Do you believe different people have different luck with different brands?

All of the automakers, domestic and foreign have had their share of gems and lemons. I’ve never had much luck with Fords personally, with the exception of an old van I had that was the soul of reliability. GMs I’ve had mixed luck with, and Mopars I’ve had the best luck with, despite some of the Mopar bashing that goes on here. I haven’t owned enough foreign vehicles to really comment, except on the experiences that friends have had. Every Ford I’ve owned has let me down, usually at a critical time, and usually with a stupid repair with something that you wouldn’t expect. I’ve had some Chryslers that have had problems, but they don’t ever seem to break on me when I need them. A perfect example being an old New Yorker I had that was pushing 200K miles, which broke down in front of my girlfriend’s house after a 2 hour trip. Perhaps some cars just have more ‘soul’ than others?

My point is, do you think that given two identical cars, assuming hypothetically that they were made on the same day, and are as mechanically perfect as can be, that one person will have good luck, and one bad luck, while two cars from a different maker might exhibit the opposite, with the person that had the good luck having bad luck, and vice-versa. And if so, why? Driving habits? Personality factors?

I started to suspect this years ago, and to take it further, I also think that people have similar problems regardless of what car they drive. Eg. I worked with a guy that always had rear suspension problems with his cars–he had a LeMans, a Ford, and a Mazda–they all had approximately the same problem, and he drives like a grandmother. When I have car trouble, it is usually in the form of nitpicky driveability issues that are hard to solve. I’ve also had wiper problems with several cars. And I can’t see how I’m abusing the wipers. Another friend has had the gas gauge stop working on 3 different cars, and still another ends up with no-start issues.

Any thoughts?

I have had good luck with GM cars. I have owned 6 GM cars and all have performed well. I have owned 3 Fords and they have not performed as well. I’ve owned 2 VW products and they did not perform well. The VWs were in the 70s and the Fords were in the 70s-90s. I understand that Ford has made great strides in reliability, but it’s hard to overcome the bad experiences even if they were a long time ago. I don’t wonder about why that was the case. In the 80s and 90s we owned GM and Ford products at the same time.

I would suggest that all those factors are part of it. Of of course LUCK is the most important.

There are several factors at work here. The model year of the car is certainly key. I had a 1957 Plymouth; the worst car I ever had. On the other hand, my 1965 Dodge Dart with the 5 year/50,000 miles warranty performed well for 13 years.

Certain buyers will always buy the newest model; the first year it is introduced. Those buyers will have ongoing problems. The Ford Focus had a ton of problems in its first two years. More conserative buyers will buy a car model with a good reputation in its 3rd or 4th year of production and have virtually no problems.

I have a friend who loves gadgets and luxury cars. He’s had a 12 cylinder Jaguar with all the toys, and now has a 7 series BMW similarly loaded. He has his share of problems although he is a careful driver and does all the required maintenance. He also bought the 4-6-8 Cadillac in the 80s. This was a real dog, as I recall.

Finally there are drivers who never slow down, no matter how rough the road, start the engine from cold and race it, and inflect all sorts of other punishment on their vehicles. These drivers will have more problems, which they normally blame on the car.

Good cars I’ve had: 1948 Chevy 6, 1980 Olds Delta 88, 1988 Chevy Caprice, 1984 Chevy Impala, 1966 Chevelle Malibu, 1965 Dodge Dart, 1994 Nissan Sentra, 2007 Corolla.

Not so good cars; 1976 Ford Granada, 1971 Mercury Comet, 1977 Dodge Colt, 1957 Plymouth

Sometimes it seems that way,
That different drivers bring their aura with them to the same vehicle.

Case in point
My dealership’s repo team.
Six repo men always drive the same truck each time.
As we purchase one new truck, the oldest or most worn out is retired and a driver may get a ‘‘new to him’’ truck from the fleet.
—But , I don’t care which truck it is or its service history —
When Ernie starts to drive it…
BAM, the troubles begin.

Put a different driver in that same truck…back to normal.

There’s just something about Ernie.

To agree and expand on “Ken’s” comments…Put together bad driving habits and expectations that don’t march the vehicle, I bet you’re in for problems. Overload cars not meant for it, tow with unsuitable vehicles regardless of tow rating and expect more problems, regardless of the make. Tow 3500 lbs with a Highlander rated for it and expect it to have more problems then an F150 designed for it. Commute at higher speeds in that same truck, over time an, intermediate Malibu could give better service.

There certainly seems to be personality clashes between drivers and some makes/models. And there are some drivers who seem determined to prove that whatever they are driving is junk, and soon prove themselves correct.

"there are some drivers who seem determined to prove that whatever they are driving is junk, and soon prove themselves correct. "

Yup! The self-fulfilling prophecy.
If you think that the vehicle you are driving is a piece of junk, you are likely to abuse it and to maintain it poorly. Conversely, a vehicle that you think is a masterpiece of engineering is likely to be driven more carefully/conservatively and to be maintained more carefully.

In reality those two hypothetical vehicles may well be comparable in quality, and the owner/driver then makes the difference in how well the vehicle stands up over the years.

