Buying a used vehicle might save you money in the short-term but an unreliable choice could cause expensive repairs to outweigh the cost benefit. Consumer Reports has spent years collecting ratings for used cars and sharing which are the most poorly-rated vehicles with over 20,000 miles. If you’re thinking of buying used, even some of the most trusted higher-end brands have had issues with certain model years, which we’ve clearly listed. Even Tesla hasn’t been immune from “don’t buy” ratings. Here are the top used cars that are almost guaranteed to end up being a money pit.
Jeep Grand Cherokee: 2007, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016
Jeep loves to talk about its vehicles’ off-road capabilities but several models should just stay off the roadways in general. The company’s reliability scores plummeted in 2007 and then followed the same pattern from 2011 through 2014 and again in 2016.
While other years are generally considered decent buys, the years listed above were plagued with issues including a power module that has failed for many buyers. If you want a Jeep, avoid the model years listed.
Chrysler Town & Country: 2008 Through 2012
The Chrysler Town & Country didn’t fare well from 2009 through 2012. Consumers reported various issues with these particular models. In general, the Town & Country offered some decent model years outside of the most troubling times.
If you’re looking for a newer minivan, the Chrysler Pacifica has been rated decently by consumers, although models from Honda often score higher for reliability, safety, and driving performance. Your mileage may vary with the models listed above, but why take the chance?
BMW X5: 2011 Through 2014
The BMW X5 was supposed to be a fun car to drive. Instead, from 2011 through 2014, buyers complained about various performance issues that ranged from climate control to engine parts issues and defective fuel systems.
The 2011 and 2012 models were listed worst out of the bunch while a downgraded buy rating was provided for 2013 and 2014. With any high-performance vehicle the engine and body tend to get taxed, and with problems happening even before these vehicles are stressed, we recommend avoiding the model years listed above.
Ford Fiesta: 2011 Through 2014
The Ford Fiesta will likely become your own personal money pit if you buy models ranging from 2011 through 2014. In fact, this make and model was ranked worst in performance for its segment.
Issues you’ll likely sink your money into fixing include the car’s lousy transmission, a weak body that will wear down quickly, and an audio system that’s known to break down way faster than it should. In general, you should avoid compact vehicles from Ford. You’ve been warned.
Fiat 500: 2012, 2013, 2015
Fiat-Chrysler routinely ranks poorly with Consumer Reports and for that reason we highly recommend avoid used vehicles from the company. Even if you love their autos, you should avoid the Fiat 500 from 2012, 2013, and 2015.
Among its many issues, the Fiat 500 experiences problems with the brakes, power equipment, and suspension. It also has a lousy finish that will leave you with expensive repairs even if you take care of the vehicle like it was purchased brand new off the lot.
Ford Focus: 2012 Through 2016
The Ford Focus was one of the top-rated cars in its class heading into the 2010s but the company’s fan-favorite quickly fell out of favor with Consumer Reports and buyers. The Ford Focus’ 2012 through 2016 models are the used car options to avoid.
The biggest problem with models from those years revolves around costly transmission repairs that are sure to claw back the money you saved by purchasing a used vehicle. It’s sad because, like many buyers and reviewers, we really loved this model before it became a money pit.
Ram 1500: 2014, 2016
The Ram 1500 has been a big success for Dodge and more than a decade of sales have proven that this model is a solid choice. However, the company’s 2014 and 2016 models were given the “never buy” rating after scoring poorly for some costly issues.
If you buy a 2014 or 2016 Ram 1500, be prepared for possible brake system and power component failures. We quickly shy away with anything power-related given the high costs of fixing many electrical issues.
Volkswagen Jetta: 2010 Through 2016
The Volkswagen Jetta didn’t fare well in the 2010s. Poor reviews and consumer ratings specifically plagued the company’s 2010 through 2016 models. The list of failures with this model should be enough to scare you away from buying those years used.
If you decide to buy one of the year models listed you should be prepared to pay for fixes to the car’s power equipment, interior finish, and the audio system. Climate control systems have also had issues in this make and model.
