By Anthony Santiago - Editor-in-Chief

July 28, 2022
What Used Car Brands to Avoid

What Used Car Brands to Avoid

Buying used cars has never been easier. But with so many choices, how do you find the car that will last for years?

There are lots of great reasons why buying used cars is a smart move, but most people just aren't aware of them. In this article, we will cover the worst used cars to consider and how to choose the right used car brands to buy from.

I've done extensive research on the top 20 used car brands and found that each of them have issues but there are some that outperform others.  If you want to get the most value out of your next used car purchase, then read this article first. It'll tell you exactly which used car brands to avoid and which ones to buy from.

What Are the Most Reliable Car Brands Vs the Least Reliable? 

Consumer Reports recently published its annual list of the best and worst car brands. For many years, the magazine named Toyota the best brand overall. Here's what CR had to say about Toyota Motor Corp.

Reliable Brand: Toyota and Lexus

In 2016, Toyota's reputation took a beating following reports that its vehicles were prone to sudden acceleration incidents. In 2017, however, the automaker regained consumer confidence with a string of recalls and improvements to its safety systems. And now, according to CR, Toyota has once again become the industry leader. 

Lexus is also a top reliable brand. They continue to score well with customers. 

Reliable Brand: Hyundai and Kia 

Korea is known for its quality cars in the past few years. Gone are the days of econo cars and low quality materials. Kia and Hyundai are two popular Korean car companies. Both are reliable, affordable, and offer great value.

Both Kia and Hyundai are well respected among consumers because of their reliability and affordability. They're also very competitively priced. Hyundai and Kia are not only great choices for families looking for a dependable vehicle, but they're also great options for those who need a great value car.

Now, virtually every car manufacturer has models that face recalls, mechanical or electrical issues. There might be an issue with defective materials or water intrusion. In this article, we will cover our list of used cars to avoid. 

NOTE: If you do have a car on this list, it's not all doom and gloom. Issues have been well documented in order to repair. Just keep that in mind when shopping for your car.  

A Note About Used Cars to Avoid 

The used car market is full of myths and misconceptions. Here are some things you should know about buying a pre-owned vehicle.

A Used Car Is Less Reliable Than New - FALSE

A lot of people think that buying a used car is less reliable than purchasing a brand new one. This is simply not true. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Toyotas and Hondas last a long time with proper maintenance.

You Can Get Better Gas Mileage From A Pre-Owned Vehicle - FALSE

Many people believe that gas mileage decreases over time. However, there are many factors that affect how much fuel a vehicle uses, including maintenance, driving habits, and even weather conditions. However, new cars typically are engineered to be more efficient with gas. This is especially true with the new low rolling resistance tires

Here's a Short List of Vehicles You Should Avoid:

What Used Car Brands to Avoid

Cadillac Escalade

The past Escalade has been plagued with massive chronic problems coupled with various suspension issues, limited and expensive spares, and the turning circle like a boat.

Between 2015 and 2016, Cadillac’s flagship SUV was hit hard by consumer complaints. Owners complained about the transmission and powertrain, body components and paint/finish issues in '15 models. Meanwhile, the '16 model improved upon some of those problems but failed in power equipment reliability and audio systems. Consumers reported that the vehicle had trouble shifting gears and that it was difficult to hear anything over the noise coming from the stereo.

In fact, Consumer Reports says to avoid both vehicles at all costs.

What Used Car Brands to Avoid - Mercedes-Benz GL

Mercedes-Benz GL

There are several common problems associated with cars, including Mercedes-Benz GL models. Some of them are minor issues while others can be very serious.

For example, internal components failure may cause rough shifting. This problem occurs when the transmission fails to shift gears smoothly. The result is jerky acceleration and braking. Another issue is soft braking components. These are brake pads and rotors that wear down over time. They become less effective and eventually stop working altogether. Soft brakes may cause the vehicle to slow down unexpectedly. In severe cases, the brakes may even lock up completely.

Oil leaks from PCV vent housings and inspection plates. This happens when oil gets trapped inside the housing where it collects and drips onto the ground.

Cracked driveshaft flex discs may cause driveshaft movement/vibration. This happens when the drive shaft bends or vibrates due to excessive torque.

These are just a few examples of common Mercedes-Benz GL problems.

What Used Car Brands to Avoid - Nissan Pathfinder

Nissan Pathfinder

Nissan Pathfinder owners often complain about the vehicle's reliability. The problem is that the Pathfinder is built on the same platform as other vehicles, including the Altima, Murano, Versa, Sentra, and Maxima. So, while the Pathfinder is a reliable vehicle, it shares its platform with less-reliable models.

There are several common problems with the Pathfinder. Here are some of the most common ones.

Most common Nissan Pathfinder problem is transmission failure. This happens when the fluid leaks out of the transmission. This issue occurs when the coolant level sensor malfunctions. Coolant is used to lubricate the transmission. When the coolant level sensor fails, the transmission overheats and eventually breaks down.

Another common Nissan Pathfinder problem is worn timing chain. This happens when the timing chain wears out prematurely. The timing chain connects the crankshaft to the camshafts. It controls the opening and closing of valves within the cylinders. As the timing chain wears out, the valves open and close later than normal. This causes the engine to run leaner, which reduces fuel efficiency.

Yet another common Nissan Pathfinder problem is leakage of fuel into the engine. This happens when the fuel pump fails. The fuel pump is responsible for pumping fuel through the system. When the fuel pump fails, the engine runs dry.

I used to love the Nissan Pathfinder but Nissan's reliability has been spotty for me since owning a few Maximas in the past. 

