If you plan to live with a car for a long time, reliability means everything when you shop on the used market. Look for the vehicles people rate high in initial quality and later report as dependable once they have a few years and at least 20,000 miles on them. By then, you start to see whether an auto investment will pay off or whether you bought a lemon.
Another approach is seeing which cars rate the worst. There are some variables — including how you drive or how often you drive — that could lead to a well-built vehicle wearing down before its time. However, when a wide range of consumers give a car poor marks on reliability, you’re better off steering clear of them when buying used.
Consumer Reports did the auto shopper a big favor when it rounded up the poorest models of the past decade to be found on the secondhand market. Here are 20 of the worst used cars you will come across, listed by specific model year. They should be avoided at all costs.
1. Chrysler Town & Country
Most reviews suggest the redesigned Chrysler Pacifica is a great minivan to buy. However, since Consumer Reports recommends giving an all-new model a year or two to settle in, consumers might wait until 2018. According to the returns on the Town & Country, reliability has been very bad on Chrysler minivans in the past. Models from 2006 through 2013 rated much worse than average. That holds for Grand Caravan, which is the same vehicle with a Dodge badge and a few minor tweaks.
2. Volkswagen GTI
Hot hatch shoppers might look at new-car prices and think used is the best call. That’s usually a good approach, but there are certain models of Volkswagen GTI you want to avoid. Specifically, GTIs from 2010 to 2013 rated much, much worse than the average car in reliability. The standard Golf did very well in these surveys, in case you were wondering.
3. Chevrolet Cruze
The redesigned Chevrolet Cruze upped the compact car’s game, but the previous generation had a significant run as the most unreliable. Consumer Reports found models from 2011 to 2013 completely unacceptable on this front. Overall, even Sonic fared better than Cruze over that stretch of time.
4. Jeep Grand Cherokee
Few auto brands come close to the bad reliability ratings across the board for Fiat Chrysler. As mentioned previously, the company’s minivans had an extended stretch of poor marks, but several Jeep models were right there with them. In the case of Grand Cherokee, the 2007 model year along with every model from 2010 to 2014 were far below the average. If you must buy one, pick one of the years not listed here.
5. Mercedes GL
At Mercedes-Benz prices, you would not expect your car to be plagued with issues from the start. Unfortunately, GL utility models had so many problems between 2013 to 2015 they were lumped in with the least reliable of the bunch. Stick with the E-Class or S-Class if you are shopping for a used Benz, or choose one of the redesigned SUVs.
6. Ford Fiesta
Overall, Ford had over 10 models show up on the poor reliability list, but two small cars were among the worst. Ford Fiesta from model years 2011 to 2014 stood out in particular. Focus was not much better over the same span of time. Taken together, the Ford compacts scored well below average in Consumer Reports rankings at the start of the decade.
7. Mini Cooper
Used car shoppers should basically write off Mini Coopers from the past decade. Consumers Reports named every model between 2006 and 2012 plus 2014 as way below average in reliability. Another one to watch is Countryman, which was among the worst used cars for 2011 and 2012.
8. Tesla Model S
In terms of praise, Consumer Reports never lavished as much on any car as it did the Tesla Model S. The electric performance sedan famously broke the testing agency’s rating system a few years back. Still, CR testers did not spot Tesla any extra points when it came to reliability. For model years 2012, 2013, and 2015, Model S was given the thumbs-down as a used car.
9. Chrysler PT Cruiser
Though a Chrysler PT Cruiser will turn off most used car shoppers on sight, there are as many unseen things to dislike about this model. Over the three years between 2006 to 2008, a PT Cruiser was a terrible choice if you wanted a reliable car. As a rule, Chrysler Group vehicles of the pre-recession era should be carefully inspected before you buy one.
10. Chevrolet Traverse
Chevrolet vehicles rating poor in reliability nearly take up a full screen. A total of 17 models from the past decade got below-average ratings from Consumer Reports. However, Chevy Traverse joined Cruze as the two Bowtie nameplates you should avoid entirely when shopping used. Any Traverse from model years 2009 to 2011 is suspect.
11. BMW 5 Series
Mercedes-Benz was not the only luxury car maker to pop up on the list. Seven model years of the BMW 5 Series were among those to be avoided during a used car hunt. The list includes cars manufactured for 2006 to 2008, 2010 to 2012, and 2015. In November 2016, 5 Series models from 2011 and 2012 were recalled for potential fuel leaks and stalling issues.
12. Dodge Journey
The Dodge brand had 12 models rating below average in reliability, but a few models stood out in this subpar pack. Dodge Journey, which was among the worst from model years 2009 and 2012 through 2014, got the lowest scores of all. If used car shoppers looked at new car reviews only, they might believe Journey was a good find.
13. Fiat 500
Fiat-Chrysler has 27 models listed as below average in reliability by Consumer Reports in the last decade, so any used car shopper considering one of its brands should read up on them before buying, new or used. Fiat’s worst performer was the 500, which should be avoided for model years 2012, 2013, and 2015.
14. GMC Acadia
Every GMC vehicle in existence turned up on the list of unreliable cars of the past decade. GMC Acadia SUVs from model years 2007 to 2014 took the dishonor of being worst of the bunch. Consumer Reports said to avoid all eight editions of this truck on the used car market.
15. Nissan Pathfinder
Nissan sold over 150,000 Pathfinders in the U.S. between model years 2013 and 2014. This group ranks among the worst in reliability and should be avoided by used car shoppers. Pathfinders from 2013 alone racked up nine separate recalls ranging from brake issues to airbag failure. Meanwhile, 2014 models made the 10 worst list.
16. Mini Countryman
Between the standard Mini Cooper and the Countryman, the start of this decade was a terrible era for the BMW sub-brand. Countryman from model years 2011 and 2012 had some of the worst reliability ratings a car could have. A few years later (in 2014), Consumer Reports named Mini the least reliable car brand in America.
17. Volkswagen Tiguan
Volkswagen had a tough run early in the decade when it came to making reliable cars. In the case of the VW Tiguan, the SUV flunked the test from 2009 through 2012. For those four model years, Tiguan was alarmingly below average for reliability.
18. Dodge Challenger
If you’re looking for a cool car, today’s Challenger is almost as appealing as cars from the classic era. However, you will have to sacrifice big on reliability if you choose a model from earlier this decade. According to Consumer Reports, Challengers from the 2013 and 2014 model years fail the test.
19. Ford Focus
Some 14 Ford cars and trucks from the last decade ranked below average in reliability. In the case of Ford Focus from model years 2012 to 2014, the compact car was among the worst. Consumer Reports suggests you pass on this car altogether if you’re buying used.
20. Pontiac Torrent
The Pontiac brand was a casualty of GM’s bankruptcy and subsequent bailout, but before it got the axe it left some lemons behind for U.S. consumers. Exhibit A is Pontiac Torrent, the SUV that received terrible reliability ratings for model years 2006 to 2009. If you ask Consumer Reports testers, they’ll tell you to avoid it at all costs.
Source: Consumer Reports
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