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


I just don’t buy Consumer Reports as being the authority for the reason I gave previously. Even CR’s opinions about ride comfort, handling, seating comfort, and so on are subjective and those opinions are even provided by CR office help and so on. It’s not like CR has a team of engineers doing this stuff. (Source: CR themselves when I asked about who was responsible.)

The following question could also be posed. For the sake of discussion say Honda is better than Ford. Now factor in the type of person and the use of the vehicle along with the various models. Ford produces way more models than Honda does and many of Ford’s models receive some pretty heavy abuse; at least they do here in OK. A Ford F150 is going to be whaled on a lot more than a Honda Accord.

For what it’s worth, an odd survey done one time showed that Honda owners on average kept their garages cleaner than owners of other makes. Does this equate to taking better care of their vehicles also? That info was not given or possibly even known.


“For what it’s worth, an odd survey done one time showed that Honda owners on average kept their garages cleaner than owners of other makes.”

Now was that because of less oil leaks? :slight_smile:

I am a visual guy and like the graph up there by texases, but I think the range of cars are so broad and the reliabilities are so close that one has to buy the car he/she likes and just maintain it and see what happens. At the end of the day, if I buy a lemon from the most reliable car company AND hate the ride too, I would be pretty miserable. Life is too short.

On a different note, someone a few pages ago mentioned “paying a premium” for Honda. Truth is when we bought our 2011 CRV, it was cheaper than a RAV4/Equinox/CX-7 or Escape. The only thing that was cheaper was the Rogue with a CVT transmission that we passed on.


This seems to have become a “Bash Mike” thread. Mike has been very rational in his car opinions and has carefully documented his actual experience. I have done likewise (see early posts) and have found US vehicles twice as likely to end up in the garage as Japanese. And cost consderably more to keep running over their lifetime.

My broither in law is the sales manager for an number of radio stations. He is not car savvy. He had never owned a “foreign” car before. His US cars ranged from adequate (Pontiac) to dismal (Chrysler Intrepid). He asked me to recommend a reliable, affordable car. The only one from US makers I could come up with was the Ford Fusion. Others were Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Hyundai Sonata, and Mazda 6. Since he has had transmission problems with every car he has ever owned, I deleted the Nissan Altima with the CVT.

He ended up buying a Hyundai Sonata (best value for a 6’ 4" driver), and thinks he’s in heaven. He really had no idea a car could actually be trouble free and worry free.


I want to be clear, CR reliability rankings is just one of many things I look at. My two lastest purchases are Ford products, one replacing a Toyota product.


@Ok4550 they actually have a team of auto engineers currently for testing and a stand alone facility.

10 years ago it was fact Toyota/Honda were much better vehicles across the spectrum in terms of reliability/durability. That gap has really narrowed recently in the last 5 years and those lines will be closer coupled as a guess if not overlapping in the future. Toyota/Honda has the history of being generally reliable.

The only thing I cannot grasp is what is the meaningful difference between those ratings. Eg is it really small or a large spread.

You are correct on the variants of GM and Ford produced vs Honda/Toyota. Both Honda/Toyota introduced more unique vehicles and IMHO the quality slipped

I have to say Ford has some really nice products (new designs) as does GM. However will they hold up with their turbo motors(for economy) and long term like the venerable Camry/Corolla/Accord/Civic remains to be seen.


What I have learned over the years is to never say anything negative about the machinery that another person uses or even try to make comparisons. In my early days, there was always a debate as to whether an International Havester Super M or the equivalent John Deere was the better tractor. Those in the know of course said that an Oliver 77 was superior to anything in the field. When my wife’s father’s first grand child was born to my wife’s brother, my wife said that the baby’s ears were too big. Her father thought my wife’s comment was funny. However, when my wife made a comment later in the day that the Ford pickup truck that her father owned and we had borrowed didn’t have great acceleration, her father, who always had Ford products was really upset with her comment. It was o.k. to criticize his new grand son, but it was a sin to say anything against a Ford product.
Mrs. Triedaq happens to believe that the best vehicle ever made is the Toyota 4Runner and I don’t dare say anything negative about her vehicle. I thought, however, that I was paying her a compliment about the rugged qualities of the 4Runner and bought her a Meyers snow blade for her 4Runner for Christmas. Since she retired, I thought this would give her an income. She took the snow blade back to the store and kept the money and I was in the dog house until Easter.
The first minivan I owned was a 1990 Ford Aerostar Eddie Bauer. It had to have the engine replaced and the transmission rebuilt, fortunately while the vehicle was still under warranty. The air conditioning system had problems. The 2011 Toyota Sienna I now own has over 28,000 miles and hasn’t had that first problem since I drove it off the lot with 4 miles showing on the odometer. Yet, I liked the design of the Aerostar better and wish that Ford hadn’t discontinued that model.
I won’t start a war with anybody over the make of any machinery unless you say something negative about a Western Flyer bicycle (my bicylcle that I bought when I was in 4th grade came from Western Auto and I could outrun all my friends. Of course, I had changed the front sprocket to a bigger size).


