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This link is to an in depth study to the most and least durable cars

Most of it appears to parallel what has been discussed here many times.

https://autos.yahoo.com/blogs/motoramic/a-car-dealer-s-scientific-guide-to-the-most-and-least-durable-used-cars-214802625.html

If it has been posted here before, I have not seen it, so I’ll just apologize in advance.

I haven’t seen it before. I like it.

Same here. I like it.

I think I’ve seen this before and seems ok. I’m not so sure about 18 year old cars though but seems to me if you have a proven engine, trans, platform, etc. you can predict new car reliability. I just got my copy of CR and I really have to say I have found it pretty unhelpful. Not just the car portion but their ratings on lawn mowers and appliances. They seem to think a high back seat is really important and an electric blade engage. These are things I could care less about but want to know the engine and single or dual cyl., whether the trans is the cheapo consumer grade or more robust, etc. Same thing with appliances. They never say where they are made, the life expectancy, etc. but sure like to talk about energy cost and door layout. I dunno, I’m just thinking the best info comes from the people using the stuff and fixing them.

I like CR’s automotive reliability ratings formats, but for other things I agree that they really focus on way to many things that are meaningless to me. They have a tendency to support the newest safety features with total disregard for their cost.

While durability affects reliability and longevity, they are most definitely not the same thing. I think the “study” is confusing these terms somewhat.

I think you also have to look beyond the numbers at the type of vehicle and the target markets. For example, a lot of dirt-cheap, basically throwaway “Bic lighter” cars are purchased by a market segment that drives them harder and performs more indifferent maintenance than say, the luxury car market, where cars are driven more gently, and are more likely to be maintained according to their maintenance schedules, and not as often by “Quicky Lube” places. Then you have performance cars that may be well maintained by enthusiasts, and have to be pretty durable to stand up to the abuse they often get, but few likely see 300K on the odometer due to the life they live.

You can say that a Lexus is a good car that lasts a long time, and you’d generally be correct, but you’re not really comparing apples to apples when you say that Aunt Fannie’s SUV that never exceeds 50 MPH and takes 2 minutes to get there holds up better than a lowly Kia that’s bought by someone who beats the snot out of it and never checks the oil and only goes to a shop when something breaks or they can afford to get the oil changed/coolant flushed, etc.

So not entirely relevant to the study 100%, but just my .02 on the matter.

Dang it,I read it and strangely enough I basically concur.However let me add a few comments from experience,as Oblivion said,different cars for different segments ,you can take excellent old cars that are sold cheap and have years of good service left,when certain types buy these vehicles,they are lucky to last 6 months and peoples biases will paint a rosy picture when actually the record was a bit tarnished.For example my bosses brag about GM products(trucks) but they never mention a lot of major work that goes into these things to keep them running for 300K on the other hand I have some friends who are gifted mechanics and can keep a Chevy Cavalier running well foe 300K and believe me they dont baby them either.
So my synopsis is,pay attention to the average-but take some of this stuff with a grain of salt.I basically learned to stop paying much attention to these internet endorsements when buying a product-Kevin

There are vehicles out there that do poorly at auctions because of reliability issues. There is an “unwritten” rule for most dealers who buy used cars at large auction venues to avoid certain makes and models. I am planning on making a list when I get the chance the next time I’m at one of the larger auction houses like Manheim. I currently attend auctions there in Atlanta, Nashville, Louisville and Columbus (OH). I know some of the vehicles that are almost never bid on, some that are never bid on and I know of some that are bid on consistently. You can read about the opinion of reliability in vehicles but when you get right into the business of buying cars and trucks…you either buy or you don’t. Is it fair? Probably not…but it’s business.

@oblivion is on to a good point as is @missleman.

