If you’re in the market for a used car there are certain vehicles that you may want to avoid, given the reputation these cars have earned among their owners. Number of issues, severity of issues, and price to repair earn negative reviews from owners and industry insiders for the seven models on our list.
We’ve mentioned our friends over at the Long-Term Quality Index who track used cars as they move from trade-in through auction and resale, and accumulate data about the types of problems cars have when they’re off-loaded by their original owners.
These aren’t the only cars that used car dealers avoid. Older Chrysler models with defective 2.7 L engines, older Suzukis and Kias, and the rounded late ‘90s Ford Tauruses go straight into the crusher once problems have been identified. There are also a few other vehicles that are likely candidates for the list (Mercury Mystique, Isuzu Axiom, Suzuki Verona) but because the relative low new car sales of these models there’s not enough used car data to make a conclusion.
7. 2004 – 2008 Mazda RX-8
Reliability issues with the with the 1.3 L Renesis rotary engine prompted Mazda North American Operations to extend the engine warranty on all model year 2004-2008 RX-8 sport coupes. The warranty extension covers only the engine core which consists of the rotor housing and internal parts as well as the seals and gaskets. It does not include clutch or drive train (transmission or differential). The warranty was extended to 8 years and 100,000 miles for all 2004 – 2008 models. Unfortunately, a lot of RX-8s that had engine issues past that warranty period are being kicked to the curb by their owners.
6. 2000 – 2006 Lincoln LS
The Lincoln LS was one of the first recipients of Ford’s then brand-new 5R55E computer-controlled five-speed automatic transmission, the first to be employed by a US automaker. Unfortunately, there were plenty of bugs left in the transmission when installed in the Lincoln that could cause hard shifting while driving and waits of up to 10 seconds for reverse to engine. Out-of-warranty replacements cost in the thousands of dollars for parts and labor. Further the LS featured a version of the Jaguar-developed aluminum AJ V8 engine. There were initial problems with ignition coils but also ongoing problems with timing chains that if not maintained properly could lead to catastrophic failure.
5. 2004 – 2008 Suzuki Forenza
Thankfully the Forenza had a very short lifespan, as there wasn’t much to recommend it. The drivetrain cam from Korean-manufacturer Daewoo, and was chock full of issues that range from fuel injection systems that seem to have issues with about every component (including critical injectors and throttle bodies). Owners complained of shoddy workmanship and of the scarcity of repair parts, made only worse by the fact that Suzuki has departed the US market as a carmaker. This a car we’d pass on if it were given to us free with five $100 bills tucked under the windshield wipers.
4. 1989 – 2004 Land Rover Discovery
This is a premium vehicle and one considering the purchase of a premium need to take into account that parts and service will be expensive. While that alone doesn’t make the Land Rover Discovery different than other luxury brands, its the frequency with which the vehicles needs to be services. Most vexing of all are the electrics. Complaints of batteries going flat in a matter of weeks and frequent alternator replacements – often because the dealer couldn’t trace the problems. The internet is rife with stories of electrical components operating (or not ) spontaneously and then behaving again without a trace of the problem. Unless you’re an PhD Electrical Engineer looking for a time-consuming hobby, steer clear.
3. 2001 – 2006 Mini Cooper
First, under no circumstances should one purchase a 2001- 2006 Mini with the CVT automatic transmission. It has been so problematic that it was actually the subject of a sizeable class-action lawsuit by owners against Mini (actually, owners BMW). On early 2002-2003 model years, there is a potential for the fan that cools the power steering pump to go out, causing the pump to overheat and fail. This is an expensive repair if the pump goes out. If you are considering purchasing an S model with the supercharger, you should confirm (with hard copies) that the supercharger was rebuilt around the 100K mile mark, as it can fail and damage both itself and the engine. The 2002-2006 model year Mini Coopers also have a known defect where the front strut tower will bend, and eventually fail. This is an incredibly serious, and more common in the S model with the firmer suspension and low profile tires.
2. 1997 – 2014 Land Rover Freelander
Unreliability plus expensive parts and labor rates are not a good combination, but that’s what you get when you buy a used Land Rover Freelander. Problems can range from a timing belt pully failing (even though the timing belt might just have been replaced) requiring an entirely new engine ($5K – $6K), transmissions that seize without warning ($3K), Head gasket failures that can run from a rebuild to a full engine replacement to repair. Issues with brake rotor and pad wear, and the list goes on. Run away, run!
1. 1994 – 2002 Mazda Millenia
Mazda Motor Corporation had planned on launching its own luxury brand to go head-to-head with Lexus and Infiniti. The program was cancelled but Mazda had already developed the Millenia for the planned Amati brand. In order to differentiate the car from lesser Mazdas, technology like a Miller-cycle V6 was used. This scared customers off then, though the similar Atkinson cycle has become common today. Leaking seals in the supercharger caused excessive oil consumption, while leaky valve cover gaskets fouled spark plugs and shorted the ignition. Worst were head gasket failures that given the precipitous drop in resale prices after just a few years made the car cheaper to scrap than repair.