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 2020. Cars made in the year 2006 have the most problems, with 79,561 problems reported, while cars produced in 2020 (the current year is excluded) have the least problems, with 454 problems reported.

Table 1. Number of problems reported for all vehicles made from 1996 to 2020

Model Year Number of Problems
  2020 vehicles
454
  2019 vehicles
6683
  2018 vehicles
12476
  2017 vehicles
17264
  2016 vehicles
21859
  2015 vehicles
31426
  2014 vehicles
39367
  2013 vehicles
50873
  2012 vehicles
49738
  2011 vehicles
54996
  2010 vehicles
54670
  2009 vehicles
47590
  2008 vehicles
72143
  2007 vehicles
78742
  2006 vehicles
79561
  2005 vehicles
78147
  2004 vehicles
67816
  2003 vehicles
61352
  2002 vehicles
60584
  2001 vehicles
53782
  2000 vehicles
59098
  1999 vehicles
53610
  1998 vehicles
44757
  1997 vehicles
39853
  1996 vehicles
38526

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 2020 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
  2020 vehicles
169
  2019 vehicles
5418
  2018 vehicles
5295
  2017 vehicles
3977
  2016 vehicles
4669
  2015 vehicles
5955
  2014 vehicles
6648
  2013 vehicles
6313
  2012 vehicles
4106
  2011 vehicles
4299
  2010 vehicles
5468
  2009 vehicles
3132
  2008 vehicles
3737
  2007 vehicles
5151
  2006 vehicles
4666
  2005 vehicles
5114
  2004 vehicles
6462
  2003 vehicles
5691
  2002 vehicles
5155
  2001 vehicles
5049
  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 141,282 problems reported. The second most common car problem is the electrical system problem, with 134,717 problems reported.

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

Problem Category Number of Problems
  Engine And Engine Cooling
141282
  Electrical System
134717
  Power Train
118418
  Air Bag
114944
  Service Brakes
96588
  Steering
83999
  Equipment
66225
  Structure
54838
  Suspension
51015
  Vehicle Speed Control
50576
  Other Fuel System
39472
  Visibility
39148
  Exterior Lighting
37391
  Gasoline Fuel System
28257
  Tire
23213
  Electronic Stability Control
17688
  Seat Belt
17494
  Seats
15941
  Wheel
13799
  Latches/locks/linkage
11258
  Unknown Or Other
10918
  Parking Brake
2594
  Air Brake
2222
  Traction Control System
1418
  Diesel Fuel System
1389
  Interior Lighting
1180
  Child Seat
819
  Hybrid Propulsion System
157
  Forward Collision Avoidance
142
  Back Over Prevention
66
  Lane Departure
41
  Communication
15


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