Is consumerreports the best source when shopping for a car

Go rent some cars. If you’re not in a hurry, like you don’t need a new car this weekend, go rent some cars. Test driving a car for 15 minutes is hardly a good indicator of how well you will like it as a daily driver. Check around at Enterprise, Hertz, Alamo, whatever, and see who has the cars you’re interested in. Rent each one for 2-3 days, use it as you would when you owned it, and see which is most comfortable and practical for you. Might cost you a few hundred dollars, but negligible compared to the price you’re paying for a new car.

Having read countless car and motorcycle magazines I have found that you can read all you want but that is no substitute for your personal experience with test driving a car. Cars are like taste in food; what you might not like; I might. I pay nearly zero attention to CS. They will not make a decision for me on what car to buy; we will do that ourselves. I will buy what we want, not what they want.

They don’t consider long term and seem to look at a car as just another home appliance. Some time back they adjusted their rating system to give more contrast to quality differences to sustain interest for their magazine sales when in reality, all cars have adequate quality now in my view. We just bought our 5th new car since 2000; have not had perfect results with all but spent nothing on repairs; just maintenance. An occasional recall took care of repairs.

CS seems to remain mostly silent when they miss something such as older Honda auto trans problems and Toyota’s numerous recalls. That would be contrary to retaining some people’s blind faith in CS.

@dagosa Car magazines only test NEW cars!!! They have no clue whatsoever about a 6 year old car with 70,000 miles on it. Also their “car of the year award” is about how technically new the car is and how it feels on the road. Nothing about long term reliability or operating costs. Even PBS sponsered “Motor Week” in their “long term” test only goes about 20,000 miles or one year at most.

Road & Track, years ago, surveyed owners of interesting cars as the cars aged. It was called “After the new wears off”. It revealed countless problems with Jaguars and other exotic cars, but the owners seemed to live with those while enjoying their vehicles. I don’t know of any other car magazine that does that. I surprsed my European friends quite often by showing them the CR Relability histories. No one seems to document this over there. One friend, a retired car dealer, decide not to buy an Audi after he saw the CR report. He bought a Lexus instead.

I read CR and talk to a lot of owners and service people (not working for dealerships). One of the most disappointing car was the really new 1986 Ford Taurus, a great handling car but with a raft of techincal problems.

Consumer Reports, as pointed out, is quite thorough, and any handling problems or safety issues are well documneted. Their engineers and lawyers make sure of that. They get sued regularly but usually win.

1 place not mentioned that’s a good source of info is internet forums(not just this place).

Google different forums for the Cruze, mazda 3, Dart(make sure they include the new one, and not just the older one), etc. The new Dart won’t have the long term member reviews as the other forums, but you’ll get a good idea of what you might expect from the car.

Never ever use just ONE source. Consumer is ONE good source…but it has it’s flaws.

JD Powers and Motor Trend Car & Driver all accept advertising money from car manufacturers. Their recommendations usually go to the highest bidder.

We got a J.D. Powers survey form after buying a new luxury car. It was quite lengthy but I started with it and then after a few questions it dawned on me that I am working for free so they can make money from my efforts and money spent for a new car at little cost to them. I put a note on the survey asking them to send me some money and then I will fill out their survey. Never heard back from them. I could see no personal advantage to filling out the survey. They can shorten their survey or else go take a hike! I wonder how many others feel this way.

Never got a JD survey but did get chosen as a Nielson rating reporter. She wanted to know how many TVs we had and I said seven. She sent me a dollar and I had seven hourly reports to fill out for a week. Would I do it again? Not for $70, or even $700.

I agree with what others have said, but I’d add that for a new model, it’s a crap shoot–there are no reliability records. For a model that’s been around a little while, you can go to and others and look at reviews that owners have submitted, which is going to give you a good history of what can potentially go wrong, as well as what was liked and disliked about a specific vehicle. You can also narrow it by what engine, AWD/4WD/FWD, etc.

I agree, buying a new car and never expecting a problem is a crap shoot. But, I guarantee that buying a car from a maker with a poor reliablility record from CR is a much greater crap shoot. Everyone I know in the auto repair business whether the cars they work on are favorably rated or not by consumer reports, acknowledges they have a good track record.

I guess another factor when reviewing CR or whatever is what systems are the ones that tend to fail in that make/model in the out years. If it is the door hinges, well, that is annoying but easy to fix. The car still runs and gets you where you are going. If it is the audio system failing, that may not be inexpensive to fix, but you can do without it if you have to. Again, the car still gets you where you are going. But if it is the fuel system that the charts show failing in years 6-10, fuel system failures include failures in the engine computer, well, that is usually difficult to diagnose and expensive to fix and the car won’t run well until it is fixed. Likewise with the xmisison or major engine problems like head gaskets failing. If those problems show up in the charts, consider carefully before purchasing that make/model. And if the charts show year after year of electrical system failures, that means the designers have probably skimped on the connector quality or the wire guage and insulation materials, so that’s a problem you don’t want to have, as it just gets worse with age and mileage.

One of the complaints about CR rating system for reliability has been the small difference between the ratings of each car in one catagory and in one year not being significant. This maybe true when you look at just one system in one year. But, ratings forms are sent out every year and theoretically, every car is re rated each year along with each of it’s systems.

