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Consumer Reports car ratings rant
Old 04-10-2014, 11:00 PM   #1
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Consumer Reports car ratings rant

After a couple of weeks of glancing through the Consumer Reports car ratings issue.....I can't help but wonder at how they come up with the order they put them in. They state that a car with lousy reliability won't be rated #1 in the category, but they sure put a few of them #2. Am I the only person who thinks the most important thing about a car is that it doesn't break down? Actually, I think I already know the answer to that......all you have to do is look at what's on the road. How Jeep is still in business I don't understand since their reliability has been terrible for ages. I guess there are plenty of people who just buy a car because they like the looks.....or that it goes like stink. A car that has gadgets galore seems to put it high on the list.
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Old 04-10-2014, 11:14 PM   #2
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Not all people put reliability at the top of their list...

Jeep is a perfect example.... not reliable, but if you want to go to the back country it will get you there where very few others would come close...


Corvette is another.... big muscle car, great handling etc. etc...


What about BMW.... people will pay a huge price for a car that is not very reliable, but they seem to love them...


That is why a car can be #2.... they do the things a car needs to do and does it well...
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Old 04-10-2014, 11:19 PM   #3
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Different strokes for different folks. Now days the difference between a average reliability and top marks for reliability wouldn't factor much into my buying decision. Perhaps 30 or 40 years ago when cars were less reliable and I needed to get work everyday I'd place a much higher premium. For me the top criteria is performance and fun to drive, with things like styling, and gadget pretty high.
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Old 04-11-2014, 06:35 AM   #4
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I had a Honda Odyssey that I took up to my place in the mountains for a summer and the rough roads just about did it in. It was literally falling apart after about 2 months. My new Jeep stands up to the beating quite nicely. Not to mention that it will go (and has gone) places most vehicles couldn't. I bought the Jeep knowing its reputation and I am willing to pay for the necessary maintenance, but I haven't had any problems with it to this point. It is a purpose built vehicle. If someone wants to buy one for the looks, that's OK, but I agree that it is a lot of money for the status.
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Old 04-11-2014, 07:26 AM   #5
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When I asked a co-worker for advice on a local transmission shop he was quick to highly recommend one, said they replaced the transmission in his Jeep 3 times and did great work. Some of us obviously have different expectations on reliability.
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Old 04-11-2014, 08:09 AM   #6
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When I asked a co-worker for advice on a local transmission shop he was quick to highly recommend one, said they replaced the transmission in his Jeep 3 times and did great work. Some of us obviously have different expectations on reliability.
You are leaving a lot out of the story. Was it used for off-roading? The last off-road trip I did I put a nasty ding in the transmission support. If I had been over a few inches it would have been the transmission. The strain on even a regular Jeep Wrangler that is used for off-roading is a lot and things break. Mine is built with beefier running gear, and skid plates, but I still have to expect breakages when I am off-roading. By the way, this is my first Chrysler product. I never bought one before because of their poor maintenance reputation.
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Old 04-11-2014, 09:15 AM   #7
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Uh oh. I wasn't trying to say anything bad about Jeep when I started this. I already understood that they are pretty decent for off-road driving.....I was more making a comment towards the people who drive them and don't use them for that....which I am also assuming is most people. I pick on myself a little bit for having a Forester....and I haven't been using it as I had intended. Yes...it is good in the snow etc, but with hind-site I wish I had just bought a Honda Fit or something similar....with decent winter tires that's all we need. Guess I was just picking on people who buy cars for some silly reason (to me)..... But, as the other thread on small cars goes....there are people who are horrified in even thinking about buying a small car (my own relatives included) just from the fear of being run over by a tank.
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Old 04-11-2014, 11:16 AM   #8
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Okay, I'll jump in on this Jeep debate...

I've owned two of them, a 1993 Cherokee (the old boxy looking one), and a 2006 Grand Cherokee. Both have been the most reliable vehicles I've ever owned.

My old Cherokee was used for a little bit of off-roading, but mostly driving around town and highways in Colorado where 4-wheel drive was mandatory. It went about 150,000 miles before it threw a rod, and would have lasted for a lot longer if I'd been better about maintenance. I used to use non-synthetic oil in it, and go several thousands of miles beyond the 3000 mile recommendation, so I'm sure that had something to do with it.

