speaking, setting aside a few hundred bucks a year above what a comparable Honda or Toyota would cost is not a make-or-break for me. If you DIY most or all of your maintenance, it can be almost a wash. And at the time in 1998 and 2001, the competition was a generation or two behind VW in what they offered in this class, both features and driving dynamics. They quickly caught up, though.

    The real frustration is in the stuff that shouldn’t fail, but does. And people who are completely reliant on dealers to fix every little thing will quickly be turned off. But if you can turn an occasional wrench and have a decent mechanic for the complicated stuff, there is virtually no brand I’d outright avoid today on its own (CURRENT) merits. Everything is pretty reliable now.

    (That said, I do have a grudge against VW for a lot of substandard parts and too much emphasis on initial quality and “excessive niceties” that fail sooner than they should.)

  • avatar
    bryanska

    I dunno. Given the “suprises” of cracked coolant tanks, needy brake calipers, dead HIDs, 18 inch AWD tire blowouts and variable-effort steering sensors… unreliable luxury cars can send your monthly budget into a tailspin. Am unexpected $400 dealer visit is torture when you gotta cover diapers and daycare.

    Now that I have money in my mid-30s I’m even more careful about holding onto it. A gussied-up Chevy, Chrysler or Toyota is about as far as I’ll go.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      That’s right. And you can’t say “Oh reliability is getting old. It doesn’t matter as much anymore. And I’m selling this car the day the warranty runs out.”

      • 0 avatar
        DeeDub

        And good luck selling your now 6-year-old out-of-warranty unreliable car for anything near what you paid for it 3 years ago.

        • 0 avatar
          bryanska

          LOL my 2002 Caddy STS was high $40′s new… I sold it in 2011 for about $6k.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            That’s because it’s awful in lots of ways.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            I have you well beat on that one, though in the other direction. Some fool paid $76K for my ’01 Range Rover in late 2000. I paid $5K for it in really nice condition last September. That is pretty much like burning money.

            But somebody has to buy ‘em new, or we wouldn’t have any to buy used.

            Sundry British issues are a lot easier to take on a $5K truck than a $76K truck. And actually, it has been pretty reliable so far.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I was going to make a similar joke of the driver who takes it off your hands for $1500, but then it struck me you’ll probably drive it into the ground.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            But the new buyer lost $71,000 on it, where krhodes maximum loss will be $5,000 + cost of any necessary parts/repairs.

  • avatar
    jmo

    Also, in terms of reliablity today, not only do cars have far fewer problems, far fewer of those problems leave you stranded.

    I recall someone mentioning a 1970′s Oldsmobile they bought that came from the factory with a hard starting problem when it was cold or damp. Sometimes, you go to head to work and it just wouldn’t start. And that was just the way it was.

    • 0 avatar
      Willyam

      Very much so. Two Pontiacs, an Audi GT, a VW GTI, a Mercury Cougar, and one of the last carbureted vehicles made, a late 80′s Wrangler, all had me walking at various times. None was over the 100k mile mark at the time, but of course all were bought used.

      I’ve owned some expensive payment-making vehicles, then got smart and decided to quit going broke. Yes, I commute in a boring 12 year-old Toyonda. It sits outside, takes door dings, auto-starts no matter how hot or cold it gets, gets near-30 mpg, and costs the minimum in insurance. Only failure so far? Gas cap seal (12$). Do I lust after the Audi’s in the parking lot anyway? You betcha.

      We’ve come a long way…

  • avatar

    I think the perception of reliability has changed. Gone are the days of cars that rusted on the showroom floor, or needed engine rebuilds every 40K miles. Any car made in the last 15 years needs less maintenance than cars made in previous eras and stand a decent chance of going 150K miles.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    I went from a Buick X-car to a Camry in ’85 so don’t tell me reliability is not important, I went from a car that I was scared to go out on weekend outings with my young family cause it would leave us stranded on the road to one that gave me no headaches for the 10 yrs I owned it!

    • 0 avatar
      ash78

      I think the point here is the perspective that an ’85 Camry was 10x more reliable than an ’85 GM car.

      Today a Camry might be 20% more reliable than a GM car, depending on how many points you assign to fiery death.

      The gap has closed and I sincerely thank Asian automakers for pushing that forward.

      • 0 avatar
        Volt 230

        It was a 1980 X-car, one of the worst things ever made by an American car company, yet it gave me no problems until the warranty expired and I they gave me $500 as a trade in even though it was only 5 yrs old with 60k miles.

        • 0 avatar
          Willyam

          Boy ain’t that the truth. My father’s last Buick (bought new) was an 84 Century. 3.0 V6? It got sluggish just at the end of the warranty. Turns out the camshaft lobes had ground down. They refused to warranty it (coolant passages failed or something similarly horrific) and dad bought a 1985 Honda Accord. Ran flawlessly until traded at 129k miles because, dad says, he got sick of the color.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        I doubt there is ANY reliability difference between a 2014 Camry and an identically equipped 2014 Buick. How the individual owner treats the car will make more difference than the brand, by far.

        Heck, so far my 2011 BMW has been more reliable than my Mother’s 2011 Prius-V, over the same number of miles.

        • 0 avatar
          bumpy ii

          I certainly wouldn’t buy that with my dollar. Pretty much every reliability failure before 150k or so traces back to poor design and/or low-quality supplier parts in one way or another. End-user treatment generally indicates how far past 150k the vehicle can go.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            As I’ve pointed out before, if you’re too lazy to change your own wiring fluid, then you shouldn’t own a Volkswagen.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Pch-

            You should see the labor cost of a wiring fluid change at a VW dealership. Outrageous. They have to have special fluid flown in from Wolfsburg too.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            @Pch101 and bball40dtw, still cheaper than replacing your muffler bearings.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            A lot of these reliability issues can be substantially reduced if the cars aren’t driven.

          • 0 avatar
            hubcap

            “They have to have special fluid flown in from Wolfsburg too.”

            It’s made from the blood of elves captured in the Black Forest.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            “A lot of these reliability issues can be substantially reduced if the cars aren’t driven.”

            +1

          • 0 avatar
            redmondjp

            You do realize that VW actually DID have wiring fluid in the early 2000s? It was G12 engine coolant ;)

            The low-coolant switch on the pressurized coolant reservoir would leak, and the system pressure would force coolant throughout the wiring of the entire vehicle if the problem went on long enough – in some cases, all the way back to the taillights.

