Car quality going down the tubes?

dabigboy

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I've always bought used vehicles, never new. When I was younger (for reference, I'm 39 now), I'd get clunkers due to lack of funds, run them for a few years, then buy another clunker. My general impression was that American cars from the 1980s to mid 1990s were terrible, though they could be expected to pretty much keep running/driving at least. So I went with imports...Datsuns/Nissan, an Alfa Romeo, Honda, BMW, my wife had an Infiniti G20 for a bit. Then I started having a little more money, and of course with the passage of time, the "old" cars I was buying were newer models than before.

And I began to notice something. First, as I would research various cars to possibly buy, I kept running across discussions of how such and such car has a weak transmission, some truck has a common engine problem, this other car tends to blow head gaskets, etc. Then I started running into issues myself.

As of right now, my wife's 2010 Subaru Outback with 142k miles and a 6spd manual transmission, has no reverse.
My '09 Mazdaspeed 3 has a misfire, shop says it's low compression on cyl #1 and probably internal engine issues.
About two years ago, my '08 Mazda 3 started drinking oil and spun a bearing. I eventually learned this is a common issue for the 2.3L. I also learned the 2.3L is actually a Ford engine.

I also seem to hear a lot more about weird random issues just weeks or months after someone drives a new car off the lot. Sometimes it's some sensor or computer module, but other times it's mechanical (like a customer's Ford truck that shook at certain highway speeds and the dealership was stumped, or the Mazda RX-8 engine debacle a few years ago).

Then there are the recalls.

Right now my nicest car is my '78 Datsun 280Z. It's rock solid on the road, starts every time, runs like a top. And the most dependable cars I've had in the past were my '79 and '82 Z cars back in my 20s. My wife's 2001 Infiniti was a solid ride as well, despite having been rebuilt from a wreck. Even my old abused, poorly maintained '94 BMW 530 was stubbornly reliable. Our '99 Chevy van had that 80s-90s cheap American car vibe with the interior and some ancillary systems-related stuff, but I never worried about the driveline.

So what gives? Has quality really taken a hit? I'm now shopping for a used vehicle again and it feels like I have to really be a lot more careful what model I pick. Would love to have another 1st-gen Mazda 3, it was an outstanding car except for the engine issue. Kinda nervous about buying another. I'm almost to the point where I just want to buy a late 70s/early 80s Japanese car, or maybe a mid-80s Civic CRX (always though they were neat). I thought I might be getting spoiled with the creature-comforts of the newer cars, but then I bought the '78 Z and discovered it suits me just fine (but it's way too nice to make a daily/work car).

Matt
 

1shott

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Nothings perfect, vehicles are mass produced at the least amount with parts supplied by the cheapest vendor.

While there are issues with all brands across the road, you just have to pick a brand and go for it, for me its Toyota.
 

Louro

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I've always bought used vehicles, never new. When I was younger (for reference, I'm 39 now), I'd get clunkers due to lack of funds, run them for a few years, then buy another clunker. My general impression was that American cars from the 1980s to mid 1990s were terrible, though they could be expected to pretty much keep running/driving at least. So I went with imports...Datsuns/Nissan, an Alfa Romeo, Honda, BMW, my wife had an Infiniti G20 for a bit. Then I started having a little more money, and of course with the passage of time, the "old" cars I was buying were newer models than before.

And I began to notice something. First, as I would research various cars to possibly buy, I kept running across discussions of how such and such car has a weak transmission, some truck has a common engine problem, this other car tends to blow head gaskets, etc. Then I started running into issues myself.

As of right now, my wife's 2010 Subaru Outback with 142k miles and a 6spd manual transmission, has no reverse.
My '09 Mazdaspeed 3 has a misfire, shop says it's low compression on cyl #1 and probably internal engine issues.
About two years ago, my '08 Mazda 3 started drinking oil and spun a bearing. I eventually learned this is a common issue for the 2.3L. I also learned the 2.3L is actually a Ford engine.

I also seem to hear a lot more about weird random issues just weeks or months after someone drives a new car off the lot. Sometimes it's some sensor or computer module, but other times it's mechanical (like a customer's Ford truck that shook at certain highway speeds and the dealership was stumped, or the Mazda RX-8 engine debacle a few years ago).

