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New car buying: Car reliability

Research a vehicle's reliability before you buy

Last updated: March 2014

Reliability Ratings show you how well vehicles have held up compared with competitive models, and what the odds are that you could be inconvenienced by problems.

A vehicle’s reliability can seriously af­fect how satisfied you’ll be with a car over the years, and it can significantly influ­ence resale value when you’re ready to replace it. Important as it is, reliability is a difficult—and expensive—quality to evaluate, because the information has to come from vehicle owners; the more, the better.

Consumer Reports provides the most comprehensive car reliability information available to consumers. It’s based on CR’s annual surveys of our maga­zine and website subscribers. These sur­veys ask about any serious problems they’ve had with their vehicles in the preced­ing 12 months. They typically generate over a million responses—the 2013 survey, for instance, provided information on 1.1 million vehicles—which give us a solid foundation for our relia­bility Ratings. 

We provide reliability information in several forms. For used-car buyers we give Ratings for 17 different trouble areas over 10 model years, so you can see a model’s individual strengths and weaknesses. We also provide a Used Car Verdict for each model year that sums up its overall reliability. The verdicts are weighted to emphasize areas such as the major engine and transmission problems, cooling system, and drive system, which can be more serious and expensive to repair.

For new-car buyers we provide a predicted-reliability Rating that indi­­cates how vehicles currently on sale are likely to hold up. To create these Ratings, Consumer Reports averages a model’s Used Car Verdicts for the new­est three model years, providing it wasn’t significantly redesigned during that time. All of these Ratings are included in the Reliability History charts on the car model pages.

Other sources of reliability informa­tion are available online. Even if they lack the reach of CR’s data, they provide a supplemental source of information. One provider of these services is J.D. Power and Associates. Their Initial Quality Study (IQS) is designed to help automakers gauge the initial quality of the vehicles they’re producing; it is based on responses from over 74,000 purchasers and lessees of 2012 models. But it covers only the first three months of ownership, a period in which relatively little goes wrong. It also asks owners about many subjective impressions of their vehicles, not just serious problems they’ve had. J.D. Power surveys are also the source for reliability data on some other sites, such as Kelley Blue Book and CarFax.

New Car Buying Guide

Learn more about choosing a car, what to do at the dealership, pricing, trading in your car, financing, closing the deal and more in our new car buying guide.




   

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