My Grand Cherokee has already gone almost 180,000 miles and although there have been minor problems, I haven't had one major problem with the engine or drivetrain. And although the old girl is getting long in the tooth, she keeps running, so I'm going to keep her until the wheels fall off.

I've read the horror stories of people who have had problems with them, but so far mine have been extremely reliable. I'm sure another Grand will be in my future if/when I move back to the Rockies and need to get something a little newer. But I'm never getting rid of my 2006 - most reliable vehicle I've ever owned.
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Old 04-11-2014, 11:38 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by F4mandolin View Post
Uh oh. I wasn't trying to say anything bad about Jeep when I started this. I already understood that they are pretty decent for off-road driving.....I was more making a comment towards the people who drive them and don't use them for that....which I am also assuming is most people. I pick on myself a little bit for having a Forester....and I haven't been using it as I had intended. Yes...it is good in the snow etc, but with hind-site I wish I had just bought a Honda Fit or something similar....with decent winter tires that's all we need. Guess I was just picking on people who buy cars for some silly reason (to me)..... But, as the other thread on small cars goes....there are people who are horrified in even thinking about buying a small car (my own relatives included) just from the fear of being run over by a tank.

Some do it for the status symbol....

I worked with a lady who owned a Jaguar... worse than a Jeep.... sold that and bought a Land Rover... MUCH worse than a Jaguar... heck, they had to replace her engine during the first year she owned it... but, she loves the car...

The main point I was trying to make before (about the OP and Consumers Reports) is that their testing is not just reliability.... there is steering, braking, comfort of the car, etc. etc... and when I used to read it they would tell you the downfall of a car.... IOW, I remember then testing a Corvette and saying how great it did on their tests (except for comfort) and it got a high score... they did NOT recommend it....
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Old 04-11-2014, 11:46 AM   #10
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I have lots of rants on CU ratings. For one, an ordinal rating of quality means almost nothing. On a list of 20 items, maybe the difference between #1 and #20 is so marginal it isn't even significant. Or maybe 1-5 are close, and then a big gap at #6. And so on.

I remember looking at refrigerator ratings a few years ago. Had to scratch my head when a much larger fridge rated a higher 'energy' rating than a small fridge. I figured they must really be using some great, efficient components in that larger one, but no. The larger one uses more energy than the smaller one. But it was more 'efficient', based on a kWh/cubic-foot rating. Well, duh. Their cute little good/fair/poor ratings are not informative. Just give me a $/year expected electric bill at average rates. Then I can easily decide if the larger size is worth the extra cost, or is a higher efficient model worth any extra cost.

Their reviews are dumbed down to the point of almost useless. FIL had a subscription, I'd read it occasionally, or skim at the library. If I paid for it, I'd be PO'd.

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Old 04-11-2014, 11:57 AM   #11
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I have found CR to be a good source of information. Generally, their reviews of products are accurate and they often give me ideas of what to look out for that I might not think of myself until it was to late. That said, they are a source of information and do not replace one's own brain when buying a product. There is no way CR can know what combination of features and costs best fit a person's needs. Use it as a source of information and it is great. However, to blindly by the to rated product or the BEST BUY can be problematic.
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Old 04-11-2014, 03:16 PM   #12
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Not a big fan of Consumer Distorts for car stuff.
Their reliability ratings are parochial since they only include CR subscribers. Biased since folk who disagree with CR's opinions tend to stop subscribing. Also CR will seem to downgrade a car's reliability rating for minor stuff in a way most owners would not. The occ dashboard rattle is an annoyance, not a reliability issue like a major system failures (engine/transmission/steering).

Their car overall test ratings can be just as bizzarre. DW & I have continuously owned 2 cars for 25+ yrs. More often than not the car we liked better was panned by CR. IOW- living daily with 2 vehicles, if we liked car A>>B then CR's ratings were B>>A. IMHO- Edmunds is a much better source of info. More complete, accurate, & up to date. Thecarconnection is also decent. I also like to read the typical 'enthusiast' mags like CD, MT, RT, but they have their own biases too. And everyone is getting more commercialized. Even CR seems more full of ads selling its own additional 'services'.

