The 5 Least Reliable Vehicles of All Time, According to CarComplaints
In tough economic times, used cars are generally a smart bet. But buying a pre-owned car can quickly become a bad decision if you don’t do your homework. Some models have poor reliability, meaning costly repairs and a greater risk of accidents. If you’re in the market for a used car, avoid the following five least reliable vehicles of all time, according to owner reports.
5. 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee
The beloved Jeep brand has never been tops in reliability. That’s a shame, given that ruggedness and all-terrain capabilities are core to the automaker’s image. Still, some models are substantially worse than others. And the 2011 Grand Cherokee is in the top tier of Jeep model years you should avoid.
According to owner reports on CarComplaints.com, the biggest problems with the 2011 Grand Cherokee are electrical. Owners listed the number-one issue as the engine being difficult to start and, in some cases, not starting at all. Many drivers found that the totally integrated power module (TIPM) — a component that controls the car’s electrical systems — was failing. Drivers began experiencing this issue around 51,900 miles, although some noticed engine difficulties sooner. They also got stuck with a repair bill of around $1,180.
Another common (and related) problem: The engine stalled while driving. In some cases, owners reported the issue was linked to a failing TIPM module. In other cases, replacing the fuel pump or alternator seemed to do the trick. These issues cropped up around 69,150 miles, with mechanics invoicing owners $1,710 on average.
4. 2013 Nissan Altima
Japanese automakers typically enjoy a good reputation for reliability. However, Consumer Reports notes that Nissan is the least reliable of them, which perhaps begins to explain the 2013 Altima.
Owners note on CarComplaints.com that this Altima model year suffers from transmission problems that are a real cause for concern. The most common involves shaking and vibrating in the continuously variable transmission (CVT) and rough gear shifting. Many owners experienced this problem around 55,450 miles and paid a whopping $3,120 to fix it.
Another common issue concerned complete transmission failure — a higher accident risk and an even more expensive repair than the CVT shifting issue. Transmission failure occurred for drivers at 79,750 miles on average, leaving them with repair costs of around $3,330. Owners generally needed to replace the transmission in these cases because the cause of the problem was too significant to repair.
3. 2019 Toyota RAV4
Unlike Nissan, Toyota has a solid reputation for reliability. However, that reputation doesn’t carry over to the 2019 RAV4. Per CarComplaints.com, this model is plagued with transmission, engine, accessory, and drivetrain problems, making it a model year to avoid.
The most extensive set of issues involves the 2019 RAV4’s transmission, with nearly 50 owners noting that this model year shifts reluctantly and lurches when driving at slow speeds. That’s a real problem if you’re in stop-and-go traffic or need to cut over quickly to make a turn while driving in the city. And unfortunately, this problem crops up at only about 3,500 miles.
CarComplaints.com lists repair costs at an eye-popping $20,000, but that average includes damage from serious accidents. Although repairing this issue should cost substantially less, the $20,000 figure is a warning to prospective buyers about how costly this issue could be and why they should avoid this model year.
2. 2003 Honda Accord
Honda is another brand with a reputation for reliability. Still, it has a few notoriously unreliable models. The 2003 Honda Accord tops this list, suffering from substantial transmission problems. Owners “recommend avoiding this model year like the plague,” CarComplaints.com reports.
Those who own this model year might have found their transmission failing, starting around 98,000 miles. In these cases, drivers were hit with repair costs averaging $2,710. Honda covered this bill in part or in full for some owners, given that some transmission issues resulted in a safety recall.
Another common problem was the stereo backlight burning out, leading to another recall. Owners reported this issue after driving 78,000 miles on average and listed repair costs of around $480. But this problem, too, was partially covered by a recall, knocking down the average costs. Less fortunate were the owners suffering from common issues not covered by a recall, including body, engine, heater, and braking problems.
1. 2002 Ford Explorer
An SUV as famous as the Ford Explorer shouldn’t be on the list. But owners have flooded CarComplaints.com with criticism about a particular model of the popular SUV. At first glance, the 2002 Ford Explorer should be a solid pick, with two powertrain choices, substantial cabin space, and abundant tech features.
But on CarComplaints.com, owners have noted severe problems with the transmission, body, interior, and drivetrain, among other trouble areas. Most gripes concern the transmission, with over 1,500 owners reporting issues. The most common transmission failure occurs on average around 94,800 miles and typically requires about $2,840 to fix. Other related problems involved faulty solenoids, with malfunctions occurring on average at 109,100 miles and requiring $2,320 to repair. Transmission slippage was another common issue, happening around 97,600 miles and leaving owners with a $2,200 bill on average.
CarComplaints.com notes this Explorer model year, with over 3,000 complaints on the site, is “hands-down our worst vehicle on record.”