The myth of maintenance free Japanese cars (...that go to 200k with just gas, tires, and oil)


Toyota has been building more cars the Ford and Chryco for several years.

But from what I’ve seen…while they are building more…and quality may have slipped a little…quality is still better then Ford/GM and Chryco.

And that has NOTHING to do with how many cars…but everything to do with management.


@MikeInNH -

No, I’m not saying that ONE survey outweighs others. Interestingly, you’re the one that posts three links, two of which dispute your claim, so aren’t you the one saying ONE survey outweighs others?

It’s interesting that you bring up WarrantyDirect. First off, you’re looking at a list of vehicles in that rank order that were sold in Europe, not the US. Second, here’s Warranty Direct’s reliability index for 2006, with a lower score being better:

Funny - Ford finishes behind Honda, but ahead of Toyota and Lexus. Ford also came in with less time in the shop than Toyota or Honda and at lower overall cost than either one, too:

In 2008, they also reported on US-only results:

Note that 24.05% of Toyotas had warranty claims, 25.07% of Hondas, and 25.34% of Chevrolets, 26.11% of Fords. Would you call those claim rates significantly different?

Finally, on your last two links, you make the false assumption that #11 would be necessarily bad. You also make the false assumption that the list is anything other than Click and Clack’s personal opinions (note they give the Accord, Odyssey, and Civic complete passes for their transmission problems that spanned several years). You also make the false assumption that, for example, the fourth most reliable family sedan would be unreliable. There are, what, 200-300 different models on the market today, and you think the top 2-3 in any segment must be head-and-shoulders above the rest? Really?


Of course back to the belief that only YOUR surveys are the correct ones…

Oh Well…Nice try though. Some people actually have opened minds…


I have to disagree. At least my 1990’s Toyota Corolla with 200K has done well by me so far. The manual that comes with the car lists the repair intervals, and it isn’t just oil and tires that are spec’d for inspection and replacement. Toyota never says “gas, oil, and tires” is the only thing you’ll need to replace in 200K. There’s a whole slew of things they say you must either inspect or replace at the specified intervals.

Comparing BMW costs to Toyota costs is tricky. BMW has better maintenance under warranty program I think, but you have to compare the purchasing costs too. BMW costs way more to buy. And after the warranty period expires, you are on your own. Fixing BMW’s means you have to find a specialized mechanic, and you have to purchase parts that don’t benefit from economy of scale pricing. Ever check out the cost to replace a burned-out headlight on an older BMW? I’d be surprised if you could get away with less than $250, and that’s doing it yourself. $500 if a BMW mechanic does it. Just the other day there was a thread here noting the cost to replace a Lexus headlight was over $2000! For a single headlight! Compare that to the $7 I paid to replace the headlight on my 1990’s Corolla.

I was just looking at the maintance records since I did a smog test today. In 200K I’ve changed the oil and filter 25 times, replaced the clutch master cylinder once, replaced or repaired the starter motor selenoid contacts 3 times, replaced both outer CV boots, replaced the timing belt one time ,windshield wipers every other year, headlights and light-bulbs from time to time, replaced the clutch safety-start switch, repaired the ignition switch, and 7 batteries. Never have done anything with the clutch, transmission, or suspension system.

Of those items, the only one I think is excessive is the starter motor selonoid contacts. I think the design for that starter motor isn’t up to Toyota reliability standards Besides that, I’m very satisified with the reliablility.

I’ve done all the work myself. I haven’t totalled up the parts cost, but I doubt it would add up to $1000 total for the entire life of the car.


Oh, forget, I replaced the front brake pads 4 times. I get about 50K from a set of pads.


@MikeInNH - again, did I say that? Notice that we’ve got surveys, some showing Ford ahead of Honda or Toyota, some showing the opposite. I am, and have been saying that there is basically no difference in reliability. When some surveys show one result and some show another, the logical conclusion is that you basically have a tie. By denying just those surveys which show that go against your preconceptions and clinging to the others, it is you who is saying only YOUR surveys are the correct ones. Ironically, one of the surveys that YOU have clung to (WarrantyDirect) shows exactly what I am stating - that there is no real difference in reliability.


When some surveys show one result and some show another, the logical conclusion is that you basically have a tie.

And that would be an illogical conclusion. What it does mean is that it can’t be PROVEN which is more reliable…but that’s doesn’t conclude that they are the same. And that’s my whole point. Since you can’t PROVE that GM/Ford/Chryco is as reliable as the Japanese brand vehicles I’ve owned over the past 25 years…then why would I switch.

The reason I switched FROM GM was the extremely poor reliability. And so far every vehicle I’ve owned since then are 10 times more reliable. When you can PROVE that GM/Ford or Chryco is at least as reliable…then I’ll consider buying one…but so far…you haven’t.


Well, Mike, that makes no sense.

Over all these surveys, we have hundreds of thousands of responses, after which you say you can’t prove that one is more reliable than the other, but that doesn’t prove they’re the same. Well, the catch is that statistically, if you have that large of a sample and can’t prove that there is a difference, then an alternate hypothesis would hold that you could state with a VERY high confidence that the difference, if one exists, couldn’t possibly be more than an EXTREMELY small relative amount.

Once again, buy what you want, and I won’t blame you for not wanting a GM after past experiences… but your past experiences do not reflect current offerings.


but your past experiences do not reflect current offerings.

And again…that’s YOUR opinion…NOT the opinion of several of the survey’s I showed you. I know you have blinders on when it comes to GM…You have loyalty…Great…But don’t expect others to have blinders on also. Sorry…but I look at the evidence…NOT blindly follow something.