        • 0 avatar
          ash78

          I broadly consider “ability to handle some basic level of mistreatment or neglect” as a reliability factor. The Japanese figured that out a long time ago, especially for the American market.

          As a rough analog, look at the Soviet Air Force and the kind of crap those planes had to deal with in the Cold War.

        • 0 avatar
          CJinSD

          http://www.truedelta.com/Buick-Regal/reliability-521/vs-Camry-264

          Camry is one of the most reliable cars. Regal has one year of average performance and one year of awful performance. 2011 Prius V v. BMW? I don’t have data to refute that one, unless you consider that the Prius V was introduced as a late arriving 2012 model.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            Yes, technically I think it is a 2012. She bought it a couple months after I got my car off the boat so late Nov ’11.

            Anecdote does not equal data, but she has had literally 3x the dealer involving problems I have had. I have had 1, she has had 3. One of which resulted in the car not running. Luckily in her garage, not out and about somewhere.

            As I have said before on this forum. In my experience based on myself and my family and circle of friends, there is simply nothing in it for reliability and durability between European cars and Japanese cars. They all have issues, they all last a long time if you fix the issues. VWs included. American cars were a totally different story though until recently. I don’t know ANYONE who had a good long term experience with an American car pre-2000 or so. Seem fine now.

          • 0 avatar
            RHD

            I once owned a dependable pre-2000 American car: a ’65 Plymouth Valiant, with a three on the tree and a slant six. Bought it for $400 in ’87, sold it a few years later for $400.
            The worst thing that happened was the throttle return spring came loose, and instead of going to idle, it went to full throttle, and when I shut it off, the muffler exploded! Great memories.

        • 0 avatar
          tonycd

          I doubt you’re right. And I don’t doubt there’s data to prove it.

          I’ll accept that the gap has narrowed substantially. But eliminated? Every year for about the last 15 years, I’ve seen breathless writeups saying “Reliability is no longer an issue — the rest of the world has caught up to Japan.” Yet when you look at the objective data such as Consumer Reports surveys, with isolated exceptions that mostly haven’t been sustained, it still hasn’t happened.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    BTW that Buick was just fine until the warranty expired and then it went downhill from that point, seems like they are made to self-destruct after the 36 mos.

    • 0 avatar
      Land Ark

      When I take my tinfoil hat off I secretly suspect that with all the computer controls built into cars it wouldn’t be too difficult for a program to be built in that sets off random issues when the car gets to certain miles. Say, suddenly the car starts running lean to turn on the check engine light. It sends a trouble code for injector #3 failing (or something unverifiable without significant investigation). Once replaced, you clear the trouble code and everything’s fine for 12k-15k miles when injector #3 goes out again. Well, time for a new car!

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I could see the “warranty” brands doing this at higher milaegas to get you into the shop/into a new car but I doubt mainstream brands could pull this off.

  • avatar
    DevilsRotary86

    I would like to take this opportunity to say something that I have learned entirely unrelated to reliability.

    From the article:
    ““You can have any car you want. So long as it’s a Toyota or Honda.”

    My parents had offered to split the costs of a new car with me back in 1994. That matching policy eventually included an awful lot of disclaimers and exclusions.

    “No V8! No V6! No turbo! No stick! No convertible! No small car! No! Nein! Nyet!”

    This is the reason I will never accept help to buy a car. Save for my first car that my parents bought for me and my brother to share in high school, I have managed to maintain this so far. Whenever you ask someone to help you buy your car, you allow them a certain amount of influence over your decision. I very am picky about my cars and I suspect that most of us here are too. As an example, say my father in law helps my wife and I buy a car. I can almost guarantee that he will insist that we buy a hybrid if we want his help. But I don’t want a hybrid. By buying on my own the decision is 100% mine to make.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      I learned that lesson back in the ’70′s when my father was either providing me cars as graduation gifts (2) or loaning me the money to buy (1). His dictum was, “Chevrolet, period. No Corvettes, no Cosworths.” Which meant that I’d look at what I really wanted to own, then try and spec out a Chevy to get as close to that as I could.

      Which is why my MGB-GT became a Vega GT. And my Triumph TR6 became a Monza 2+2. And what hurt most of all (because I was paying him back for it), the Ford Fiesta S wasn’t under consideration. I ended up doing a V-6, 5-speed Monza Kammback. Which was the worst POS I’ve ever owned.

      Final slap in the face: Our family, the “nothing but Chevy” family? For my ’82 car, the wife and I planned on a Dodge Omni. Finally going to break that damned family tradition. Only dad bought himself one six weeks before we jumped.

      • 0 avatar
        TMA1

        I like that story. With a twist like that, you could sell the rights M. Night!

      • 0 avatar
        tonycd

        Sorry your dad was a jerk.

        Mine was, too. When I bought an Omnirizon, he ripped me for buying from an insolvent car company. When I traded it in on a Westmoreland County Rabbit, he ripped me for buying from a foreign one. (Me: “Made in the far-flung country of Pennsylvania.” He: “You know where the money goes!”)

        When he bought a Supra, I waited for an apology. I’m still waiting, and he’s not alive anymore. I can relate.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      “No V8! No V6! No turbo! No stick! No convertible! No small car! No! Nein! Nyet!”

      I can understand all the other requirements, but why the “no stick” policy? Why wouldn’t they want you to get the cheapest, simplest, most reliable, (quickest-shhh), and most fuel efficient option? One can argue the merits of modern automatics, but back then a manual was better in every way as long as you were willing and able to operate it.

  • avatar

    I owned a couple of new Hondas but found they didn’t have the emotional involvement of sportier Euro cars and I also decided that with the increasing reliability it was no longer necessary to take the big depreciation hit on a new car.

    I’ve owned a succession of second hand Audis and BMWs, most of them out of warranty and surprisingly cheap because of it. Currently I run two Bimmers, a 2001 330Ci Cabrio (85k miles) and a 2000 528i (151K). Both give reliable service on a par with the Hondas I have owned and are far more pleasurable to drive. Nor have they ever presented me with a catastrophic repair bill.

    Reliability, Schmliability.

    • 0 avatar
      jkross22

      Have you not had any window regulators fail? Trunk latch mechanism? Door locks? Weird electrical gremlins like the one that keeps the hazard switch light on all the time?

      Drivetrain wise, those early 2000 BMW’s are great, but those small problems are walletectomies.

      • 0 avatar
        ellomdian

        The ‘small’ problems are generally on optional features, and in my experience, on components not within arm’s reach of the driver’s seat. Most people ordering a 528 (instead of a 540) aren’t going to check the boxes for all of the toys.

