15 Worst Second-Hand Cars Americans Should Never Buy

With many Americans opting to buy cars second-hand, it is important they look out for some model years with a history of problems.

Buying a brand new car has its advantages such as easier shopping, more financing options, new features for comfort, performance and safety, peace of mind, and prestige. However, that doesn't mean you can't get these with a used car. There are still advantages the latter offers like affordability (which also makes it cost less to insure and register), plus you have less stress because you totally expect a few dings or other minor issues compared to having such things on a new one.

However, this doesn't make all used cars good. Certain used cars have a tendency to cause more headaches and sleepless nights, plus they can cause a major dent on your wallet owing to repair costs. There are those that can save you boatloads of cash over a lifetime, but then there are those that'll do the exact opposite - drain you to the last drop. You may also end up stuck with the car if no one is willing to buy it from you. In many Consumer Reports, there are several cars and their model years listed under the most reliable and worst to buy used, which ideally you should avoid if you're looking for your first car or your next ride.


2011 Mini Cooper Countryman

As cute as this little car looks, it seems its not a favourite among consumers in terms of reliability, and the same goes for its sister model, the Mini Cooper. The April issue of Consumer Reports magazine even placed Mini as the 10th on the list of the top 10 worst car brands.

The BMW sub-brand hasn't had an easy run, especially for its 2011 and 2012 models.

USA Today says they have had "one of the worst ratings any car could have". If you intend to buy a used one, you're better off finding out a little more about it from expert analysis and reviews from other consumers who have experienced it, at least before you spend your cash and experience regrets later on.

2011 AUDI A4

2011 Audi A4

Since 1994, Audi (a subsidiary of German automaker Volkswagen Group) has been producing this compact executive car, which Car and Driver says has a curb weight of 3671 lb, and its engine packs 252 horsepower at 6000 rpm, making the car sprint from 0-60 mph in just 5.2 seconds. As good as all this sounds, and as aggressive as this car looks, Consumer Reports doesn't seem to have many good things to say about it. According to Cheatsheet, the Audi A4 "showed steady improvement in reliability ratings, especially in the engine and electrical system" after 2011, but the 2009 and 2010 editions were called out by Consumer Reports as one of the used cars to steer clear from. Added to these models are the 2007, 2008, and 2014 versions when avoiding used Audi A4 cars.

2012 BMW X5

2012 BMW X5

The first time this luxury SUV came on the scene over a decade back, consumers who had a go at it praised it not just for its stellar performance and the exquisite interior, but also for a strong suspension that delivered what Carophile says was a "smooth, comfortable ride as well as reducing body roll". But that's when the car is purchased brand new. As a used vehicle, a flurry of complaints have been posted on BMW X5 forums by owners who cited reliability as the number one problem.

Other issues listed include the AWD and electrical system, as well as the drive shaft, which seems to run through all model years.

Before its 2014 redesign, Cheatsheet says this car had "multiple reliability issues" as drivers complained via surveys over the faulty climate control, engine part issues, and defective fuel systems. Consumer Reports recommends that buyers avoid the 2011 and 2012 models specifically, though the 2013 and 2014 model years also had the same reliability problems.


Ford Explorer

While some cars have issues with one model year, this one has received numerous complaints from consumers for three: 2003, 2004 and 2006.

The Ford Explorer isn't new on the automotive scene.

In fact, it was released way back in 1991, and is both very popular and one of the safest known SUVs on the road. Car Complaints listed all three model years as being one of the worst cars ever, with problems from its transmission right down to paint that leads to rust on the body. It would be wise to check it out first before making that purchase.

2012/2013/2015 FIAT 500

Fiat 500

According to Consumer Reports, Fiat Chrysler has about 19 models listed under "far below average" as far as reliability is concerned over the last decade. The worst performer, Cheatsheet says, is the Fiat 500, whose 2012, 2013 and 2015 model years should be avoided, especially if buying a used one.

Specifically, the 2012 model had problems with body finish, brakes, suspension and power equipment.

From Car Complaints, other issues such as bad pressure plate, and premature ball joint wear came up for the same model. The 2015 model also has the problem of the turbo compressor coming apart, consumers said. Overall, the worst problem category for this one is the interior, as well as repair costs and average mileage when problems start showing.

2007 AUDI Q7

2017 Audi Q7

As much as the Audi Q7 delivered decent numbers for an Audi sedan in terms of speed, what with its 7 seconds flat time for the 0-60 mph sprint, Consumer Reports showed issues in some of its functionalities including the brake system, audio components, and general body integrity, says Cheatsheet. This car arrived in America with a single engine-transmission combination, plus a forceful yet smooth 4.2 litre V8 engine, which, "with direct injection technology and four valves on each cylinder, churns 350 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque," The Car Connection reported. Seems like the used option may not be great after all, what with the flaws consumers have complained about.