My opinion is that it’s all a wash based on car ownership and turning wrenches on them day in and day out.
The percentages are all about the same and I agree with Eraser that many are willing to look the other way when it comes to a complaint on certain makes of cars.

A GM car with a faulty transmission is bashed as having lousy engineering and workmanship while a Toyota that suffers the same problem will be dismissed as an anomaly.


All cars break down, it’s entropy. Could be at 50k miles, could be at 250l, it’s just a luck of the draw really. Anybody who says otherwise is trying to take your money.

It didn’t help you spent $400 on an 02 sensor. Who’s your mechanic? I replaced both 02 sensors on my 96’ Honda accord for like $100. Which includes the $30 I spent on the ramps to access the downstream 02 sensor. But Honda’s are pretty easy to work on, maybe Toyota’s are different.

A GM car with a faulty transmission is bashed as having lousy engineering and workmanship while a Toyota that suffers the same problem will be dismissed as an anomaly.

There was a BIG difference…GM’s tranny problems lasted almost a decade…Toyota had the problem for a a few years…

Yes I agree that people tend to look the other way when it comes to complaints…and it’s by far the owners of the Big-3 that do.


@MikeInNH -

Again, evidently you didn’t even look at the actual “several surveys” you’re referring to, because they show your claims are incorrect.

FWIW, I do not currently, nor have I ever owned a GM.


IMO American, Japanese and Korean cars are pretty close in quality today, it’s the European brands that are behind and coasting on their reputations.

Mercedes, VW, Audi, BMW, Volvo, Saab, Jaguar: I wouldn’t own any of these a day past their warranty.

At the University where I work and in my gentrifying neighborhood I know many people who want to present an “upscale” image and put up with a lot of headaches with these brands.


. Just to play devil’s advocate @mikeinnh What would be proof for you?? Besides you personally owning a GM which we all know will probably never happen, what kind of Proof would you need to say that the GM/Ford/Chrys is NOT the same from 10 years ago, to say nothing of 20 years ago??

For what its worth, I work for a Honda dealership… I can tell you first hand our service bays are full all the time, and PLENTY of Hondas come in on the “hook”… I do not think that the “H” on the grill is worth the premium you will pay to own one, and I believe many people are thinking the same way as noted in Honda’s faltering sales as of late. I even had a customer who purchased a new Honda from me 6 months ago (a new odyssey), tell me he has had 3 warranty issues more than any other Honda he has owned… But its ok because its still a Honda. Toyota has been the Re-call king for 2 or 3 years now, and Honda is giving them a run for their money this year…

WIth that said, like @Circuitsmith @eraser1998 say NO ONE MAKES A CRAP car any more, you just can’t do it anymore. Loyalty is all but gone, and people who have been die hard “x” owners are going elsewhere… Why is it SO hard to believe that Hyundai and Kia have turned themselves around, but that GM/Ford/Chrys cannot??


@eraser…Yes I did…OBVIOUSLY you didn’t. Those surveys clearly show Japanese vehicles clearly ahead in customer satisfaction. Wasn’t even close…If you choose to ignore it…Fine…that’s up to you.

We can go back and forth on this…But the point you keep missing…is that it’s NOT up to me to prove American cars aren’t built as well…it’s for you to prove they are (since you keep making the claim). And you haven’t even come close.


@gsragtop…That’s the point…I don’t have to prove anything…I’m very satisfied with the quality of the Japanese brand vehicles we’ve owned…so why would I possibly change?? I even said the Big-3 MAY have the same quality more then once…But a MAYBE is not the same as IT IS. It’s up to the Big-3 Believers to PROVE to me that the quality is there…Which so far…they’ve proven NOTHING…They only proof they’ve offered by saying…see this Japanese vehicle had some problems some years ago…so therefore the Big-3 quality is as good…Sorry…but that’s isn’t a very good argument.


All experience is relative. If you own a troubled car and think that frequent repairs are normal, almost anything, even a Yugo could seem reliable. That’s why legitimate consumer, not industrial, surveys are important. But even they are not definitive as a clutch repair on a Ranger being much cheaper then a BMW, even if more frequent, makes it a cheaper to own car. My bro. convinced me that his Rangers need less expensive repair then my Toyota trucks…but then, he didn’t tow and go off road.

That’s why our options of what is “best to buy” is fraught with disagreement as we all value our personal experience to the exclusion of others to justify spending as much as we do on cars. It IS worthwhile to purchase an Audi or SAAB for different reasons then a Camry or Fusion. If my wife wants to change cars because of the color, who am I to say differently. Besides, silver cars are more reliable then red cars.


@mikeinnh I 100% understand what you are saying, my question is what would work for you as “proof”… What exactly would prove to you that lets say Ford makes a car as Reliable as lets say Toyota?? You keep saying it is up to us to prove it to you, and I compleatly understand your point of view… So what works as proof in your eyes?? I ask becasue this argument has been going on FOR YEARS, and FOR YEARS we go around and around about the same thing… You ask for Proof, and I want to give it to you, so what would prove to you that its truth?


Two things may make me switch…

  1. IF and when the Japanese brand vehicles are no longer giving me the reliability I expect. My 4runner now has over 200k miles…So far only problem I’ve had is front calipers…So to me…that’s pretty reliable. Wifes lexus with over 100k miles…absolutely NOTHING. Nada…zip.

  2. Right now from my research shows the survey’s still show Japanese vehicles having a wide margin over American brand in terms of reliability. Every once in a while we see surges in quality from the Big-3…but NOT sustained quality the way the Japanese brand has. When that happens then I’ll consider buying…But from everything I’ve read…it’s not even close.