        The walletectomy phase is pretty much over at this point – you can’t even order many parts from the dealer, and if you are willing to replace with recycled parts, they are awfully cheap as there were a LOT of people that got into Import Recycling in the mid-00′s.

      • 0 avatar

        No problems w window lifts or trunk latchs. Door locks are problematic in that the remote control sometimes fails but there’s always a manual override and repairs are not expensive. Weird electric gremlins do happen, taillights and brake lights blow frequently. Right now on the cabrio I’m getting indications of blown tail-brake lights on the idiot light but they are in fact working.

        These cars have reputations for weak cooling systems and Automatic trannys but so far preventive replacements of cooling system components (@ 100k) and regular transmission services (every (60-75K) have precluded any problems. I hasten to add that I NEVER go to dealers for service.

        • 0 avatar
          Will in MKE

          Re: brake / tail lights in bimmers — use the OEM bulbs with a silver base. Yes, it makes a difference to the idiotic idiot light system. And clean all of the housings if you’ve used copper base bulbs.

  • avatar
    davefromcalgary

    This is where I am struggling in my car shopping, buying a car that should be reliable but that I will also enjoy. This was why the Accord Coupe was enticing, big V6, with the Accord having a reputation for reliability.

    Looking for a manual surely limits my options, but I. WILL. NOT. BUY. AN. AUTOMATIC. PERIOD.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    The surveys seem to agree that the least reliable cars today are about what the most reliable cars of 15-20 years ago were then. So I completely agree that reliability is just not a huge concern anymore for many people.

    I would caution getting TOO excited about CPO warranties. Read the fine print very, very, very carefully and know what you are getting into. They are NOT an extension of the factory warranty in most cases, rather an extended warranty with exclusions that you could drive a truck through. For example, BMW’s CPO program does not cover much of anything related to the infotainment system. iDrive takes a dump – that’s on you, bud. And a LOT of things are considered “wear items” (because they ARE). AND you are going to pay a stiff diagnostic fee to the dealer to find out that it isn’t covered. I’d rather buy a non-CPO car privately and bank the several thousand dollar difference. Seems like the smartest approach is to buy a car privately that has some warranty left, pay a mechanic to go over it with a fine-toothed comb and then have the dealer fix any issues found while it is still free.

    Ultimately, a lot of folks get into trouble because they see they can buy an older S-class for the price of a new Camry. So they are unprepared when their $100K car for $25K starts needing $100K car maintenance. Affording a car means more than having the money to buy it.

    The other thing that cracks me up is that people are so unwilling to be pro-active with maintenance and repairs. It is not hard to find out what the dilemmas will be with any given car. Fix them BEFORE they strand you on the side of the road. Most people just drive the car and hopefully get an oil change occasionally until something breaks. Maintenance is fixing things BEFORE they break. Do it right and there are no surprises.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      “Fix them BEFORE they strand you on the side of the road”

      Amen. Having a lease doesn’t mean you don’t have to change the tires if they are worn out! Most tires will go 40K+ miles, but not if you drive your leased car like its not yours.

      Thats just the tip of the iceberg too. 28 told a story last week about a Dodge Intrepid that didn’t get any service for 100K+ miles. What a disaster.

      • 0 avatar
        TMA1

        Reminds me of my old girlfiend that I passed down to Dolorean. She asked me why the idiot lights on her Vibe were lit up. 60K miles and not even an oil change will do that. Pull off the oil filler cap to see this nasty black sludge, and I’m the one who gets yelled at!

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      Ah yes…If ou can’t afford it new, you can’t afford it used…A lesson taught to me by a Toyota Land Cruiser.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    For reliability data, I’ll give a shout out to TrueDelta also.

    I go back and forth on the reliability issue. Poverty has forced me to keep fixing bad cars, and prosperity has enabled me to jettison reliable ones.

  • avatar
    Spartan

    Reliability has gone from being stranded on the side of the road to not having your navi work properly. I haven’t had a truly unreliable car in at least 5+ years and I’ve had all brands from Chevy, Honda(liked to eat alternators), Jaguar (it was definitely unreliable with its electronics), Infiniti, and Ford. Believe it or not, the Infiniti saw the least amount of time at the dealer and was the best car I’ve ever owned.

    I’ve never had a German car but my sister did own a VW and after her nightmare of an ownership experience, I sure as hell wouldn’t considering it or an Audi, or any other German car other than a Porsche.

    • 0 avatar
      slance66

      I’ve never had a truly unreliable car. Never. Mostly I had Hondas (2 Accords and a Prelude). Then a Ford Contour SE that did strand me once, but that was because I was driving home from Boston and some guys had tried to steal it and screwed it up, unknown to me. My Volvo S60 needed too many repairs, and so did the XC70, but never a tow. Our Tribeca was bulletproof. Our RX350 is a mixed bag and my CPO 07 328xi has been fantastic (no iDrive).

      I think most brands are reliable, but I still shy away from VW and Audi. Every model I look at has the 2.0T and I just don’t trust it. Older Range Rovers and Jags would be off my list. But the days of Honda and Toyota having a big edge are gone. Honestly, if you can avoid Nav, or fancy infotainment systems, you avoid a lot of problems.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      “Reliability has gone from being stranded on the side of the road to not having your navi work properly.”

      Great point!

      “Honestly, if you can avoid Nav, or fancy infotainment systems, you avoid a lot of problems.”

      Getting harder and harder, unfortunately. Especially in luxury cars. Every try to option out an ATS without CUE?

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      I have no problem believing the Infiniti was reliable. The older ones (except the horrible Mississippi-built trucks) were Japanese-built Nissans, and their survey data confirms their reliability was usually excellent.

      As for Porsche, do yourself a favor and start lumping them in with all them other Germans.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Life is too short to drive boring cars.

    Let’s be honest. The cars that are considered “unreliable POS” today would have been “Consumer’s Digest Best Buys” when I was a child (the 1980s).

    • 0 avatar
      vvk

      Exactly.

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      Important distinction: Consumer’s Digest is a fraud. They exist because the real deal, Consumer Reports, refuses to be bought (whatever their other weaknesses may be, they are pretty much incorruptible). But the other guys discovered that if you had a magazine and an award (“Best Buy”) that sounded pretty much the same as the real deal, you had a commodity automakers would pay for.