2015 Chevy Silverado 2500HD

This pickup truck's HD or heavy duty models scored lower than average on reliability surveys for the 2015 and 2016 model years, according to Cheatsheet. Among the issues that place it on this list of the worst used cars to avoid buying, include problems with the suspension, body integrity such as cabin noise and leaks, steering locking up at low speeds or pulling, poor headlights and power equipment, from Car Complaints. Consumer Reports also included the 2011 and 2012 models as unreliable what with issues such as fuel and braking systems being the major pain points.


2016 Toyota Tacoma

The Toyota Tacoma seems to always make the list of the worst used vehicles and/or pickup trucks to avoid buying.

While it excels in hauling, towing and off-roading, it isn't as excellent when it comes to daily driving or commuting.

Consumer Reports says it "feels dated and is uncomfortable". Other issues listed for this truck include clumsy handling so it feels like work driving it, plus the ride is pretty rough which can lead to major fatigue, the cabin has a high floor and low roof so its tricky to access and can affect the driving position. Its low score was exacerbated by its far cornering and long stopping distances.


Dodge Charger

Among the issues the Dodge Charger has, especially for the 2014 and 2015 model years, are electrical and transmission problems. The Dodge Charger got low reliability rankings for the two model years, but previous models also suffered a similar fate, with a far below average ranking in more recent models, and the 2011 and 2012 edition recalls, Cheatsheet reported. Consumer Reports also named it as one of the 20 vehicles to avoid from this brand, so you'd be wise to do your homework before picking one of these up from a used car dealer. Other issues listed on Car Complaints include sunroof exploding for no reason, alternator fire and power steering failure, among others.


2013 Nissan Pathfinder

Despite over 150,000 such cars sold in the U.S. for model years 2013 and 2014, the Nissan Pathfinder still gets to be on this list, courtesy of Consumer Reports. According to Autowise, the mid-size crossover, which has always "been one of the most competitive vehicles in its segment", has been plagued with problems such as coolant leakages which ruin transmission systems, owing to its defective radiator tank design that ruptures and leaks the coolant.

When both coolant and transmission fluid mix, the result is an irreversible process of erosion of the transmission system.

Other problems Cheatsheet noted with these model years include the brakes and airbag failure, with the 2014 model ranking as one of the worst.


2013 Chrysler Town & Country

This car may not be as loved as its redesign, the Chrysler Pacifica minivan, and Consumer Reports show just why, especially from the list of used cars to avoid buying. Among the issues listed from the 2008 through to 2012 model years are poor reliability which is actually way below the average, and this also goes for the Grand Caravan. CBS News said the car was criticized for its slow-shifting transmission and poor gas mileage. Clearly, no one wants a car that will only cost them more going forward. Especially if the person buying it has a large family to take care of.


2013 Ford Fiesta

As much as this car was marketed as a fun subcompact ride for the younger audience which included first time drivers, Goliath seems to believe that buyers should think twice before they get a Ford Fiesta, especially "if they value safety and reliability in a vehicle". These sentiments were echoed by Consumer Reports, as Cheatsheet reported, where nine models from Ford are listed among the worst for reliability, particularly from model years 2011 to 2014.

The main problems that were listed include the transmission, body integrity, and its audio system.

The space inside is also too small, and Goliath adds that it has "poor handling, and terribly designed controls", and its three-cylinder engine has been highly criticized.


2016 Tesla Model X

Car and Driver says this car will "forever be known as the Tesla with the silly doors", because its falcon wing doors are slow (takes five and a half seconds to open and six to close). Many consider these to look interesting, but are otherwise silly, and impractical. The interior is really nice, with seats covered in soft leather, and a beautiful 17 inch touch screen that controls almost all of its functions, including the power doors. However, as beautiful and modern as this car looks, and all the praise lavished on this model, Consumer Reports begs to differ as it called the 2016 edition "fast and flawed". This, as Cheatsheet reported, came after the agency's testers decried the weaknesses in the car's door design and general reliability, thus advises consumers to avoid the '16 model X on the used market and wait for Tesla to "work out the kinks".


2014 GMC Acadia

Consumer Reports has warned against buying not just this 2014 GMC Acadia, but all others from the 2007 to 2014 model years. Apparently, the Acadia suffers faulty transmission, as Autowise reported. However, Cheatsheet mentions some of the complaints from consumers, key among them being the car's drivetrain, electrical, engine and brake problems, fuel system issues, steering, airbag and seatbelt issues. Other issues include tail lights getting condensation inside, the lift gate makes a pop at full open position, the climate system malfunctions, and A/C sometimes doesn't work.


2015 Cadillac Escalade

According to Edmunds' expert review, this car "maintains its reputation for bold styling and strong V8 power", a fact they say will see many SUV buyers keep it, though there are rival luxury SUVs that offer greater versatility. That alone will likely have the Escalade earning its keep with many SUV buyers. But just as seen before, some rival luxury SUVs offer more refinement and greater versatility. This particular model underwent a full redesign with blockier styling, and a sleeker and more modern interior with Cadillac's CUE touch-operated infotainment system. However, as Cheatsheet reported, the Cadillac Escalade went from "bad to much worse in reliability ratings" between 2015 and 2016, with owners raising concerns over its transmission, powertrain, body components, and paint/finish quality in this model year.