If you're considering buying a used car, it pays to assess long-term reliability because differences among the eight major automakers can be vast. Toyota (including the Lexus and Scion divisions) has the fewest reliability issues.
Older Hyundais and Kias tend not to be very reliable, but newer models are much more reliable. The South Korean carmakers have greatly improved their vehicles' quality in recent years.
Ford vehicles are more reliable across all ages than other domestics, and they rival Japanese automakers, such as Nissan, in reliability among models less than five years old.
Older Volkswagen models (including Audis) were the most problematic. A typical eight-year-old Volkswagen has almost three times the number of problems as a typical eight-year-old Toyota.
The chart below, covering major automakers, is based on data from our 2008 Annual Auto Survey, which had more than 1.4 million responses. For each automaker, we averaged the problems for all of the one-year-old models for which we had sufficient data, then we did the same for two-year-old vehicles, and so on.