Tag Archives: car repair

Consumer Reports Survey: Most & Least Reliable Cars

Consumer Reports Survey - Most & Least Reliable Cars

Both for car owners and carmakers, probably one of the most important pieces of media that comes out each year is the Consumer Reports Guide to Car Reliability. This study is critical for a couple of reasons: one is the Consumer Reports model (taking no advertising funds to maintain total objectivity). The other is the issue of reliability as a key factor in an automobile. Everyone who owns a motor vehicle should care about its reliability so that they are better protected from getting stuck out somewhere on the side of the road. Plus, you do not want your car to keep returning to the shop even if your mechanic is honest and experienced; you need it to commute, run errands, and get to social events. Since reliability is such a paramount concern of car owners, it is a factor that will have a huge influence on long-term general satisfaction; plus, it helps boost the resale value of a car.


The most recent version of the CR guide was released on October 19, 2017. This article summarizes the findings of the survey, providing the methods used for study; a general overview and highlights; and the cars that landed in the top 10 and bottom 10.


Nearly two-thirds of a million cars assessed


We often hear “factoids” on the news stated out of context. When something is reported in the newspaper, on a commentary TV show, or on the Internet, it is often a statement that is cited in the absence of a strong foundation (which may exist but is given little coverage). When Consumer Reports says a certain model is reliable or unreliable, what is it using as its information for these scores?


This annual poll is based on information of nearly two-thirds of a million cars – 640,000 of them. The advantage of this massive number of cars is that it means there are usually hundreds of samples of each car, with the magazine estimating there are usually “about 200 to 400 samples for each model year.” This survey is released once a year but is actually the result of about 6 months of data collection and analysis. The reliability information used for the guide comes directly from Consumer Reports consumers.


The Annual Questionnaire is sent out in the spring of each year (so the 2018 one is already nearly underway). The questionnaire asks about any issues people have had with their vehicles during the previous year. The researchers request that readers respond with major car problems that led to significant expense, danger, downtime, or malfunction. The magazine asks that owners mention car challenges regardless of warranty inclusion; however, it also asks that drivers omit issues that arose from a recall or a collision – so that day-to-day operability remains the point of focus. The data is collected via checkboxes but also through open-ended short answers.


The data is 100% new for each annual report, with previous reports used only for comparison purposes with the new results. After starting the collection process in the spring, the research team is able to get all the data organized by the end of the summer. At that point, analysis begins, leading up to the late-October publication.


Why are new cars suspect?


You have probably heard plenty of people suggest how much value a new car loses the moment you drive it off the sales lot. If that steep and immediate reduction in value is unconvincing by itself, this report could tip the balance in favor of a used car. Both entirely new models and newly updated existing versions of models have something frustrating in common: both these types of models (the latest but not-so-greatest?) have a higher rate of engine and transmission issues, as well as a greater incidence of failure of innovative tech components.


That’s right: the technology that we hear praised so much in media coverage may not be your reliability partner. A key example is the technology that underscores your transmission, which has been a primary point of focus for engineers wanting to enhance a car’s fuel-efficiency. Bad shifting and total failure have been reported among owners of the many continuously variable, eight-speed, and nine-speed models that were released in recent years. These transmission types are not always problematic; however, many have issues when they are initially incorporated into cars. “[M]any owners have reported issues with them breaking down or shifting badly,” notes Anita Lam, the magazine’s associate director of data integration.


Rough shifting (leading to lurching of the car) was a typical issue reported in the 2017 Buick LaCrosse, for example; the 2016 Hyundai Tucson and 2015 Acura TLX have similar problems. The analysis of 2017 redesign issues by the magazine focuses on the GMC Acadia and Subaru Impreza as having issues as well.


You also may have problems with infotainment systems in newly released cars (or model years in which those technologies are first introduced). An infotainment system has various capabilities, including allowing you to stream your music playlists, call people, and get directions as you drive. People who were driving cars that had the first-year releases of these systems experienced more than 100% as many issues with technologies as those who owned models that did not have major tech updates.


A key example model with this type of infotainment issue is the 2017 Jaguar F-Pace, which both has problems with its InControl system and a leaking differential. The 2015 Jeep Renegade has issues with its drive system, power equipment, electronics, and transmission. The Tesla Model X has problems related to its trim and paint, as well as its falcon-wing doors. The 2016 Volvo XC90 may come with leaks and noises, brake problems, breakdowns in power equipment, or failure of the electronic systems.


