New cars aren’t the most reliable according to new Consumer Reports survey

Chris Teague

Chris Teague

Consumer Reports' annual survey has concluded that most new cars aren't as reliable as older models.

Consumer Reports has released the results from its Annual Auto Reliability Survey. According to its survey, nearly half of new and redesigned 2019 models have below-average predicted reliability. The most reliable are those that are near the end of their generational run.

Why? Simply put, it takes manufacturers a few years to work out all the engineering and production kinks to get a new model where it needs to be to be considered reliable.

Here’s how Consumer Reports calculates reliability:

Every year, CR asks its members about problems they’ve had with their cars, minivans, SUVs, and trucks in the previous 12 months. This year we gathered data on 420,000 vehicles, spanning the 2000 to 2019 model years. Members reported on problems in any of 17 trouble areas, including engine, transmission, in-car electronics, and more. We use that data to calculate reliability ratings for every major mainstream vehicle.

The predicted reliability for the 2020 models on is based on each model’s overall reliability for the past three years. We do this for redesigned models by analyzing the brand’s reliability history, the previous generation’s reliability, and if applicable, the reliability of models the vehicle shares components with. These are our predictions, and reliability can change if the automaker resolves problems or creates new ones by freshening the model.

How do you know if the model you’re buying is reliable? Besides checking ratings from trusted institutions like Consumer Reports and JD Power, you can use some basic buying advice:

  • Expect that there will be recalls. Check out the recall history of the models you’re shopping. New models likely don’t have many recalls at first, but their recall history builds as they age.
  • Search forums looking for common service issues that seem to keep arising. If a certain vehicle is known for having a recurring issue, it may be best to skip it. At the very least, you’ll be better informed about what you’re getting yourself into.
  • Small hiccups are normal when a model is introduced. Realize that automakers and their parts suppliers generally take two to three years to get production and parts manufacturing down to a science, especially if the model is “all new” and doesn’t have many/any carryover parts from the previous generation.
  • Remember, many technology issues can be solved by over-the-air updates or quick dealership visits. Do not hesitate to call a dealer and ask if these are included with your purchase.
  • The production process and level of attention given to each model can dictate what the quality of the product is. The 2018 Tesla Model 3 has had numerous issues arise including cracks in the rear window glass, loose trim, and paint defects. However, many of these issues had been resolved by the 2019 model year.
  • When buying used car, be sure a licensed mechanic has given the car a thorough once-over and is able to tell you where the wear patters are in the vehicle and if they’re appropriate for the vehicle’s age. Buying a Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) vehicle can help alleviate some of the concern in this area.

Most importantly, don’t just take one source’s opinion as gospel.

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