Using Consumer Reports

On a recent show [1048] you responded to a question on a device using the cars electrical system to improve gas mileage. While you gave the caller the right advice [the gadget is worthless] I was surprised you weren’t aware that Consumers had just tested the device and reported [in their Jan 2011 issue] that it was an expensive ripoff. Come to think of it, in all the many years I’ve listened I’ve never heard you refer to Consumers in reporting a problem with a car or a positive evaluation. If you’re not reading their info on cars, you should; and if you are using you should give them credit as a source. Trustworthy, independent sources need all the support they can get.

That’s free advertising, and I can’t imagine why anyone would do it. And while I use their reports for appliances, I’m less enthusiastic about their car ratings. If you want the long story, let me know. I do look at CR car ratings, but I look at other resources, too.

Ditto. CR is far from their claim of unbiased.

There are gaping flaws in all of their testing, ESPECIALLY appliances. That said, they are still a better reference point for all things than going in blind.

One of the problems with CR as a resource is it takes the “personal preference” variable out of the equation. For example, I might greatly prefer the style and ride of a Mazda over a Toyota, yet they rate Toyota higher becasue of reliability. How much does that reliability really save you, and what is the personal preference factor really worth?

The tests on things like these gadgets is where they really earn their salt. No value judgements, no preference. The thing either works or it doesn’t.

I don’t think personal preference should factor into their testing. There’s no way to form a standardized metric of that. CR never says “anyone who doesn’t buy the Toyota is an idiot because it’s more reliable than the Mazda.” Whether you prefer the Mazda or not, in this example, the Toyota is more reliable. Buy the Mazda, but don’t expect it to be as trouble free.

I use Consumer Reports ad a starting point. I’ve been a subscriber for years. I don’t think CR has any particular bias. However, some features in automobiles that they like don’t mean a thing to me. On the other hand, sometimes what CR considers a disadvantage is an advantage for me. For instance, I owned a Chevrolet Uplander minivan that CR didn’t recommend. One thing that CR didn’t like was that the Upander was narrower than other minivans. I liked the fact that the Uplander was narrow because at the time I had to back off a busy 4 lane street into an alley with a building on one side and a telephone post on the other. I did this to get to a stage door to pick up a set up tympani when our group did outreach concerts. With the Sienna I now own, I have to fold in the mirrors to do the same operation.

I look at it like this: I am the one who has to live with the purchase I make and not Consumer Reports. When we got a new washing machine, my wife followed CR and got a sedimentary rock to replace the igneous rock we had been using. I don’t think this softer rock gets my animal skins as clean, but I guess they last longer. (we haven’t purchased a washing machine in a long time).

Yep, CR is just one more piece of information, imperfect but useful…I mix that in with other magazines, web sites, my needs/preferences/likes/dislikes, and end up with an answer.

And of course they can’t account for ‘personal preference’. That’s up to the reader.

I’ve Been A CU Mag Subscriber For Many Decades, Now. I Use It For Purchasing TVs And Coffee Makers, Treadmills, Etcetera, But Take Their Car Reliability Ratings With A Grain Of Salt.

Consumer Reports tests products extensively and reports their findings. Except car reliability ratings, that is. That information comes from reader surveys that I believe, in my humble opinion, don’t properly tell the story. I have not found these recommendations to correlate to my reality when it comes to my vehicles over many, many years. I actually find humor in some of them.

On the other hand, when they report on individual new makes / models and they actually have the car in front of them to sit in, drive, and measure, I find that information quite useful and I’ve used it for comparing vehicles to purchase.

Besides that, I’m not about to buy a car with very expensive replacement parts, expensive or hard to find service, or no dealer support anywhere near where I live. Besides that, Japanese and other foreign based cars are not welcome in this neck of the woods. That’s just how it is.


Well, there are instances with good correlation with known problems, like the Subaru head gasket problems, the Honda tranny problems, and the recent Toyota problems.

I Don’t Want To Argue, But Take The Recent Toyota Problems (Because They’re Recent) That You Refer To Above. I’m Looking At The 2011 Buying Guide Auto Reliability Info And I Just Don’t See It.


Sorry, I wasn’t specific enough - I was referring to the problems that got Avalons dropped from the ‘recommended’ category for a while, looks like 2005-2007 or so. Not the ‘unintened acceleration’ stuff.

04 - 09 Avalons, “Better Than Average” New Car Prediction.

You’re missing the point. I didn’t say they should factor it in. The problem is the devotees often take the ratings as an absolute, which they aren’t, even if they could somehow present an accurate unbiased report.
I should also note, in my opinion, they aren’t necessarily biased FOR certain brands as much as they tend to be biased AGAINST others.

Actually the reliability ratings on everything from TVs to vacuums to washing machines comes from their annual member survey.

True, but in 2007 CR dropped the automatically-awarded ‘recommended’ label it had applied to several Toyotas (my mistake, one was the Camry V6, not the Avalon). Here’s more about it:

True. The Reliability Bit Does. I Use The Actual Test Informtion On These Products.

Comming to a conclusion about and automible base upon responses from the readers of CR is like comming to a conclusion about the people that post questions about their cars here, and just would that conclusion be?

If you’re not saying they should factor it in, why did you spend the entire middle paragraph of your post implying that they should? If personal preference shouldn’t be a factor, then we agree, but I am confused as to why you brought it up.

“That conclusion” would be that (with a very few exceptions) these are people unafraid to ask questions, unafraid to admit that they don’t know everything. I respect that.

My conclusion about those of us who answer them is that we’re well-meaning people, trying to help others, and that we’re fortunate to have a bit of spare time on our hands to do so.

C R is probably missing the point on lots of things. A recommended vacuum cleaner was the worst one I ever bought. It was hard to pull around the house, the filter bag was almost impossible to change, the brush bar stalled on higher pile carpet even when on the highest setting and we have to stomp on the pedal to release the handle for use.

Sometimes, they have no clue what people want or what even works. Go somewhere that lets you test the vacuum cleaner if you’re spending over $60. I can’t even find most of the crap they test! The best thing about C R is that you can read it for free in book stores. I subscribe because it’s like a comic book. C R is to product evaluation what “The Office” is to business.