Ford F-250: 2008, 2010, 2014
In general, there are plenty of great things to say about the Ford F-Series lineup. Sadly, those compliments don’t spill over into 2008, 2010, or 2014 models.
The Super Duty (F-250) models from the years listed featured a whole host of failures ranging from powertrain issues and brake control system failures to fuel system breakdowns and more. If you need to buy a workhorse vehicle, you’re better off buying a Super Duty from any year not listed.
Tesla Model X: 2016
Consumer Reports had to change its rating system to accommodate advances Tesla has made in safety and other standards. With that being said, the 2016 Tesla Model X was flawed, and consumers were not afraid to share their issues on social media.
Among the many issues listed for the 2016 Tesla Model X were poorly designed falcon-wing doors and a handful of general reliability issues. With advances Tesla has made in recent years you’re better off looking for a slightly newer model that meets the company’s usually high standards for quality.
Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD: 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016
Ford, Dodge, Chevy… it turns out the “heavy-duty” moniker given to trucks doesn’t always mean they stand up to a beating without experiencing issues. The 2015 and 2016 Chevy Silverado models scored lower in Consumer Reports testing than other models from the company.
Among the issues that you’re likely to pay for are suspension problems that have plagued both model years. Keep in mind there are also many reports of cabinet noise leaks which will require attention. This particular vehicle has also experienced brake issues and fuel system problems.
Volkswagen Jetta: 2011 Through 2016
Volkswagen’s Jetta has been its most popular model in the United States, which is pretty shocking given all the problems the vehicle experienced from 2011 through 2016.
The most frequently-reported issues focus on power equipment, which we already noted can be some of the most expensive components to fix on your vehicle. Among the reported power issues are problems with windows and cruise control. The Jetta 2010 model also had problems with climate control, although fewer issues were reported.
Cadillac Escalade: 2015, 2016
While the Cadillac Escalade is a very popular SUV, the vehicle has been plagued with problems for years, and reliability rates have often ranked well below other vehicles. The Escalade plummeted in Consumer Reports ratings even more in 2015 and 2016.
Powertrain issues, paint and finish quality complaints, and transmissions issues were all reported. Each of those issues can cost hundreds and even thousands of dollars to repair. You may save big, thanks to a high depreciation value for the Escalade lineup, but you’ll likely pay for it with costly repairs.
Chrysler PT Cruiser: 2006 Through 2008
The Chrysler PT Cruiser has the dubious honor of being one of the ugliest cars on our list to go along with reliability issues that hurt the car’s rankings from 2006 through 2008.
Among the issues that consumers had with their vehicles were transmission and braking problems. As the vehicle has aged, handling issues and some climate control problems were also reported. Throw in the fact that buying a car that’s more than a decade old is pretty much the same thing as throwing your money away, and the PT Cruiser is an obvious vehicle to avoid.
Chevrolet Suburban: 2007, 2008, 2014, 2016
The Chevrolet Suburban is a big vehicle with a lot of power. Sadly, it was also a big vehicle hit by a lot of issues for the 2014 and 2016 model years. It may seem like an appealing used vehicle purchase but check out all of the issues you might experience first.
In those two years, consumers for the Chevrolet Suburban reported problems with its power windows, audio system, and finish. Most of those issues won’t cost nearly as much as other repairs on our list but it’s still money you’re throwing away when you now know better.
Audi Q7: 2015
It was pretty shocking to see the Audi Q7 take a hit with Consumer Reports in 2015. This particular model had ranked well for years and it appears to be poised for another great release. Sadly, this particular year is one to avoid on the used car market.
If you do pull the trigger on this used vehicle you can expect issues with its brake system, body integrity, and audio components. Just two years later, the vehicle was scoring high marks again. If you have the choice, buy a model that was released before or after 2015.
Dodge Charger: 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015
Fiat Chrysler continues to top Consumer Reports lists for unreliable vehicles and it’s often a matter of year selection. Take for example the Dodge Charger, which has ranked well in some years but not others. In this case, you’ll want to avoid 2011, 2012, 2014, and 2015 models.