What Used Car Brands - Chrysler PT Cruiser to Avoid

Chrysler PT Cruiser 

Chrysler PT Cruisers were made from 2001-2010. They initially had a reputation for being reliable cars, but as time went on, there were several common problems associated with PT Cruisers.

There were starting issues with PT Cruisers. PT Cruisers often have issues with starting the car. The 2001 model was the first model to include a large number of defects. That year the battery charger and engine were afflicted by the models, producing many issues. The worst issue by far was involved with the PT Cruiser 2006, receiving over dozens of complaints regarding engine issues.

PT Cruiser 2003 and 2005 were some of the moderate years. The engine stalling, the check engine light remaining on, and camshaft position sensor problems were common among many of these models. Chrysler recalled close to 1.3 million vehicles in 2007 due to a faulty cruise control deactivation switch. This problem caused the engine to stall while driving.

We would recommend avoiding the PT Cruiser for something more reliable.

What Used Car Brands - BMW 5 Series to Avoid

BMW 5 Series

I love BMWs but the e60 model or the 5 series had a lot of issues. My own 525i suffered from a bad transmission that required a new megatronic and solenoids that was quoted at $3,000. Yikes!

The BMW 5 series is a well-known and popular car. However, it does have its share of problems. The transmission is often unreliable, as are the water pump and thermostat. Sunroof leaks are also common, as is the timing chain. While these issues can be expensive to fix, they are not insurmountable. Many BMW 5 series owners have had good experiences with their cars, despite these problems.

It's a love and hate relationship with BMW. But as a car guy, I still LOVE BMW. If you can wrench on your own they are a blast to drive but a little heavy on the wallet. You have been warned! 

What Used Car Brands to Avoid - Volkswagen Tiguan

Volkswagen Tiguan

Volkswagen’s Tiguan was very unreliable during its initial launch. But it became much better after 2015. Now, the automaker is preparing a completely new model for 2018. It does have a history of bad engines. 

My neighbor had to get rid of hers after sitting for months because of engine failure. The quote from the trusted VW Indie shop was a whopping $5,000. 

Furthermore, Volkswagen Tiguan owners have been experiencing a wide range of problems with their vehicles, including engine stalling, hesitation when accelerating, and timing chain failure. Some drivers have also reported carbon buildup and excessive oil consumption.

While Volkswagen has issued a number of recalls for the Tiguan, many owners say that the fixes offered by the company have not solved the underlying issues. Some drivers have even taken their vehicles to independent mechanics, only to find that the same problems persist. As a result, many Tiguan owners feel that they have been left with defective cars that are costly and difficult to repair. 

I love the look but if you encounter any mechanical issues it can be quite painful.

What Used Car Brands - GMC Acadia to Avoid

GMC Acadia

Unfortunately, the GMC Acadia is one of the most unreliable SUVs ever produced. In fact, it ranks as one of the worst vehicles ever sold. The model was introduced in 2010 and lasted until 2017. Over its lifespan, there were several generations of the vehicle.

In addition to being unreliable, the Acadia had numerous safety issues. On August 23, 2016, General Motors announced a recall of the 2013–2015 Acadia due to a problem with the front passenger airbag inflator. A total of 2,739 units were affected.

As for the most common issues, it seems to be with the transmission, coolant system, and driveshaft. There have also been reports of fuel pump leaks.

One problem that seems to be affecting many Acadias is transmission failure. Acadia owners have also said that the transmission is problematic, including rough shifts and improper gear changes.

Another issue that has been reported is driveshaft detachment. This seems to be caused by a faulty weld on the shaft, and can lead to loss of power and even accidents.

Finally, there have been reports of fuel pump leaks on some Acadia models.

What Used Car Brands - Lincoln MKZ to Avoid

Lincoln MKZ

The 2016 Lincoln MKZ is one of the most anticipated vehicles of the year. With a price tag starting at $40,000, it’s no wonder why. But does it live up to the hype? 

Unfortunately, there are some issues. There have been complaints about Lincoln MKZ problems from drivers across the country. Many people have reported issues with power steering fluid leaks, hard shifts and transmission slips, and coolant leaks from the heater core.

Some owners have even reported that their car has stalled out on them.

While the design of the Lincoln MKZ is beautiful, it's only skin deep. With other options, you might be better off looking at other more reliable makes and models. 

What Used Car Brands to Avoid - Land Rover LR2 (2015)

Land Rover LR2 (2015)

The LR2 is one of the best SUVs you can buy today. But it's not perfect. In fact, there are some things about the LR2 that make it unreliable.

Land Rover LR2 owners have been experiencing a number of problems with their vehicles, including air suspension failures, electrical issues, oil leaks, and sunroof leaks. In some cases, the steering has also been reported to be problematic. Additionally, there have been several reports of airbag failures.

Definitely stay away from 2015 models as these were reported to have the most issues. Land Rover LR2's main issues seem to be failure to shift gears, leaking fluid, slipping gears, and a general grinding and shaking feeling. Some people have even reported that their cars have caught on fire. Affected drivers are stuck with cars that are potentially dangerous and not worth the price tag.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, we know that buying a car is a huge decision, which is why we want to help you avoid the brands that aren't worth your hard earned cash. We've done our homework and found the top 10 worst car brands and models out there. 

So whether you're shopping for a used vehicle or planning to buy a brand new model, these are the cars you definitely shouldn't buy. Good luck with your search!

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Anthony Santiago - Editor-in-Chief

About the author

I am a passionate car enthusiast who likes to help people save money and avoid headaches when it comes to cars. I believe that everyone can find the right car at the right price. I share my tips and experience so you can learn quickly and maximize your next SUV, truck or car purchase.

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