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Even popular cars are at risk for problems

Even popular cars are at risk for problems

Most shoppers approach buying a used car with trepidation. Sure, used cars cost less than new ones, but they carry risks–namely, inconvenient break downs and out-of-pocket repairs after the warranty has expired.

However, used cars have a history to study. Through our annual reliability survey, we’re able to track how more than a million cars have held up over the preceding 12 months. Looking at 17 key trouble areas and detailed components reveals which cars are holding up well and which ones have more problems than the norm. (See our best and worst used cars.)

Fortunately, with used cars, shoppers have the benefit of these reliability insights and can choose accordingly, picking models and years that have favorable odds for trouble-free operation, or saving money on the repair that might likely come.

Visit our used car buying guide

Years/Make/Model Problems
2007-2010 BMW 335i Fuel pump, fuel injection
2003-2006 Chevrolet Silverado 4WD system
2003-2006 Dodge Grand Caravan Power steering, tie rod, water pump
2003-2007 Ford F-150 V8 Brakes, 4WD system
2003-2006 Ford Focus Alternator, ignition, battery
2005-2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee Slipping transmission, locks, windows
2003-2004 Honda Accord V6 Transmission failure
2003-2005 Nissan Altima Catalytic converter, O2 sensor, stalling engine
2003-2007 Subaru Forester Head gasket failure
2007-2009 Toyota Camry Water pump

In this list, the overall reliability of some models may be average or better, but these are the same problems that occurred consistently over several model years. These are not necessarily the highest problem rates in the survey. You can find even greater problems in other models.

The problems listed are also not the only trouble areas for that model. For example, the 2003 Ford Focus had several issues including air conditioning problems, oil leaks, and engine-mount troubles. And things don’t necessarily improve with a redesign. The launch of a new generation can introduce its own woes. The 2012 Focus redesign brought worse-than-average problem rates with the radio and communications, and a rough shifting transmission.

The best advice is to simply check the reliability Ratings, available on the used-car or new car model pages or through our reliability special section. A few minutes scanning the reliability history for models you’re considering can steer you toward cars that have a better chance of being worry free.

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