Why Used Cars Are Getting Less Dependable
Life + Money

Why Used Cars Are Getting Less Dependable

flickr/Dennis S. Hurd

For the first time in nearly 20 years, the dependability of pre-owned cars declined last year, according to a new study by J.D. Power & Associates.

The report found that the original owners of 2011 vehicles experienced 6 percent more problems with their cars last year than did owners of three-year-old cars in 2012. It’s the first increase in problems since 1998.

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“Until this year, we have seen a continual improvement in vehicle dependability,” David Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power, said in a statement. “However, some of the changes that the automakers implemented for the 2011 model year have led to a noticeable increase in problems reported.”

The majority of the problems stemmed from issues with engines and transmissions. Quality appears to have suffered as automakers shift toward smaller, more fuel efficient engines to meet government standards and consumer demand. Problems with 4-cylinder engines increased at a much higher rate than did problems with 5- and 6-cylinder engines.

For the third consecutive year, Lexus ranked highest in vehicle dependability across all nameplates, followed by Mercedes Benz, Cadillac, Acura, and Buick.

Not surprisingly, brands with the fewest problems inspire the greatest customer loyalty. Among consumers who experienced no problems with their vehicles, 56 percent stayed with the same brand when making their next car purchase – while just 42 percent of owners who experienced three or more problems stuck with the same brand. 

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