Is consumerreports the best source when shopping for a car

I am in the market for a sedan. I am able to bring my options down to five options (Dodge Dart, Mazda3, Hyundai Elantra, Chevy Cruze, Subaru Impreza). I am looking for some expert opinion. I know consumerreports is a good source. Before buying a subscription, I would like to check whether there is another source out there?
What source do you use to know expert opinion about a car?

You can go to your local library to read Consumers Reports so you don’t have to pay for a subscription just for a one time use.

Consumers Reports is honest. They may not always be accurate, they can only report what they experience and what their readers surveys tell them. Unlike Consumers Reports, other magazines depend on advertising for revenue, so they have to be careful what they say about the products they test. But the other magazines will at least tell you what is good about the cars they test, just look for what they don’t tell you.

Consumers Reports has a tremendous effect on the marketplace. Any item that gets top rated is suddenly in demand and that can create a problem in of itself. The sudden demand means premium prices. In addition, the manufacturer has to ramp up production to meet the new demand. Ramping up production results in new employees that do not have the experience of the older employees which means a short term drop in quality. This is when second place should be considered.

You can also go to, which is part of this website to get some pretty good information.

I would as much faith in Consumer Reports on cars as I would trust Car & Driver, Road & Track, etc. on appliances. Auto enthusiast web sites are the best source of car information today. JD Power is good at collecting repair data, but not at making car recommendations.

I trust Consumer Reports for information and for a source of general car reliability information. I then combine that with what I read on other sites and my personal needs. For example, I recently switched from a Toyota product to a Ford product, based on putting all of those factors together.

For specific models, read what the consumer reports review says and decide if the factors they consider important are important to you.

I think it’s the best available. Their base of respondants is huge and they don’t sell their awards. CR does not allow use of their name in adverising, and JD Powers (the other big name) charges the manufacturers to use their name…in essence selling the awards. It’s JD Powers’ primary revenue stream. Hey, pay me enough and I’ll find something to give you for an award. Perhaps “Best 15.5 foot sedan with a 3.1 engine and chrome side accents”. Or perhaps “Best initial quality for the first seven days of ownership”.

The absolute best source when shopping for a new vehicle is test driving the one you are interested in. No written word has as much power as the actual experience of driving the vehicle. Articles are good for researching a certain make and model but don’t let them sway you one way or another until you have actually checked out the vehicle for yourself.

You buy car magazines to get an opinion of how the car behaves on the road as well as the gas mileage. Car magazines are a very poor source of reliability and durability info. So you go to Consumer Reports or TrueDelta for how well the car stands up. Since 1965 I have relied on Consumer Reports to get the reliability data. But I tested each car to see if I liked it enough to buy it. Don’t let Consumer Report tell you what you NEED! In the 60s their definition of an American “family car” was one roomy enough to seat 6 male adults and a trunk large enough for a weekend trip. One reader questioned their definition of a US FAMILY!!!

Of the cars you mentioned, the Mazda3 is the best overall for fuel economy, reliability, and expected life. The Dart was rated poorly by CR and is an unknown, and the Impreza will cost more to operate and maintain. The Cruze is not showing up that well either, although it is a pleasant car to drive. But the Mazda will cost you the least over its life. And it’s fun to drive.

I’m not a big CR fan because its based on member responses rather than statistics. Every make has its own problems with certain engines, transmissions, electrical issues and so on. You don’t know a 3.2 is a problem versus a trouble free 3.5 for example from CR. Really local service providers are a good source of information since they see the problems over and over. I rented a Mazda 3 and didn’t seem too bad except the controls were a little weird.

No source of car data is perfect. But as others have noted, I too think it’s the best available.

It’s been a while since I read car magazines like Motor Trend. But I do remember it seemed difficult for them to be critical of the cars they reviewed - especially if the manufactures had big ads throughout the pages each month.

Because of the way that so many of you guys are responding, re: Consumer Reports, I really have to wonder just how familiar you are with that publication.

Specifically, I am referring to the apparent confusion between CR’s test results following a thorough test drive/comparison test of the vehicle and the entirely different part of CR’s info, namely their reliability stats.

