What Used Cars to Avoid? Discover These Problematic Models and Brands

Author: Patrick Oziegbe
Updated On:

Buckle up because the road ahead can be bumpy when buying a used car. You want to avoid ending up with a lemon that leaves you stranded on the side of the road or costs you a fortune in repairs.

Unfortunately, some used cars out there are just not worth the risk, no matter how appealing they may seem.

But fear not; we’re here to steer you in the right direction. This article will reveal the used cars you should avoid, like the plague, and explain why.

So, fasten your seatbelt and get ready to dodge the pitfalls of the used car market – your wallet and sanity will thank you.

Understanding Car Reliability

When considering a used car, it’s essential to understand its reliability. Used vehicle reliability refers to how likely a vehicle will experience malfunctions and need repairs. 

You can find reliability ratings from sources like Consumer Reports and J.D. Power.

These ratings are based on reliability data collected from actual owners and analyze various aspects of a car’s performance. A higher reliability score means fewer potential issues, ultimately saving you time and money in the long run.

So, while browsing used cars online or offline, prioritize reliability to ensure a smooth and enjoyable ownership experience.

What Used Cars to Avoid

Brands to Watch Out For

Kia Used Cars

Kia has significantly improved recently, but some older models may still need to improve reliability.

Specifically, the Kia Soul has had problems with the engine, transmission, and electrical system. It’s a good idea to research specific models and years before purchasing a used Kia.

Nissan Used Cars

Nissan vehicles are known for their affordability, but there might be better choices regarding reliability.

For instance, the Nissan Pathfinder has had transmission issues that could lead to costly repairs. It’s essential to thoroughly research the particular year and model before deciding.

Chrysler Town & Country

The Chrysler Town & Country has been plagued with transmission and electrical malfunctions. There might be better choices than this minivan if you’re looking for a reliable, used family vehicle.

Jeep Wrangler

While the Jeep Wrangler is known for its off-road capabilities, it may not be the most dependable option for a used car.

Some of the older Wrangler models have had problems with suspension and engine cooling systems, so make sure to do your research on the specific year you’re considering.

Fiat 500

The compact Fiat 500 may look stylish, but its reliability could be better than other used vehicles. Common Fiat 500 issues include electrical and transmission malfunctions, making it a car you should avoid.

Ford Fiesta

While some Ford models are reliable, the Ford Fiesta has had significant reliability problems, particularly in the 2011 to 2014 models.

These vehicles have a history of complaints about transmission and engine issues, so it’s essential to be cautious when considering a used Ford Fiesta.

Kia Soul

As mentioned earlier, the Kia Soul is one of those Kia models with engine, transmission, and electrical system issues. If you’re considering a used Soul, research different years and versions to find the most dependable one.

Mini Cooper

The stylish Mini Cooper has a reputation for being fun to drive, but there may be more reliable choices for used vehicles.

Some common problems include engine, electrical, and cooling malfunctions. It’s crucial to research the specific model and year before making a purchase.

Dodge Journey

The Dodge Journey is another used vehicle to approach with caution. It has been reported to have issues with its electrical and braking systems and poor fuel efficiency, making it a less-than-ideal choice for a used car.

Nissan Pathfinder

As mentioned earlier, the Nissan Pathfinder has experienced issues with its transmission in specific years, which could lead to costly repairs. Be sure to research the specific year you’re interested in before deciding on this used vehicle.

Which Car Companies to Avoid in 2023?

In 2023, there are a few car companies and models to be cautious of when considering a used car purchase.

Here are five car companies to avoid and three key reasons why:


According to Hotcars, the Tesla Model Y and Model 3 have been reported to have issues with body integrity, climate systems, and in-car electronics.

The Model Y SUV shares materials and features with the Tesla Model 3 but needs to improve its handling and reliability.


The Buick Cascada has been reported to have poor resale value and fuel efficiency compared to other cars in its class.


The 2022 Hyundai Kona Electric has a low-reliability rating and may sacrifice overall reliability for fuel efficiency.


The Jeep Wrangler has the lowest overall score in the Consumer Reports 2023 “Best & Worst” buyers guide and did poorly across the board.


The VW Taos has been criticized for being a rebadged version of the Tharu crossover and also has issues with its infotainment system and lackluster engine performance.

Overall, these car companies should be avoided due to issues with reliability, resale value, fuel efficiency, body integrity, climate systems, and in-car electronics.