As someone observed many years ago, if you bought a Ford Escort and used the obsessive approach to maintenance that is displayed in a Mercedes maintenance schedule, that cheap little Escort would probably last…forever.

Sort of like the chicken or the egg…reminds me of one of my brothers who years ago bought a Chrysler K car. He raved what a great car it was new and then proceeded to seldom if ever have it serviced, check the tires, fluids or anything else, then complain later in life how unreliable it had become. Not that the car was the epitome of reliability, but some owners like my brother never gave them a chance to fail on their own. He did his best it seems to help it along.

The “luck” part mentioned earlier is often the result of planning, good behavior and good management.

Some people are pre-disposed to this “bad luck” early in life. I remember selling my son’s junior bike (when he outgrew it) to a colleague whose son just got to the bike stage. Although the bike was a good brand and well looked after, this kid managed to wreck it in a few months. Much later, when he started driving he wrecked two cars in rapid sucession.

He was later diagnosed with “attention deficit syndrome” and other personality problems.

My opinion is that most automotive problems are owner inflicted along with help from the environment and road surfaces. Now and then there will be a mutant car that from sheer luck of the draw will be very trouble prone. It’s an assembly line item and odds are that a few of them are going to receive an abnormal share of don’t care attitude during the process.

A kid who used to live down the street from me got his drivers license at 16.5 years old. By the time he turned 21 he had blown through 21 vehicles and trashed every one of them. The make and models were irrevelant but consisted of Fords, Chevys, Nissans, VWs, Chryslers, Toyotas, etc.
None of these cars were beaters when he got them either. They were all very nice late models with comparatively low miles.

I rode with him one time and that was enough for me because in a bit over 5 minutes I wanted out of the car.

There are also people that are partial to a particular make of car and if per chance they own anything else, that car is a lemon. I had an uncle who thought the only make of car was a Chrysler. He was given a brand new Oldsmobile and found fault with everything about it. On the other hand, his Chrysler could leave him stranded on the side of the road and it was still a great car. I had a colleague who owned a gas station. This colleague employed a mechanic that was top notch. However, this colleague had Chryslers and Imperials and thought those cars were perfect. He bought a 1969 Imperial new that was an absolute lemon. Of course, it was his mechanic’s fault that the car had problems. When I told him that his mechanic did wonderful work in keeping my ancient Rambler on the road, he remarked, “Well, you have such a simple car that anybody should be able to fix it”. I responded “Maybe you ought to drive simple cars like mine”.
I’ve often thought that owners of the VW air cooled Beetles often minimized the upkeep on the cars. These cars required a valve adjustment every 3000 miles. I had a 1954 Buick that I had 140,000 miles when I sold it and never required a valve adjustment and had never had the heads off the engine. It was still on the street two years after sold it.

There is luck that is completely random, and there is luck that is related to the driver. Same car, same factory, still has lots of parts that make up the whole. Since any part can fail at some point this makes it a random luck. Without any driver involvement one car can have a great history and the next one off the line could have lots more problems.

No two drivers are alike. Some brake hard, others go easy. Some jam on the gas and other squeeze on the gas. One car gets driven in CA or AZ and another ends up in road salted MN, MI or NY. That’s why some guys swear by Fords and other swear at Fords.

I grew up a Ford guy but I got new company provided cars about every 2 years for about 30 years. I drove some GM cars, Chrysler cars, some Fords, and 1 Saab as company cars. Frankly, they were all good cars. Some had some things I liked more than some others but all were dependable and required few repairs in the 60K miles I drove them before they were turned in.

I think the driver makes a huge difference. How well the car is maintained makes a big difference. And the owner’s ability to accept some of the design flaws or flukes can make a big difference. The AC and radio controls on my '85 Dodge Lancer were a bit weird, but it was a very good car otherwise. We had just gone to 4 cylinder cars to save gas and the Lancer was a pretty peppy car with a 4 and it had a hatchback which gave it good cargo space for a small car. I had a 350 V8 4 bbl carb in a '77 Cutlass S which was a blast to drive and I bought it for personal use and towed a boat with it, no problems. I drove a 4 cylinder Ford LTD in '85 that was the worst and slowest performing car I’d ever driven other than a '71 VW camper bus. That Ford could barely do 65 mph and took forever to get up to speed on an expressway.

I do believe there are “lemons” from the factory. But, in most cases mismatch of driver to the car, or lack of maintenance by the owner can make a good car for someone a lemon for someone else.

IMHO most of the “luck” has to do more with driver than anything thing else. My sister can and does tear up a car in months, she never checks oil, air pressure, coolant, until something happens, the most she does is put gas in it. She races to stop signs then hits the break at the last possible second and then wonders why her cars don’t last. Yes I’ve told her, not that it does any good according to her friends I’m and idiot who can barely walk and chew gum at the same time so she doesn’t listen to me.

Back in the day, I was always told that Chrysler’s engines didn’t like high RPMs weak rods or pistons, Chevy’s didn’t like to be lugged down, I was told it would stave the engine of oil, while you could lug down a ford without any danger.