An excellent point, Triedaq. It’s easy to criticize the choices of others, but in truth I LIKED my Vega! Sure, it went down in history as being one of the cheesiest, junkiest, least reliable cars ever made, with rear axles that slid right out of the housings as you drove, but I LIKED that car.

On the other hand, I bought new a 2005 Corolla, a vehicle of stellar reliability and a make that I’d spent decades happily driving, and the ride was so poor it tortured my bad back and I had to trade it after only two months.

Goes to show…I’m not in a position to criticize the decisions of others.


My comment about the perception that CR is using a number of white coated lab experts to do the testing is based on a response CR gave me when I asked them one time. It’s nothing I dreamed up.

The problem I have with CR (and I’ve stated this before) is that CR does not do investigative work on any complaint made by a responder to their survey. Whether the complaint is legitimate or whether it’s based on the fact that the vehicle owner is pxxxxxx off because of a self-inflicted or other entity inflicted problem, misunderstanding or lack of comprehension on the car owners part, etc is not determined by CR.

The reasons can vary and a truckload of examples could be given. They may include botched repairs by the car owner or some other facility, abusive driving habits, environmental conditions, and even things like discovering that warranty will not pay for routine maintenance or after 6 months the car owner now finds they can’t really afford that car. With the latter two things I mentioned some often resort to imaginary problems with threats of stopping payments on the car. Believe it or not, the latter is not as rare as one may think although the tough part is hearing someone admit it. However, some have admitted it. Now what if any of the above are polled by CR?

One more point. I’ve gotten involved as a shop foreman with the zone office regarding complaints made by car owners who have felt that a premature failure or failures that should not have happened with their vehicle.
In every single instance, bar none, no car owner EVER gave the complete story to the zone office when registering a complaint. The regional office was always given a partial story and that’s by design. There’s no reason to think that in many cases the same MO is not used with CR.


@ok4550, wouldn’t all of those rating pitfalls apply across the board to all brands?



My sister had one of the older Corollas. This car was extremely reliable, but I had a ride in it when my Caprice blew its water pump. The seats were short and hard, and might have been OK for very small drivers. I would not have bought that car under any curcumstances.

They have had Toyotas since 1986, and currenty still have their 1992 Camry which has performed in an exemplary manner. Her husband was a “Ford Type”, i.e. he bought a 1955 Ford as his first car and just kept buying them. That changed when their son married the daughter of the owner of a Toyota dealership. Their first Toyota was an eye opener.

However, as I said before, if you only buy full size pickup trucks and Crown Victorias, you might conclude that American cars are really good.


Yeah, I too had an older Corolla. In '76 after reinstalling the axle in my Vega the first place I drove it was to the Toyota dealer. Bought a new Corolla and never looked back. The difference between the quality of the Corolla and the quality of the Vega, which were SUPPOSED to be competitors, was truely dramatic.

And I agree with you about your theory of relativity. It isn’t until I made the leap that I discovered how truely different the quality levels were. It was truely an eye-opener.

Got a new Saturn in '95 too, at the urging of my ex, after years of Toyotas. The Saturn was definitely not up to the quality level of my Toyotas. Not as terrible as my beloved Vega, but definitely behind.


I have two Jap cars. A 23 year old Suzuki sidekick that most people poo poo as a piece of junk and a 14 year old eclipse that eveyrone wants to buy. The Suzuki was made by aliens and delivered to Roswell bacause it hasn’t had ANYTHING done to it. 180,000 and still original everything. Only replaced the front brakes for the first time last year. I suppose I have replaced the plugs a couple of times, but not really needed and tires. Runs like a sewing machine. My eclipse gets a consistent 38-40 mpg with 226,000 miles and has only had two timing belts - nothing else mechanical except plugs. Clutch, starter, etc still orig. Here’s the key: My kids don’t drive them and I don’t abuse them.


