Do you think Consumer Reports are a good measure to use to purchase a car?

I get reponses from questions about a car, then I research it and it has all the red bullseyes but it is not a recommended choice of Consumer Reports. So should I just go with their recommended choices?

It’s not the end all be all for buying a car. They rate cars that are basically the same(vibe/matrix, 300/charger/magnum) differently, so I wouldn’t rely solely on that. And the reliability claims they have are not recorded, just what the survey they hand out says.
Mercedes may have bad reliability ratings, but I know if I paid $60k for a car and something didn’t work right, I’d be taking it back to the dealership to be worked on. Whereas someone who buys a cheap Ford or Chevy might tend to overlook something as trivial as a bent rim.
Or, 2 people may buy the same vehicle(say a Civic for argument’s sake), 1 is anal about maintaining it and changes oil every 3k miles, fluids and mechanicals are looked after and fixed without so much as a fuss. the other, scoffs at having to pay for an oil change, thinking they should be covered under warranty for something like that, they think brake work is someone trying to rip them off and tires should be free under warranty as well. When both get their survey, which do you think will vote favorably?

I bought my last new car in 1995 and I did not check Consumers. Subsequent issues gave my car low reliabilty ratings year after year. They even placed it on their “Don’t Buy” list.

I still have that car. It has been the most reliable, trouble-free, longest-lived car I have ever owned. So who needs Consumers?

Read it, if you must. They are more right than wrong. But if you find a car you truly like, don’t be put off by Consumers less-than-stellar ratings.

I subscribe to Consumer Reports, but I think in making a major purpose such as an automobile, that one should extend one’s research. My problem is this: Consumer Reports surveys its readers. My guess is that the return is probably not as high as 60% on the questionnaires. The subscribers who didn’t respond may have an opinion different than those who did respond. Unless a survey has at least a 60% return, its reliability is suspect. Furthermore, Consumer Reports surveys its subscribers. Therefore, even if the survey does have a return rate of 60% or more, the results may only be generalized to the population that subscribes to Consumer Reports. People who don’t subscribe to Consumer Reports may have a different mind set about automobiles than those who do. Having said this, Consumer Reports is, at least for me, a good place to begin reviewing a product. In the case of a used car that I may be considering, I ask the advice of my independent shop. These mechanics have a pretty good idea of trouble spots on at least the more popular automobiles sold in my area and they pay close attention to these areas when checking out a car for me. If I am purchasing a new car, Consumer Reports does point out what they consider strengths and weaknesses and I take this into account on my purchase.

Here, though, is another problem: Automobile A exhibits a poor frequency of repair record in its first two or three years. Automobile B exhibits a good frequency of repair record. Let’s say both cars are three years old and have traveled the same number of miles. Automobile A may have had the repairs made and should be good for quite a while. On the other hand, parts may be wearing out on automobile B and the subsequent owner may have to do repairs.

Use it as ONE source…NOT the be-all-end-all.

Consumers Report reliability data is based on past history. They don’t have a crystal ball that can look into the future. Things change.

I should add that Consumers Reports is good at exposing problems in consumer products. This has forced manufactures to make better products. For this I am thankful.

I think Consumers Reports should not be used entirely to base a car decision on.

First, they only deal with a microscopic percentage of the automobiles out there. The analogy would be like asking one person in NYC their opinion on a political issue and claiming it fits the entire city.
Second, they base their opinions on what a car owner states. This statement may be a mile off-base and there is no investigation as to whether the statement is even true.
Third, there is not one person on their adminstrative staff that has any auto expertise. Many are political science majors and things of this sort, along with being lawyers. Their Job Number 1 is keep their salaries going.
One of their staff is knowledgeable in yoga, although I suppose that could be used in determining which car has the best seats.

I also consider them biased, especially considering the source of a lot of their tax-deductible donations. George Soros is one of those sources.

One thing that I find interesting in Consumer Reports April automotive issue is a comparison of owner satisfaction with the repair record. For example, the Pontiac Solstice seemingly has a much worse than average reliability rating, but has a way above average owner satisfaction rating. The Pontiac Vibe on the other hand has a very high reliability rating, but only an average satisfaction rating. The Nissan Titan has a well below average reliability rating, but is average in owner satisfaction. On the other hand, the Ford Ranger has an average reliability rating, but a very low owner satisfaction rating. (see the Consumer Reports April 2007 issue). The point seems to be that reliability isn’t everything in being satisfied with a car for many people.

I agree with another comment, that what CS says goes wrong with a car simply did not happen to ours.

