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Consumer Reports: Some Used Cars Have Fewer Problems Than New Models

March 1, 2011
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YONKERS, NY--With the average new car losing 47% of its value in the first three years of ownership, buying a used car can be the best way for consumers to get the most vehicle for their money, according to Consumer Reports' annual auto issue.

Consumer Reports found eleven 2008 models with about the same or even fewer problems than similar 2010 models in the same class. Among the most trouble-free 2008 models were the Toyota FJ Cruiser and Yaris with 11 and 12 problems per 100 vehicles, respectively. The average 2010 car had 13 problems per 100. While the FJ Cruiser and Yaris did not score well in Consumer Reports road tests, some of the other most reliable 2008 models, such as the Honda CR-V and Fit did, making them better overall choices.

Overall, Japanese cars are the most trouble-free, with Honda and Toyota far ahead compared with older vehicles made by other major manufacturers, especially 2006 and earlier models.

Some models have an alarming problem rate even when they're still fairly new. More than one in four owners of the 2009 four-cylinder Toyota Tacoma pickup reported a problem with the radio in the 12 months covered by the survey. For now, it's being replaced free under Toyota's basic warranty, which expires after three years or 36,000 miles.

The survey also found that five-year-old models can be good bets for used-car buyers, although problem rates, on average, are worse than rates of three- or four-year-old cars. While three-quarters of the three-year-old vehicles in Consumer Reports' Survey were problem free, so were two-thirds of the five-year-olds. The most problem-free five-year-old model was the 2006 Toyota Highlander V6, which had 19 problems per 100 vehicles.

Consumer Reports’ survey also found that cars older than five years are not so trouble-free. Only half of the nine- and 10-year-old vehicles had gone 12 months without a reported problem.

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