That means the probability of problem occuring in at least one of several years with a transmission would be found by adding those rating differences. The probability you will have a problem at some time during the life of the car you own for five years for instance then, Is the total of these small difference over that time. They add up. They become significant. Do the math and you can see that the chance you will have a transmission failure for example at some point during a time period can be several times greater in one car over another.

These small differences are then, very important when you look at the entire rating chart of a car and not just one year at a time. If you have a row of black dots in one car over several years next to it’s transmission…beware, it is very likely to have transmission pproblems at some point compared to another car with a row of red dots over the same time period. Don’t fool your self just because you bought the car with all those black dots next to the transmission and have had no problems…you are living on borrowed time or are in a very lucky minority.

My opinion of CR fell when I recognized that there was a significant difference in their opinions of the Toyota and GM vehicles that were identical twins. But it’s been quite a while since then and I recently looked over their reviews of laundry equipment and found the information helpful and seemingly objective. If I were unfamiliar with automobiles that magazine is probably as good a place as any to find some answers. And doesn’t CR publish an annual automobile comparison these days?

I just searched CR and found the offer for 24/7 on line information. That might be worthwhile.

My opinion of CR fell when I recognized that there was a significant difference in their opinions of the Toyota and GM vehicles that were identical twins

Yup…That’s one problem…CR has also had different ratings for the same vehicle but different branding within the same company. Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable is just one example.

In the case of Toyota rating identical twins differently, I cannot recall a time when they did not use the same data for two models, if they were indeed identical. I had an early 1986 Chevy Nova. Though obviously a Corolla, it was made with fewer standard features then the Corolla. It had a Delco radio and GM stamped on the radiator. The radiator leaked prematurely and the radio failed after a few years. I have no knowledge that the same year Corolla had the same radiator but I cannot imagine they all had the same cheap Delco radio. A Friend’s standard Corolla of that year did not. They did seem to get a few different components from my experience.

Presently, Toyota Scion share with Subaru the sports car made entirely by Subaru. They (CR) discuss the differences in handling between the two and in time, the ratings may reflect that among other things. So all models who share a maker are not identical and they can be rated differently…

Another situation years ago, had to do with Buick division receiving permission from GM to use real time information in final assembly from complains from customers. This prevented things like windshield leaks from appearing in too many models as they were finally prepared and assemble by robotics. You could call the car identical to other GM makes using the same components but there were significant differences in their actual assembly. Is the same done now ? Who knows ? I still feel differences that are subtle could be revealed and affect ratings and it’s not unlikly that Salble used differences in final inspection or assembly then for the Taurus. Another reliability influence has to do with the type of buyer maintenance a car gets when one buys a Corolla vs a Nova or Sable vs a Taurus…the buyers often have different characteristics themselves.

They have tours at CR testing facilities and they are very enlighting and informative and like others, you may leave supporting their efforts a little more then before after having your questions answered.

A few weeks ago one of our posters attached the repair frequencies after 8-10 years. Out of 100 cars, Toyotas and Hondas had 60 or so repairs per year, while Volkswagens and others at the far end had about 125 repairs per 100 cars. That’s 108% more!!! That’s what really matters!!! Some cars age better than others.

If you trade cars every 3-4 years, there will be little difference in the repairs; most cars will have few. And those black dots really mean something.

So, when using CR ratings, look for black dots, and take the oldest rating on the chart.

It’s important when looking at those CR ratings to remember that just because one vehicle occurs at the top of the list, that doesn’t necessarily mean it is statistically better than the 3 or 4 just below it. The ordering of the list has a random component to it. All 4 top rated vehicles may be equally reliable in practice. So while it is likely the case that the top rated vehicle is generally more reliable than the one at the bottom, differences of of few rating points shouldn’t sway the purchasing decision very much if at all.

One thing that you have to realize is that if you buy a car purely based on reliability, you could still get a lemon. You can also get lucky and buy a make/model with poor reliability, but the one you get is trouble free. So at least I make sure I like the car I am getting. After I have a list of cars I like, then I check their reliability.

The vehicles at the top of the list are not necessarily the most reliable. Reliability is just one factor they use to rate vehicles and it does carry a lot of weight, but comfort, safety, economy and handling also count highly on the list.

The ones to avoid are the ones that get a “not recommended”.

I don’t know if many of you are aware of this, but CR offers a “pre-test” to manufacturers for prototypes of new models they plan on introducing. CR makes recommendations to the manufacturer and the manufacturer can decide to incorporate them or ignore them.

I think (but don’t know) that reliability is not a factor in the rankings, only in whether a car is ‘recommended’ or not.

@texases For a car to be recommended by CR, it has to meet their test standards, and have AT LEAST AN AVERAGE Reliability history. So, a Toyota Yaris is extremenly reliable (much better than average), but still not recommended because it is uncomfortable and CR does not like it. For the same reason, the previous Hyundai Elantra model was not recommended because it did not do well in one type of collison. It’s reliablity was great and it was a great car to drive. I would have bought one, as did several of my friends. The current Elantra model passed their safety standard and is now highly recommended.