Talk to most electric car owners about the benefits associated with dumping the pump for a plug, and they’ll tell you that their electric car requires far less servicing and maintenance than a comparable electric car. They also have cheaper day-to-day running costs, making them an economical choice for long-term vehicle ownership.
Consequently, you’d be forgiven for thinking that U.S. independent test agency Consumer Reports would naturally recommend electric cars over internal combustion cars ones when it comes to reliability, especially considering the fact there’s far less to go wrong in an electric car than a gasoline or diesel-powered vehicle.
But now, for the second time in recent memory, Consumer Reports has named and shamed two electric cars as having lower-than-average reliability, earning both a dishonorable mention in its “Used Cars to Avoid Buying” list in this month’s Consumer Reports magazine. The two cars in question? Early (2014 model-year) BMW i3 electric cars as well as 2013 model-year Nissan LEAFs.
Joining the Tesla Model S — which, despite its exemplary after sales service had its coveted Consumer Reports recommended designation revoked by the magazine back in October following a ‘worse-than-average’ score in its Annual Auto Reliability Survey — early examples of the BMW i3 are singled out for having more problems than most cars of a similar age.
Sadly, Consumer Reports didn’t go into many details, but it’s fair to note here that the 2014 BMW i3 — like the 2013 Nissan LEAF — were listed as being cars with worse than average reliability scores. Other model year versions of the BMW i3 and Nissan LEAF were not listed, meaning Consumer Reports isn’t advising against the models per say, just those specific model years.
As our friends at GreenCarReports note, the BMW i3 wasn’t the only car from the German automaker to make it onto the ‘avoid’ list: in total, six of the different models made by BMW between 2006 and 2015 (the time period covered by the list) are listed as being vehicles you should avoid. 2006 through 2008, 2010 through 2012 and 2015 model year examples of the BMW 5-series meanwhile, are listed as having “much-worse-than-average” reliability scores, making them the cars you should really avoid buying on the used car lot.
As for Nissan? It too had plenty of cars listed — nine models of various model-year cars including the LEAF are listed as having less-than-average scores — while the 2013 through 2014 Nissan Pathfinder was listed as having much worse-than-average reliability.
The Tesla Model S fared worst though, with its reliability rating now downgraded again to much-worse-than-average for 2012, 2013 and 2015 model year examples.
Should you run for the hills if you see any of these cars listed for sale online or happen across them on a used car lot? Not necessarily.
For what it’s worth, we’ve been around cars enough to know that every single make and model has a bad period of reliability during production. Moreover, we’ve owned what many call a “Friday car” in the form of our now-sold 2013 Chevrolet Volt. While the Chevrolet Volt has a generally positive reputation when it comes to reliability, our particular model year car was anything but, causing us at one point to joke in a staff car report that it was ‘haunted for halloween.’
To put it bluntly, buying a used car is always something of a lottery, and the reliability of the car you end up buying may very well be an unknown. But while you can’t go back in time to make sure the previous owner took care of their car, there are some things you can do to ensure your car is as good as it can be.
First, if you’re buying from a dealer, be sure to check the dealer’s reputation before buying. If you’re buying from a private vendor, ask them if you can bring a verified, independent expert with you (or someone who happens to know the car you’re looking at pretty well).
Second, always double-check service records and service schedules. A regularly serviced car will generally be more reliable than one which hasn’t been to the dealer much.
Third, check the car hasn’t got any outstanding warranty or recall items pending on it. Most dealers will check that for you free of charge if you give them the car’s VIN details, and the SaferCar.gov website also offers a free recall checker.
Finally, do your homework first by spending time talking to people who already own a car identical to one you’re looking to buy. Ask questions, and find out what some of the common faults are. Make-and-model specific owner forums and clubs are a great way to start that research process. Armed with the knowledge of what to look out for, your test drive and vehicle inspection should help you weed out any cars that have less than stellar reliability.
Do you own any of the cars listed by Consumer Reports as being unreliable? Have you experienced any problems to date?
Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.
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