Consumer Reports Says These Cars Are Headed for an Expensive Repair

Consumer Reports recently published a list of used cars most likely to need a complete engine rebuild. Current owners and used car shoppers should be on the lookout for these known issues. Engine rebuilds cost thousands of dollars. Knowing what to look out for could prevent disaster.

a mechanic working on rebuilding an engine
Engine awaiting rebuild | Bruce Bisping/Star Tribune via Getty Images

Consumer Reports recently reviewed years of data from its Annual Autos Report. The organization was looking for the frequency of major system failures requiring expensive repairs. The three complaints that the research focused on were the engine, head gaskets, and transmission.

More than a dozen older models were found to be more likely to require a complete engine rebuild. Drivers should know the signs that their engine may be headed toward a major failure. Avoiding a complete rebuild can save a lot of headaches.

Consumer Reports Chief Mechanic John Ibbotson said, “Engine failure can be caused by many things. Some engine rebuilds are needed due to low compression from worn piston rings, resulting in lack of power, misfiring, or excessive oil consumption, while others suffer from crankshaft or connecting rod bearing failure, signaled by a knocking sound.”

Engine rebuilds can cost more than just money

A mechanic rebuilding an engine
An engine being rebuilt | Seung-il Ryu/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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There are few things as frustrating as a costly car repair. Especially one that can take days to complete. Fortunately, some engine repairs caused by manufacturer errors are covered by the automaker. One Santa Fe owner told Consumer Reports, “The engine seized and failed without warning. Internet research identified a recurring issue with metal shards in engine. Fortunately, the manufacturer paid for a replacement engine.”

When manufacturer relief isn’t in the cards, drivers take a hard hit, including parts and labor. A typical engine repair costs drivers between $2500 and $4000. In some instances, the price of repair can exceed the value of the car. Perhaps even more costly is the time drivers will be without their vehicles.

An engine rebuild is not a simple repair. It takes weeks, if not months, depending on which parts are needed. Owners may have to rent a car during this timeframe adding to the cost of the repair. Months spent without a vehicle are a major inconvenience that many owners don’t have a contingency plan.

Which cars does Consumer Reports say to watch out for?

A machinist in an orange tee shirt and blue gloves rebuilds a large bus engine
Machinist rebuilds engine | Lane Turner/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

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One surprising maker stood out on the list. With a solid reputation for reliability, Hyundai has more cars on this list than any other brand. The 2012-2013 Santa Fe is prone to engine failure between 97,000 and 118,000 miles. 2013-2014 Santa Fe Sport is also affected, failing at 74,000-101,000 miles. 2011-2014 Sonata was shown to fail even sooner at 72,000-142,000 miles.

Engine failure issues can happen any time, but one model on this list has an average failure milage that seems unrealistically low. The 2015 Volvo XC60 is known for engine failure at only 60,000 miles. The 2011 Audi A4 makes it another 2,000 miles on average than the Volvo XC60.

Another automaker known for its engineering stood out in Consumer Reports’ research. The 2013 BMW X3 has been shown to experience engine failure before 100,000 miles. Subaru joins the list of typically reliable brands with engine failure issues. Around 81,000 miles, the 2012 Forester can get into trouble.

These trends are not a guarantee that these models will need a full engine replacement. Rather, they serve as a reminder that vigilant maintenance is necessary, even for cars with a reputation for being resilient.