Purchase a new car

What are the rankings, Best to Worse, of all car makers with respect to RELIABILITY, that is, “mean time between failures??”

With respect to the less expensive vehicles, ex: Scion, Fit, etc.

Go to your local library and consult a copy of Consumer Report’s “Annual Auto Issue.”

It has a chart and a list with precisely the information you’re looking for.

Ditto to McP’s suggestion. That’s your best source of information. You also can buy one at the bookstore and peruse it in the comfort of your own home.

Mean Time Between Failures is a technical reliability term I work with all the time. However, it’s not that useful in buying a car.

Once a year Consumer Reports tells us about the background on the statistics. They work with a Severity factor as well. And the dollars per repair are factored in also.

For most people, the Consumer Reports and some other surveys, such as True Delta, are enough to make an intelligent decision as to what car to buy. Black balls are bad, red balls are good!

Lexus and Toyota, as well as Honda models tend to lead the pack in reliability. Eurpean cars, such as Mercedes and Volkswagen, and many LandRover models trail the group.

Please note that an “average in reliability” economy car will cost less to keep running than a Much Better than Average luxury car. Just the tune-ups and routine maintenance of luxury cars is expensive.

“Once a year Consumer Reports tells us about the background on the statistics. They work with a Severity factor as well. And the dollars per repair are factored in also.”

Which issue is that? I want to go to the public library and read it. The more I look at reliability ratings by various organizations, the more skeptical I am of them. I want to get a better idea of how they are put together. The 2009 or 2008 issue is fine, if you don’t mind looking it up. Thanks.

jt; it’s normally the April issue which is almost entirely devoted to cars. They explain what the various ratings mean in terms of dollars, as well as frequency, such as 5%, 10%, I believe. They even show graphs comparing Eurpean, Asian and US cars.

The True Delta report only counts trips to the shop for repairs (non-warranty), and excludes normal maintenance. In both cases, Volkswagens, Audis, Land Rovers and Mercedes models come out worst. And Toyota, Honda, Mazda and Hyundai models come out best. I believe the J D Powers LONG TERM surveys confirm this as well.

Years ago in Germany there was a survey as to which cars were really the most reliable. Since there is no equivalent ready-made report like CR, they surveyed the German Consumers Association, and the ADAC (German version of AAA). The 2 best were…the Mazda 323 and the Toyota Tercel!!! Two Japanese econoboxes. This caused an uproar and genuine “angst”, as only upset Germans can have when their self-image is shattered.

You are asking for some very specific information, while most of us can give opinion based on personal experience and bias. If you want “science” then go to Consumer Reports and JD Power. These sources usually cover relatively current vehicles. Stuff over 10 years old is just not tracked scientifically by anyone.

I would check Consumer Reports, but don’t over do it. While it does offer some value, I would not make a choice on my car based primarily on the failure history of the make or model.

The data is just not a good as I would like. Since some models attract certain kinds of drivers, the driver may influence the number of reported problems. Also we generally don’t know what the actual number of problems per 100,000 cars is. If it is 2 problems per 100,000 for a good rating and 6 for a bad rating that is a very small difference.

I do agree that you should consider this as a part of your decision process, but just don't over do it.

In terms of less expensive vehicles there are really no clear cut winners in terms of “reliability”. A car rate average may have 10-20% of cars with issues. A reliable make will have 5-10%. A worse than average may be 15-30% with issues. My point is the majority of cars are “reliable”. People cite Consumer Reports as a bible however it even states the majority of cars are “reliable”.

I think the key thing to look at first is what you like in a group. The 2nd maybe is check how maintenance intensive it is. A timing belt vs non-timing belt vehicle and how often other things are done.

Anything with average reliability or better is wonderful however makes it.

I own a Consumer Reports “average” reliability car, a 2005 Subaru Legacy turbo and in 5 years the only issue has been a headlight burned out at 20k and replaced under warranty. I know many owners of Toyota and Honda with (boring) cars listed as much better than average and had a trip or two for issues. No issue with boring car but they bought on the sole premise of reliability by conventional wisdom of brand not first choice.

Luck has a lot to do with it.

Good luck on your search, look at the big picture.

Joseph; the problems are measured in “problems per 100 cars”. For worse than average that usually comes to 30 problems per 100 cars per year, a significant amount.

True Delta measures “trips to the shop for repairs” per 100 cars per year. For a 5 year old Volkswagen that comes to about 140 per 100 cars vs 30-40 for a comparable Toyota or Honda. Very significant differences!

Andrew, That’s It, Well Said.

Thanks. I found an explanation this morning in a Spring 2009 Ratings and Pricing Guide. I saw it on my shelf and immediately wondered if it had the info; it does. Black or half-black dots mean that the failure rate exceeds 3%. Less than 2% is half red and less than 1% is full red. I guess that means a white dot is 2% to 3%. I was aware that JD Power and True Delta report only incidents and do not classify them. I’ve looked at MSN Autos ratings (Identafix), but they worry me. Everything I’ve looked at, including Land Rover, achieves the highest rating.