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Consumer Reports

In the current issue, they comment on the fact that the people reporting problems to the magazine, may not be typical of the owners overall.   

They are to be commended for pointing this out. It certainly does not invalidate their data, but it puts it into a better perspective. I believe it was in the vacuum cleaner section

Yes, I think they’re doing about as well as they can with the situation.

Here’s a question I have for some folks who don’t like CR - while I know it’s not a random selection, Why do folks think that whole groups of owners are different by brand? All Toyota owners love their faulty cars, that kind of thing.

I definitely don’t put too much weight on detail ratings, but I think the overall trends are meaningful.

Good place for it. They know nothing about vacuum cleaners. There are 2.2 million subscribers, so they at least have a database.

If people actually read including other news reporting agencies over the years what rating mean as far as reliability, the same line.

It has been quite accurate for reliability ratings and problem areas of my 2005 Legacy GT. Brake problems(seized caliper), wheel issues(bearings under warranty) but thankfully not major mechanical.

The 2005 Legacy GT had turbo design issues which were revised in 2006. It is reflected in their own findings of reported data.

Good guide to help raise the proper questions about reliability. I am not a fan of their vehicle ratings during their road tests.

Agree that no survey is perfect, but CR evaluations are far better than those you get in the bar of your favorite road house or pool hall.

I have followed CR rating since the mid 60s, and if a car has a specific design problem it will always show up later in the surveys. Volvo reliability went steadily downhill in the CR ratings, while the devotees still clung to the “moral” character of their favorite brand long afterwards.

The same is true for consumer durables. Maytag washers used to be tops, then they went downhill, and CR ratings reflected that. Same with Dell computers; once the top, now just average.

I also subscribe to TrueDelta, which has more rapid updates and quite accurately reflects owner experience. And NO, there are not a lot of “bad Toyotas”. And the top rated car is the Corolla, I believe.

I know a lot of people knock CR but my experience with cars at least have been the same as the CR reliability ratings. Of the 6 cars I have owned my two Toyota’s have been the most reliable with the Honda Accord a close second. Ford Focus was average with a few problems and the Chevy Beretta was a little below average. MINI Cooper had the most problems but the most fun to drive.

I typically won’t consider a car that has less than an average reliability on CR. It doesn’t have to have the best scores but not going to go through what I did with the MINI again. That is just my experience.

I think CR is a great source for car reliability but I don’t hold a lot of stock in their road tests like Andrew mentioned. I usually read actual car websites for that, like car and drive and motor trend.

I Read Every Issue Of That Rag. However, Had I Used All Of Their Car Buying Information I Would Have Missed Out On Many Totally Wonderful, Comfortable, Reliable, Economical And Inexpensive To Own Cars.

I do appreciate some of their Asian Car Myth support. It helps keep the price and availability of the American brands that I purchase at a very reasonable level. I have to laugh at some of the data on cars that I have owned over many years.

I will say though, that I do some homework before I buy, probably more than the typical owner. I have been known to pick and choose certain engine or transmission options, for instance, based on information and recommendations from mechanics in the field.

Does the mag do a good job informing people of the extra expense involved in avoiding choosing car models with timing belts, premium fuel required, cars with poor dealer support, cars that need tires replaced in sets of 4, cars with expensive or hard to get parts, or cars that need “winter tires” just to make them usable ?

From the discussions on this site, many “typical” owners have big surprises in store after selecting highly recommended cars.


My own experience has been consistant with the data in Consumer Reports. That and the fact that they have by far the largest base from which to draw data leads me to believe that their data is good to review to avoid disasters and help in selecting from the most reliable vehicles. Combining my own experience with that data helps me to select a reliable and ling lasting car.

