Cars Most Likely to Have Paint Problems 

These cars, SUVs, and trucks that stand out in Consumer Reports' surveys have frequent issues with bubbles, peeling, and flaking

Paint peeling Photo: Brian Goldstein/Consumer Reports

Automotive paint science has come a long way. There are durable, attractive finishes that can stand up to harsh sunlight, foul weather, and dirty birds. Resilient clear coats preserve a shine for many years with just periodic car washes and seasonal waxing. But there are some models that develop a larger share of paint problems, including bubbles, peeling, and flaking, that detract from the car’s appearance, risk corrosion, and require expensive repairs. 

In scrutinizing our car reliability data, we identified 10 models in the past decade that have had more paint problems than you might expect.

Often paint issues are isolated to a single model year, underscoring the importance of doing research when shopping for a used car. Knowing what problems to look for can inform inspections and may steer you to consider other models or model years. 

“Paint problems are sometimes associated with the first year for a new or redesigned car,” says Steven Elek, senior automotive data analyst at Consumer Reports. “This underscores our standing advice to approach a vehicle’s first model year with caution.”

More on Car Reliability

Consumer Reports’ reliability data on the car model pages provide detailed insights. Many CR members provide detailed reports in our Annual Auto Surveys, and they bring our ratings to life. (These are found under the Reliability tab on the car model pages.)

For example, a 2011 Honda Ridgeline owner shared, “This is absolutely the worst paint job I have ever had on a vehicle. I am experiencing flaking peeling paint around edges like windshield, hood, engine compartment, gas cap, etc. The underside of the hood is peeling off, which leads me to believe this is not environmental.” 

Even upscale models can have problems, as evidenced by a 2020 Tesla Model Y owner who wrote, “Both front doors are color mismatched from the rest of the vehicle. The rear bumper panel has a distinct yellow tint to it compared to the white paint on the rest of the vehicle.”

As with all reliability issues, it’s important to understand that specific anecdotes can be interesting, but trends matter most. Bearing that in mind, we also recommend that used-car shoppers search for brand- or model-specific online forums for further owner experiences. For instance, the previous generation Hyundai Sonata did not show up in our analysis, but we have seen numerous complaints online about peeling paint on white sedans in particular. That insight could inform how you inspect cars, and it may make other colors seem a bit more appealing. 

The good news at least is that paint problems won’t leave you stranded like other issues we cover that require a new head gasket, a transmission replacement, and or an engine rebuild

But when paint issues occur outside of the warranty period, they can lead to unplanned repairs because you don’t want to risk a small problem spreading and exposing bare metal to the elements and inviting rust. 

“Unfortunately, when it comes to paint-related items, repairs need to be done by a professional, and the work is often expensive if not covered under warranty,” says John Ibbotson, Consumer Reports’ chief mechanic. 

There are many factors to consider when choosing a used car to buy, with reliability being chief among them. By looking at Consumer Reports’ reliability ratings, you can see how cars compare against their peers. There is an overall reliability rating, as well as ratings for 17 trouble spots on each car we cover. These trouble spots reveal where problems are more likely to be expensive and debilitating. The ratings there can serve as a warning that owners should be especially vigilant to reduce any potential repair costs and vehicle downtime.

The 10 highlighted models are presented below in rank order, starting with the one with the greatest paint-related problem rate among CR members. Most are older models that are beyond their warranty period. 

We show the model year with the greatest problems (and when applicable, a range of years affected by this problem). Plus, we share candid owner comments as submitted to CR. 

Where possible, we included a link to a related TSB that advises dealerships on how to address paint problems on that model. 

If you experience such problems, photograph and track the issue. Work with your dealership if your vehicle is still under warranty. Otherwise, consult a body shop, which can assess the issue and provide options to improve the appearance and hopefully reduce the spread.  

To find TSBs for your car, try a Google search. Or go to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s recalls page and enter your year, make, and model in the Recalls search field. TSBs are listed in the results under Manufacturer Communications. Paint problems are categorized as “structure.”

Paint peeling

Photo: Brian Goldstein/Consumer Reports Photo: Brian Goldstein/Consumer Reports

Jeff S. Bartlett

A New England native, I have piloted a wide variety of vehicles, from a Segway to an aircraft carrier. All told, I have driven thousands of vehicles—many on race tracks across the globe. Today, that experience and passion are harnessed at the CR Auto Test Center to empower consumers. And if some tires must be sacrificed in the pursuit of truth, so be it. Follow me on Twitter (@JeffSBartlett).