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 78,598 problems reported, while cars produced in 2019 (the current year is excluded) have the least problems, with 3,261 problems reported.

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

Model Year Number of Problems
  2019 vehicles
3261
  2018 vehicles
9368
  2017 vehicles
13441
  2016 vehicles
18506
  2015 vehicles
27888
  2014 vehicles
35711
  2013 vehicles
47154
  2012 vehicles
46894
  2011 vehicles
52760
  2010 vehicles
53054
  2009 vehicles
46342
  2008 vehicles
70707
  2007 vehicles
77427
  2006 vehicles
78598
  2005 vehicles
77494
  2004 vehicles
67287
  2003 vehicles
60968
  2002 vehicles
60297
  2001 vehicles
53615
  2000 vehicles
58965
  1999 vehicles
53499
  1998 vehicles
44719
  1997 vehicles
39813
  1996 vehicles
38504

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
2719
  2018 vehicles
5038
  2017 vehicles
3851
  2016 vehicles
4625
  2015 vehicles
5915
  2014 vehicles
6620
  2013 vehicles
6292
  2012 vehicles
4095
  2011 vehicles
4293
  2010 vehicles
5455
  2009 vehicles
3131
  2008 vehicles
3734
  2007 vehicles
5147
  2006 vehicles
4662
  2005 vehicles
5113
  2004 vehicles
6462
  2003 vehicles
5687
  2002 vehicles
5154
  2001 vehicles
5048
  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 135,922 problems reported. The second most common car problem is the electrical system problem, with 130,344 problems reported.

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

Problem Category Number of Problems
  Engine And Engine Cooling
135922
  Electrical System
130344
  Power Train
114304
  Air Bag
112195
  Service Brakes
94023
  Steering
79997
  Equipment
62456
  Structure
53329
  Suspension
49434
  Vehicle Speed Control
49368
  Visibility
37946
  Other Fuel System
37393
  Exterior Lighting
35878
  Gasoline Fuel System
28241
  Tire
23159
  Seat Belt
17050
  Electronic Stability Control
16306
  Seats
15464
  Wheel
13183
  Latches/locks/linkage
11225
  Unknown Or Other
10918
  Parking Brake
2590
  Air Brake
2222
  Traction Control System
1409
  Diesel Fuel System
1388
  Interior Lighting
1180
  Child Seat
818
  Hybrid Propulsion System
156
  Forward Collision Avoidance
131
  Back Over Prevention
61
  Lane Departure
33
  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