Then there are the recalls.

Right now my nicest car is my '78 Datsun 280Z. It's rock solid on the road, starts every time, runs like a top. And the most dependable cars I've had in the past were my '79 and '82 Z cars back in my 20s. My wife's 2001 Infiniti was a solid ride as well, despite having been rebuilt from a wreck. Even my old abused, poorly maintained '94 BMW 530 was stubbornly reliable. Our '99 Chevy van had that 80s-90s cheap American car vibe with the interior and some ancillary systems-related stuff, but I never worried about the driveline.

So what gives? Has quality really taken a hit? I'm now shopping for a used vehicle again and it feels like I have to really be a lot more careful what model I pick. Would love to have another 1st-gen Mazda 3, it was an outstanding car except for the engine issue. Kinda nervous about buying another. I'm almost to the point where I just want to buy a late 70s/early 80s Japanese car, or maybe a mid-80s Civic CRX (always though they were neat). I thought I might be getting spoiled with the creature-comforts of the newer cars, but then I bought the '78 Z and discovered it suits me just fine (but it's way too nice to make a daily/work car).

Matt
Your observation is spot on. Todays car manufactures built substandard vehicles so you have to replace them every-few years. Is what keep the economy moving.

PS. DATZUN Z & RX rocks.
 

AtomicTango

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Every manufacturer is going to have models and years to avoid. Mazda is not great, I had a 3 with the 2.3 and it sucked. Engine mounts, suspension, clutch etc and I didn’t even own it for that long.

I stick to Honda and Toyota now. They are generally more reliable than other brands and more importantly they are common enough that parts and maintenance can be acquired anywhere. Some of the most popular models are even assembled in the US, so that’s an added boost for our economy.
 

PanhandleGlocker

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Every manufacturer is going to have models and years to avoid. Mazda is not great, I had a 3 with the 2.3 and it sucked. Engine mounts, suspension, clutch etc and I didn’t even own it for that long.

I stick to Honda and Toyota now. They are generally more reliable than other brands and more importantly they are common enough that parts and maintenance can be acquired anywhere. Some of the most popular models are even assembled in the US, so that’s an added boost for our economy.

Don’t forget about the new tundras wiring issue though… I heard the coating on the electrical wires attracts mice?
 

retrieverman

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If you want reliability, find a mid 2000‘s Honda CRV. My wife‘s first new car was an 04, and she drove it 10 years with absolutely no issues other than an a/c compressor replacement. She got the wild hair that she wanted a new one, so we traded it for a ’14 which she’s still driving.
My oldest son bought a ‘05 Lexus SUV with 130k on it for $8500, and it’s really nice. It’s basically a dressed up Toyota, but for some reason, the Lexus don’t hold their value. The only issues he’s had is the air ride suspension with is a common problem he knew would have to be addressed when he bought it.
 

918evo

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If you want reliability, find a mid 2000‘s Honda CRV. My wife‘s first new car was an 04, and she drove it 10 years with absolutely no issues other than an a/c compressor replacement. She got the wild hair that she wanted a new one, so we traded it for a ’14 which she’s still driving.
My oldest son bought a ‘05 Lexus SUV with 130k on it for $8500, and it’s really nice. It’s basically a dressed up Toyota, but for some reason, the Lexus don’t hold their value. The only issues he’s had is the air ride suspension with is a common problem he knew would have to be addressed when he bought it.
I second this. The 02-06 CRV is extremely reliable. I've sold 20 or more of these. Every single one is going to need at least one AC compressor job in its lifetime, and I replace a starter or alternator every now and then, but they will easily make it to 240K miles or more with regular oil changes.
 

JeffT

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… but other times it's mechanical (like a customer's Ford truck that shook at certain highway speeds and the dealership was stumped, …Matt
Tell your friend to have a transmission shop lower the transmission and re-seat the filter in the bottom/middle of the transmission. I had an 09 F-150 that I chased that same problem until I finally paid the $150 for a “look at the inside” of the transmission. They found that the filter is pressure fit and had not been seated correctly or my driving on rough roads had dislodged it. So, when I would put it under a little strain at 45 mph or so, it would have to pull a lot of fluid through the filter and caused it to shudder.
After he reseated the filter I drove it for another 80k and never had that problem again.
 

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