Top 20 Used Cars to Avoid: Consumer Reports
In the market and shopping for a used car? Consumer Reports has released a list of 20 used vehicles to stay away from as they have a reputation for causing trouble. Listed is a top 20 list of used cars from 2003 to 2012 model year to avoid in alphabetical order. These vehicles had multiple years of much-worse-than-average overall reliability, according to Consumer Reports’ Annual Auto Survey.
SEE ALSO: Used Car Reviews
The BMW 7-Series may be the German automaker’s luxury flagship, but used models aren’t without their issues. From 2001-2008, the 7-Series featured the good ‘ol “Bangle Butt” and sported some highly controversial styling. Early production of that generation was overwhelmed with issues even causing BMW to purchase back some of the vehicles back in 2002-2003. BMW of North America even extended its warranty on all 2002-2003 model year 7-Series vehicles to six years/100,000 miles from the original four years/50,000 miles.
According to Consumer Reports, the BMW 7-Series ranked “worse” in the categories of Engine Major, Engine Minor, Transmission Major, Transmission Minor, Body Hardware, and Audio System.
Also landing on the list from BMW is its X5 SUV which first started production in 1999. The first generation ran to 2006 and shared components with the Land Rover Range Rover HSE model while the engine and electronics were borrowed from the 5-Series. The X5 is currently in its second generation, and according to Consumer Reports, you should stay away from the inline-six models if you’re in the used car market.
In Consumer Reports‘ testing, the six-cylinder 3.0i BMW X5 “became unstable” and was “lifting two wheels.” Despite improvements in to the 2005 model year, the X5’s handling was still unsettling at its limits. Major issues spanning from 2003-2011 that ranked worse included Engine Major, Engine Minor, Drive System, Climate System, Body Hardware, Power Equipment, and Audio System.
The Chevrolet Uplander is the sole vehicle from the American automaker to make this list, a minivan that was produced from 2005 to 2008 in America. It replaced the Venture and Astro models, and was ultimately replaced by the Chevrolet Traverse. Though its sales were decent, the Uplander couldn’t compete with the more popular minivans on the market such as the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna.
The Chevrolet Uplander suffered from reliability issues in the categories of Transmission Minor, Drive System, Fuel System, Electrical System, Climate System, Suspension, Brakes, Paint and Trim, Squeaks and Rattles, Body Hardware, and Power Equipment.
Ah, the good ‘ol Chrysler PT Cruiser. Featuring retro styling in a compact body, the PT Cruiser was originally launched in 2000 before its production got axed a decade later in 2010. Through its production however, the American automaker gave it several variants including a two-door convertible in 2005. All said and done, there’s over 1.35 million PT Cruisers out there in the world, and you should probably stay away from all of them if you’re shopping for a used car.
Consumer Reports found the PT Cruiser to have a somewhat stiff ride with a noisy cabin. Both the turbo and non-turbo models ranked worse in Engine Major, Engine Minor, Engine Cooling, Transmission Major (though this was improved in 04-06), Drive System, Fuel System, Electrical System, Climate System, Suspension, and Squeaks and Rattles.
The Chrysler Town & Country minivan was originally introduced in 1989 and is in its fifth iteration. Recently, however, Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne has confirmed that the Town & Country will be discontinued and replaced with a luxury crossover model. It even saw some major changes in 2011 in both styling and functionality, though it wasn’t enough to keep it around.
Consumer Reports found the Town & Country’s handling, braking, fuel economy, and fit and finish sub-par, while reliability suffered in the following categories: Engine Cooling, Climate System, Suspension, Brakes, Paint and Trim, Squeaks and Rattles, Body Hardware, and Power Equipment.
The Dodge Caravan is next on the list of used vehicles to avoid. While arguably one of the most popular minivans from an American automaker, the Caravan has been plagued with issues ever since its first-generation model. Heading into its fifth generation in 2008, the American automaker chose to rename the Caravan to the Grand Caravan, and for now, has been able to avoid the axe.
The Dodge Caravan suffered some similar issues as the Town & Country and Consumer Reports ranked similar categories as worse in its reliability.
Joining the Caravan on the list is the Grand Caravan, which essentially replaced the Caravan model starting with the 2008 model year. Much of what owners have complained about with previous models of the Caravan have applied to the Grand Caravan, spanning generations and now landing it on the list of used vehicles to avoid.
And much like the Town & Country and Caravan before, changing the name hardly did anything to improve its reliability. The Grand Caravan continued to be plagued by similar issues as its predecessor, though it was vastly improved from 2009-2012.
