The used car market can be a minefield. No matter how much research you do, it’s difficult to know whether the specific car you’re looking at will be reliable.
Fortunately, American magazine Consumer Reports can take away some of that worry. Each year it updates its ‘used cars to avoid’ list, which is based on years of data collected on vehicle reliability.
The list only takes into account cars built in the last decade, so the list currently looks at cars built between 2006 and 2015.
We’ve scoured the list for those cars with ‘much-worse-than-average’ reliability scores so you know what to avoid on the forecourt!
Fiat 500 (2012-2013, 2015)
Fiat’s design team hit the nail on the head when the 500 was reintroduced to the market. However, it’s not been a smooth ride for owners.
Back in 2014, a BBC Watchdog investigation found that a revised 68bhp engine wasn’t powerful enough to get the hatchback up a hill.
There have been various recalls for a fuel leak, rear brake issues, problem steering and faulty airbags to name just a few. If you really want a 500, make sure the car you’re buying has undergone the necessary work.
Ford Fiesta (2011-2014)
The Ford Fiesta will keep most owners happy thanks to the fact it’s great to drive and still looks fresh despite having been around for a while now.
However, negativity from owners comes from the fact that build quality is poor. Failed water seals and air conditioning leaks have been known to lead to damp floor mats and can result in a whole host of other issues.
Three-door Fiestas also have an issue with the seat slider mechanism failing.
Ford Focus (2012-2014)
Like the Fiesta, the Ford Focus is a great car to drive, but it’s also let down by build quality.
The main issue owners report, though, is that while the smaller engines might do well in economy tests, out in their real world they offer mighty disappointing fuel economy.
Jeep Grand Cherokee (2007, 2010-2014)
The Jeep Grand Cherokee scores highly with owners for its excellent off-road ability and comfort, but is massively let down by reliability and build quality issues.
The most common issues reported on these cars are with the transmission, with shifting issues and complete failures unnervingly common. The engine is also extremely prone to failure.
Mercedes-Benz GL-Class (2013-2015)
Considering Mercedes’ reputation for building reliable cars, it’s a surprise to see the car on this list.
However, owners have found themselves returning to dealers for a variety of problems, with no specific issue standing out as a common theme. Tread with care and you may be okay, but the GL models are a gamble.
Mini Cooper (2006-2012, 2014)
The Mini Cooper is well known for having serious gearbox issues. The problem comes from oil leaking from the driveshaft oil seals.
Buyers should also turn the steering from lock to lock when parked and listen out for a banging noise. There is a fix available under warranty if you’re happy to risk the gearbox issues!
Mini Countryman (2011-2012)
When the Countryman was first introduced it was met with scepticism because of its size. However, consumers quickly got used to it and it’s become a popular member of the Mini family.
Stay away from pre-2012 cars, though. They can suffer from premature clutch wear and the two-tone alloy wheels can be prone to corrosion.
Nissan Pathfinder (2013-2014)
Nissan’s SUV was mired by transmission issues. Many owners suffered issues that were reported as juddering or the feeling that the car was labouring.
Fixes have varied, from minor ECU reflashes to the replacement of torque converters, whole transmissions and, in some cases, a completely new car.
Tesla Model S (2012-2013, 2015)
When Consumer Reports conducted one of its extensive reviews of the Model S, it was heralded as the best car it had ever tested.
However, once owners had spent some time with the car, a number of issues were realised. The most common problems related to the drivetrain, power equipment, charging equipment, giant touchscreen and any number of interior squeaks and rattles.
Volkswagen Tiguan (2009-2012)
Later models aren’t too bad, but the 2009 and 2010 cars suffer from engine issues.
These problems mostly relate to a failure of the plastic intake manifold and oil leaks.