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Using Consumer Reports to Understand a Car’s Reliability

Updated on April 23, 2019
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Dedicated to the motor vehicles industry. We provide quality product reviews, industry insides, and latest news.

Before scrolling down the article, we need to clarify one thing - there is no simple answer as "Yes" or "No" that the Consumer Report will give you. We'll go into more details to help you understand how exactly it works below.

It's Not That Easy As "Yes" or "No"

First of all, there’s something you need to understand if you plan to use Consumer Reports to help you in your search for a new car.

That is that Consumer Reports is first and foremost a research institution. If you want a simple “yes” or “no” answer to the question, “Is this car reliable?” you’re going to have trouble, because their reports just aren’t structured that way.

Consumer report
Consumer report

The Difference In Analysis Between Newer And Older Cars

Complicating matters is the fact that you have to distinguish between new cars and cars that are several years old.

For a new car, things are often simpler – after all, there simply isn’t that much data to compile and analyze.

For older cars, however, you have to look at how they have held up in a historical perspective. Perhaps the car in question was great for the first three years but then developed severe transmission issues in about 75 percent of the five-speed automatic models.

That’s exactly the kind of thing you can find out in the Consumer Reports publications.

Understanding The Data

Consumer Reports, as the name implies, compiles reports that it gathers from its members and consumers.

That means that if something wasn’t studied – whether a model of car or a specific car system – they’ll have no information regarding it.

You need to approach Consumer Reports knowing what you’re looking for, with a willingness to search using a variety of terms.

Keep in mind also that the absence of evidence doesn’t, in and of itself, constitute evidence. For example, if Consumer Reports doesn’t have information about the transmission of a 2005 Whatzit, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t problems with it, just that Consumer Reports hasn’t yet studied and reported on it.

Analysing data
Analysing data


So let’s say you’re interested in a particular car that hasn’t yet been reported on by Consumer Reports, although they have reported on other cars in that class.

You can still use Consumer Reports to determine which car is best in class. Find out why they chose that particular car as best in class and use those same criteria to evaluate the car you’re interested in.

In this way, Consumer Reports can give you tools to use in your own individual evaluations.

Think of this as being given a yardstick to use to measure your prospective car with.

How To Analyse Reliability

Reliability isn’t a single measure, so you won’t find a single report termed “reliability” in Consumer Reports.

For this reason, you have to acquaint yourself with the environment of the reports. There are different ways to approach reliability – what could be reliable in one class of cars in one area might be completely unacceptable in another class.

You have to understand what’s being discussed to be able to use the information given to its full advantage.

For example, the reliability of a truck used around the clock for work will be markedly different from the reliability of a Prius, where 24-hour run time is less of an issue.

By understanding the metrics Consumer Reports uses, as well as what’s important for the class of car you’re considering, you’ll be able to take full advantage of this great source of information.

© 2019 Motor Cities


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