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 2018. Cars made in the year 2006 have the most problems, with 75,810 problems reported, while cars produced in 2018 (the current year is excluded) have the least problems, with 2,294 problems reported.

Table 1. Number of problems reported for all vehicles made from 1996 to 2018

Model Year Number of Problems
  2018 vehicles
2294
  2017 vehicles
6315
  2016 vehicles
11189
  2015 vehicles
18856
  2014 vehicles
26559
  2013 vehicles
36923
  2012 vehicles
38962
  2011 vehicles
46203
  2010 vehicles
48131
  2009 vehicles
42811
  2008 vehicles
66412
  2007 vehicles
73631
  2006 vehicles
75810
  2005 vehicles
75473
  2004 vehicles
65700
  2003 vehicles
59801
  2002 vehicles
59589
  2001 vehicles
53103
  2000 vehicles
58607
  1999 vehicles
53322
  1998 vehicles
44632
  1997 vehicles
39821
  1996 vehicles
38537

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 2018 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
  2018 vehicles
1990
  2017 vehicles
3283
  2016 vehicles
4434
  2015 vehicles
5773
  2014 vehicles
6515
  2013 vehicles
6210
  2012 vehicles
4056
  2011 vehicles
4271
  2010 vehicles
5429
  2009 vehicles
3116
  2008 vehicles
3708
  2007 vehicles
5130
  2006 vehicles
4656
  2005 vehicles
5098
  2004 vehicles
6455
  2003 vehicles
5690
  2002 vehicles
5158
  2001 vehicles
5051
  2000 vehicles
6203
  1999 vehicles
5634
  1998 vehicles
5268
  1997 vehicles
3003
  1996 vehicles
4687

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 122,119 problems reported. The second most common car problem is the electrical system problem, with 120,108 problems reported.

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

Problem Category Number of Problems
  Engine And Engine Cooling
122119
  Electrical System
120108
  Power Train
104616
  Air Bag
103681
  Service Brakes
87948
  Steering
71689
  Equipment
53004
  Structure
49280
  Suspension
46600
  Vehicle Speed Control
46463
  Visibility
35761
  Other Fuel System
32481
  Exterior Lighting
32436
  Gasoline Fuel System
28164
  Tire
23024
  Seat Belt
15931
  Seats
14462
  Electronic Stability Control
13192
  Wheel
11872
  Latches/locks/linkage
11061
  Unknown Or Other
10920
  Parking Brake
2568
  Air Brake
2224
  Diesel Fuel System
1402
  Traction Control System
1349
  Interior Lighting
1180
  Child Seat
811
  Hybrid Propulsion System
131
  Forward Collision Avoidance
74
  Back Over Prevention
33
  Lane Departure
19


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