Consumer Reports has many helpful tips for those shopping around for used cars. And, most importantly, which used models are best avoided. However, just because some vehicles’ model years are problematic, doesn’t mean they all are. In fact, if you look for something a little newer, you’ll find some of those Consumer Reports ‘never buys’ have become more reliable.
The Consumer Reports ‘never buy’ used model years under consideration
As of this writing, the average age of a used car in the US is 12 years old. Consumer Reports’ list of used cars to avoid goes back slightly farther. However, the cars listed below have a more-limited age range.
There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, because these ranges represent models with at least above-average reliability scores, as determined by Consumer Reports.
Secondly, in at least one case, they’re slightly removed from a redesign or refresh. According to Consumer Reports, significant updates can lead to manufacturing bugs or glitches, and potentially cause issues. That’s not to say every car is unreliable after an update—but it is a known concern.
2018-2020 Mini Cooper
The Mini Cooper wasn’t exactly trouble-free even before the BMW-made models came out. But, while the earliest of these can develop expensive issues, post-2015 models have noticeably fewer problems. In fact, CarComplaints reports no problems for 2016 and later Mini Coopers. However, based on Consumer Reports’ reliability scoring, the hatchback only started seeing above-average reliability in 2018.
But the 2018 and later Mini Coopers offer more than just better reliability. 2018 is the first year a backup camera and rear parking sensors became standard on every model, Autotrader reports. And the same engines that were available in 2018 are available today, Motor Trend reports. Specifically, the base 134-hp 1.5-liter turbocharged three-cylinder, the S’ 189-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, and the JCW’s 228-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. And they’re all available with either an automatic or a manual, Autotrader reports.
Admittedly, the 2018 Mini Coopers, even the JCW trim, lack some ADAS features, Roadshow reports. But they’re still a lot of fun to drive. Plus, they’re more of a bargain, because they’ve already been hit with some depreciation. A brand-new 2020 Mini Cooper S starts at $26,900. But it’s possible to find one on Autotrader for about $10,000 less.
2018-2020 Audi A4
Although the 2018 and 2019 Audi A4 don’t benefit from the sedan’s recent face-lift, they have their own strengths. Each A4 has active acoustics to reduce noise, Roadshow reports, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The interior has excellent fit and finish, The Drive reports, and the sedan handles corners well. It’s not quite on the Alfa Romeo Giulia’s level, MT reports, but it’s more spacious with more features. Especially if you go with a Premium Plus or Prestige model, with its MMI Digital Cockpit, larger touchscreen, and built-in navigation. Plus, these higher-trim models have more standard ADAS features, making the Audi A4 an IIHS Top Safety Pick.
And, as with the Mini Cooper, going with a gently-used A4 doesn’t mean missing out on power. The 2018 model has the same 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder as the 2020 model, in 190-hp FWD and 242-hp AWD trim, Autotrader reports. There is one benefit to going with the 2018 A4 over the 2019 or 2020 models, though, Autotrader reports. It’s the only one that offers a manual, which Car and Driver reports accelerates even faster than the automatic model.
Car and Driver recommends going with the AWD Audi A4 Premium Plus. Today, it would cost you at least $45,100. But it’s possible to find a used one on Autotrader for half that price.
2018-2020 Dodge Challenger and Charger
Today, the Dodge Charger and Challenger are some of the brand’s most reliable cars, according to Consumer Reports. The two had some issues in 2015 and 2016, following their own mild updates. However, by 2018, CarComplaints reports the Charger had no major issues. And the Challenger only had a handful of minor ones, CarComplaints reports.
Between the Dodge Charger and Challenger, the latter has arguably changed the least since 2018. 2018 non-Hellcat Chargers have a different grille than the other models. In 2019, the R/T Scat Pack also received that grille, MT reports. And today, the only Dodge Charger without it is the AWD SXT model.
But the Dodge Charger and Challenger gained more than just more power and Widebody trims from 2018-2020, Car and Driver reports. For 2019, the muscle cars gained upgraded interior trim and upholstery options, larger standard touchscreens, sportier suspension, sport seats, and an optional cold weather package. R/T Scat Pack models also gained adaptive Bilstein suspension and launch control. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, but if you want ADAS features like blind-spot monitoring, you’ll have to pick something besides the SXT.
Because of their vintage looks and level of performance, the Dodge Charger and Challenger retain their value relatively well. Especially the high-power Hellcat-powered trims. But Car and Driver reports the 485-hp R/T Scat Pack trims offer more than enough road performance. And, in the Challenger, it’s available with a stick. Today, that would cost you about $40,000. Buying used, though, only saves you about $3000-$4000.
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