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Debunking Car-Buying Myths

Top Five Myths about New Car Reliability

Choosing which car to buy from among the hundreds of models, name plates and pricing structures available in today’s crowded marketplace can be confusing — even to knowledgeable shoppers.

"Many people think that a car design in its first year is more likely to have problems — and they're right."

To streamline the process, auto expert Michael Karesh has developed a unique website that collects and analyzes reliability data from vehicle owners. While others provide annual reliability results, Karesh's website,, is the first site to provide timely, reliable, real-world results on a quarterly basis.

While gathering and working with vehicle reliability data, Karesh has stumbled upon some common misconceptions.

"People go into the car buying process with a lot of myths about vehicle reliability," Karesh said. "Understanding the truth behind these misconceptions is important when purchasing a new vehicle."

1) You can judge a car’s reliability from its brand or origin
"You cannot assume a car is good because it's Japanese and bad if it's American or European," he said. Some Asian models have experienced significant problems, and some American models are requiring few repairs. Consumers should avoid a stereotype unless it is backed by real-world data.

2) If you maintain a car well, you will avoid most problems
Adhering to the recommended service schedule will prevent engine and transmission problems, and make a car last longer. However, many of the annoying things that can go wrong with a car are not things that can be serviced. Both audio systems and power window motors commonly fail, no matter how often you change the oil. Reliability data can help pinpoint potential problem areas and consumers should learn to look at data with an eye toward problem-area trends.

3) Cars differ greatly in reliability
Other reliability data implies that car models differ greatly in reliability, that some never require repairs while others are in the shop "all the time." "In reality, most differences are much smaller than people think," Karesh said. "Only the least reliable models average more than one repair trip a year."

4) If a car has one problem, it will have many more
Many people think that a car with problems was assembled on a bad day when only lemons came off the assembly line, but the fact is that a car is made up of thousands of separate parts manu-factured by many different suppliers. If a power window fails, it's a totally different issue than the transmission going out.

"The human mind likes to draw causation between two parts when there is no causation," he said. "Previous problems don't predict future problems."

5) It’s possible to avoid a lemon by buying the right brand
It's possible to get a lemon with any car. Reliability varies from car to car and with any model it's possible to get one that requires no repairs in the first five years of ownership. It's also possible to get one that truly is in the shop "all the time." With just about any model you’re more likely to get a perfect car than you are to get a lemon. People don’t realize this because bad news tends to spread farther and faster than good news.

And one non-myth:

6) New designs are more likely to have problems
Many people think that a car design in its first year is more likely to have problems — and they're right. TrueDelta's data indicates that reliability can be worse in a model's first year. However, reliability often improves a lot during the first model year, as manufacturers make running improvements.  

(Source: TrueDelta