Last cars and trucks on your Christmas list

I have been reading CR since 1968, and have used the Reliability parts mostly. It has helped me avoid unreliable cars, refrigerators that failed prematurely, TVs that were prone to catch fire, overpriced gadgets that don’t work well, and other useful hints.

I don’t take the other opinions too seriously, as they are often very subjective on the part of the testing staff.

Some of the items bought wholly or at least partly as a result of CR input:

  1. Fridgidaire fridge, then made by GM and essentially bulletproof.
  2. Maytag washer/dryer, before their quality tanked and they were bought out by Whirlpool
  3. Panasonic appliances and TVs
  4. Lawnboy lawn mower when they still had quality
  5. Toyota Corolla, Nissan Sentra (1994), Mazda3 cars
  6. Dell computers (3), HP printers
  7. Whirlpool washer & dryer
  8. Amanda fridge

CR’s social and environmental commentaries are often “Big Brother” types and could have come from Diane Feinstein. I don’t need CR to tell me how to live.

CR’s biggest problem is, they rely on science and scientific methods way too much to influence their opinions. That goes against the opinion of a lot of people who don’t. Now, if they would just accept a little advertising from companies, their advise might be a little more palatable. Car and driver and Motor trend and even JD Power research are much less Offensive and easier to agree with. :wink:

Really though, every publication in order to survive has to find a nitch, even if their’s to “sound good” to the Feinstein types. CR is not and will never be to every’s liking. Selective use of their advice, IMho, has always been the right and privilege of all it’s readers. Heck, I keep buying Tacoma trucks regardless of how much they dis them and prefer Fords.

I like CR because they accept no advertising and use scientific methodologies. I subscribe to CR. I appreciate CR stating its findings clearly and I don’t expect them to try to be “nice”. I have subscribed to CR since 1967 and have read Consumer Reports since 1952. I use CR as a starting point when making a major purchase.

I think that CR is a consistent, transparent source of information. They tell you how they rate something, and then tell you if the methodology changes. My main beef with their automotive ratings is that the best to worst categories goes from 0 to 4% vehicles with problems. They tell us that they do it, and I think that their ratings have played a large role in improving almost all car brand’s reliability. Still, just about any category but the worst is reliable enough to choose from since the cost of repairs is likely to differ by little enough that discounts can make cost of ownership similar. That has been my experience anyway.

I read these small percentages in CR ratings as how they should be interpreted is over time. A variation represented by a black ( much worse) circle of 4% over one year is indeed small. But if you own a car for up to ten or more years, when you compare two cars that vary by .04 per year as a decimal, it means that the probability of an event happening at least once over two years is the sum of the two or .08. Over ten years, it is 10 times that .o4 chance or now becomes .40 or a 40% probability it will happen in that one area over a car with open dot circles ( representing much better then average ) over that time.

Now, look at several areas of concern, including for example. transmissions and engines. If there are two areas of concerned, the engine and the transmission, that each add up to 40% greater chance, then over a ten year period, the chances of at least one of them happening is now 80% greater in one car then another. So, these percentages taken one year at a time seem small, but taken over time are very important when considering the probability of at least one major repair happening. And, if you are buying a used car, it becomes even more so.

So, I don’t look at it as a chance of any one particular event ocurring, but a chance that any catastrophic event could occurr over any time frame I choose. Theoretically over a six year period usually shown, you can add all of these differences and come up with a theoretical repair costs for one car compared to another. That’s what can be done to compare part of the cost of ownership over time. The difference can be very significant.

@jtsanders By the time the cars are 10 years old, over 100% of the "worse than average " have problems, while the better than average have only 40-50% with problems. That’s a huge difference.

I agree when cars are up to 3-4 years old, the difference is very small. I assume you have no qualms buying a Dodge Grand Caravan instead of a Toyota Sienna.