      GM has been playing this game with this very publication for decades, fooling the unattentive into thinking that two generations of LeSabres were as bulletproof as their equally boring Camry competitors. ‘Twarn’t so. And still ’tain’t.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        You need to check your Consumer Reports back issues.

        I actually own the 1989 CR Auto Issue. The Lesabre did quite well, being the only GM car to get a “much better than average” reliability rating. The other C and H bodies did good as well. The rest of GM was a dumpster fire.

        In many years the Lesabre and its H-body brethren were the only GM vehicles to get a “recommended” label from CR.

        In fact, I think that CR had the Lesabre as recommended from ’88-’05.

        • 0 avatar
          tonycd

          I have a whole shelf of those back issues.

          CR states clearly that its “Recommended” rating simply means:

          1) It scored highly enough in their road testing to be recommended, and

          2) Its reliability is Average or better.

          As such, “Recommended” is mostly not a reliability rating. It just includes a general cutoff of models that are unreliable.

          The LeSabre did score very well in reliability in a few model years, mostly the GM pattern that the reliability rises on cars they’ve been producing for several seasons. But that excellence has not been consistent compared to Toyota.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            “I have a whole shelf of those back issues.”

            Then dust off those issues from the years I mentioned and tell me how what CR wrote jives with your earlier statement that GM was “fooling the unattentive into thinking that two generations of LeSabres were as bulletproof as their equally boring Camry competitors?”

            If you want to criticize GM’s quality there are a lot better candidates than the ’88-’99 H-body.

  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    I’ve been very happy with the CPO Lincoln my wife and I recently purchased. My wife has been even more happy. You still have to do your homework on the vehicle, and the warranty like krhodes mentioned. The Lincoln warranty is excellent, and covers everything mechanical and electrical that isn’t a wear item like tires/brakes/fluids/etc. Its 7 years, 125000 miles, and it was cheaper than most private party MKTs. Since Lincoln moves all of 7000 or so MKTs a year, finding one isn’t easy.

  • avatar
    Short Bus

    Being in my penny-pinching 30′s, I have enough experience to realize that most cars built in the last decade are very reliable, and very durable. However, I’m at a point in my life where I’m taking the long view and I see retirement, and the desire to at least try to assist children in getting a college education both coming up a lot faster than it ever felt it would.

    So my wife is getting a Camry. Because I know that it will last for as long as we want it to.

    Yeah, life is too short to drive boring cars…. but I bet life would feel shorter still if I had to work until 70-75 years old and wasn’t able to retire at 55-60 because I spent an extra $10k to $15k on each car now instead of saving it for later.

    • 0 avatar
      bryanska

      Also, if the wife is happy with a boring car, GIVE HER ONE. Make yours the exciting specialized vehicle.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        This is wise.

      • 0 avatar
        Short Bus

        Yup, that’s basically what’s going to happen. Although my specialized vehicle is likely to stay on the cheap side for the next 10-15 years. But I’m the type who will find happiness with whatever my budget allows, be it a $5000 Miata or a $40,000 Porsche. Thankfully my paid off $14,000 GTI (current market value) has plenty of life left in it.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        I tell anyone who asks me for car advice who is not an enthusiast to buy the newest Camry or Corolla they can find. Which is fine, they are appliances. I personally would rather walk than own either one, because every time I get stuck with a Camry for a rental I can feel my soul being sucked out through my hands into the steering wheel. And that goes double for Impalas, BTW, having been stuck with one in Dallas this week.

        What irks me are the weenies, and there are more than a few of them hanging around here, who call themselves “enthusiasts” who will buy nothing but the most boring vanilla cars because they are afraid they will not get to work on time, or God forbid they have to spend money to fix something someday. Maybe. Possibly. Even a V6 Camry is like a fancy washing machine with 20 extra cycles you will never, ever use.

        • 0 avatar
          Short Bus

          Sure, but like it or not, these boring vanilla cars you love to hate have their place, even in an enthusiast’s stable.

          I guess it’s all about what you value most. I love cars, but I love financial independence more, and I probably always will. So I’m basically going down the path JuniperBug outlined…. the one where you have your toy, and your dependable ride.

          Honestly, the idea of driving a Camry to work everyday with a cheap turbocharged Miata or cammed, obnoxious LS1 Z-28 (or something else, use your imagination) hanging out for giggles seems more appealing to me than driving a luke-warm car with no other options.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            As do I. I have a relatively boring dependable ride. A 2011 BMW 328i station wagon – the German family truckster. And it WILL be very dependable for a very, very, very long time, regardless of what the Internet peanut gallery thinks. Will it cost more than a Camry? Probably, but the best things in life are never free. Given that I literally cannot replace It as BMW won’t sell me another one like it, I plan to have it for a very long time.

            Then I have my toys. ’74 Triumph Spitfire, ’01 Range Rover, ’87 Porsche 924S, ’13 FIAT Abarth. Actually, my toys are pretty dependable too, other than the Porsche, which is very much a project car.

            If I couldn’t afford a new BMW I would simply have spent Camry money on a used one. If I couldn’t afford a new Camry/used BMW, I would just do what I did before I could afford new BMWs and buy old used Saabs and Volvos and BMW, all of which were VERY dependable, but never boring.

            Life’s too short to drive a dishwasher if you actually care about driving. If you don’t care about driving, Toyota has a wide range of excellent choices for you.

          • 0 avatar
            Short Bus

            krhodes1, I guess we’ll have to disagree. I’m happy your choices worked out well for you, but they don’t work well for everybody.

            Not everybody has enough money or time to own a well used European car. That doesn’t mean they don’t like driving, even if they don’t meet your personal requirements for what it is to enjoy driving. It simply means that they’re at a different point in life than you are.

        • 0 avatar
          sgeffe

          I’m on my third Accord V6 in fifteen years, and unlike a Camry, they do have a soul!

          The latest ones, like my 2013 Touring, handle almost as well as previous ones, take off like an F-18 on AB off a catapult, and can pull down mid-30s with the cruise set to 80mph+ with the A/C cranked!

    • 0 avatar
      JuniperBug

      What Short Bus said!

      Some say that life is too boring to drive boring cars. I say it’s too short to spend doing a job you hate in order to pay off debt you don’t need, for a car you just drive through rush hour traffic to the job you hate to pay off the “not boring” car.

