There are a lot of things to consider when buying a used car — not the least of which is the honesty of the seller; but the most important thing to consider when buying a used car is the reliability record of the make and model. To help us with that, CBS MoneyWatch looked at owner surveys, J.D. Power ratings and Consumer Report ratings in 5 car catgories to see which cars had less-than-stellar reliability records and to offer some more reliable alternatives.
Small Car Category:
Avoid: The Volkswagen Beetle — Owners reported problems with the climate control system and power equipment, both of which can lead to expensive repairs.
Alternative: Hyundai Elantra — Owners reported no major problems; and the Elantra got the maximum rating from J.D. Power, and is ranked above-average by Consumer Reports.
Midsize Car Category:
Avoid: Volkswagen Passat — Consumers reported problems with the fuel, electrical and climate systems, as well as the power equipment.
Alternative: The Ford Fusion — Fusion won the reliability award in this year’s J.D. Power survey, and Consumer Reports gives it a much-above-average used car rating.
Midsize SUV Category:
Avoid: GMC Acadia — Owners reported problems with the suspension and audio systems, and J.D. Power and Consumer Reports both gave it their lowest used car rating.
Alternative: Toyota 4 Runner — the 4 Runner won J.D. Power’s top reliability award, and Consumer Reports rated it much better than average as a used car. Owners liked its highway and off-road capability.
Large SUV Category:
Avoid: The Ford Expedition — Owners reported problems with the transmission and audio systems, and its best gas efficiency is only 18 mpg. J.D. Powers and Consumer Reports both gave it a low used-car rating.
Alternative: Toyota Sequoia — While just slightly better on fuel efficiency, the Sequoia gets a high rating from both J.D. Power and Consumer Reports. Owners liked its roomy seating and comfortable ride for long trips.
Avoid: Chrysler Town & Country — Although very popular as a new car, owners reported problems with suspension, brakes, climate system and power equipment. J.D. Power and Consumer Reports both rated it low as a used-car purchase.
Alternative: Toyota Sienna — The Sienna won the reliability award for minivans from J.D Power, and it got a better-than-average rating from Consumer Reports.
In addition to the tips above, it’s often wiser to purchase a 3+ year old used car for a couple of reasons. The biggest new-car depreciation has already taken place, and with new car prices rising sharply, buying a 1 or 2 year old used car often make worse financial sense than buying new.
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