"…over 100% of the “worse than average " have problems…”

Now there’s a trick…

I liked the way CR rated used cars back in its 1952 auto issues. There were fhree categodies of used cars: A, B, and C with A the highest category. Problems were noted for each make and the trouble spots. As I remember, the 1948 Studebaker had wheel alignment provlems(it had “planar” front suspension). The 1946 Ford did not have alignment problems (it had a solid front axle with a transverse leaf spring), but it did have voltage regulator issues. The 1949 Nash suffered from rain leaks, the 1946 Buick had clutch issues. I don’t remember which classes rhese cars fell in. However, the 1947 Pontiac was in class A.
At any rate the system used back then was easy to understand. I liked it better than the light and dark circles CR uses today.

In the case of cars CR gives a lot more reliability info than just the circles (in the guides and the annual car issue.) I don’t pay much attention to differences in cars with similar ratings. Those differences sometimes make very little sense and I’m more interested in comfort, value, and other factors than minor reliability differences.

However, the real stinkers sink to the bottom of their lists and have far more problems than average. There are always much more reliable competitors that cost no more. CR is very useful for avoiding big mistakes.

The one complaint I’ve had over the years with their car data is the inconsistency of their ratings of the same vehicle, but sold under two different names (Dodge Plymouth, Chevy and GMC - etc)

They’ve had different ratings for the same vehicle made in the same plant on the same line, but with a different name-plate (aka Chevy or GMC).

@MikeInNH I agree. During the 80s with Roger Smith’s cookie cutter GM models, Buick had the best rating, followed by Oldsmobile, then Chevy and lastly Pontiac. These were all the same cars, except for trim.

The difference was the drivers and the use the cars were put to. Buick was a grandfather car, Olds was advertised by Dick van Patten, a Casper Milquetoast TV family guy, Chevies got the most workhorse use as taxis and govt. vehicles, while Pontiac sold… ATTITUDE". Pontiac ads showed a guy who flaunted convention (don’t need no steenkin’ maintenance) and did what he wanted; true American Free Spirit!

You can readily guess which cars got the best treatment and maintenance, and which were abused and lacked proper maintenance. CR can’t for political and practical reasons ask owners if they abuse their cars or treat them gently.

@Docnick - I’m sure that how a vehicle was maintained or driven had something to do with the data…but it wouldn’t explain why things like the Pontiac version which was considered a sportier version had a better then average brakes while the Chevy version had WORSE then average brakes…yet the brake system was exactly the same.

I read a very interesting article concerning Buicks of a couple decades ago. It seems that even though they essentially used similar parts, they were not using the same assembly regiment and for that reason, we’re not exactly the same car.

Buick, incorporated real time customer input which increased their reliability and overall quality significantly. For example. A customer complain of a window leak which was fixed under warranty was immediacy fed back into the system within hours and traced to a robotic that had been program incorrectly during the windshield placement.

Even though a few customers had problems, it did not permeate through the system. By keeping the dealer stock of Buicks low and having assembly line to customer delivery times low, better quality was the result. It did mean you may have to wait for a Buick in “your color” where a better selection of Chevys with the same parts was on the lot, sitting there for weeks, but the quality was significantly better.

The car did cost more but obviously the customers thought it was worth it. Buick still “lives” today for some of that foresight while Olds… .And, even though Toyotas and Lexus both enjoy good reliability ratings and some of the same components are used in each, the Lexus IS still superior. It isn’t because of parts alone…,it’s because of more attention to detail during assembly.

@MikeInNH and @dagosa Thanks for the input. Even though the mechanical parts were all made by the same manufacturer, and the cars were all built by the GM Assembly Division, proper customer feedback and addressing problems by the individual Division will have an influence on the final ratings.

Years ago a colleague of mine in Michigan bought an “Executive Order” used Cadillac. These cars are for GM brass and they get a new one very 6 months to a year. He explained that these cars have a special tag when going through assembly, and are give super care in the assembly and final inspection, since they don’t go through the dealer network. A wonderful way for management to delude itself on their cars’ quality!

As a result, even though this model year Cadillac was far from perfect his car was flawless because of all the attention lavished on it. It did develop a leaking engine rear seal after 2 years, though. Covered by warranty of course.

Even though the mechanical parts were all made by the same manufacturer, and the cars were all built by the GM Assembly Division, proper customer feedback and addressing problems by the individual Division will have an influence on the final ratings.

