How to Read the Reliability Data on a Consumer Reports Model Page

As with books, one shouldn’t judge a car simply by appearances. Sure, an attractive vehicle can be loads of fun to drive, but there’s more to a reliable car than a snazzy paint job or ultra-chill rims. Savvy car shoppers should consider features that really matter. Consumer Reports is an excellent resource, especially if you know how to read the reliability data on a Consumer Reports model page.

What is Consumer Reports?

Founded in the 1930s, Consumer Reports has always dedicated itself to separating glossy advertising campaigns from the facts. Over the decades, the independent, not-for-profit organization has refused advertising while exposing things like the dangers of smoking and the efficacy of seat belts. Formerly a print-only magazine, Consumer Reports now offers the results of its extensive research to online subscribers, as well.

Consumer Reports delivers trustworthy info about all sorts of things that interest buyers, including automobiles. The venerated consumer watchdog provides a remarkable range of information about cars and trucks. The only trouble is that such an overload of data can be difficult to decipher unless you understand every section of a CR page.

Everything you need to know about reading CR reliability data

A vehicle fit-and-finish and reliability inspection of a Porsche Taycan electric sports car in Stuttgart, Germany
A vehicle inspection of a Porsche Taycan | THOMAS KIENZLE/AFP via Getty Images

Start by logging into your Consumer Reports account and navigating to the main cars page. Select the make and model vehicle you wish to inspect and click it to view ratings and reliability scores.

Near the upper left of the page, you’ll see a green disc superimposed with a white number. This is the Consumer Reports Overall Score, determined by surveys conducted over a 12-month period. The closer this number is to 100, the more reliable the ride is when stacked against other makes and models.

The 2022 overall scores reflect data collected from CR members who rated more than 300,000 car models. Issues affecting overall vehicle reliability scores include:

  • Body hardware, including convertible tops and heated seats
  • Brake system, including master cylinder, calipers, and anti-lock systems
  • Charging system issues, including alternator, starter, and battery
  • Chassis integrity
  • Climate control issues, including compressors, fans, and refrigerant leakage
  • Cooling issues such as water pump and thermostat failure
  • Drive system issues, including traction and electronic stability control
  • Exhaust system, including catalytic converter, muffler, and exhaust manifold
  • Fuel system issues, including fuel pumps and fuel injection systems
  • Major engine issues such as head gasket and timing chain failure
  • Minor engine issues such as fuel leaks, oil leaks, and engine knocks
  • Major transmission issues requiring rebuild or replacement
  • Minor transmission issues, including rough shifting and clutch adjustment
  • On-board electronics, including Bluetooth and backup cameras
  • Power accessories, including cruise control, USB ports, and automatic headlights
  • Steering and suspension

Other buyer data provided by Consumer Reports

In addition to a CR Model page, each vehicle covered by Consumer Reports reveals a Road Test Score, Predicted Reliability, and Predicted Owner Satisfaction.

Unlike model pages based on consumer surveys, Road Test scores are compiled by evaluating vehicles at the Consumer Reports testing facility in Colchester, Connecticut. With 100 being the best, Road Test scores reveal data about comfort, controls, braking, and emergency handling.

As it sounds, Predicted Reliability offers an educated glimpse into the future of vehicles based on CR technical knowledge and consumer surveys. Similarly, Predicted Owner Satisfaction gives car buyers a good idea of what they may expect from any particular vehicle. These predictive reports can even be used to consider brand-new models that haven’t yet accumulated a lot of road test data.

Next time you shop for a new or used vehicle, start by checking out what Consumer Reports has to say.