      If it costs an extra 10%, and you have the money, to get from a “boring car” to an “exciting car,” I get it, but it seems like for many the price chasm is much larger than that. One thing I’ve noticed, too: it’s generally cheaper to have one simple, reliable “boring car” and then have a second, depreciated, exciting car for when you feel like having fun. For example: for the same price you could buy a new GTI or a base Golf (which I consider to be a fine everyday car) AND a turbocharged Miata. The second option will leave you with a more exciting car AND an equally reliable one. The only caveat is that you need to have the space for an extra car. This formula works very well with motorcycles, too, and you don’t even need an extra parking space for those.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Well maybe I am just extremely lucky. Or maybe I made some good life choices. I have a job I love where my commute is roughly 9 minutes to the airport when I am traveling, and downstairs and around the corner when I am not. I have minimal debt, I only have notes on two of the cars because I am making far more in the market than the car notes cost in interest. I could pay them off online right now, but why would I at .9%? I can’t imagine living the life you outline – sounds completely horrid.

        But ultimately, I didn’t drive boring cars even for the MANY years where I refused to spend more than $5K on a car because I could not afford to spend more than that. And those cars were reasonably dependable, because they were bought carefully and maintained properly. And I always had at least two. And I actually do enjoy working on cars. The Porsche is very much pushing my limits though – it wasn’t supposed to be a project…

        This meme that interesting cars have to bankrupt you so you are a fool to drive anything but a rolling microwave oven is just silly. It simply isn’t true. You can have a lot of dependable fun on $5K.

      • 0 avatar
        fvfvsix

        @Juniper – we can all agree that debt needs to be minimized or eliminated, but there is a middle ground. Hopefully, we can make life choices that land us in situations where we enjoy what we do for a living…and hopefully, the money we make can buy us some nice, exciting cars if we are so inclined. We too often forget that time is our most valuable asset, and we need to try to enjoy life at all times – even before the “mythical” retirement at age 55 (as a sidebar, why the hell would anyone want to quit doing what they’re passionate about at some arbitrary age just so they can hang out on a lake and get fat??).

        Here’s a better solution – find a way to make money doing something you absolutely love before you get too old, and buy whatever the hell you want (buy, not borrow)… they’ll make more money, ya know :)

  • avatar
    Sjalabais

    I am a sucker for rreliability. It is the number one priority above everything else. What is the point in having a fun-to-drive car when it annoys the hell out of me everytime something fails? That said, a reliable car need not be boring. I just want the producer to put some thought and testing into their product. That is equally true for most other expensive consumer products I purchase.

    If every car is reliable now? According to mostly national statistics that are available now, this is almost the case. At least compared to 20-30 years ago. But that is not to say there aren’t any differences between makes and models. I absolutely believe in making an informed choice, so I can focus on the fun parts of car ownership rather than the expensive drudgery that is fixing them.

  • avatar
    Aquineas

    I love your articles, but I vehemently disagree. Mechanically cars may be getting more reliable, but electrically, there’s a lot more that can go wrong. We live in an age where it costs just as much to replace those fancy dashboard electronics as it does to buy a rebuilt transmission.

  • avatar
    bryanska

    Even better are owner’s forums, in which you can learn the common falure points. So when the common part breaks you know exactly what to expect through the repair process.

    Thus unreliability becomes less scary when you it’s predictable. I want an XTS in about five years, and look forward to browsing the Cadillac forums to learn what I should be prepared for. On those forums you can find guys who exclusively shop for “studded” Northstars.

    I had a buddy with a 2000 1.8T VW GTI, and he simply ordered enough generic coil packs to keep a few on hand. He kept one in the trunk at all times.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    My ’05 Scion xB approaches 10 years old (it is a June ’04 build). It doesn’t quite have 75k on it. Repair (as opposed to maintenance) costs thus far have been under $40.

    Contrast that with my first car, a malaise-era Chevrolet. By 70k it was on it’s 3rd set of ball joints/tie rods, etc.

    But I’m kind of bored of it. Five years is about as long as I’ve ever owned a vehicle. Yet, because it’s a bit of a cult classic, the darn thing doesn’t depreciate much. I could probably sell it for $7k right now, or I could keep it another 3 years and sell it for $4k. I can’t convince myself that boredom is any reason to get rid of a car that costs me next to nothing to own and operate.

    • 0 avatar
      fvfvsix

      You are a good candidate for a second car, if you have the space.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      My 05 xB was just as wonderful as yours, but I got bored with it after 7 years. With 70k on it, the dealer gave me $6500 in trade, which seemed fair at the time.

      Hard for me to believe I drove a used 85 LeBaron GTS for 12 years, but it received a lot of repairs over the years to keep it going.

  • avatar
    WaftableTorque

    I liken reliability to the Big 5 personality trait of conscientiousness: you don’t realize your friends or coworkers don’t have it until they show up late for work; “forget” to pay you back the $10 they owe you; just wing it when asked to head a project; or don’t even bother showing up for a job interview.

    Then we’re hurt and angry with ourselves because our default mode is to trust until they can no longer be trusted. We assume everyone is conscientious, unaware there is a distribution curve of this trait in the general population.

    So once you’re burned, you can either 1) YOLO. I.e. “I hate boring people/I turn over my friends every 3 years.” 2) Require proof. Many companies want their applicants to have college degrees. Why? People low in conscientiousness by definition do not earn degrees. And 3) trust but verify. Interview and test your candidates before you hire them, and ask for character references from their past employers. Look at how they dress, are they socially sensitive to the people around them?

    Go ahead and substitute “I hate boring cars/I don’t keep cars past the warranty”, Toyota/Honda, or the time intensive research for the above 3.

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    It’s a battle between heart and mind. I love RWD cars with a manual, preferably 2 door coupe (hatchback coupe is OK too), and with either a high strung small engine, or big torquey engine, with enough power to get it sideways, and saving money on gas is like saving money on food. They also have to be really lightweight, and old/classic, with as few gadgets as possible, preferable early EFi or carburated engines, and simple mechanics so I can fix it myself.(excludes hydraulic clutches, and means the gearlever actually goes into the transmission, not linkages and stuff) No power steering, no central locking, no power windows etc.
    In contrast,as a 35 year old who has owned close to 30 cars I now drive a 7 year old japanese fwd(unless the front wheels are spinning) CUV, which easily breaks all the rules I listed above(apart from maybe the engine), because I just can’t be bothered to carry the kids to kindergarten before going to work in the morning…

  • avatar
    readallover

    For many of us reliability IS luxury.