These issues may not be apparent right at the beginning of your ownership of the car. The Chevrolet Cruze performed excellently during its first year, based on the Consumer Reports data for its year out of the gates. Nonetheless, both the 2016 and 2017 versions received poor ratings for reliability: transmission, engine, fuel/emission, and power equipment problems have all emerged in both model years.


It may be confusing why carmakers are unable to fix more of these issues prior to a car’s release. The real issue is that it can be difficult to know what will happen with the machine in every type of real-world setting, especially over the long term, notes the magazine. The Consumer Reports director of auto testing, Jake Fisher, advises that “mass production and a wide range of real-life driving scenarios multiply the number and nature of problems that can arise in a new model.”


Car reliability: best & worst 10 lists


Here are the most and least reliable models, according to the poll.


Least reliable cars:


Chevrolet Camaro

Mercedes-Benz GLC

Jaguar F-Pace

GMC Acadia

Fiat 500

Ford Focus

Ford Fiesta

Volvo XC90

Cadillac Escalade

Tesla Model X.


Most reliable cars:


Kia Niro

Subaru BRZ / Toyota 86

Lexus ES

Lexus GS

Audi Q3

Toyota RAV4

Lexus IS

Toyota Prius V

Toyota Prius C

Infiniti Q70.


An honest Boulder mechanic


You want a reliable car, of course. The above information should help you narrow down your options when making a purchase. The other major piece that you want is a trustworthy and experienced mechanic for those times when your car does become unreliable or otherwise needs a fix.


At Independent Motors, we believe great service starts with open, honest communication. Meet our staff.

Look Out! How Can Auto Shops Deceive You?

How Mechanics Can Deceive You

It was shortly before the holidays in 2016, and a St. Louis woman had a dent on her car. She met a man at a service station who said he could help her. To gain her confidence, he said he was a mobile mechanic with two decades of experience. He offered convenience too, saying he could fix her car in the parking lot while she was working. Rather than actually repairing the bumper damage and scratches on the car, reports the Better Business Bureau, he further damaged the car and drove away.


Organizations such as the Better Business Bureau can help you learn about scams and find top-rated repair shops. However, this mobile car repair scam story is just one drop in the vast sea of complaints that car owners make about dealers and mechanics. The truism that people are not always honest with car owners starts right at the point of sale and extends throughout the life of the car. Automotive trouble is the #1 consumer complaint, according to the North American Consumer Protection Investigators and the Consumer Federation of America. The findings, released on July 27, included false advertising, deceptive sales practices, shoddy repair work, unfair lease terms, and towing issues.


Let’s zero in on those deceptive practices related to repair shops. Here are some of the most common methods mechanics use to mislead car owners:


Highway bandits. A highway bandit may work for a service station or own one. These individuals take advantage of car owners who stop for water or air. Various types of strategies are used to try to get the owner of the car to pay something to the fraudster. The con-artist might drip oil beneath a vehicle and then suggest that it is coming from a leak on your car. They might slash the tire, or they might slice a fan belt or water hose. Then the highway bandit will instill fear, creating a sense of danger so that they can sell you on the notion that you won’t be safe unless they fix this thing that’s supposedly wrong with your car (and now perhaps really is because of their malicious actions).


Overcharging. It’s a typical scenario for a mechanic to diagnose an issue with a car, make a repair, and the issue remains. When they get the car back into the shop, they then make a different diagnosis and perform a second repair to fix the second perceived problem. Finally, the mechanic is able to repair the actual real core problem, and the car owner get to pay for all the repairs along this process of discovery. Clearly, a customer should not be charged for a bunch of repairs if only one was really needed. In fact, it is unlawful to charge people for repairs that do not fix the intended problem (i.e., the issue for which the person initially brought in the car). In fact, it can be the subject of a lawsuit and a criminal investigation.


Going for a joyride. Joyriding in clients’ vehicles is, unfortunately, something that occurs often in the industry, according to Steve Lehto in Jalopnik. Lehto, who is an attorney, noted that he has represented people multiple times whose cars were joyridden by auto shops. Stories also come out in the press at times related to victims of the same offense. Dash cameras are making it clear how often this actually does occur. One thing you want to know is that you probably will not be able to get any money back for this kind of incident unless the person actually does physical damage to your vehicle.