The Dodge Journey is a midsize crossover and has been around since 2008, as a 2009 model year. It recently got an update in 2011 giving it updated styling and as of the 2012 model year, became the American automaker’s smallest SUV after the Nitro was discontinued. The Journey is manufactured in Mexico, on the same assembly line as the Fiat 500.
The Journey had a bit unsettling ride and its handling lacked agility in Consumer Reports’ testing. Its reliability issues improved over the years, but from 2009-2011, major issues were in its Drive System, Electrical System, Suspension, Brakes, Paint and Trim, Squeaks and Rattles, Body Hardware, and Audio System.
One of America’s favorite pickup trucks, the Dodge Ram 2500 diesel lands on the list of used vehicles to avoid. As popular as it may be, older models aren’t free of issues and those interested in a RAM pickup should look towards the new generation of RAM vehicles.
Common problems with the turbo diesel model were mostly in the Drive System and Fuel System. Some years suffered from worse rankings in Engine Cooling, Climate System, Suspension, Exhaust, and Body Hardware.
Since 1990, the Ford Explorer has been the American automaker’s face in the SUV market. It recently entered its fifth generation as of model year 2011, seeing some major changes with its monocoque structure and more modern styling. Stay away from the previous iterations however, as problems are now creeping up.
Consumer Reports found the V6 Explorer’s powerplant to be crude and noisy while the 2006 redesign didn’t help to improve the SUV’s fit and finish. Handling lacked agility while the ride remained stiff. Improvements were made with the 2011 model, when the Explorer moved to the Flex’s platform, helping it give a comfier ride with a well-finished interior. As for reliability, older models suffered from Transmission Major, Transmission Minor, Drive System, Suspension, Paint and Trim, Squeaks and Rattles, Body Hardware, and more recently, Audio System issues.
Similar to the Ram 2500 diesel, the Ford F-250 diesel has its fair share of problems as well. Now in its third generation, the popular F-Series pickup trucks from Ford was first introduced in 1998 and has been a strong force on the market since.
The turbo diesel Ford F-250 was ranked worse in several categories, including Engine Major, Engine Minor, Engine Cooling, Drive System, Fuel System, Electrical System, and the exhaust had issues in 2008.
The GMC Acadia SUV first hit the market in America in 2006 and is still in its first generation of production. It is GMC’s first crossover SUV and is the first unibody vehicle from the automaker. Last year at the 2012 Chicago Auto Show, GMC unveiled its updated 2013 Acadia with a redesigned front end, rear lift gate, and improved interior.
One of the major issues Consumer Reports found on the GMC Acadia in its 2009 testing was the transmission’s reluctance to downshift at certain times. As for its reliability, the Acadia was vastly improved in the 2011-2012 model years, though from 2007-2010 it ranked worse in the following categories: Engine Major, Engine Minor, Engine Cooling, Transmission Major, Transmission Minor, Drive System, Electrical System, Climate System, Suspension, Squeaks and Rattles, Power Equipment, and Audio System.
Perhaps a surprise to some, the Jeep Wrangler four-door model is one to avoid on the used car market. The Wrangler originally debuted in 1987 and has since been known as one of America’s most rugged vehicles. Its latest generation originally debuted as a 2007 model year, and got some minor updates in 2010. Still, Consumer Reports found enough issues from used Wranglers to have it on its list.
Though the Wrangler is considered an off-road champ, Consumer Reports found that it suffered from a choppy ride on the road. In addition, it had numb and slow steering, clumsy handling, and road noise was loud and constant. Reliability issues in older models (2007-2010) include Transmission Minor, Drive System, Fuel System, Electrical System, Suspension, Exhaust, Paint and Trim, and Squeaks and Rattles.
The V6 Kia Sorento is next on the list, a midsize crossover SUV that just saw a major update from the Korean automaker for the 2014 model year. The first-generation Kia Sorento however, which started production in 2002, didn’t really attract much of the general public. Its second iteration came in 2009, where it gained popularity with a more modern style, but still seems to have its fair share of issues.
The Sorento sported a stiff ride with clumsy handling in Consumer Reports‘ testing, though much was improved with the 2011 model year. From 2004-2008, its reliability had poor rankings in Engine Major, Engine Cooling, Drive System, Fuel System, Climate System, Brakes, Exhaust, Paint and Trim, Squeaks and Rattles, Body Hardware, and Power Equipment. In 2004, its Audio System received poor marks but was improved since.