Yes, the reliability stats are subjective, based on how accurately various and sundry CR members responded when they completed their annual survey on vehicle reliability.

However, unless you think that CR is lying about…how many feet it takes to stop a vehicle from 60 mph…or the maximum speed that a vehicle was able to achieve on their avoidance maneuver test…or a vehicle’s 0-60 acceleration time…or the decibels recorded in a vehicle’s interior at highway speed…or the average mpg that CR logged in their tests…or the number of inches of headroom/footroom…or the number of pieces of luggage that can be put into the trunk/cargo area…or any of their other objective data, then your statements about CR are…just not accurate.

Whenever CR has been challenged in court on their test drive findings (Suzuki Samurai comes to mind, but there were others), the courts have always found in CR’s favor. This outcome could not have been possible without data that supported the statements that they published.

Much more recently than the Suzuki Samuri debacle, CR criticized the extreme-limit handling of a Lexus SUV (I can’ t recall the model name/number, but it is the one that is essentially the mechanical twin of the Toyota 4Runner). Do you know the outcome of that situation? It resulted in Lexus recalling that model in order to reprogram the vehicle dynamics (anti-skid) program. In their press release announcing that recall, Lexus acknowledged that the vehicle was unstable under certain conditions, and that this particular recall was necessary in order to correct handling problems–the exact same handling problems that CR noted in their test drive report.

Instead, some of you apparently think that the statements of a publication (C &D, R & T, MT) that derives its income from auto advertising are more objective. Please give that concept some additional thought…

Do you really think that CR is lying about the objective data that they derived from their long-term test drives? You may want to cavil about the accuracy of the reliability stats that they publish annually, but those stats are completely separate from the test drive results that they publish on a regular basis.

To summarize, if you are confusing CR’s reliability stats with their test drive results, I really have to question just how familiar some of you are with CR’s auto information.

I agree with , I think with the majority. I don’t think it should be your only source. But, being that they have real engineers with degrees, are non profit, depend upon ratings from people like you and I and not people who profit from selling cars, and have a reputation for being fair in all their other product lines, I would use it as a reference. There are no guarantees, but CR gives you better odds then guys who recommend cars whose adds appear on the next page. They do need to find more interesting testers to listen to then on their utube Reviews.

I’m no fan of Motor Trend or Car and Driver reviews at all. The fact that CR is a non-profit doesn’t mean much to me because most non-profits are about the money.

For what it’s worth, most of the people doing the road testing and so on are not engineers at all; or at least so says CR.

CR is a good source – probably the best independent source – and should be consulted prior to purchasing a car. No doubt about that in my mind. One thing about their ratings is that they tend to focus on the reliability over the prior 5 years, so when problems occur at year 10, those don’t have as much weight in their recommendations. If what you want to do is buy a car, keep it for 5 years, then trade it in, CR recommendations should be fine. That’s why you see Kias and Hyundais rated well, esp in the latest set of recommendations. But if you are like many of us who want or need to hold onto our cars for 15 or 20 years, be sure to look at the specific charts for the car in CR, which show the problems 8-10 years after purchase that start cropping up. You’ll pay more up front for a Toyota or Honda than a Kia or Hyundai, but the Toyota and Honda will tend to hold up better, require fewer and less expensive fixes, as the car ages, esp in years 10-20.

I agree. @GeorgeSanJose
One of the better things to do is to keep if you subscribe, and read past yearly summary issues. Yearly ratings and reviews are always done relative to the competition at the time. The Kia’s and Hyundais only have a recent history of good reliability. If you look at their models to give ten years of good service, they had better at one time have a history of ten consecutive years of good service. At this time, I don’t think they do… The other under appreciated rating IMO, done by CR, is owner satisfaction. be skeptical of a car with a poor one…like a Yaris. It doesn’t mean it can’t be a good buy, but it does put the onus on you to do a good job trying the car out.