Estimate fraud. You always want to get a repair estimate in writing. You might get a completely fair quote when you drop off the car, but then it is inflated incredibly when you go to get it. You may think it is legal to do a bunch of additional work because it is understandable that a mechanic would find something wrong under the hood once the project is underway. Mechanics sometimes leave amounts blank, in fact, when they sign repair authorizations from clients. Once the person leaves, they fill in inflated prices and services.


Repair of the weird. In order to save money, a mechanic will sometimes do work poorly, whether rapidly or strangely. The nonprofit Coalition Against Insurance Fraud tells the story of a mechanic who connected auto parts together using only bailing wire. The mechanic might also not do anything to the car whatsoever.


Used or counterfeit parts. You might get charged for a new part, but what actually gets put into your car is either used or counterfeit. When you’re out driving, the used or counterfeit part might give out. Clearly, it is not what you thought you were buying. You are at risk when a mechanic puts a lower-grade part into your car. Now, that said, you can get away with used parts in some cases, depending on the repair job. However, the key here is that the proposed work and bill match the work that was done. In this scam, the company is charging for new and installing old.


Maintenance hooks. When auto shops commit fraud, they will often have an ad in the paper or elsewhere for a really low-priced maintenance service. Once you are in for the special deal, reports Fraud Guides, then suddenly you are being turned into a high-paying customer. An oil change quickly becomes a big and unnecessary part replacement.


Transmission flush. A scheduled transmission fluid flush is not a bad idea. However, you don’t need to do a flush if you have not been paying attention to those intervals. The collected debris that starts to accrue within aging fluid “becomes the friction material in an aging clutch pack,” notes Consumer Reports. Doing a flush of the fluid in that event could mean that you ruin your transmission.


Replacing the brakes. Many times, new pads are needed for your brakes, or you might need to clean and turn your rotors. Those adjustments are relatively inexpensive. However, a deceptive mechanic will try to convince you that you need to make other replacements as well – such as the combination of pads, rotors, and calipers.


Model-wide diagnosis. A huckster mechanic might look at your car and, without having even looked under your hood, say that cars of your model that hit a certain mileage typically need a certain type of part. Now, clearly, there are many times when you should replace a part at a certain point. That information is in your owner’s manual; check it to make sure any recommendations for maintenance intervals are legitimate.


Stealing out of your car. Lehto mentions that he has heard of many different types of things being stolen from cars while they are entrusted to auto shops, including wallets and even change from the ashtray. Stereos have been taken out of vehicles by fraudulent repair shops. Performance components sometimes get removed from engines.




As you can see, there are many different ways in which a car shop can steal from you or deceive you. All car owners want to know that their vehicles are in good hands when they bring them in for repairs. At Independent Motors, we believe great service starts with open, honest communication. See our beliefs.

How to Avoid Getting Ripped Off by a Mechanic


Avoid Getting Ripped Off by a Mechanic

Roger White was in traffic with his wife Sue when a woman pulled up next to him and told him that his taillight was out. Concerned that the police might ticket them for it, they headed to what Roger later called a “franchise fix-it shop” (assumedly referring to one of these companies) and left the car there for the fix.


When the couple returned to the mechanic to get the car, the clerk brought up their bill, and the amount was 25% more than the estimate they had originally been given. When they glanced at a copy of the bill, they found the culprit: a rather costly “service fee.”


Sue immediately and loudly questioned what this item was doing on the bill – seeming to draw the eyes of everyone in the room. The man behind the counter quickly looked at the bill, acted puzzled, and said he would remove it.


The Whites were shocked, realizing how often people must have paid that item (which had nothing to do with the actual services performed) without questioning it. When they got home, Roger started looking for answers. Here is some advice from him and others on how to avoid mechanic rip-offs:


#1 – Get to know the shop.


Talk to your family, friends, and colleagues to see where they go for repair work. Get to know the philosophy of the shop, if possible; and consider reading a few reviews or testimonials. Finally, don’t be afraid to stop in and check it out before making your decision. Is the staff friendly and professional? Is the environment organized and clean?


#2 – Declare your independence.


Andrew Tarantola of Gizmodo agrees with Roger White that independent mechanics are the way to go. Tarantola notes that it is harder for a local shop to get away with systematic overcharging “because the business model dictates they build long-term relationships with their customers.”


While you may not be thinking in terms of a long relationship, there is another advantage beyond trust: documentation. When one central location has all your service history, it is easier to keep track of when routine maintenance of fluids and parts (belts, tires, etc.) should occur.