Mercedes-Benz’s sole entry on the list is its GL-Class SUV, a full-size model that’s been around since 2006. A three-row, seven-passenger vehicle, it shares the same unibody architecture as the M-Class, but is higher in the lineup. The second-generation GL just recently hit the market as a 2013 model year vehicle, boasting a bigger size, more luxurious amenities, and ton of new-generation technology.
Despite getting positive remarks in its testing, the reliability of the GL-Class suffered in several categories. Worse rankings were given for the Engine Minor, Transmission Major, Drive System, Fuel System, Electrical System, Suspension, Paint and Trim, Body Hardware, Power Equipment, and Audio System categories.
The MINI Cooper S may be a fun, stylish compact car, but is also one to avoid purchasing used. There’s no denying its popularity on the market, but the Cooper S isn’t free of troubles. In its current form, the Cooper S is powered by a turbocharged, 1.6-liter engine with 181 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque.
The Cooper S, according to Consumer Reports, has reliability issues with its engine, engine cooling, transmission, and fuel system. Other categories that received poor marks over the years include Climate System (2003), Suspension, Exhaust, Paint and Trim (2008), Squeaks and Rattles, and Body Hardware.
The Nissan Armada is yet another SUV model to avoid on the used car lots, and has been in production since 2004. The full-size SUV shares its body-on-frame platform with the Nissan Titan pickup, Xterra SUV, Frontier pickup, and Pathfinder SUV. The Armada is currently built in Canton, Mississippi and was always designed for the North American market.
Consumer Reports found the Armada’s handling relatively responsive, but concluded that the ride is quite stiff and the interior quality is unimpressive. In 2004, the Armada got worse marks for its brakes, exhaust, and audio system. In the 2010-2011 model years, the Armada got worse in Electrical System (2010), Climate System, Paint and Trim (2010), Squeaks and Rattles, Body Hardware, and Power Equipment (2010).
It may not be a surprise to see Saturn on the list, considering it’s always wise to avoid automaker that no longer exist when shopping for a used car. Nonetheless, it’s fair warning to avoid the Outlook, a crossover SUV that was sold from model year 2007-2010. The Outlook was never a hot seller either with its best year coming in 2007 with 34,748 units sold. It’s essentially identical to the GMC Acadia, which also makes the list.
Reliability issues plagued the Saturn Outlook in Consumer Reports‘ study. Categories with worse marks through its model years include Engine Major, Engine Minor, Engine Cooling, Transmission Major, Transmission Minor, Drive System, Electrical System, Climate System, Suspension, Squeaks and Rattles, Power Equipment, and Audio System. In fact, the Outlook only scored better in Exhaust, and Paint and Trim in 2007.
Joining the Saturn Outlook on the list is the Saturn Relay, the first and only minivan from the American automaker. Remember the Relay? Neither do we. Originally introduced for the 2005 model year, the Relay lasted until 2007 and was discontinued after a couple of years of poor sales. The Relay was ultimately replaced by the Outlook SUV, which didn’t really fare much better, new or used.
In testing the Relay, Consumer Reports found the minivan to have a stiff and noisy ride, reluctant handling, and its fit and finish insubstantial. Reliability suffers in the following categories: Engine Cooling (2007), Transmission Minor, Drive System, Fuel System, Electrical System, Climate System, Suspension, Brakes, Paint and Trim, Squeaks and Rattles, Body Hardware, and Power Equipment.
Lastly is the Volkswagen Touareg, a midsize crossover SUV that is now in its second generation. It has garnered plenty of awards and attention over the years, but Consumer Reports is convinced that Toaureg owners also have their fair share of issues with the vehicle. The first-generation Touareg has received complaints for having premature failure of the center support bearings, an issue that would occur after the original warranty was over.
Though much improved in 2011, the older Touareg suffers from Engine Major, Transmission Minor, Drive System, Fuel System, Electrical System, Power Equipment, and Audio System issues.
Jason Siu began his career in automotive journalism in 2003 with Modified Magazine, a property previously held by VerticalScope. As the West Coast Editor, he played a pivotal role while also extending his expertise to Modified Luxury & Exotics and Modified Mustangs. Beyond his editorial work, Jason authored two notable Cartech books. His tenure at AutoGuide.com saw him immersed in the daily news cycle, yet his passion for hands-on evaluation led him to focus on testing and product reviews, offering well-rounded recommendations to AutoGuide readers. Currently, as the Content Director for VerticalScope, Jason spearheads the content strategy for an array of online publications, a role that has him at the helm of ensuring quality and consistency across the board.
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