Having said that, I make my car buying decisiions based on reliability, longevity, and comfort. So I use the best information available, CR and my own experience. But car buying is a highly personal decision, and we’re all driven by different motivators. Some buy for image, some for offroad capabilities, some for utility value, some for capacity, some for driving excitement. Some buy a particular car to support a political philosophy or because it’s the brand their family has always owned. Some even buy because of where they live or what they do. I was told years ago by an excavating contractor in upstate NH that anybody who drove to a site in a foreign vehicle may as well stay home…he’d never get the job.

CR is, IMHO, the best data available. People who don’t like what the data says tend to say tha data itself is inaccurate. It isn’t, it’s only data. But I guess if a person wants a particular model and the data says it’s unreliable, it’s human nature to not believe the data.

CR is, IMHO, the best data available. People who don’t like what the data says tend to say tha data itself is inaccurate. It isn’t, it’s only data. But I guess if a person wants a particular model and the data says it’s unreliable, it’s human nature to not believe the data.

It is data…but they also interpret the data for you. Saying a car has a certain rating is based upon their interpretation of their data.

I agree CR has a good database to some good wealth of information from. But it still has flaws. Every year I’ve looked at CR - there are inconsistencies in their data. I’ve always been able to find a car that will have one rating…but the EXACT same car but with a different brand will have another. Both cars are built in the same plant with the same workers using the same parts.

I use CR as ONE source. They are good at detecting the cars to avoid…and at detecting the most reliable. Their data is also very good for pricing and listing options.

I agree. They tend to do a good job of explaining their evaluation criteria (less so for their car evals, which are an ongoing feature), so an individual reader can decide how much weight to accord their reviews.

That’s all true. Data can be interpreted in many different ways.

An optimist says the glass is half full
A pessimist says the glass is half empty
a pragmatist says the glass is the wrong size

a believer says the data is the best source
a nonbeliever says the data has flaws
a pragmatist says the data is only one piece of information to be considered with wothers. It’s good data, but it’s ONLY data.

CSA has a point; the reputation of many Japanese cars makes them expensive to buy as used cars. As a result, a handy person who buys used is often better off buying a slightly below average “American” cars, buy the parts needed and fix it himself.

Most garage operators I know do just that; they buy low mileage US cars and fix whatever they need done cheaply.

For people who drive a lot and need reliability, a new Japanese car is the best bet. The worst would be a used and neglected European luxury car.

For retired persons, where day to day reliability is not a big issue and miles driven are low, a Crown Victoria or simlar boat is great. For those drivers, long term parts availability and a rust resistant body are key items.

The fact remains, of course that CR is usually right about the actual real life reliability, but I agree with CSA that a reliable Lexus costs more to keep on the road than an unreliable Ford Focus.

Speaking Of Consumer Reports, I Just Received My Car Owner’s Survey Packet From CU, In The Mail Today.

I have seven cars and the form is for reporting on 2 cars. Choosing my two newest cars, A Pontiac and a Chevrolet, I have nothing to report in the way of repairs. Very little routine maintenance is all that has gone into them.

Also, shame on me, but again as I do every year, I won’t be filling it out or sending it back. My one survey that shows how reliable these cars are wouldn’t make a tinker’s dam of difference in their recommendations and besides, I’ve got too many reliable cars, and besides, I don’t want to spoil the Asian Car / American Car reliability myth, and besides I don’t buy Asian cars.

Is it just me ? I wonder if anybody else doesn’t return their survey (or their $7.50 “donation”) ? Correction - Make that $9.75 !


Maybe one should use the results compiled by CR opposite the way it is intended. Suppose a car after two or three years has a poor repair record. By the time the car is 5 or 6 years old, the repairs will have been made On the other hand, a car with a good repair record after 2 or 3 years may need repairs after 5 or 6 years.

I think it’s true that some cars have initial problems early in life, then once properly repaired, they settle down and have very little problems after that.

The thing I don’t like about consumer reports is that in many categories they rate performance of new products without regard to durability and repair-ability.Three categories that come to mind are lawn tractors, snowblowers,and vacuum cleaners.I like old John Deer or International Cub Cadets, Airens or Toros, amd Old Hovers and Eurekas because they work well and are almost infinitly reparible.

