Car Reliability Ratings

Car Reliability Ratings for 2018

Car Reliability RatingsEvery year car reliability ratings are published by the J.D. Power Car using their own Dependability Study. These reliability ratings are based on owner reported car problems and defects over the most recent three years of original ownership of new cars. Since used car reliability data provides more history over time, you have to start somewhere. So, these car reliability ratings are for 2015 model year automobiles. Keep in mind that these ratings in no way reflect long-term ownership reliability of the same car reliability list. There can be a huge difference in comparing 3-year reliability versus used cars of 5 years or longer after more things have a chance to break or go wrong. Even with the the most reliable cars, things can go wrong after 5 years. But, since we lease cars and talk about leasing cars here, these 3-year ratings are just right for us. And because you’re leasing a car, the model you buy is likely to be a 2019 or 2020, not a 2015 model. Things change from year to year.

How Cars are Rated

J.D. Power uses four criteria to rate mechanical defects, malfunctioning, or other operational problems reported by car owners:

  • Overall
  • Mechanical
  • Body and Interior
  • Features and Accessories

What I think is a little misleading is the category, Overall. This is not an average of car problems. Rather, it refers to major issues that occur within the 3-year period. On the J.D. Power Car Reliability Ratings information page, you can access this information and all their results by make and model or by type of car. Each category is rated from 1- 10..

With the help of JD Powers, I rate things a little differently. I have relabeled, overall, Major and created a new category that averages the four called, Rating. I think this rating is a little more useful for those who lease cars. Since we are going to only own the car for 3-4 years tops, it doesn’t really matter to us whether it is a major or minor issue, it is still covered under warranty. This changes things a bit. Lexus is at the top of my list where-as Buick is at the top of the JD Power’s List.

Car Reliability List

RankMakeMajor IssuesMechanicalExterior and InteriorFeatures and ControlsRating
24Ram Truck70%70%70%80%73%
31Land Rover50%50%60%70%58%

Are the Car Dependability Ratings Accurate?

Before I answer this question I cannot emphasize enough that we cannot use a 3-year term of ownership as a means for measuring long-term reliability of say, 5 years or longer. These rankings simply mean that the cars at the top of the list had fewer reported mechanical problems or defects in the first 3-years that their owners drove them. Most, if not all automobile makes come with a minimum 3-year / 36,000 Mile Warranty. Cars which have undergone dramatic model-year changes are more prone to have defects or ‘bugs’ in the first 12-months that the new model is launched. Since most car models are completely redesigned every 4 years, much of these ratings could be more a reflection of timing than quality and long-term reliability. One should also be aware that car reliability ratings are drastically effected by the type of vehicle. A sedan or sports car, for example, may not have the wear and tear of a truck or SUV. The rating might have more to do with which cars have fewer miles put on them in those 3 years. Still, it’s a good way for us to get a rule of thumb one looking at cars. Less miles in those first 3-years obviously means fewer problems are likely to be uncovered. Why does this matter for you if you are leasing cars?

Why 3-Year Dependability Matters for Car Leasing Enthusiasts

The first and most important reasons that car reliability ratings matter for car leasing is that most car leases are for 36 Month Lease Terms.  Since most of us are only going to keep a leased car for only 3 years, we only care about how dependable the car will be during the time we are making lease payments and could really care less how well the car is going to drive in years 4, 5, 6, and beyond.  Secondly, one of the top reasons for leasing a car is fewer hassles. We lease cars so we can spend less time at the shop getting repairs. Even when the new car is under warranty and a free loaner is provided, it is never convenient to have to bring a car into the dealer for repairs. Convenience and enjoyment happen to be some of the top advantages of why we lease a car a car in the first place.

Consumer Reports Cars Ratings

Consumer Reports does their own ratings on car reliability based on a number of factors and useful sort and search criteria. You might find these reliability ratings more useful if you’re a long term car owner as opposed to a lessee. Either way, whether you are leasing or buying, Consumer Reports reliability ratings should serve as a useful supplement to the JD Power ratings. On their car ratings site, you can view data online in many useful ways: 10 Most Reliable Cars, 10 Lease Reliable Cars, Car Reliability by Brands, Used Car Reliability, New Car Reliability, and Reliability by Car Type. Take all of these ratings with a grain of salt. One of the reasons you are leasing a car is because you have a full warranty, at minimum, for the three years you are driving it.