Personally I’ve own the big three from many years, and with my driving style I always had good luck with them. I don’t race to stop signs, I do the maintenance when it’s due, I don’t accelerate hard, I don’t brake hard, I check tires, and fluids so I have lots of “luck” when it comes to cars, new or used.

Anyway, with the quality of today’s cars, if you do the maintenance when its do then you should have good luck with any car.


As part of an employee incentive my work gave away a 2009 Smart car with 450 miles on it and I WON!!! I work in a casino the car was supposed to be a jackpot on a slot machine and the new models came out before the jackpot went, so the higher ups decided to give the car to an employee, all you had to do was show up on time every day you were scheduled to work and at the end of the year they had a drawing for the car and I won (only 12 of us made it). Love the car, so far 42 MPG highway, I took it on a long trip and put about 1500 miles on it. It was never title so basically it was a two year old new car. I’m thinking it would have gotten better mileage except I found myself speeding more than once, it’ll take a little while to get use to it.

Just had to share some good news.

All vehicles by the time they’re completed are full of variables. Far less than they were in he '60’s but still they’re there.

However, even of they were exactly the same, the moment they got into the hands of owners their lives would take different paths. Different driving environments, different driving styles, different climates, different maintenance, it all adds up to cause the cars to begin to vary.

And yes, because these differences manifest themselves differently on different vehicles, the ultimate result could easily be the opposite on different makes.

The single biggest variable by far for all of the described scenerios is the driver. And that one is a biggie.

I know people at work and have 2 different situations. One guy I passed down my 94 gmc truck, and never had a problem is plagued with problems. I have driven with him and he just seems to have an innate ability to abuse vehicles. One other I never drove with but his truck was in and out of the shop constantly, and I think that was the fault of the vehicle. I treat my vehicles kindly and expect the same from them. I think certain vehicles can be poor performers because of the vehicle, others because of the driver. I guess I bond with whatever I am driving as my vehicle de jour. Currently I have at work an 04 liberty, passed down through the chain of command. I had to drive it down to our mechanics a few years ago, and thought what a piece of garbage. Now it is mine and we get along quite well, no problems. My first vehicle with heated leather seats. I enjoy the heated seats, sunroof and cruise control, but really think I prefer cloth seats to leather as the seat seems a little small and I feel like I am slipping off it. If I hated it I would go back to the 94 f250, vinyl seats, manual transmission, and a cool plow, fine as long as you have no loose fillings. I still drive her every now and then just for kicks, and because I like that truck also!

I am of the opinion that once you sink all that money into a car, you may not admit to having problems. I also feel that problematic cars are relative. By that I mean, a fairly reliable Chrysler may actually give you more problems then an unreliable Ford. If all you have owned is Chryslers that works for you and you just budget for the higher ownership cost thinking all cars are the same. We have had several post their good experience with Toyota’s, saying they then bought something else and were disappointed. My response is,“why did you buy something else” unless Toyota did not make the style you needed ?

I own Toyota’s now, but am really disappointed in the frequency of brake service they seem to require. My previous Chevys, Subarus and even Suzuki had fewer problems in this area.
Can some someone just cannibalize the best systems from each car and start anew ?

“a fairly reliable Chrysler may actually give you more problems then an unreliable Ford.” I think you’re missing the spirit of my question to take the opportunity to bash one manufacturer.

I HAVE had better luck with Chrysler products than Fords, period. Not just subjectively. Unless of course you count being stranded by the side of the road as good fortune, or having a dealership shrug their shoulders after a diagnostic as a happy event. But I don’t doubt that others may have different luck, and obviously your experiences with Ford products have been better than mine. This was what I was trying to address here.

I think dagosa just meant that as an example.

However, for my .02, I think people will find they like one make, model or whatever more than another, and end up taking better care of it. Regardless of what it is.

I like both of mine, and I want my wife to be safe, so I diligently take care of all the maintenance. She can always hear weird noises before me, so I like to take her with me on drives now and then, just to make sure I’m not missing something. So far, so good.

Oblivion…"I think you’re missing the spirit of my question to take the opportunity to bash one manufacturer. "

Excuse me for short handing the message. Without giving too much verbage, I meant to say that within different brands, models made by different suppliers often have different levels of reliability. Maybe a Chrysler or Ford model has a model built by Mitsubishi or whomever that is more or less reliable then one made by someone else…Fiat for example.

You really can’t generalize the reliability by brand alone without a lot of research…I knew I was going to offend some owner. If I had compared as as example, Toyotas and GMC, someone else would take exception…it was just an example !

GMC, Toyota, Chrysler et. al. are fast becoming the Sam’s Clubs and Sears of the automotive world, and it for me is beginning to make less sense to compare their cars by brand and often model as well unless I can research who actually builds them and supplies their parts. Look at all the different makers GMC and Chrysler has had over the years.

So two cars made on the same day, in the same plant, one labeled Chrysler, one Mitsubishi…really begins to confuse your supposition. Adding to the confusion is that the same models are often made in different manufacturing plants. So, my Fusion with an American transmission may be more or less reliable then the same model Fusion for you with a Chinese transmission…and these realities may become the rule and not the exception.