I think there are 3 problems here:

  1. People confuse Consumer Report’s testing (and the rating based on that testing) with the consumer surveys. In theory, their ratings of current models ought to be reflected a few years later in the surveys.

  2. The demographics of people who subccribe the CR (and therefore, get to fill out the surveys) is somewhat different that the cross section of Americana. On top of that, some folks don’t return the surveys - further changing the demographic.

  3. People don’t handle contradictory information well. So when folks look at CR’s consumer surveys, they can be confused.

But CR is hardly alone with these problems. Most consumer surveys suffer from these issues.

My issue with CR is that long ago in Galaxy far, far …wait, that’s not right!.. Long ago they tested tires - an area I am an expert in - and they had some real problems that affected the results. I reasoned that if they didn’t know how to properly test tires. why should I trust the rest of their testing.

Since that time, they have done a better job of comparing apples to apples, but they no longer publish their testing methodology. I am still suspicious that their testing methodology may result in skewing the results, but I am much more confident they are avoiding comparing race tires with long wearing, soft riding street tires.

Agree; the ratings should be considered apart form the owners’ reliability experience as reported yearly. For instance CR has trashed some cars in the past, such as the Toyota Yaris (very reliable) and the Hyundai Elantra. In the Elantra’s case, it did poorly in a certain type of collision. Both cars have many happy owners and report few problems. But both were “not recommended”.

As others point out,you should disregard the CR ratings as being decisive, and try the product out yourself, as well as check the owners’ reliabliltiy reports.

We just bought a new washer and dryer set. The Whirlpool Cabrio set has a high rating, and Whirlpool has a good repair record. What my wife (who does not read CR) was really after was an energy and water-efficient top loader and a steam assisted dryer to get rid of wrinkles. She got both.

In the past we had always had Maytag washers and dryers, since they were the longest lived. The current Maytag, which we sold, is 15 years old and has not had a single repair.

I think they try to do a good job, and at least they do inform you of how they apply ratings for the most part. One area they fall down in is their reliability ratings. Because most brands are so reliable these days, they rate cars with greater than a 3% defect rate as unreliable. This tends to make people ignore some good bargains, especialy in the “average” area around 1.5% defect rate. If you can get a used average car for thousands less than an outstanding car, the risk of exceeding to cost difference is small. Also, after years of providing this service their customers are likely to buy their recommended cars. This tends to report reliablility improvements in different models late. But as long as you know tise tings, it doesn’t hurt to use thier ratings. Just use them correctly.

“Agree; the ratings should be considered apart form the owners’ reliability experience as reported yearly”.

I had a student assistant some 35 years ago that was looking for a project to do for a class she was taking in family and consumer science. I suggested to her that she go to Consumer Reports and take its ranking of three products: 1) automobiles; 2) washing machines; 3) television sets. She then took the repair records and rank ordered them. She then calculated the Spearman rho rank order correlation coefficient for each of the products. One rank order was low positive, one was zero, and one was slightly negative. Her conclusion was that there was no relationship between the repair record and the intial rating of the product.

Since that time, Consumer Reports does take frequency of repair into account on its automotive recommendations.

My dad did business with a DeSoto/Plymouth dealer and when DeSoto ceased production, the dealer picked up the Studebake franchise. My dad then bought a new Studebaker from the dealer. When I pointed out that Consumer Reports had not given a very high rating to the 1963 Studebaker, my dad said that the important thing to him was that the dealer always took care of him and he regarded this service as being most important–something the Consumer Reports couldn’t rate. My parents and I both bought our washers, dryers, stoves and refrigerators from a local appliance company that had its own excellent service personnel. When I bought a washing machine, I had the sales person get the technician from the service department to advise me on the model to purchase.

Unfortunately, the small automobile dealers and the locally owned appliance stores have almost disappeared. This makes Consumer Reports even more valuable to me.