  • avatar

    Steve,

    I’m surprised to hear this advice coming from you, along with a bow to 100k warranties (if I’m not missing anything here). I thought you were a keep-the-car-forever guy. I wouldn’t want to be paying German car repair prices after the thing comes out of warranty, and–especially if I like a car–I’m not going to want to give it up at 100k. And I don’t like a car that needs repairs every two months.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      I thought he was a used car salesman.

      • 0 avatar
        Steven Lang

        I am a keep the car forever type of guy David, always have, and always will be.

        I am also a long time car dealer.

        That means I get to research, buy, fix, detail, recondition and sell cars about 50 hours a week these days. Thousands of cars have come and gone, and I hope thousands more will follow.

        In related work, I have also been in charge of an auto auction and received 50% of it’s profits. In addition, I have also been a ringman, an auctioneer and a remarketing manager. So long story short, I have lived this business since the ripe young age of 26. I turned 41 yesterday.

        As for a few other things, I also have two master’s degrees from Emory (M.Ed.) and Duke (MBA), and I recently taught a stray dog that my family recently rescued from a local kill shelter how to roll over. So I guess I’ve finally qualified to become a used car salesman at this late point in my life.

        • 0 avatar
          guevera

          Happy birthday.

          I guess I’m not the only one who saw “used car salesman” and thought you’d been ranked somewhere between “crack dealer” and “child molester.”

          Also, big props on rescuing the dog. I was about to buy a purebred puppy a couple of years ago when a blatantly manipulative webpage caught me at a weak moment and convinced me to adopt from a shelter instead. I got a great dog, and saved a life.

          • 0 avatar
            Steven Lang

            Thanks. There a few things that get under my skin. Making light of another man’s daily work is one of them.

            All the best!

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I don’t know where you live, but around here there is infinitesimal difference between the cost of dealer service on a BMW vs. a Honda. If anything, the BMW dealer is probably cheaper, as they give a 10% service discount to BMW Club members (and 15% on parts). The Toyota dealer certainly charges more. ALL dealers are egregiously expensive. At least at BMW you get great cappuccino and a BMW loaner.

      The FIAT Studio is dirt cheap though, I have to say.

      As to frequency, even my 135K ’01 Range Rover has needed only one repair in the past 3 months, and it pretty much has to be the most unreliable car you could buy in this century that was not built in Russia. So why don’t we stop exaggerating?

  • avatar
    Molotovio

    It is even worse when the nearest dealer is 100 miles away, as is my case for Audi.

  • avatar
    rmigoya

    Reliability is still important. In past years my family and I have had several cars, including 3 Honda Accords; many Volkswagens (’03 1.8T GTi; ’01, ’05, ’06, ’09 Jettas; and ’05 2.5 Beetle). The Volks never gave us any problem, even though as you can see we have had turbos, standards gearboxes as well as tiptronic. The Hondas have another story… from the three (2.4 EX-L ’05; 2.4 LX-P ’09; and 3.5 EX-L ’09) we had to change in two of them the power steering pump, in the 3.5 the wind gets through the sunroof and in the ’09 2.4 the central locking has a miss function which here in Mexico costs $1,000 dollars and a broken sun visor which costs $500 dollars.

    So… is it important reliability today?

    • 0 avatar
      brettc

      Just bought a 2014 Jetta with the new to market 1.8TSI and the 6 speed Aisin 09G automatic. Am I a glutton for punishment or what? Although I’ve never had any problems with the turbo in a VW, the electrical problems will sometimes pop up when you least expect it. According to a respected TDIClub member who works FT as a mechanic, the Aisin transmissions have a tendency to eat valve bodies so he was surprised that VW is now specifying a 50000 mile fluid/filter change interval in the 2014 maintenance guide.

      No matter what brand, some problems can be attributed to faulty design or just cheap parts (Honda transmissions, VW coil packs, etc). But in my opinion, a car bought new in 2014 should be able to last at least 10 years as long as routine maintenance is followed and fluids are changed even if the manufacturer says it’s a lifetime fill. Seems that a lot of people just put gas in their cars and expect them to be maintenance free. As we know it doesn’t work that way, always have to set aside money for maintenance.

      I don’t think reliability is getting old, it’s just a constantly evolving definition as cars get better mechanically but more frail electronically.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Cars are not more frail electronically. They are FAR more robust, it’s just that “ordinary” cars now have the sorts of electronic toys that were only on the most high end luxury cars 15 years ago, plus things never dreamed of back then. So you get people whining about “MY Ford Touch” and whatnot. Somehow that gets construed as “unreliable”.

        The sheer reduction in the amount of wiring due to CANBUS architecture is a huge help. My ’11 BMW has like 3 wires going into the door – some cars had bundles as thick as your wrist back in the day. I had to replace 3 of the 4 door harnesses in my Grand Cherokee due to the wires breaking from being flexed over the years.

        • 0 avatar
          CJinSD

          I drive a fairly high content 2012 car from a low quality manufacturer. There is ALWAYS a warning light on for something. It is usually for something that wasn’t on any cars not too long ago, like the malfunctioning TPMS or the defective blind spot alarm alerting me that it knows it doesn’t work again. I’ve been seeing a high number of fairly new low quality cars with light bulbs out, which points towards electrical systems not being improved in quality. The sheer amount of gimmicks and gadgets lathered onto new cars to attract an ever dimmer audience isn’t helping anything.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    “The pushing of long-term warranties into the late model used car market have enabled brands that were once reliability pariahs, to become unusually competitive to today’s once untouchable reliable brands.”

    Steve can you please elaborate on this a bit? What are the lengths of the warranties, what do they cover, and how does a customer buy one?

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      Good question.

      I was primarily referring to the warranties that are provided through CPO programs, although there are other companies that offer similar services as well.

      http://www.autotrader.com/research/article/best-cars/213585/top-6-certified-pre-owned-warranties.jsp

      This article does a great job with providing a synopsis of six popular CPO programs. Note that Hyundai, Kia and Volvo, brands that have been seen as having quality issues at varying times over the last ten years, use their CPO programs to provide a longer warranty than many new car counterparts.

      This gives greater piece of mind for the customer, and higher profits for the manufacturer and franchisees.

  • avatar
    kmoney

    I’m actually looking at replacing a car identical to the one in the opening pic with a CPO S or CL class, A8 or LS460. While most of the CPO programs are good, and actually surprisingly fairly priced, the CPO warranties are too short. Mercedes offers 1 or 2 year up to 100k total mileage and Audi is 2 year 80k. Neither of these really provide any real type of insurance. If you plan on owning the car five years, which I consider pretty short, you are still on the hook for your own repairs for more than half of the term. Buying extended warranties is possible; however, it is not practical. A 7 year extended warranty on an S class CPO is around $6500.