If the human factor is added…then it’s no longer a scientific method…and accuracy has to be questioned.

@MikeInNH Correct. A classmate of mine ended up in Europe as a special trade agent, and got a Mercedes 200 series as a company car. The dealer service was superb, both over there and back home since he was allowed to bring the car back free of duties and transport.

I had a chance to drive it and the Blaupunkt radio was very marginal and the front brakes squealed like crazy. However, he loved his Mercedes. The marble and palm trees in the lobby and the good quality coffee goes a long way!

In the final analysis, it’s the customer satisfaction that counts; my Toyota was part of the computer recall, and the process was completely painless. Even though the computer did not act up in any way, Toyota had decided that this batch POTENTIALLY could corrode and leave the driver stranded.

On the other hand, my 1965 Dodge Dart had 13 things wrong with it even though I picked it up at the factory, and had to pay a “factory pre-service fee”. The dealer had to do the rest of the fix-up.

However, 4-5 years into the ownership, inferior component will fail and then the comparison is about design and manufacturing quality.

I dunno, its maybe not fair but I didn’t renew my CR subscription. I have just found it not very helpful. Models and particular products such as paint, stoves, and TVs just don’t seem to be readily available in the midwest or not worth searching for. I get better information from the local appliance store. What I’m interested in is where they are made, longevity, the differences in the parts such as pumps and motors, etc. that just isn’t included in CR. Am I really going to spend a lot of time comparing unknown brands of $300 TVs or just buy one and hope to get a few years out of it? I have now just settled on Samsungs for better or worse. They seem to be ok and I like the remotes.

Same thing with cars. I want to know where things are made such as what plant. Which transmissions and engines are troublesome, the warranty, seating comfort, AWD issues, who provides the navigation system, intuitiveness of the information systems, maintenance difficulty and so on. Maybe its all there but I’ve never seen it myself. The number of times a car has to be returned to the dealer is maybe useful but really in this day and age, most cars are fairly reliable as long as the robots have been serviced, so you just expect to not have to have much done after the sale. Cars that have a systemic issue with things like their injection system or turbos should just receive a big red flag and not a little red or black circle. There should be a big red flag for the Subbie seats on the one model that I can’t recall, since it seems that has caused significant issues that buyers should be aware of. I don’t believe they ever reported on Olds using Chevy engines and the differences in the two, but it was a significant issue for the consumer. Oh yeah, and if anywhere in there it talks about the cost and procedure for changing a battery in a BMW for example, maybe I’ll reconsider.

I read the reports on the G6 for example and it was rated very low, but I have had no trouble in 70,000 miles. It would have been important to note the electric steering issues in some models, and problems with the 3.6, etc. but they don’t go into that kind of detail, that I saw anyway. So I just have found the information provided not very usable.

The world as I see it. Sell gold, sell rubles, buy oil. No charge.

@dagosa and @Docnick‌, I used those ratings differences to buy three new cars, a Buick Regal and Olds Silhouette, and a Ford Taurus. I got them at bargain prices compared to the cars I compared them to. The other cars had much higher reliability ratings, and I.never made up the difference despite owning the cars for a long time. We owned the Taurus for 9 years, the Regal for 12 years, and the Silhouette for 12 years so far.

While I’ve subscribed to CR for decades, their recent major format change is a failure in my opinion. I won’t be resubscribing.

There is no substitute for the good maintenance I bet you gave the cars. I can only say this. I am sure most of we car guys do have fewer problems than average on any model. I have also found that reliable brands have the added advantage of much higher resale values. Can you make a good case for what you have done ? Absolutly and my bro is also a testament to doing the same with his Ford Rangers. But, when I can buy a Toyota Tacoma and then sell it 10 years later for the same price as a dealer would ask, often up to 40% of it’s original selling price, then even though both our cars had the similar repairs, some with better repair records have the advantage of a higher used selling price. The ability to sell a Toyota or Honda for a higher price is much much easier due to their reliability reputation, deserved or not. The Fords and Chevys I had were really tough sells as used older cars comparably.