There are cars that people buy and maintain while there are also cars that get used hard and put away wet. And there are cars that fit BOTH camps; Corvettes and Miatas. One owner who races the daylights out of each and one that treats the cars as pampered jewel garage queens. There is no reliable way of telling which type of owner is sold the car. Camry and Accord 4’s are pretty much always owned by an easy user that maintains the cars properly. Trucks are all high on the reliability list because the nicer ones are almost always used as commuters rather than work trucks. Commuter uses far less of the truck’s capabilities. The trucks are designed foremost as work trucks for very brand-loyal owners and the commuter owner benefits from this.

The odds favor these easy-use cars and trucks when buying used, which leads to the feedback from dealer auctions. While they know a red Corvette or Miata convertible will fly off the lot, they know to be wary of condition. Buyers also know that trucks, Camry’s and Accords are super-safe bread-and-butter cars for their used car lots. Easy sale and fewer angry customer bring-backs.

The long term reliability isn’t and absolute reflection of the car, it is a combination of car and owner. Who among us wouldn’t jump at the chance to buy an original-little-old-lady-owner Hemi Cuda or Boss 429 Mustang?

I really like their approach, thanks for posting it, MG. I’ve used a similar method to debunk the ‘reliable Volvo/runs forever MB diesel’ claims, finding very few for sale (on a % basis) on cars.com with over 250k, compared to Toyotas and Hondas.

Just my 2 cents, but that study has some problems also and for a number of reasons.
Consider the “bad engine knocking”. Knocking due to what? Prematurely worn out by lack of oil changes? Worn out to due running chronically low on oil because the owner never raises the hood?
Overheated in the past and the owner kept on going? Jiffy Lube ran it out of oil, topped it off, and said things will be fine…
Hardly due to the manufacturing process.

How does it account for driving habits? The owner of a Camry may be a far more docile driver on average as compared to someone piloting a Mustang GT or VW GTI.

There’s also the issue of inherent mechanic bias and believe me, this does exist. A mechanic working on certain cars may feel like regurgitating every time he sees one due to wrestling warranty problems and getting paid little or nothing for doing so.
The mechanic may just have an inherent bias against certain cars, a certain brand of auto part, or even a fast food chain.

Reliability in cars in my experienced is directly traced to those which have little change over the years. It does not surprise me that a pick up truck which has had the same basic motor for 12 years, would also have a history of long term reliability. If you can find a manufacturer that has a a big seller that has been mechanically the same for a long time, you are a step closer to finding a reliable car. For one thing, frequent problems drive down sales. Pick up sales for Ford or Corolla/Camry sales for Toyota account for such a huge percent of their profits, bad word of mouth and recorded history of reliability problems would hurt sales. If some one comes out with a “new and improved anything” …wait. You don’t necessarily want the best tested car as far as features are concerned if you want long term dependability. Boring and “out of date” new maybe the “best” you can hope for of you want a daily driver to give you yeoman service.

My Mazda CX-9 doesn’t score that well on this study. I think the study is a better way of looking at reliability or at least one that most of us would care more about. I rarely buy a new car and even if I do being reliable in the 1st 90 days or the 1st 3 years is not very impressive to me. I was pretty shocked at the number of issues that my Ford developed in 7 months of ownership and I got rid of it ASAP.

Cadillac and VW apparently are low on term reliability. I can understand that for Caddy, as w/a Caddy you get a lot of extra gizmos and gadgets. There’s more, so there’s more to go wrong. But then again, there’s more in a Caddy, so when it is all working a Caddy provides more comfort, etc to the owner. So with a Caddy, lower long term reliability is a compromise folks might be willing to live with. Apparently a lot of folks in fact make that compromise.

But VW is harder to understand. A VW Golf or Jetta or the other VW econo-boxes, they don’t provide significantly more benefits to the owner than Honda and Toyota econo-boxes. Yet VW is rated much lower longer-term reliability wise.

I’m wonder why this is? Is there an objective explanation? Something to do with design compromises? The only experience I have with VW’s is my late 70’s Rabbit. The reason I’d say it wasn’t as reliable as my early 90’s Corolla are

  • Sensitive to tune-up frequency. If the points and plugs were not changed on schedule, the ignition timing correctly adjusted, the idle rpm set, the air filter slightly clogged, the engine just didn’t run right. It would stall, hesitate, etc. until the tune-up got done.