When you look at the tests that CR puts their cars through, it doesn’t seem to take an engineer to do times 0 to 60, maximum speed through a course or measure the inside with a tape measure, take the mileage and all the other mundane measurements that show up in their ratings, all of which are in general agreement with everyone else who tests the same cars. But of course, Motor trend will evaluate styling over history of repairs and rate a make higher on these factors alone when it has an advertising appearing on the next page. I have caught their act many times. One Pick up truck shoot out where their opinion of style counts for more then towing capacity and handling, engine power and mileage…what a deal.

I was referring to the owner reliability reports not the test drive info and you’re right, I probably am not that familiar with CR and have never found their ratings for paint, lawn mowers, dishwashers and so on all that helpful. A lot of the brands and models seem to not be available in the midwest anyway. The reliability ratings for my G6 were terrible and I bought it anyway and have not experienced any of the issues reported by CR subscribers in 60K miles. Guess you gotta take everything with a grain of salt and draw your own conclusions. The nice thing about buying cars though if you don’t like it you can sell it again.

Good news: Consumer Reports gives an honest opinion about what matters to them.

Questionable news: What matters to you may not be exactly what matters to them. You should read other sources. Edmunds,com,, and even USA Today have car reviews, as do Car and Driver, Road and Track, Motor Trend, and several other magazines or e-zines. All these sources are available on line and don’t cost anything to read. You can buy the annual CR car book at the news stand. That same information is also available at the public library. But it is popular, and you either have to read the reference copy that stays at the library or wait for the loaner copy.

Bad news: CR states the results in a way that makes you think that there is a big difference in reliability between cars on the market. There isn’t. But so many people buy into it that Toyotas and Hondas have extraordinary resale values.

I subscribe to Consumer Reports, and take its ratings into account, but buy the product that suits my needs and bank account. For example, I was shopping for a minivan in 2006. Consumer Reports recommended the Toyota Sienna or the Honda Odyssey. I found a 2006 Chevrolet Uplander that was a program vehicle (whatever that means) with 15,000 miles on the odometer and the rest of warranty. I bought it for 15,000 and a new Toyota Sienna or Honda Odyssey would have cost at least $10,000 more. Despite the high frequency of repair for the Uplander, I found it quite trouble free. We sold it to our son and it now has about 110,000 miles on the odometer. I rode in it last week-end and it runs very well. He has had no trouble with it. I replaced it with a 2011 Sienna because GM no longer makes a minivan. The Sienna is fine, but for me the seats were more comfortable in the Uplander. I liked the narrow width of the Uplander–I often had to back the Uplander off a busy street into a narrow alley to get to a stage door to load a set of tympani into the van. To accomplish this with the Toyota Sienna, the mirrors had to be folded in.
I have read CR’s tests of pickup trucks. One plus for them is that truck seems more “car like”. Well, if I am buying a pickup truck, I want it to be “truck like”. In fact, I liked the Ford Aerostar better than any minivan I’ve had since because it was more like a truck.

@triedaq…absolutely…lWhen Consumer reports dissed the latest 4 Runner because it was not "Carlike " enough for them to be rated well, it just reinforces why it was made. Toyota just seemed to decide that being the only off road SUV in a segment of the market may be more worthwhile then trying to compete with all the other “Carlike” SUVs. 4Runner owners should wear the badge proudly. Why else would you buy one ? Ooops, sorry Wrangler owners with performance tires.

@dagosa…My wife was determined to buy a 4Runner back in 2003 and nothing else measured up. We often take it on trips today because for us it is comfortable. We like sitting up high, we like the firm seats, and the “truck like” ride is less tiring than a willowy ride for us. I rode to a rehearsal last night in a Mercury Grand Marquis–I think it was a 2006. I thought it swayed too much in the back seat where I was located. I’ve also experienced the same thing in a friend’s Cadillac.
A couple of weeks ago, my wife “volunteered” my services to help a family friend check out cars. She thought she wanted an Accord, but after comparing the Accord with the Civic, the Civic had a better driving position for her.

Funny, it was my wife who was adament about buying a 4Runner. I was looking at another truck. “She” has since turned it over to me on the condition I never load the back up like a truck. She now has controlling interest of both cars !