TrueDelta Announces Reliability Survey Results

Michael Karesh
by Michael Karesh

When buying a car, what do people really want to know about its reliability? Often: what are the odds it will turn out to be a lemon? And does it have a good shot at requiring no repairs at all?

Consumer Reports and J.D. Power have never answered these questions. They’ve only provided vague dot ratings that indicate how a car compares to the average for all cars. Even TrueDelta, which has been providing car models’ average repair frequencies, and not just dots, has not been directly answering these questions. Instead, car buyers have had to infer their odds of getting a lemon from the average repair frequency.

With the latest update to TrueDelta’s Car Reliability Survey results, released today, this will no longer be necessary. This update includes two new statistics: “Nada-odds” and “Lemon-odds.” From a car model’s Nada-odds, car buyers can learn how many cars out of a hundred required no repairs at all—nada—in the past year. And from its Lemon-odds they can learn how many out of a hundred had to go to the repair shop three or more times in the past year.

It turns out that the odds of getting a problem-free car are higher than most people probably suspect, while the odds of getting a lemon are probably much lower. Many of the 2007, 2008, and 2009 models included in these results had a three-in-four chance—or better—of requiring no repairs at all, not even a minor one, in the past year. With all but the least reliable fairly new cars the odds are at least 50-50. This is why, whenever a car model gets a “worse than average” reliability rating, there are plenty of owners who say this cannot be true because their car has required no repairs at all since they bought it a year ago.

And the Lemon-odds? With many fairly new cars the chances of a lemon are under one in a hundred, and under one-in-twenty is the norm. Only with the very least reliable cars are the odds worse than one-in-ten. The horror stories are real, just a lot less common than many people think.


These new stats require more data on more cars. So this initial set of results covers only 100 models, 64 of which are visible to the general public. As the number of participants grows, TrueDelta will provide these stats for more and more models.

With prompt quarterly updates, TrueDelta can provide reliability stats for new models well ahead of other sources. Three months ago TrueDelta released the first reliability stat anywhere for a 2010 model. The updated results, covering owner experiences through September 30, 2009, include additional 2010 models. The redesigned Toyota Prius and Mazda3 have required very few repairs so far, while the new Hyundai Genesis Coupe has been about average.

Car Reliability Survey results

Nada-odds and Lemon-odds

[Michael Karesh owns and operates TrueDelta]

Michael Karesh
Michael Karesh

Michael Karesh lives in West Bloomfield, Michigan, with his wife and three children. In 2003 he received a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. While in Chicago he worked at the National Opinion Research Center, a leader in the field of survey research. For his doctoral thesis, he spent a year-and-a-half inside an automaker studying how and how well it understood consumers when developing new products. While pursuing the degree he taught consumer behavior and product development at Oakland University. Since 1999, he has contributed auto reviews to Epinions, where he is currently one of two people in charge of the autos section. Since earning the degree he has continued to care for his children (school, gymnastics, tae-kwan-do...) and write reviews for Epinions and, more recently, The Truth About Cars while developing TrueDelta, a vehicle reliability and price comparison site.

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  • Shaker Shaker on Nov 24, 2009

    I contribute as well, and it's pretty easy - especially since my '08 Elantra hasn't needed any repairs (but it's a 5spd with 6500 miles on it ;-)

  • Matt Cooper Matt Cooper on Nov 24, 2009

    Michael, I'd love to join TrueDelta, but I don't give out my email address to any sites anymore. Instead, I use spamgourmet.com with an extensive whitelist (which TD would immediately join). Unfortunately, you're still blocking spamgourmet addresses at the door - I've been checking back for years. I don't think TD will be the source of any spam. I just route all mail there so I can 1) track where I gave out the address and 2) not have to update 500 websites when I change email addresses. I'd do this on my own domain if I ever got around to having the time, and you'd have no way to know that I'd given you a "throw-away" address. If the issue is getting surveys filled out, why not track survey completions instead?

  • Cprescott This is what happens when you are an early adopter. You are a test subject. Why do Toyoduh (and Honduh) owners feel so entitled?
  • Kosmo Love it. Can I get one with something other than Subaru's flat four?
  • M B When the NorthStar happened, it was a part of GM's "rebuilding" of the Cadillac brand. Money to finance it was shuffled from Oldsmobile, which resulted in Olds having to only facelift its products, which BEGAN its slide down the mountain. Olds stagnated in product and appearances.First time I looked at the GM Parts illustration of a NorthStar V-8, I was impressed AND immediately saw the many things that were expensive, costly to produce, and could have been done less expensively. I saw it as an expensive disaster getting ready to happen. Way too much over-kill for the typical Cadillac owner of the time.Even so, there were a few areas where cost-cutting seemed to exist. The production gasket/seal between the main bearing plate and the block was not substantial enough to prevent seeps. At the time, about $1500.00 to fix.In many ways, the NS engine was designed to make far more power than it did. I ran across an article on a man who was building kits to put the NS in Chevy S-10 pickups. With his home-built 4bbl intake and a 600cfm Holley 4bbl, suddenly . . . 400 horsepower resulted. Seems the low hood line resulted in manifolding compromises which decreased the production power levels.GM was seeking to out-do its foreign competitors with the NS design and execution. In many ways they did, just that FEW people noticed.
  • Redapple2 Do Hybrids and be done with it.
  • Redapple2 Panamera = road porn.
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