An illustration of an engine.

The common concern with cars as they age is dependability—not only that they may not get you to work one day but also that a catastrophic failure could cost thousands of dollars. Major problems are rare in general, but they do happen.

To understand how often such problems occurred, we analyzed data on older models from our Annual Autos Surveys to see which have the highest problem rates for major systems that often require expensive repairs.

Three problems areas stood out: engine, head gasket, and transmission. With some models, these problems occur with surprising frequency at a certain age and mileage.

Engine problems are among the greatest mechanical nightmares for their inconvenience, expense, and time to repair. We found that there are more than a dozen older models with problems serious enough to require engine rebuilds.

“Engine failure can be caused by many things,” says John Ibbotson, Consumer Reports’ chief mechanic. “Some engine rebuilds are needed due to low compression from worn piston rings, resulting in lack of power, misfiring, or excessive oil consumption, while others suffer from crankshaft or connecting rod bearing failure, signaled by a knocking sound.” Due to the difficulty and time required to rebuild an engine, often shops will replace the original engine with one that has been remanufactured.

More on Maintenance and Reliability

An Audi A4 owner reported, “We have put over $12,000 into this car. Something breaks, we fix it. Something else breaks, we have to fix it. We are retirement age and cannot buy a new car.”

It can be a challenge finding the right shop to take on a major repair, which requires talent, time, and parts. A Mini Cooper owner wrote, “Cylinder number three failed while on the highway, at cruising speed. Not only is a replacement motor very expensive, but no local shop wants to do the job, because of the complexity.”

To help warn both current owners and used-car shoppers, we compiled a list of 10 models that stood out as having the most severe problems, as determined by frequency and cost.

They are presented below in rank order, starting with the one with the highest problem rate. We include the model year with the greatest problems (and when applicable, a range of years affected by this problem), the typical mileage range when the problem occurs, and where possible, we recommend similar alternative vehicles without this concern. If no alternatives are presented, that means similar cars had the same issue or another significant problem.

The journey to 200,000 miles can be a bumpy one, but it doesn't have to be if you start with a good, reliable car and properly maintain it, per the directions in the owner’s manual. Consumer Reports always recommends shoppers consult the reliability ratings, based on our large-scale member surveys, to predict the models that have better odds of being trouble-free. This detailed data can be found on our car model pages.

2010 Audi A4

The 2010 Audi A4 is among the models most likely to need an engine rebuild.

2010 Audi A4 2.0T
Model years affected:
2009-2010
Typical mileage: 107,000-153,000
Alternatives without this problem: 2008-2010 Lexus ES2008-2010 Infiniti G, 2009-2010 Acura TL


2008 Ford F-350

The 2008 Ford F-350 is among the models most likely to need an engine rebuild.

2008 Ford F-350 6.4L diesel
Typical mileage: 
65,000-119,000
Alternatives: None


2001 Chrysler PT Cruiser

The 2001 Chrysler PT Cruiser is among the models most likely to need an engine rebuild.

2001 Chrysler PT Cruiser
Typical mileage: 
102,500-133,000
Alternatives without this problem: 2003-2004 Toyota Matrix


2008 Mini Cooper/Clubman

The 2008 Mini Cooper and Clubman are among the models most likely to need an engine rebuild.

2008 Mini Cooper/Clubman
Model years affected: 
2008-2009
Typical mileage: 122,000-129,500
Alternatives without this problem: 2008 Mazda3


2010 Chevrolet Equinox/GMC Terrain

The 2010 Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain are among the models most likely to need an engine rebuild.

2010 Chevrolet Equinox/GMC Terrain
Typical mileage:
 84,500-108,500
Alternatives without this problem: 2008-2010 Honda CR-V, 2008-2010 Toyota RAV4


2006 Jeep Wrangler

The 2006 Jeep Wrangler is among the models most likely to need an engine rebuild.

2006 Jeep Wrangler 2.4L
Typical mileage:
Approximately 150,000
Alternatives without this problem: 2004-2008 Toyota 4Runner


2010 Cadillac SRX

The 2010 Cadillac SRX is among the models most likely to need an engine rebuild.

2010 Cadillac SRX
Typical mileage: 
Approximately 130,000
Alternatives without this problem: 2008-2010 Lexus RX, 2010 Acura MDX


2003 Acura MDX

The 2003 Acura MDX is among the models most likely to need an engine rebuild.

2003 Acura MDX
Typical mileage: 
Approximately 190,000
Alternatives without this problem: 2003-2005 Lexus RX


2006 Buick Lucerne

The 2006 Buick Lucerne is among the models most likely to need an engine rebuild.

2006 Buick Lucerne
Typical mileage:
116,000-143,000
Alternatives without this problem: 2006 Lexus GS, 2004-2008 Toyota Avalon


2010 GMC Acadia

The 2010 GMC Acadia is among the models most likely to need an engine rebuild.

2010 GMC Acadia
Typical mileage: 
106,000-129,000
Alternatives without this problem: 2008-2010 Toyota Highlander