  • Fuel injection was very sensitive to fuel quality, especially to even a tiny bit of water or grit contamination

  • The fuel pump electrical supply was just not up to snuff at all. The current path was not designed to handle the amount of current required to run the pump. Eventually one or another electrical contact would heat up or carbonize enough the engine would simply stop running. Likely as you were tooling down the freeway.

  • Brakes. For reasons unclear to me, the brake master cylinder and wheel cylinders (for the rear drums) needed bleeding, rebuilding, or replacing much more frequently than I’d expect.

  • Water pump. I had to replace the water pump more frequently than I’d expect.

  • Seats. Again for reasons unknown, the seats didn’t hold up well. The body hardware otherwise was fine, just for some reason the seats were a problem. The front seat covers would come unsewn and come off, the seat material inside the seat would partially collapse, etc.

  • Oil usage. The valve stem seals failed and oil usage went to 500 miles per quart. To their credit, VW fixed this as part of a recall for free. But I always wondered how a faulty valve stem seal design could make it into production. It would seem like that would be very thoroughly tested during the engineering phase.


There were some good things about the late 70’s VW Rabbit, just to be clear. It was fun to drive, like I say the body hardware, door alignment, etc held up well. And it was fairly easy to work on as a DIY’er. Still, I hardly ever see on of that era still on the road.

Hopefully VW has solved all the above problems by now. But I’m still wondering what’s causing the low long term reliability ratings now? Is it possible it is just a perception problem?

VW has had a terrible history 10+ years ago. They’re just now coming out of it, but the history will take a while to correct. Assuming they’re better, of course.

Twenty to thirty year old Jeep Cherokees are all over the roads here and most everywhere I have travelled in the past few years. Of course they do stand out in traffic. But the engines and transmissions are very expensive to replace or rebuild so I feel confident that they are being driven till they die by their owners, many of them having only the minimum of preventive maintenance done. It’s surprising no mention was made of them.

Interesting about the claim about Hondas being hands down the best in Europe. I remember reading a story just a couple of years ago in which something like 81,000 auto rental agencies in Europe were polled about which brand of their rental cars suffered the fewest problems and Honda was something like number five on the list with one being the best.

Polls, surveys, studies; they should all be taken with a few grains of salt or maybe the entire cow lick… :slight_smile:

One thing that has been noted is that European cars are made up of more individual parts. The Japanese engineers are very good at reducing part counts, especially fasteners. More parts means more parts to fail. More fasteners means more parts that need connecting properly. Reliability usually comes mainly from engineering a car well, not assembling it well. That is secondary. As others have noted, the most reliable cars don’t change that much over the years. Get it right and you don’t need to redo it.

VW reliability has improved, but so has complexity/part count as MarkM mentioned. My sister has a recent model Golf/Rabbit, and man is that thing complicated. The dashboard has more warning lights than a Boeing 777, and the owners manuals make a stack 3" thick. It’s a nice car but too complex for my taste. I’d rather have my old Honda 4-banger with an easy-to-work on engine and an owners manual that you can actually read and understand.

While no “study” is perfect, I think this one does have merit overall. I have a couple of Toyota’s, a Civic, and have driven lots of brands over the years. I feel a car/truck is simply the sum of its parts. If a critical part fails on an old car, then it might mean the end and the crusher comes next. Toyota and Honda seem to use more parts that are of higher quality and simply stand up better over time. For example power window switches, motors, and mechanisms. You rarely have any trouble with the windows over 10-20 years on a Toyota or Honda. While other brands these kinds of problems are common after just a few years on the road. Other car brands have greatly improved assembly of the cars, but I still see Honda and Toyota as the leaders in durability because in general they select and use higher quality parts that fail less and last longer.