CS sometimes predicts reliability but I have not seen a summary in their magazine of how their predictions match what actually happens. Predicting reliabilty is risky and CS should know better than to do it.

It’s easy to beat predicted reliability. Less than 10% of a yearly model run of an unreliable car name will be troublesome in any major way. There are Saturn and Subaru owners who have never blown a head gasket. Their cars, on the other hand… You can beat the odds for a while and sometimes forever. Somewhere Consumer Reports states the reason that the car isn’t recommended. Sometimes it is gas mileage, other times, the gas mileage being bad doesn’t matter, sometimes emergency handling or something we don’t even care about. To get full use of CR, you have to pay $26 a year for the subscription and a dollar a month to use their website and maybe they will give their reason for not recommending the car. Sometimes the price of the car will stop it from being recommended. Sometimes, depreciation. As usual, you have to pry the info out of them by working way too hard. It’s all those factors rolled into one that gives a truer idea of the car as a “whole”. It is a good source of data if you understand the why of it and the nature of the automobile.

If you think of a car as an appliance, then Consumer Reports should be one source (you should have several) of information for you. Their direct testing methods leave a lot to be desired, however.
If you enjoy driving, then don’t even bother reading their reports on cars…

Thank you all for being so enlightening about these things. I just had no idea what was what and how things are determined and this definitely puts things in perspective! At least it helps me move forward and not put so much weight on what they say about this car or that one…thank you sooo much.

Just a thought, but do not put much faith into things like CarFax either. CF is used as more of a sales tool than anything else by promoting the idea that a “clean” CarFax report means the car has never been damaged in a wreck. Many people also wrongly assume, and it is sometimes insinuated by sales staff, that a CarFax will show up any mechanical problems, provide a maintenance log, or whatnot, and this is not true at all.

Many vehicles that have a “clean” CF report may have been wrecked (sometimes badly), may be theft recoveries that went through some driving like one might see on some of those TV cop shows where they’re chasing people across the fields, etc.
Nothing like going airborne to bend suspension components and tweak Uni-bodies.

Use it as one source. Like all others it is not infallible.

I use consumer reports as one source when I am looking for a vehicle.

I think it is important to read the full review of a vehicle and its competitors. There will be hints on what qualities they are looking for in this class of vehicle and why various vehicles are favored or panned. I often find some things they care about I don’t. For example. We drive a minivan, but now that the kids are out of the house, we never have more than 4 people in the car. When CR discusses the flexibility of the third seat, I don’t really care. Or perhaps I will disagree with their assessment on things like driving position, or how easy the controls are to use.

When considering the CR reliability ratings, I think it is important to remember that most cars are a lot more reliable than they used to be and that the difference between a vehicle rated above average and one rated below average is much smaller than it used to be.

I also like to read the forums. This provides some feedback from actual buyers of the vehicle(s) you are considering.

The thing you need to understand with Consumer Reports is they have a political agenda of their own, and they let it bias their recommendations. If they have a car with all red bulleyes (good reliability), but they don’t recommend it, then you should read the article to find out why. It may be the car fails some safety test they think is important, or has higher emissions than others in its class, or costs more than CU thinks it should. All of these are valid reasons for them to downgrade a perfectly reliable car, but you have to read the text carefully to see if this is something you agree with.

As others have said, I would only use Consumer Reports as one source, and then only on the reliability statistics. They occasionally seem to go out of their way to do a hatchet job in their magazine review of some cars, but they usually tell you why in the text of the article. So, check other reviews also, and apply your own criteria to the information.

Another thing to remember about Consumer Reports is that it gives the opinion of its test drivers which may not be in agreement with your opinion. For example, Consumer Reports downgrades minivans and SUV’s for being “truck like” and they prefer vehicles that are “car like”. I’m just the opposite. I preferred my Ford Aerostar which was built on a truck frame to the Ford Windstar that I owned next and the Chevrolet Uplander that I own now. I like my Toyota 4Runner that is built on a truck chassis.

I just had this happen at a dealer. Showed me a really nice car and it’s Car Fax report and said only one owner, a nice little old man who put very few miles on the car. I thought this was great news til I read the car talk info about getting the car checked out by a independent dealer, no matter what, if it is used. Is that a dealers sell line as well as a questionable carfax report. Yikes!

I remember watching an episode of that King of Cars one day. This person comes in looking for a used truck and finds one the dealership had just gotten in, not even detailed yet. The truck had rear bumper damage, salesman says he’ll go run the CarFax, it comes back clean, and the person buys it. No asking to have it looked at by a mechanic, no getting down on the ground and looking under the bumper for frame damage, nothing.