    As an aside, and point for keeping old reliable cars, ~2.5 CPO finance payments on the above cars would equal the entire operating costs (insurance, gas and a maintenance allocation) for my old LS for the entire year. No doubt there is some economic value in hanging on to the old reliable car.

    • 0 avatar
      fvfvsix

      I would’ve thought that $6500 would be a perfectly reasonable swag on unexpected repair bills for 7 years on a used S-class. You could “self insure” by keeping $7K in accessible funds sequestered away (good practice, S-class or no), or pay the warranty costs up front under the assumption that you will incur more than $7K in repair bills over that time period. You will pay either way.

      • 0 avatar
        kmoney

        I will say i agree with you. I realized pretty much right after I hit submit that the actuaries at Mercedes probably hit the nail right on the head with the $6500 figure. I guess I’m just conditioned to be cheap as my old car probably (actually definitely) cost lest than that in repairs in it’s entire life….

  • avatar
    ccd1

    I’m a fan of getting a car after the mid-cycle refresh. That is the point at which problems tend to get addressed (if ever). You can max this proposition out by buying the last year before a model change. That would be my 2008 Mazda 6. Problems to date? The car does not signal when the battery is getting weak. The battery works until it doesn’t. That and a cracked plastic side bolster which is going to cost me less than $200 to purchase and replace are all the problems the car has presented in close to 6 years and approximately 75,000 miles.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Only problem with that is you have to do battle with the decontenting fairy. Waiting until the last year can mean you’re left picking through rental-grade trims with cheap carpet and who-knows-what hidden cost-cutting. Year 3 is probably a good middle ground.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        Case in point: at the MMC, the last-generation Honda Accords lost the glovebox light and an ambient LED light in the overhead console which provided a tiny bit of light to the console area at night; you could see where the light was because there’s a plastic dimple there!

        They brought back the little LED in the new Accords, but no glovebox light.

  • avatar
    epsilonkore

    Growing up my family had AMC’s, GM’s and Jeeps. Embarrassment from those 70s/80s American vehicles leaving us all stranded during my superficial teens made me covet reliability as priority #1. My first Toyota, a 94 Celica went in for an unscheduled repair ONCE in 9 years of ownership. I bought another, a first gen Scion tC also bullet proof… but even with the performance add ons it felt dull and boring at times. So I bought a Saturn Sky from a neighbor that had an estate fire sale. I LOVED that car from the day I saw its first concept, so buying it was exciting compared to my “blends in with the crowd” tC. I kept BOTH since the Sky had virtually no versatility to it. This was a good thing as the next 3 years of ownership and a paltry 17,000 miles of driving lead to no less than EIGHTEEN trips to the dying Saturn dealerships. Only once did the problem effect its ability to drive down the road, everything else was an interior or electrical glitch. Seats that had to be rebolted or replaced, leather seats that bubbled, door panels had to be replaced, endless broken cup holders and glove boxes and THREE roof replacements to fix air/water leaks that left the car in the shop for almost a month. IT DROVE ME MAD. I traded both cars in for a Subaru/Toyota experiment, and so far my FR-S has been perfectly solid without dulling my senses like the tC did. Was there anything else in Toyota’s lineup that I wanted? No. Subaru has a WRX, but after the Sky fiasco I am worried about anything turbo/go fast thats NOT from Toyota/Honda. While many manufacturers have caught up to Toyota/Honda in Consumer Reports, I have yet to experience it in real life. If Toyota/Honda can release some additional VISUALLY DESIRABLE vehicles that can also perform like the FR-S, then there will be no need for me to stray again. Extended warranties are great if you have a two car family, like I did, just remember even tiny non Consumer Reports reportable breaks can consume hours at the dealership, while eating at that exciting cars desirability over time.

  • avatar
    cartoon

    To all you CPO folks: please do your CPO homework. For example, BMW’s CPO warranty does not cover the nav or head unit–probably the most likely and most expensive items to fix on these cars…there are other exclusions as well. For coverage of these, and other excluded CPO items, one has to step up to the “platinum” warranty–at $6,000 – $7,000 depending on the model. Let the buyer beware.

    • 0 avatar
      fvfvsix

      Typically, a 3 year warranty extension on a $50-$60K (original MSRP) BMW is around $2K. Never heard of the “platinum” warranty, nor have I bought a CPO expensive enough to be offered a $7000 warranty. In fact, I would dare say only a fool would pay $7K to extend a warranty on a 3- or 5-series.

  • avatar
    BrunoT

    One important point about CPO cars that are unreliable but desirable while under warranty coverage. They eventually lose that protected status and in some cases revert to “pariah” status with the resulting massive loss in value.

    The adverts are full of these cars that are now hot potatoes only those with risk-taking genes or a lot of money can afford to take a chance on. The thing is, many people with the cash to eat a $12,000 engine repair can just buy a new one.

  • avatar
    arun

    Okay this is tangential but does anyone know how reliable/ unrealiable the new jags are? The Ian Cullum designed Jag XJ is my dream car and I plan to buy one used at some point in time. But just the legendary reliability of Jags have kept me wary – and I consider myself somewhat of a gambler as I own a VW right now!

    *sigh* I just do not know of any other car that provides the combo of style, luxury, and performance that Jag does..

    • 0 avatar
      WaftableTorque

      Going by the April 2013 Consumer Reports, the 2011 XJ makes the “Used cars to avoid” section. The 2011 XJ also gets the dreaded black dot rating (the worst) for reliability. The Equus and LS are the only flagships left unscathed. They didn’t have enough data points to rate the 2012. Probably just as well; I vaguely remember in one issue of a chart of problems per brand, and Jaguar and Land Rover each had more issues than, say, all of the Japanese brands put together.

      But as the punch line goes, “They all can’t be bad”…

  • avatar
    ajla

    I’m going to be spending a good part of this weekend replacing a water pump and checking the TPMS system (giving alerts when all tires are at proper PSI) in a ’07 Jeep Grand Cherokee, fixing a broken wiper linkage on a ’08 VW Rabbit, and replacing a leaking valve cover gasket on an ’09 Toyota Matrix.

    And maybe I’ll wax the Allante.

  • avatar
    Dimwit

    Not all CPO programs are the same. VW’s is probably one of the best in the business. I can attest that it does work well. I’m very happy with the result and would do it again with the right vehicle.

