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Buying a used car in 2012 may be a better deal than ever
Improving reliability among manufacturers make the gamble of buying used less risky; Many automakers are closing in on Honda and Toyota's lead.

With every passing year, buying a used car becomes less of a gamble according to a new analysis by Consumer Reports. Even the least reliable car-makers are gaining ground on the perennial reliability leaders, Toyota and Honda; Volvo has made the most dramatic improvement over the last decade, but almost all automakers have improved their products in recent years.

The full report, available in Consumer Reports Annual Auto issue and at, features the best used cars, identifies reliable cars and their availability of electronic stability control (ESC) for every budget, and shares seven tips for avoiding a lemon. The article also identifies troublesome used-car models to avoid.

Consumer Reports compared the percentage of problem-free, three-year-old models from its 2002 and 2011 Annual Auto surveys for 13 automakers based on their product output for which owners did not report any serious problems with their cars during the 12 months covered by each survey.

The analysis of 2011 survey data revealed an overall improvement in used-car reliability from almost all automakers with Volvo, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, Hyundai, Ford, General Motors and Chrysler showing the most notable gains (a minimum of 10%age points) compared to Consumer Reports' 2002 results. BMW landed at the bottom of the 2011 list with only about 70% of its used cars being trouble-free, which is better than the 2002 survey average of 68%.

Consumer Reports chose three-year-old vehicles most of which are coming off warranty and when owners begin to assume the cost of ongoing repairs. By age three, most models also have the steepest part of depreciation behind them, so used-car buyers will find it a good age on which to focus.

In its analysis of used cars, Consumer Reports also tracked extremes from 2007 models -- five models that started out with few problems and stayed reliable as they turned five years old and five models that started out with a few more problems and got much worse over time. The 2007 Toyota Prius averaged six problems per 100 cars in its first year and 26 at age five; the Mini Cooper S hatchback averaged nine per 100 cars in the first year and 113 by age five.

Posted Mar. 18, 2012. ©



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