Nick Tragianis / Postmedia Network Inc.
Cars such as the highly rated 2013 Honda Fit are now coming off lease and finding their way into the used car market.
Finding a dependable used car can be a trying process indeed. With all the variables involved, and questions about how well previous owners have taken care of a vehicle, shopping the used-car market can feel like walking blindfolded through a minefield. It’s no wonder some just give in and buy new.
Thankfully, J.D. Power has an annual U.S. dependability study, now in its 27th year. The 2016 study, released in February, looks at problems experienced during the past 12 months by 33,560 original owners of 2013 model-year vehicles. It covers 177 specific problems grouped into eight major vehicle categories, including engine and transmission, features and controls and entertainment and navigation, among others. The research tabulates the number of problems reported per 100 vehicles to determine the overall dependability for each model.
This year’s industry average was 152 problems per 100 vehicles. Lexus, Porsche and Buick were tops for overall dependability, with 95, 97 and 106 problems reported per 100, respectively. Dodge, Ford and Smart ranked the worst with 208, 204 and 199 problems per 100 vehicles. The study found buyers were increasingly confounded by malfunctioning infotainment and in-car communications systems; these issues now account for 20 per cent of all customer-reported problems.
With average car lease terms standing at around 36 months, or three years, J.D. Power’s study is timely if you’re in the market for a used car just coming off lease. These findings will, at the very least, give you a baseline for which models you should be looking at if you want a relatively trouble-free, dependable experience. Below are the 10 three-year-old cars that were deemed the most dependable in their class.
The subcompact Honda Fit edged out the Nissan Versa and Hyundai Accent in the small-car category. It received the top rating of “among the best” for overall and powertrain dependability, with body and interior dependability rated as “better than most.” The only downside? Although the 2013 Fit’s feature and accessory dependability (which looks at things such as audio, entertainment and HVAC) is rated at “about average,” the Versa and Accent both rated higher in that department. Overall, the Honda brand ranked seventh out of 32 brands in dependability, with 126 problems per 100 vehicles reported by owners.
In a very crowded field of 16 compact cars, the Buick Verano came out on top as the most dependable of the lot. GM’s luxury compact sedan achieved the highest “among the best” rating in all of the main categories. A quartet of Asian rivals, the Toyota Corolla, Toyota Prius, Honda Civic and Kia Forte, rounded out the top five in this class.
In the mid-size car category, the Malibu repeated its win from the previous year by once again emerging as the most dependable over 12 other mid-size sedans, a field that includes the Honda Accord, Mazda6, Volkswagen Passat and the now-discontinued Dodge Avenger. The Malibu earned an “about average” rating for its powertrain dependability (which tracks problems with the engine or transmission as well as problems that affect the driving experience, such as noise, vibrations and brake problems), while earning the top rating for its body and interior dependability. The Hyundai Sonata, Toyota Camry and Buick Regal ranked just below the Malibu. As a brand, Chevrolet ranked sixth in dependability, with 125 problems per 100 vehicles reported.
Buick’s strong showing in the 2016 dependability study continued with the Buick LaCrosse, which, like the Malibu, also replicated its standing in last year’s study by staying on top in the large-car category. With the fewest problems reported, the LaCrosse bested the likes of the Nissan Maxima, Toyota Avalon and Chevrolet Impala, as well as four other cars in this class.
In a category with only three contenders, the Fiat 500 proved superior, handily beating the Smart Fortwo and Chevrolet Spark. While the Fiat’s body and interior dependability received an average rating, it scored top ratings for powertrain, feature and accessory and overall dependability. The Fortwo and Spark, meanwhile, ranked below average in powertrain dependability. The Fiat brand didn’t fare as well in the general study, with owners reporting 171 problems per 100 vehicles, which was on the high end of the scale.
The Mini Cooper, along with the Mini Coupe and Roadster, were best in dependability in the compact-sporty-car segment. However, the Volkswagen GTI and Scion tC weren’t far behind, with both receiving top overall dependability ratings. As a brand, BMW’s Mini was below average for dependability, with Mini owners reporting 155 problems per 100 vehicles compared with the industry average of 152 problems per 100.
In the crowded compact-premium-car class, the 2013 Lexus ES was deemed the most dependable of 14 cars. The BMW 1 Series, Audi A4, Acura ILX (in its first model year), and Infiniti G rounded out the top five in the class. Surprisingly, the BMW 3 Series, arguably the gold standard for compact luxury cars, was ranked second-last among its peers, just ahead of the last-place Cadillac ATS. Lexus ranked first out of 32 brands in the 2016 study, with just 95 problems reported per 100 vehicles.
In a class of nine cars, the Lexus GS was the only mid-size premium car to receive the top overall dependability rating of “among the best.” Lexus’s luxury sedan beat the Mercedes E-Class, Infiniti M and BMW 5 Series in the study. Rounding out the bottom of the rankings were the Audi A6, Cadillac XTS and Audi A7. The Audi brand performed above the industry average, with 134 problems reported per 100; Cadillac, by comparison, suffered more problems, with 145 issues reported per 100 vehicles.
Chevy’s Camaro conquered the small field of muscle cars, surpassing the Ford Mustang, Dodge Challenger and Hyundai Genesis Coupe. The Camaro proved the hardiest of the group, receiving the highest ratings for all categories of dependability.
— Postmedia Network Inc. 2016