Safety Considerations

A safe car protects you and your passengers and helps reduce potential stress for emergency responders.

Many vehicles today have advanced safety features like collision avoidance systems, blind-spot monitors, and rearview cameras. 

Choosing a used car with these safety features is wise, especially if it is available within your budget.

However, some older used cars may need more modern safety features or have poor crash test ratings. 

Always research the car’s safety ratings and only purchase vehicles with a history of much-worse-than-average safety records.

What Car Breaks Down Most Often?

Chrysler/Dodge/Plymouth Neon

Knowing which models to avoid is crucial when searching for a used car. One vehicle that stands out for its unreliability is the Chrysler/Dodge/Plymouth Neon.

Consumer Reports stopped recommending this model after a year on the market due to its poor performance and numerous issues.

How does this car’s performance, fuel economy, and engine type contribute to its reputation? 

The Neon came with a four-cylinder engine that might initially seem fuel-efficient. However, its underwhelming performance and lack of durability negate potential savings in fuel economy.

Comparing the Neon to a vehicle with a V8 engine, you might assume that the larger engine would be less fuel-efficient and potentially more prone to problems. 

While that might be true in some cases, the Neon’s poor build quality and engineering make it even more unreliable than many V8-powered cars.

Avoiding Used SUVs and Trucks

Avoiding Used SUVs

When searching for a used SUV, it’s crucial to be cautious of models with known reliability issues. 

For instance, the 2005 Chevy Equinox, the 2002-2005 Saturn Vue CVT VTi, and the 2006-2008 Toyota RAV4 have been reported to have frequent problems.

Choose an SUV with a strong durability reputation and includes features such as all-wheel drive and a third-row seat while remaining budget-friendly.

Avoiding Used Trucks

Selecting the right used truck can be challenging; some models worth avoiding include the 2011-2012 Chevy Suburban and the 2011-2013 Dodge Durango.

Prioritize trucks with a proven track record of reliability, fuel efficiency, and strong towing capabilities. Remember, it’s always best to do thorough research and read reviews before making your final decision.

The Worst Used Cars

Here are some of the worst used cars to avoid in your search.

Ford Fiesta

The Ford Fiesta, particularly from 2011 to 2014, is known for its disappointing reliability performance. While the Ford Focus receives high marks for reliability, the Fiesta’s reputation suffers due to transmission and build quality issues. Be wary if you come across a used Fiesta from these years.

Chevrolet Cruze

The Chevrolet Cruze, particularly the 2011 and 2012 models, has had a history of engine and electrical issues. It’s essential to consider this when searching for a used car. If you’re set on a Cruze, consider a newer model or another make altogether.

Dodge Journey

The Dodge Journey has faced multiple issues, including poor reliability and a lack of standard safety features, which can make it a less appealing option. If you’re in the market for a midsize SUV, steer clear of used Journeys.

Jeep Cherokee

While Jeep is known for its off-roading capabilities, its reliability has recently been questioned. The Jeep Cherokee has had numerous transmission and electrical problems reports, especially among the 2014 to 2017 Cherokee models

Frequently Asked Questions

Which used cars have the most issues?

Some used cars are known for having more issues than others. For instance, the 2011 through 2014 Ford Fiesta models have a disappointing reliability performance. The 2020 Nissan Frontier is another vehicle with a low overall score due to its various problems.

What are standard problem vehicles in the used car market?

Standard problem vehicles in the used car market are those with much-worse-than-average reliability records. An example of such a vehicle is the 2018 Chevrolet Colorado, which has received numerous negative user reviews.

Which used cars have the highest repair costs?

Luxury brands or cars with complex systems can have higher repair costs than other vehicles – research average repair costs for specific makes and models before buying a used car.

What used car has the least amount of problems?

Determining which used car has the most minor problems is challenging, as it largely depends on the specific make, model, and individual vehicle history. However, researching and comparing vehicles with better reliability ratings can help you find a solid choice.

What used car has the worst reliability records?

Some used car makes are known to have poor reliability records. For instance, the Ford Fiesta and Chevrolet Colorado models have been reported to have worse-than-average reliability. Check for specific years and models when searching for a used vehicle.

Are there any used cars with poor safety ratings to avoid?

Yes, some used cars have scored poorly in safety tests and should be avoided. It’s essential to research the safety ratings of the specific used car you’re considering before purchasing.

Check the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) websites for detailed information on safety ratings.


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