How to Find a Reliable Used Car

So that AMC Gremlin you’ve been driving for the past 30 years finally died, and you’ve decided it’s time to get another car.  Where do you begin to find something reliable?  What are the most important considerations?

Car Troubles

Reliability is by far the number one thing I look for in a used car.  Even if you can afford the repairs, nothing makes you lose your appreciation for a cool car then when it leaves you stranded on the road.

I don’t use Consumer Reports for reliability, because they only really test NEW cars.  So Consumer Reports is a great place to look if you are only buying something that is a year old and want a basic lemon check.  For used cars, I use real people’s reviews.  My two favorites are Eopinions and Edmunds.

Now, you have to take a person’s review with a grain of salt.  The reliability of a car can be drastically effected by how they maintain and drive the car.  Also some people give cars really poor reviews for frivolous things like bad cup holders.  Pay attention to when the review was left.  Some reviews are only a year after the car was produced, while others will be very recent (meaning they are dealing with a similar age car as you).

Look for is a theme in the reviews.  If you notice 4-5 people complaining about quick brake pad wear, you can be pretty sure you’ll burn through some brake pads.  On the other hand, if you see nothing but complaints about cup holders and amenities, you can be pretty sure it’s a reliable car.

Don’t always just look for brand alone.  While it’s true Japanese cars are often more reliable, there are sometimes specific years with more troubles then others, and I’ve found American and Korean quality going up, while Japanese and German quality is going down.  But it really all depends on the year, make and model.