How Consumer Reports Rated Top Electric Cars in Reliability for 2018

Without a reputation for solid reliability, electric vehicles are a tough sell for today’s consumer. Even with federal and tax credits, the cost of an everyman model like Chevrolet Bolt EV starts at $30,000. That cost is steep for a car that fits into the compact segment.

Of course, electric cars get cheaper the more you drive them. You can forget about fill-ups at the gas station, oil changes, spark plugs, and other types of maintenance that come standard with gasoline cars. But the other stuff — from tires to HVAC systems and infotainment — remains the same when a vehicle runs on electricity.

So the 2018 Consumer Reports reliability ratings were especially important for the plug-in segment. With more affordable models than ever on the market, consumers can get a look at how the newest EVs performed. Besides, the predictions for all-new models like Tesla Model 3 should guide buyers considering that choice. Here’s a look at the electric car reliability ratings from Consumer Reports for the top ’18 models.

1. Chevrolet Bolt EV

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV
2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV | General Motors
  • 2018 reliability: Above average

While consumers and the auto press continues buzzing about Tesla Model 3, Chevy’s affordable long-range EV is already on the market at $37,495 before incentives. Consumer Reports testers gave Bolt EV high marks for acceleration, handling, and its class-leading 238 miles of range.

Meanwhile, early buyers of Chevy’s all-electric model gave excellent feedback in every area except in-car electronics. That performance made Bolt EV the top scorer of all for Chevrolet in 2018. In general, these returns are unusually strong for a brand-new model.

2. Tesla Model S

The Tesla Model S electric car during the the second press preview day at the 2010 North American International Auto Show January 12, 2010 at Cobo Center in Detroit, Michigan.
Tesla Model S | Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images
  • 2018 reliability: Above average

In a few ways, this year’s Consumer Reports ratings represented a triumph for Tesla. For the first time, the brand’s flagship Model S sedan got an above-average rating for reliability. That score placed it above Mercedes S-Class, BMW 7 Series, and Audi A8. Meanwhile, it proved Tesla has improved over the years, which will be crucial for the automaker as it chases higher production goals.

3. Toyota Prius Prime

2017 Toyota Prius Prime Advanced
The most practical electric vehicle. | Eric Schaal/Autos Cheat Sheet
  • 2018 reliability: The best

In our estimation, there is no more practical plug-in vehicle than Toyota Prius Prime. It offers 25 miles of electric range before switching into regular hybrid mode. Meanwhile, it charges on a regular household outlet, making owners’ lives easy. After getting positive feedback from testers and owners, Consumer Reports had no hesitations in giving Prius Prime its top reliability score. No other plug-in model did as well in the survey for 2018.

4. Tesla Model X

View of the 2017 Tesla Model X in black from driver's side profile
Tesla Model X | Tesla
  • 2018 reliability: The worst

While Tesla had to be thrilled with ratings for Model S, the news for Model X was mostly bad. In fact, when Consumer Reports announced its 10 worst for the 2018 model year, Model X ended up in the bottom of the barrel. Lingering problems with the falcon-wing doors, climate control, and general body integrity landed the electric SUV in last place. 

5. Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid | Chrysler
  • 2018 reliability: Average

If you want a classic family hauler but want to go green, Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid is one of few options. The plug-in hybrid minivan offers 30 miles of electric range and 27 mpg when switching back to standard driving mode. For 2018, Consumer Reports had enough data to rate it average, which is an achievement for the beleaguered Chrysler brand. Because of the solid Pacifica score and demise of the 200 sedan, Chrysler was a big mover in overall brand reliability.

6. Tesla Model 3

Road shot of silver Tesla Model 3 on California coast
Tesla Model 3 | Tesla
  • 2018 reliability: Average

When Model S scored so well for 2018, it had a trickle-down effect for the brand. Consumer Reports was confident enough in the automaker it predicted average reliability for the upcoming Tesla Model 3. After the rough reception for Model X, that score is a blessing for Tesla in many ways. Though other problems continue swirling around Model 3, this vote of confidence matters.

7. BMW i3

2017 BMW i3 | BMW
  • 2018 reliability: Average

After three years of testing and five years of reliability ratings, BMW i3 came in as average for 2018. This car is a favorite for urban drivers who want something different and prioritize fuel economy, and there is nothing in the latest survey to suggest it fails as a dependable vehicle. Improvements in the drive system, in-car electronics, and body integrity brought i3 into respectability in recent years.

8. Chevrolet Volt

Front three-quarter view from passenger side of 2017 Chevy Volt in dark red
2017 Chevrolet Volt | General Motors
  • 2018 reliability: Below average

Since the redesigned Chevrolet Volt appeared for 2016, it received low scores for in-car electronics and its drive system, keeping reliability ratings down. Nothing changed for the 2018 model year, and Consumer Reports ranked it below average once again. Though Volt remains the top choice for electric range in a plug-in hybrid, the overall package remains compromised due to limited interior space and minimal utility.

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