Still sometimes read CR for entertainment at the library, but learned long ago to look to other sources and (most importantly) my own eval/test drives before investing my $$$ in a vehicle.
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Old 04-11-2014, 05:55 PM   #13
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I stopped paying any attention to CR car ratings when I learned that my 1990 Astro van was rated as one of the worst ever. Well, I traded in my 1990 van in 2009 at 230,000 miles. Lets see sum total of repairs other than regular maintenance: 1) door hinge at about 120,000 miles came loose 2) starter motor conked out at 175,000 miles. I traded it in (loved that cash for clunkers program) on a 2009 Dodge Caliber- another CR worst ever which has been wonderful so far but I only have 60,000 miles on it so it's a young pup.
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Old 04-11-2014, 08:01 PM   #14
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I think the CR car info is useful. I read their road tests (they sometimes cover practical things that a "car buff" review might not mention--e.g. is it easy to find/use the LATCH anchors for a child seat?), but the most useful thing they publish is their owner-supplied reliability info on various models. I don't much care how they rack/stack cars against each other, but a glance at the owner reports of frequency of trouble with various car sub-systems is useful. If there's a solid black dot in the categories for transmission, electrical, engine, air conditioning, etc, that's a significant indicator that I don't want that model or related ones (or I want to buy it very cheaply).

I haven't found similar long-range reliability info elsewhere. The "new car owners satisfaction surveys" would be okay I guess if I only planned to keep a car for a year.

I also look at the IIHS site for crash-test info (link) and for injury statistics (link -- understanding that a lot more factors influence these than the crashworthiness of the vehicle). In my youth I didn't bother to look at the safety info, but I check now. Seemed kinda dumb to obsess over a car's reliability but not consider the (possibly) much more important issue of how well it protects DW and I in a crash.
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Old 04-12-2014, 07:43 AM   #15
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Truedelta also provides user-based reliability info ... and, it often includes owners' summaries of their repair experiences. Car Reliability Comparisons
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Old 04-12-2014, 08:06 AM   #16
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I think bias through only using CR subscribers is a key flaw. I use it as a guide only. I buy used and I find Hondas to be too expensive probably due to their reputation.
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Old 04-12-2014, 08:22 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by Texas Proud View Post
Not all people put reliability at the top of their list...

Jeep is a perfect example.... not reliable, but if you want to go to the back country it will get you there where very few others would come close...


Corvette is another.... big muscle car, great handling etc. etc...


What about BMW.... people will pay a huge price for a car that is not very reliable, but they seem to love them...


That is why a car can be #2.... they do the things a car needs to do and does it well...

The Corvette reputation for reliability problems was well earned and deserved by earlier models. Corvettes built since the 5th generation model was introduced in 1998 have been much better. My 2002 ZO6 Corvette has been extremely reliable.

I used to read and even liked CR. Recently they seem to be overly impressed with high tech gadgets.
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Old 04-12-2014, 09:10 AM   #18
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I used to do a lot of customer satisfaction analysis in my old j*b at MegaMotors. One thing that amazed me was how a vehicle built on the same assembly line from 99.9% of the same parts could have such different satisfaction among owners of the three brands that it was sold under. The "Japanese" brand was the most favored. So, needless to say there is an error band around these ratings, but CU doesn't tell you what they are.
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Old 04-12-2014, 09:23 AM   #19
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I used to do a lot of customer satisfaction analysis in my old j*b at MegaMotors. One thing that amazed me was how a vehicle built on the same assembly line from 99.9% of the same parts could have such different satisfaction among owners of the three brands that it was sold under. The "Japanese" brand was the most favored. So, needless to say there is an error band around these ratings, but CU doesn't tell you what they are.
+1. I don't recall if it was CU or not, but I remember seeing drastically different reliability ratings for the Dodge Caravan and the Dodge Grand Caravan. The Grand just had an extended body (~ 1'?), and everything else was the same.

It's easy for people to forget the problems they have with a product they 'love', and will remember every little problem with something they hate for other reasons.

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Old 04-12-2014, 11:54 AM   #20
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I use to work with a guy who raved about his new car (an import) but I noticed over time that he was gone quite a bit to have his car "serviced". I asked him about it and he was able to come up with some rationalization (I don't remember what exactly) about why he was having various problems - but the car was still a "wonderful" car.

I came to suspect that the results of car owners surveys may not be all their cracked up to be.
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