#3 –Take a crash course.


No, you don’t actually have to go to a car repair class. However, if you want to protect yourself from the slimiest of auto repair shops, skimming through your owner’s manual can’t hurt. By understanding typical service intervals, you will have a better sense when certain repairs are reasonably due.


#4 – Carefully assess the problem so you can communicate it clearly.


You don’t want a mechanic to waste time figuring out what is wrong with your car, noted auto repair author Lauren Fix. Specificity can be your best friend when you are trying to get a fast diagnosis and cure, she said. Ask yourself questions such as, “What is the speed when the problem occurs?” and, “Do I only hear the troubling sound when I’m turning a certain direction, or when I’m idling?”


#5 – Consider the shady mechanic’s perspective.


How does the shady mechanic think? Well, as you might guess, technicians are often (and probably in the vast majority of situations) more a reflection on the ethics and integrity of the shop than they are rogue con-men.


Take the perspective of Joe, a seasoned mechanic with four decades experience who spoke with ABC’s 20/20 about his experience in the past bilking car owners out of their money. Joe told the news outlet that the primary reason mechanics will swindle people with fixes that their cars don’t need is because many shops have tiny profit margins. Often the business owner or manager will push the technicians to recommend repairs that are purely intended to drive up the bill. In that kind of setting, mechanics feel compelled to give bad advice in order to keep their jobs.


Joe said that he himself had once intentionally misguided people. While he felt terrible to count himself among the shady mechanic population, he explained the conundrum: “[W]hen your boss tells you, ‘Either you do it here or the door’s right there,’ what are you going to do?”


Here are a few of the tactics and lingo used by technicians in corrupted organizations:


  • Pouring on gravy work – Would you like some gravy with that? If you’re talking about car repair, the answer is No. Gravy work refers to billing a longer period of time than is needed to complete the task. The specific example he gives of this kind of gouging is when a shop charges you for 2.5 hours of labor to turn the rotors and replace the pads – the better part of which is, you guessed it, gravy.


  • Flushing your wallet – A wallet flush is when you try to “flush” out as much money as you can from a customer via the recommendation of additional services – a typical occurrence with a discount oil change. Part of the reason it’s called a “flush” is that you are attempting to get the car owner to agree to numerous fluid flushes: coolant, power steering, transmission, etc.


  • Charging for nothing – An auto repair shop will often bill people for services it does not complete. For example, if an air filter is complicated to replace (as it is in some models), mechanics will sometimes not do it but charge for it anyway. The owner cannot verify the work because the air filter isn’t easily accessible.


  • Exploiting the idiot light – The check engine light, not so politely called the idiot light at some shops, is a facilitator of many costly parts replacements. Scammer mechanics love the check engine light because it is always associated with an OBD-II (On-Board Diagnostics II) error code. “Guys kind of have the phrase where every code deserves a part,” said Joe.


#6 – Gauge the service writer.


The service writer, who produces the estimates and bills, should seem competent and well-informed on maintenance and repair issues. That person is your primary point of contact and should not leave you feeling uneasy or confused. When you see a tight-lipped, stand-offish service writer, head for the hills.


#7 – Expect an estimate.


You should not allow anyone to start working on your car without giving you an estimate for how much the work is expected to cost. Most estimates are given over the phone so even though a written estimate carries more legal weight it may not be feasible to obtain. Estimates are estimates, so it is possible that a bill will be slightly higher, but you should not see anything that is grossly in excess of that stated amount.


#8 – Go over the bill at the shop.


Think back to Roger and Sue. Make sure you check the bill carefully and discuss anything you don’t understand while you’re still at the shop. The shop should review your invoice with you before you pay.


#9 – Dispute the bill if it doesn’t make sense.


If the bill seems problematic, get the old parts from the shop if you can. Dispute the charges and ask to discuss it with the owner. As a last resort, you can go to the Better Business Bureau or even sue.


Conclusion: local + independent = better


What is the most important of the above tips? Number two of course: choose independence. “The one-on-one relationship between driver and mechanic that smaller repair shops foster can really help consumers have confidence in both the work that’s performed and in the vehicle itself,” said Edmunds.com.


Are you in need of auto service? At Boulder’s own Independent Motors, we believe great service starts with open, honest communication – and we back up that communication with sheer expertise. Meet our staff.