    German vs Japanese/domestic: it’s a preference thing. There’s generally less geegaws with the German marques which, of course, makes that their achilles heel. You really have to drive one to appreciate the difference in a German car. That said, you might also realise that the logo isn’t everything and you might want more for the price you have to pay. It’s good to find these things out before you buy.

    On reliability: it’s not that it’s irrelevant or unimportant, it’s become expected. If you bring up reliability of a particular model to the average buyer they’ll immediately assume that there’s a problem. Reliable cars are not noticable anymore.

  • avatar
    bergxu

    All this reliability talk of days gone by is most interesting. My family drove diesel Mercedes back in the ’70s and ’80s so IMHO, those were the days of total reliability with Mercedes having done a 180. My wife has a 2014 C300 4MATIC and, with 1,600 miles on the clock, it already has a jerky-shifting transmission and needs to go back to the stealer for a “software flash”. Oy.

    I flip DD duties between a 190 Cosworth, a 450SEL 6.9 and a Triumph TR6 (in the summer) and run a 5-speed 190E 2.3 (8 valver) as a winter DD. Presently it’s showing 220K on the odometer and still starts every day and returns 30mpg. That being said, my 16V, while temperamental, still starts any day I want to take it out, gives me a huge grin and returns damn close to 30mpg on the highway.

    eff Camrys.

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    How many used car buyers do CPO cars really represent? My guess is it’s incredibly small.

    If the makers of unreliable cars have found a way to soothe skeptical buyers’ concerns, great. But my experience is CPO cars are just used cars that get a HUGE premium tacked on. So it’s either buying a used car and setting aside $8,000 in your bank account for possible repairs, or give the dealership $8,000 more and let them take care of it.

    On some cars, it probably makes sense. Or you can buy a reliable car, set aside some money for possible repairs, and keep the money because it won’t be needed.

    One other side that’s not being talked about is what a CPO car is worth when the warranty runs out. That’s where you get into the BMW 7 series or Mercedes S Class that fetches $5,000 when it comes time to sell. Nobody wants to touch them.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I agree with you on the worth of CPO warranties. For that matter, if I could buy a new car with NO warranty I would probably consider it if the price was right. I was tempted by the 1/2 price Saab NG9-5s, but in that case the double whammy of no warranty and no factory support on a brand new car was too much for me to stomach.

      I disagree with you to some extent as to why high-end cars depreciate so seemingly fast and far. Part of it is simple supply and demand. Rich people buy new cars often, and are not particularly price sensitive. They are not really interested in the 2-3yo version as a general rule. Thus there is an abundant supply of 3yo 120K cars, but not much demand for them. Discount them enough, and someone will step up and by them. Enough seems to be 1/2 price or less. A bit more as a CPO. Ultimately, a 120K car will ALWAYS have the running costs of a $120K car. So yes, the value takes another big hit when the CPO is up. It’s just the way that market works. The values take another huge tumble because the 3rd and up owner can’t afford the running costs of a $120K car, no matter how little they paid for it. Not EVERY old 7 or S is a $5K hooptie. Properly maintained cars go for real money, but those are the one or two owner cars that have been maintained properly and present well, not the cars that limp through auctions.

    • 0 avatar
      jimbob457

      In the US, just over 10 percent of the vehicles advertised on Auto Trader are listed as CPO.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    This may be so, but these CPO warranties aren’t always direct continuations of the new-car warranties. Some of them have more holes than a piece of Gruyère cheese.

  • avatar
    V6

    not gonna lie, i had a wee chuckle at “cars may last for 15, even 20 years!”

    my current daily driver is 20 year old Galant with 250k and shows no sign of letting up any time soon. the average age of the vehicle fleet in this country is approaching 13 years old. i would expect any half decent and maintained car built since the early 90′s to last at least 20 years at the minimum

  • avatar
    dwight

    Bought a 2006 Honda Civic with 112000 km on it. Put 20000 kms on it without any issues. Traded it in a year later for a 2008 VW Golf City with 62,000 kms on it. Put 20000 kms on it and have put a lot more money into it (wheel bearings, rear brake calipers, fuel line clamp that left me stranded and leaking gas, plus other incidentals not needing replacing in the Civic). 1. Seems that Honda put more into their CPO cars than VW, and 2. Honda is still a better car.

    But I prefer the drive and comfort of the VW.

  • avatar
    calgarytek

    I fancy importing my 15+ year old funny named Japanese cars to complement my 1999 EL.
    A 1998 Honda Step wgn FieldDeck (does it have double wishbones?) or a Mazda Bongo Friendee (the camper version). I enjoy it when people get the wtf moment as I pull up/drive by/do whatever with…

  • avatar
    old fart

    Seems some people have different views as to what reliability is . I remember a guy on here awhile back saying how fantastic his Honda was and that he was on his third transmission , but it was dead reliable. To me that’s not reliable , reliability to me means only routine maintenance brakes, plugs, wires, etc… for 200,000 miles. I know I’ll probably catch flak for saying that, but why should we accept less then that these days ?

  • avatar
    rpn453

    Every time I’ve looked at CPO Audis and BMWs, I’ve wondered why anyone would choose them over buying new, considering the minimal difference in cost. Maybe it’s a regional thing.

    The most ridiculous one was a 3-year-old, 40k mile CPO BMW 3-series at a BMW dealer that was advertised as “$X per month for Y years”. Some quick math showed that it would add up to about $30,000. Sounds about right; comparable to a private sale. Went in there for a look and they had neglected to mention the $10,000 down payment that brought the price up within a couple grand of a brand new one. I guess the fine print isn’t a legal requirement on Kijiji? I just block the dealer ads on there now.

  • avatar
    firemachine69

    I bought a 2009 F-150 screw @ 93k km’s. Blew the tranny last October @ 106k km’s.

    Love my truck, and I hate the thought of ditching it, but the tranny is slamming, again, and although the last tranny job was covered by an aftermarket warranty, I suspect the next tranny job will be shortly after that warranty runs out. Hard to say if it’s slightly related to the work I make the truck do, or just a crappy transmission design.

    Too bad, I really love the LSD in 4-high, being pushed by the 5.4L.

    Prior to that, I had a Yaris that was falling apart after just four years of extremely gentle ownership. It had absolutely ZERO redeeming driving qualities. Purely a toaster. Or meat grinder over 70mph. So you better believe I was anxious to dump it.

    But my truck, oh, that lovely truck and the grunt it produces when I step on it, as impractical as a commuter vehicle it may be, it’s still my toy…


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