Car Problems, Statistics, and Analysis

Each year, American car owners file thousands of complaints about their car problems to the U.S. Department of Transportation [1]. Table 1 shows the number of problems reported for vehicles manufactured from 1996 to 2019. Cars made in the year 2006 have the most problems, with 78,207 problems reported, while cars produced in 2019 (the current year is excluded) have the least problems, with 2,236 problems reported.

Table 1. Number of problems reported for all vehicles made from 1996 to 2019

Model Year Number of Problems
  2019 vehicles
2236
  2018 vehicles
8312
  2017 vehicles
12205
  2016 vehicles
16986
  2015 vehicles
26192
  2014 vehicles
33939
  2013 vehicles
45444
  2012 vehicles
45587
  2011 vehicles
51711
  2010 vehicles
52378
  2009 vehicles
45833
  2008 vehicles
70103
  2007 vehicles
76868
  2006 vehicles
78207
  2005 vehicles
77223
  2004 vehicles
67062
  2003 vehicles
60799
  2002 vehicles
60167
  2001 vehicles
53524
  2000 vehicles
58902
  1999 vehicles
53466
  1998 vehicles
44697
  1997 vehicles
39797
  1996 vehicles
38488

From the above chart, one might conclude that the quality of cars in general has improved greatly since 1996. This is actually misleading. The fact is that the 2006 model cars have been on the road for 11 years while the 2019 model cars are still fresh from the factory. Table 2 gives a better picture of car quality. It shows the problems reported in a car's first year of service. One can see that the quality of cars has been fairly constant over the years. The exceptions are years 2008 and 2009, when the global economy slowed down, causing new car sales to plummet, so few problems were reported.

Select a brand:

Table 2. Number of problems reported during the vehicle's first year in service

Model Year Number of Problems
  2019 vehicles
1732
  2018 vehicles
4939
  2017 vehicles
3800
  2016 vehicles
4604
  2015 vehicles
5894
  2014 vehicles
6587
  2013 vehicles
6264
  2012 vehicles
4091
  2011 vehicles
4284
  2010 vehicles
5450
  2009 vehicles
3130
  2008 vehicles
3733
  2007 vehicles
5143
  2006 vehicles
4662
  2005 vehicles
5109
  2004 vehicles
6462
  2003 vehicles
5687
  2002 vehicles
5154
  2001 vehicles
5045
  2000 vehicles
6195
  1999 vehicles
5632
  1998 vehicles
5258
  1997 vehicles
2992
  1996 vehicles
4663

The following chart illustrates the most common problems reported for all car makes and models in our database since 1996. The most common car problem involves the vehicle's engine and engine cooling with 133,610 problems reported. The second most common car problem is the electrical system problem, with 128,552 problems reported.

Table 3. Common car problems (all car make & models)

Problem Category Number of Problems
  Engine And Engine Cooling
133610
  Electrical System
128552
  Power Train
112102
  Air Bag
110871
  Service Brakes
92941
  Steering
78681
  Equipment
60790
  Structure
52674
  Suspension
48959
  Vehicle Speed Control
48882
  Visibility
37612
  Other Fuel System
36614
  Exterior Lighting
35355
  Gasoline Fuel System
28223
  Tire
23124
  Seat Belt
16885
  Electronic Stability Control
15785
  Seats
15285
  Wheel
12966
  Latches/locks/linkage
11204
  Unknown Or Other
10918
  Parking Brake
2584
  Air Brake
2222
  Traction Control System
1398
  Diesel Fuel System
1388
  Interior Lighting
1180
  Child Seat
817
  Hybrid Propulsion System
152
  Forward Collision Avoidance
115
  Back Over Prevention
53
  Lane Departure
30


Table 4. Browse car problems by brand:

Acura       Audi       BMW       Buick       Cadillac       Chevrolet       Chrysler       Dodge       Ferrari       Ford       GEO       GMC       Honda       Hyundai       Infiniti       International       Jaguar       Jeep       Kia Motor       Land Rover       Lexus       Lincoln       Lotus       Mazda       Mercedes Benz       Mercury       Mini       Mitsubishi       Nissan       Oldsmobile       Plymouth       Porsche       SAAB       Saturn       Smart       Subaru       Suzuki       Toyota       Volkswagen       Volvo