We won’t dive into all the issues with these particular years but instead we’ll note that recalls were the norm and let’s be honest, many car owners don’t follow recommended recall visits. If you buy a Dodge Challenger from these model years, prepare to open your pocketbook.
Nissan Pathfinder: 2013, 2014
If you’re looking for a Nissan Pathfinder on the used market there’s a good chance you’ll run into a 2013 or 2014 model. This was a popular vehicle for the two years listed; sadly, those were also the two worst years in terms of reliability.
Recalls kept flying in on these vehicles with issues that include braking and airbag failure. That means not only are these model years likely to cost you money because of reliability, they could also put your life in danger. Consumer Reports listed these model years in the top 10 worst buys of their respective years.
Mercedes GL: 2013 Through 2015
From 2013 through 2015, the Mercedes-Benz GL utility models were plagued with problems that downranked a typically reliable manufacturer. We found these models listed for upwards of $30,000 which is a pretty high price to pay on top of likely repairs.
In general, we find the E-Class and S-Class models to be a better buy. If you’re in the market for an SUV, look at model years after 2015. You’ll pay a little more upfront but the reliability is worth the chance of avoiding hidden costs.
BMW 5 Series: 2008, 2011, 2012
You’re going to pay a premium for a BMW, even when buying used. For that reason we recommend avoiding 2008, 2011, 2012 models of the 5 series lineup. The issues with these vehicles could cost you money or waste your time dealing with recalls.
The 5 series models from those years were recalled because of fuel leaks and stalling issues which could also affect your safety. Other common issues from those years include power failures due to poorly designed electrical systems. If you had your heart set on a used BMW 5 series, look for a model outside of the years listed.
Audi A4: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2014
The Audi A4 has performed well in recent years but leading up to the last decade, the vehicle was plagued with issues that caused low reliability ranking with Consumer Reports. Recalls for various problems were issued during the listed model years.
The Audi A4 appears to have overcome its reliability issues throughout the 2010s, with the notable exception of the 2014 model which downranked once again due to various issues reported by buyers. Outside of these model years, the Audi A4 is generally considered a reliable vehicle.
GMC Acadia: 2007 Through 2014
GMC has been hit with numerous issues across its various models, and the GMC Acadia is probably the worst of the worst. Consumer Reports specifically had issues with the GMC Acadia from 2007 through 2014.
How bad was it? Transmission issues seemed to be the rule and not the exception. Drivetrain problems plagued this vehicle and climate systems were known to break down regularly. Basically, never buy a used GMC Acadia because you’ll end up with a money pit you’ll regret.
Mini Cooper: 2007 Through 2011
The Mini Cooper lineup is a lot of fun… if you’re a spy in Italy and you need to get away from bad guys by flying down a flight of stairs. It’s not so much fun if you don’t like throwing money away, specifically with 2007 through 2011 models.
The issues with the listed model years include failures with the vehicle’s clutch and turbocharger. You can also expect exhaust rattling and tailgates that failed more than the company would like to admit.
Dodge Journey: 2009, 2012, 2015
As we previously noted, Dodge hasn’t fared well in reliability ratings with Consumer Reports, and the Dodge Journey models for 2009, 2012, and 2015 are among the company’s worst. If you’re looking for a used vehicle we recommend completely avoiding those model years.
If you do purchase a Dodge Journey from those model years you should be prepared for costly repairs. Among the vehicles’ issues are engine and suspension troubles and audio breakdowns. Honestly, it’s just not worth the long-term costs to buy these models used.
Chevrolet Cruze: 2001 Through 2013
From 2001 through 2013 the Chevrolet Cruze managed to remain in production despite a ton of reliability issues that annoyed customers and led to poor Consumer Reports reliability ratings.
Consumer Reports revealed various transmission, body integrity, engine cooling, and climate control issues. If you love the Cruze, check out models after 2013 which showed a surprising amount of improvement. Remember, a good deal on a used vehicle is only worth the deal if the long-term costs don’t outweigh your immediate savings.