This blog contains some simple tips and advice from two regular guys. We're not accountants, financial advisors, or brokers, so follow, ignore, or discuss our ideas as you see fit.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Shopping for a reliable car?

Posted by Matt

I recently read a great article about automobile reliability, a topic that I've been interested in ever since I owned my first car, a 1974 Datsun 610. Granted, it was 14 years old when I bought it and I only drove it for one year, but owning that car tortured me.


  • I once had to yank the battery cables off of the battery to kill the engine when the key didn't work.
  • I almost ran the car through a red light at a busy intersection when the accelerator stuck.
  • Accessories routinely fell off the dashboard.
  • I never could get it to pass the emissions test and finally had to sell it as a "mechanic's special".

(Side note: I was surprised to learn that this car was part of the line that later became the Nissan Maxima.)

Anyway, it was the first of several cheap used cars that I drove in my early days and I always hated having to worry that one day my car was just going to die, as my Chevette later did on a remote stretch of the I-5 freeway. This was one of the biggest factors that compelled me to finally buy a brand new car (2003 Subaru Impreza) when I could finally afford it. There is definitely something to the concept of "buying peace of mind".

I was delighted to find the following quote at the end of the article that validated my vehicle choice somewhat:

While [Consumer Reports] recognizes some consistency over the years in several manufacturers, he says, "We recommend the whole line for only two brands -- Honda and Subaru".

And...my wife drives a Honda!

I'm planning to drive my Subaru for as long as I can make myself. It's a great car, but I'm often tempted to upgrade. The reason I haven't yet is I don't think that my ideal car has been created yet. I'm hoping that one of the manufacturers (preferably Subaru or Toyota/Lexus) is going to release an electric luxury car in the next few years.

The article reports "the top automaker in terms of reliability continued to be Toyota's luxury brand, Lexus -- a title the automaker has held for more than a decade" and I've been impressed by every Lexus I've ever ridden in. Also, I'm reading a book right now called The Toyota Waythat has some amazing history about the development of the Toyota Production System and why it creates such amazingly high quality vehicles.

But, my next car is probably still several years away. I'm a believer in the common suggestion that you should not buy the first model year of any vehicle, as it usually takes a year or two of production and field experience to work out the kinks. Also, I probably won't buy new again. To get the same peace of mind, I'll just have to work a little harder to find a car that has been well taken care of. The most common recommendation I hear for getting good value is to look for a car that is 3 to 4 years old as most of the depreciation occurs in those first years.

So, if Lexus releases an electric car in 2009 (please!), I might buy the 2011 model in 2015. Guess I better take good care of my Subaru until then!

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