About car reliability.


One of the most or probably the most used word used by the media when the subject is  the car sale industry is “reliability”.

as i was trying to buy a new car myself lately, i found out that the word means nothing. It is over used and over abused by both car manufacturers and dealers.

obviously, everyone wants it’s next car to be “reliable”… but what’s a reliable car? a car who doesn’t break? doesn’t break often? has cheap parts and labor? gas economic? comfortable? enduring? still performs well at high mileage? has a good resale price?…

no one will ever give you one simple answer and everybody has its own mental image of what is “reliable” and what is not.

after doing some research myself, i came to the conclusion that reliable is actually relative to the person and to the situation, in other words: what may be reliable for me, can be very unsatisfying for you and vice versa.

people usually look at various criteria when considering a new car purchase but all those criteria boil down to two main categories : Price  and Quality.

some people wanna move from A to B for a minimum cost and some people wanna enjoy going from A to B and are willing to pay a fee for that, there is no right or wrong here, it is a matter of a personal choice and situation, social classes have nothing to do with this as we can find two people who make the same amount of money having very divergent car choices.

the first group of people will go for a low gas consumption vehicle with minimum luxury, those people will not really care about state of the art expensive mechanical components nor care for any cutting edge electronic system, but they will still wanna get the best out of their money.

the second group of people will gladly pay extra cash for more performance, more luxury and comfort and even for a better looking car.

The Scams:

1-car dealers use some very interesting figures when they try to convince potential buyers, for example, a dealer will tell you that his car’s “the car he is trying to sell you” annual maintenance fee average in the first 5 years is 2 times less than it’s more luxurious, more expensive counterpart ! – this argument alone could be enough to convince an average person- and that is actually true, however, thats only half the story, the other relevant half is that the average annual maintenance cost is something like $90 all together ! so even if it’s double ($180) for the other luxurious car, it is still irrelevant to the decision you are trying to make. (a figure with $2000 vs $4000 would have been relevant for example).

2-dealers will usually compare apples to tomatoes and throw a few facts followed with a plethora of lies to willingly confuse you. a dealer will tell you that you are getting the same from him for half  the price of a high performance / luxury car by saying something in the order of : “this car got leather seats, sun roof, low gas mileage… same as that other car which is twice as expensive” and again in this scenario, the dealer did not lie, he only stated unfinished unquantifiable half facts, yes, both cars have leather seats, however, if you actually look closely at both (people should ALWAYS physically look at both cars before making a decision) you will see that one leather can be very different than the other, that the moon roof can be a simple square roof or can be a panoramic fully automated with sliding auto shader…

im not advocating for luxury cars nor suggesting that you should get one, what im trying to say is that, you will get what you pay for. and you will no doubt pay more for less if you are not carefull, dealers will try to somehow convince you that their brand X’s manufacturer has somehow slashed production costs by half and is providing you with what other car makers are selling for twice the price tag. this theory is absolute garbage, moreover, the dealer is actually trying to justify a high price tag on an economy product by convincing you that it is a s good as a luxurious product.

3- using the reliability card

dealers of economy mainstream cars will always actively and wrongly use the reliability card (at least in the USA), they will claim and defend that their brand is more reliable than any more expensive luxury brand, this is actually both true and false and mainly depends on what you as a customer perceive as reliable, to clearly understand this, you should first know what makes a car. All cars are by design and intentionally not made equal, yes they all have engines, 4 wheels and drive forward, but all don’t have the same level of craftsmanship and details, a little xenon head light here, a superior quality leather on the seats and more sensors there… can make the price of a car go up by tens of thousands of dollars ! and the trick is, those extra components will not only cost more initially, but will cost more to maintain and to exchange. for example: a car can either have a simple wind shield wiper or a high-end rain sensing automatic wiper which requires at least one more sensor, more cabling and at leat one more electronic controller system. knowing all that, what do you think is more reliable? a care with simple basic components which even if broken down will cost a small fee to repair? or a car with high-tech components which simplify your life and give you an optimal ride quality but if broken down will cost much more? as you can see, it’s not a yes or no situation, and claiming that car X is more reliable than car Y is usually a bad statement, unless both cars are in the same exact category.

lets take as an example two cars of the same category (medium sedan) x and y, x is an economy mainstream car that costs around $20k, y is a luxury car costing $30k – a close look at both you will see that y has less components and if both have the same components than x has a cheaper, less polished version of that part. the result is that y is more likely to break down since it has more features and more components than x, while x is less likely to break down since it has less features/components and  even if it breaks down, the components are very affordable to exchange. so claiming that x is more reliable than y is somehow true but also misleading.

even some renown consumer research website are wrong when they publish or interpret the results of their surveys. if more people are reporting trips to the garage concerning car y, it does not necessarily mean that car x is more reliable even if it has half the garage trip reports than car y, and thats because of many reasons but mainly because what we have discussed above (component count etc…) and also because owners of luxury cars are in my opinion much more likely to hit the garage every time they even sense that something could be wrong and for the smallest of problems thinking about mitigating the costs of a later much serious problem, versus economy car owners who again in my personal opinion are less likely to take their car to the garage for several reasons varying from the fact that they don’t care much if some extra unnecessary feature is half working  or not working at all to the fact that they are not willing to pay for the visit or the deductible.

more to come…

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