. After 5 trips back to the dealer, I would have made them buy it back under the lemon law. However, my wife liked the vehicle and the problem was finally traced down to a weak spring in the belt tensioner.

Talk about a totally incompetent dealer garage.


@UsedEconobox2UsedBMW–I won’t argue with you on that point. I bought the vehicle from this dealer because our local Toyota dealer had a sales force that didn’t know the product. The agency also sold Nissan and GM products. I went to an dealer 20 miles out of town to buy the 4Runner. However, after the problem of what I consider incompetence in the service department in diagnosing the belt tensioner, I never went back. Our local independent garage services the 4Runner. Fortunately, the Toyota and Nissan products are no longer held the original Toyota dealer in our town and this dealer has a couple of GM products. A new Toyota dealer opened up and this is where I bought the 2011 Sienna. So far, the service has been outstanding. It will be a toss-up when the Sienna is off the warranty whether I will go to the dealer or to my independent shop. Ironically, it was my independent shop manager that recommended the Toyota Sienna to me as being a very reliable vehicle based on his experiences with customers. I’ve had a good working relation with this shop for over 15 years.


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

When I see one of these cars, I think to myself “Shop Car”! They’ve likely either just come from the shop, or will be going to the shop soon!


I had always believed that the fewer bells and whistles a car has, the fewer the problems. For that reason, I was always a fan of the Studebaker Scotsman. However, in the 9 years we have had the 4Runner, I have never even had to replace a light bulb. The automatic temperature control works perfectly. The sunroof has never leaked. The radio/cd player works perfectly. I expected the engine and drivetrain to be reliable and it has been, but I have had no problems with anything else. Of course I have had the maintenance done as specified in the owner’s manual and have had new brake pads. My 2011 Sienna with 28000 miles has never had a problem with anything. I wonder if the difference between Toyotas and domestic nameplates is not in the engines and drivetrains as much as it is in the other things.


Friends of mine owned a Jag XJ-6 (years ago) - they decided they had to sell it when the monthly repair costs were constantly higher than the monthly car payment…OUCH. Much better now, but they had nowhere to go but up.


Sorry to go old school. Where is oldschool anyway? I look at items offering lifetime warranty. I have to think what is the definition of lifetime. I bought a laser level at Menards, it stopped working, took it in for lifetime warranty and sorry we do not make that item anymore, and we cannot replace it. so I wonder about my craftsman tools, sure the 1/2 inch ratchet wrench I got as a gift in 72 has not failed, but what if? Like the republicans say if you are planning on social security that is poor planning, if you are depending on a lifetime warranty that is poor planning,


@Barkydog–Your laser level was guaranteed for the lifetime of the laser level. When it quit functioning, its lifetime was up so the warranty expired.


To answer circuitsmith’s question about getting the true story on any complaint and all models of vehicles the answer would be yes. The make and model of car is irrelevant as many car owners will deliberately skew a story to shift blame away from themselves and other times, due to sheer lack of mechanical knowledge, they may unintentionally fail to provide “the rest of the story” as Paul Harvey would say.

If a Ford pickup owner complains about a rear axle failure on a 1 or 2 year old pickup with low miles does that mean the rear axle was faulty from the start? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe that pickup owner has curbed the rear wheels hard, been driving through deep rainwater, towing loads way in excess of the capability, or backing the truck into the lake and unloading a boat every 2 weeks over the course of the summer.
That’s my point; CR just flat does not know and they assume that a rear axle complaint means a factory defect.

There’s also the issue of environmental conditions and demographics. Some places are much harder on vehicles than others and certain types of drivers are much harder on cars than others. Take a 1000 Ford pickups and a 1000 Toyota Camrys and compare. It’s not hard to see which one will get the most abuse.
Some drivers also have a Jekyll and Hyde complex and I freely admit that I’m one. In my Lincoln I drive slow and easy but in the turbocharged, 5 speed manual transmission SAAB I pound it a lot harder than the Lincoln simply because I like to bang gears a bit and feel the turbocharged pull.

One last example of how people can be is the lady who bought a new Nissan Maxima from the dealer I worked for. Two weeks later she puts it in the ditch after sliding on ice and tore up the right front. This happened just half a mile from the dealer and she had it towed to us but we did not even have a body shop. She became absolutely livid when the service manager told her warranty would not pay for this damage and nothing the service manager could say or do would convince her this was an accident and insurance company issue. She left with the wrecker and tow truck, never to return again. Imagine what the CR survey would look like if she was subscriber. :frowning: