Consumer Reports Used Cars To Avoid: 2014 BMW i3, 2012-2013 + 2015 Tesla Model S, 2013 Nissan LEAF


2014 BMW i3 Listed As Used car To Avoid

2014 BMW i3 Listed As Used car To Avoid

In its latest “Used Cars to Avoid Buying” release, Consumer Reports says there are several used plug-in electric cars that buyers should avoid.

Consumer Reports states:

“These 2006-15 models have a record of below-average overall reliability. They’re listed alphabetically by make and model. The worst used cars are shown in bold italics; they’re models with much-worse-than-average overall reliability based on multiple years of data. We recommend skipping all of them.”

Among the listed “used cars to avoid buying,” we find these plug-ins:

  • 2014 BMW i3
  • 2012-2013 & 2015 Tesla Model S
  • 2013 Nissan LEAF

Of note is that the Model S is bolded in the report, meaning it has “much-worse-than-average overall reliability based on multiple years of data,” according to Consumer Reports.

2012-2013 & 2015 Tesla Model S Listed As Used Cars To Avoid

2012-2013 & 2015 Tesla Model S Listed As Used Cars To Avoid

Used Car To Avoid: 2013 Nissan LEAF

Used Car To Avoid: 2013 Nissan LEAF


Source: Consumer Reports

Categories: BMW

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66 Comments on "Consumer Reports Used Cars To Avoid: 2014 BMW i3, 2012-2013 + 2015 Tesla Model S, 2013 Nissan LEAF"

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At least for i3 and Leaf, they seem to be first year jitters. Leaf changed for 2013. That’s why I always wait a year or two before getting new. I wish Tesla would hurry up with Model 3 so my lease will overlap at least a year.

Not only changed, but started being manufactures in the US rather than Japan.

This seems to continue to be a big difference. Even now, the Japanese “mother plant” has no problem churning out quantities of the 30-kWh 2016 model, while the US plant keeps choking.

For you folks in the know, is this for real or is it tainted by the Koch Bros. and their millions of $$$ toward anti-electric vehicle campaign?? Just asking.

Well, CRs statistical analysis has always left a lot to be desired. In an effort to be objective they follow a standard process without apparently questioning whether it makes sense or digging into unusual aspects of the data. Their questionnaires are sent to their subscribers (certainly a non-representative data sample) and ask for the numbers of “significant” problems the subscribers had in the previous year. Since people have different definitions of “significant”, and since that can vary by demographic, and since different demographics by different types of cars this can lead to lots of misreadings. The upshot is that while CR is a decent data point on product quality – and certainly a massive amount better than the JD Powers surveys which are designed to make the manufacturers who pay for the right to advertise the survey results look better – you really have to dig into them to figure out what’s really happening. As I haven’t bought or subscribed to CR in many years I haven’t seen the recent data, but sometimes a car made the “worst” list because it had a ton of problems across the board, and sometimes it was because there was one component that screwed… Read more »

I’m thinking not the Koch brothers doing. They would have listed many more EVs. I’m curious why the 2011 and 2012 Leafs with their suspect batteries were not on the list.

A lot of the 2013s had the same battery. Nissan never tells you of course, which car has the old versus the new battery. I suspect that most 2011 and 2012 LEAF buyers didn’t have many/any other problems. The one problem that did occur in numbers had to do with the coil heater (note this was different than the heater problem in the 2013s, as the component is different). But those problems uniformly showed up in the first few months of winter driving, so wouldn’t show up on surveys many years later. After that it depends on whether a CR subscriber thought the battery problem was “significant”. Those who were hit with major heat-related degradation noticed the problem years ago, and may even have the replacement battery now, so its not showing up on the current survey. In addition, those were early adopters, so except for the high heat locations those CR subscribers may not have listed this as a problem at all. In 2013 there was a serious heater problem affecting larger number of LEAFs that was eventually fixed with a replacement part in late 2013. This certainly would have resulted in large numbers of problem reports from CR… Read more »

Could well be in what they asked for. If asked about component failures, maybe that many failed. A lot more were degraded beyond expectation but not “failed”. I think the data should have validity and CR should give it and leave the perspective to the buyer or add more context. Does a used car buyer care that my 12V battery was replaced early or that my rear passenger window came off the track or that my center stack screen was replaced? Not as much if it isn’t likely to recur or not if they have plenty of warranty or can get an extended warranty if they know how easy the service is as painless as it is. I don’t care much as the owner and certainly wouldn’t care about those past issues as a used buyer. Now the failing drive units is another issue if the car hasn’t had a replacement already. They need to know what is and isn’t covered under the particular car’s warranty.

WAITING asked:

“…is this for real or is it tainted by the Koch Bros. and their millions”

Well, that’s actually two questions:

1. Are CR’s ratings tainted by bribery or political influence?

CR prides itself on being truly independent. It accepts no ads, so isn’t influenced by advertising clients. My judgement is than no lobbying group, including the Koch Bros, influences CR’s ratings.

2. “Is this for real?”

Well, that subject is a lot more troublesome, especially when it comes to rating EVs. CR’s categories, and the weighting (major vs. minor) are designed to fit gasmobiles, so I’m not sure how well CR’s ratings actually reflect reality when it comes to EVs.

Even more troublesome is the fact that CR gave a “Poor” reliability rating to the 2015 Tesla Model S, despite the fact that on their published chart of individual categories, the car received several “Excellent” ratings, and the worst was a single “Fair” rating in just one category. So how does CR’s overall rating wind up so far from the average rating, and in fact completely outside the range of the ratings in the breakdown?

As one of my friends says, “That’s one of those things that makes you go hmmmm….”

I wonder if 2014 Model Ses really are significantly more reliable than the other model years. Is the sample size really large enough for Consumer Reports to come to this conclusion?

based on Elons comment during Q4 2015 earnings call, 2015 cars have a better reliability than 2014.

CR doesnt have big enough sample to make any reasonably accurate judgement regarding reliablity of quite a few cars (not just Model S).

Consumer reports has turned into a tool

Thankfully I got cash on the sidelines to ride the BS wave 🙂

Elon’s comments didn’t relate to reliability. They related to repair cost. Not quite the same thing.

Do you have any sources to back up your claims regarding CR sample size?

I wonder if Tesla having good reliability in 2014 and bad reliability in 2015 is due to model year 2015 being the first year the AWD “D” models were available. With two motors instead of one that can fail and need to be swapped out, the 2015 “D’s” might have statistically worse reliability than the single motor Model S’s sold in 2014.

Note that the “D’s” sold in 2014 appear to be registered as 2015 models so that Tesla could avoid having to certify a low number of them with the EPA in the last months of 2014, just like Tesla registered all Model X sold in 2015 as model year 2016. There are no EPA fuel economy figures for “D’s” in 2014, and for Model X’s in 2015, because none were registered in those years.

agreed sven.
I wondered the same thing. If we had component data we might be able to figure it out. What year was Bjorns? I think he had 3 motor/transaxle assemblies replaced on warranty.

abasile said:

“Is the sample size really large enough for Consumer Reports to come to this conclusion?”

As I recall, the previous (not current) CR survey of Model S owners had some 600-odd respondents. I offer no opinion as to whether that’s a statistically meaningful sample size, and obviously that’s distributed among multiple model years. But it’s certainly a much bigger sample size than one or more online, scientifically invalid surveys cited by Tesla bashers!

What I think needs to be questioned isn’t the sample size, but the method by which respondents decide to report whether or not something on the car needed to be fixed. If the decision to indicate a problem is a result of Tesla service deciding to fix or replace something, rather than the customer having a problem and asking it to be fixed, then Tesla may be getting “dinged” because it trains its service guys to go out of their way to look for and identify potential issues — fixing or replacing things before they can ever turn into a real problem.

If, on the other had, the survey respondents are reporting only actual problems they noticed in their cars, then it’s a “fair cop”.

WTF was that report all about? Talk about total lack of relevant info….

Why is this a surprise? Manufacturers who have focused more on feature than function have traditionally always been low on reliability. See BMW’s reliability rating compared to Audi (comparing apples to apples). People don’t buy Jaguar because it is reliable. Why are Tesla owners surprised that a manufacturer who actually productized a gull wing door would put its energy behind reliability numbers? That’s not where Tesla is focusing its resources on. If you like Tesla’s features and are willing to overlook the low reliability numbers, you SHOULD buy it. Just don’t make weak arguments about fewer moving parts or some other pseudo scientific nonsense. That’s not how industrial processes evolve. Tesla makes great, quirky cars that need quite a bit of love to keep up. It is what it is.

Well its true I had some unexpected trouble with my 2011 VOLT, but the fear I had and have with Tesla products is that the problems seem to be unending. Tesla initially advertised the roadster as an “All Weather Super-Car”. So when I started having door problems I put tape on all the new locksets to prevent salt from ruining the new ones, which I left on until the vehicle was sold. But then the trunk was repeatedly repaired (it has Ford Motor Co. Latches) and the service center still never got it right. I adjusted it for the best compromise so that it would open when it was offered for sale. The guy in Texas who ultimately purchased my roadster got a good deal: 1). Brand new heater and air conditioner core (broken by the Service Center so they had to replace it) 2). Brand new $17,000 power equipment module (PEM – Inverter). The service center broke one of the connectors servicing the Heater which they also broke (!!!!) because they thought the cooling fan in the inverter had something to do with the heater not working and they busted the connector trying to put it back together, which… Read more »

Yes Bill. MarkZ is also getting a little upset over reliablility issues on his S and delivery issues on the X and has a list 2 pages long on fixes for the crack Tesla service center on his new M X.

He’s a professional and doesn’t say a lot of bad things about Tesla but he is a little upset after years of undying loyalty.

Dan said:

“Manufacturers who have focused more on feature than function have traditionally always been low on reliability. See BMW’s reliability rating compared to Audi (comparing apples to apples). People don’t buy Jaguar because it is reliable.”

Well now, I think this cuts right to the heart of the matter, regarding the “reliability” of Tesla cars. Thanks, Dan!

I’m having a bit of a forehead-slapping moment, here. I suppose that I shouldn’t have needed to have that pointed out to me, but altho I do realize the inevitable problems with making cars more complex, I’d never thought about it in just the way you put it here.

ZERO problems with our 2013 Leaf after 2 years and 30K miles.

My 2013 has had no problems at all.

My 2013 Leaf has water pooling at the base of the front passenger side whenever it rains heavily and the vehicle is parked outside.

Not gonna bother to fix it. I will be out of transportation for a few days (don’t want ICE loaner) and the car is due to be returned end of lease soon anyways.

Sounds like the drain in the air intake might be plugged.

Our 2013 Leaf has also never been back to the dealer except for the battery check and tires.

My 2013 leaf had its ac compressor replaced (under warranty) at 15k miles, and then the high-pressure refrigerant line replaced (out of pocket) at 38k miles. I’m not worried about the drivetrain, but there’s more to a car than just the battery and motor.

My 2013 Leaf S had the AC compressor fail after 12 mos, and replaced by the dealer under warranty.

No other issues at 15k miles.

This is a high voltage AC compressor, right?

Wonder who makes it.

Ditto. 2013 leaf, 32,000 miles, no problems WHATEVER.

It’s great to see you guys trying to objectively cover the industry, as opposed to the shills at Electrek and CleanTechnica, among others who– of course– only ran articles about the FAVORABLE CR Tesla stories.

(Come to think of it, Elon sent out an awful lot of Tweets about those stories, and yet re. this one he’s been radio silent. Rather amusing, isn’t it?)

Cleantechnica articles are written by a collection of freelance writers who individually decide what they want to write about. Each may be personally less interested in writing negative EV stories, but there is no rule or pressure against such stories. Nobody is a “shill” (ie paid by Tesla or other EV companies). I myself wrote a negative LEAF article (negative in how they fail to market it, not anything bad about the car) and both Kyle and I have been quite honest in articles about the warranty issues we’ve had owning Model S as well as how pleasant the repair experiences have been. As others have said, complex cars fail more than simpler cars, and so you see a lot of luxury cars (both ICE and EV) on consumer reports list.

But really, there are no exhaust flow routing sensors, or sophisticated burn-off procedures, or 30,000 psi fuel pressures, or … in a Tesla. The lack of mechanical complexity is a virtue, made up generally by less serious stuff.

Did the Tesla Model S break the Consumer Reports Ratings system once again? 😉

They were already broken after Suzuki Samurai.

““If you can’t find someone to roll this car, I will!””

By the way, Samurai would be a cool little EV/PH, even if used to tow behind RV to go camping.

Yep, there’s a guy here in Tacoma who built a dual series-motored Samurai for tadpole/trail duty, but he’s never posted anything about it online…

I don’t know anything about the Suzuki vs. Consumer Reports rollover controversy, but the AIM (Accuracy In Media) website you’ve linked to is one of those deceptively named organizations whose purpose is to politically influence and slant news coverage, and even engage in smear campaigns. Wikipedia reports that several Big Oil companies are major contributors to AIM, and that it was involved in a smear campaign against Bill Clinton.

Bottom line: I wouldn’t believe a single word posted to the AIM website.

It looks like its not just the BMW i3, but half the range of models, lol. Im sure the same can be said about a lot of European brands. In all fairness, the motors and batteries havent had problems in the i3 models. Just mostly electronic sensors or programming updates, primarily with the REX versions. Then BMW had customers bring in their i3 BMWs to update the KLE (charging units) with new ones on the earlier models. This probably counted against the reliability rating.

I noticed that neither Toyota nor Lexus had a single model on the list, and weren’t even listed on the pull-down menu. This bodes well for future owners the next gen Plug-in Prius, hopefully with much more AER. If Toyota ever decides to sell a Toyota or Lexus BEV, it will probably be just as reliable as their ICE offerings, and that expected reliability will get a significant number of people to buy their first BEV. 😀

The thing is CR doesn’t rate the severity of problems. A software glitch needing a simple reboot and/or an over the update on a Tesla are rated as problems equal to a gas car needing a dealership visit. For this reason Tesla problems are exaggerated by the survey. Would Tesla owners buy again? The overwhelming majority say yes so the problems are not deal breakers.

Not true. Drive train problems, for example, count more than cosmetic problems.

Yes, and Consumer Reports also distinguishes between major and minor problems for the engine (motor) and transmission. This is from Consumer Reports’ Car Reliability FAQ:

“Are all problems considered equally serious?”

“Problems with the engine-major, cooling system, transmission-major, and driveline are more likely to take a car out of service and to be more expensive to repair than the other problem areas. Consequently, we weigh these areas more heavily in our calculations of Used Car Verdicts and Predicted Reliability. Problems in any area can be an expense and a bother, though, so we report them all in the Reliability History charts.”

Consumer Reports are far more likely to provide bias free reports because they won’t accept cars from makers and do not take any money for advertising.
Additionally, the reporting on repair issues is from actual owners, not paid for shills.

They have no dog in saying a car is really great or really bad; it’s just the facts, ma’am.

So when they say there are issues we need to take them seriously.

Bias free? How do you think they make their money? They need to make “provacative” articles or else people won’t buy their magazines. If that requires them to purposely flip over cars by driving to extremes then claim (lie) it has safety issue while driven normally, they will gladly do that. They did exactly that at least once with Suzuki Samurai, then tried to cover it up. See AIM article I mention above.

CR must be counting the real small stuff.

Tesla pro-actively replaced many drive trains, without customer complaints. Does that hurt their CR scores, too? These types of failures are reported significantly less on TMC, and I don’t think there have been hardly any on the new all-wheel drive cars.

Since we’re “beta” testers of Autopilot, I imagine the rough spots, of having something nobody else even has the opportunity to try, is something also working against CR’s scores.

While I’m critical of CR, I’ll say this: they’ve been using the same system for a very long time. From your response you don’t seem familiar with their auto reliability reports. So here’s how it works: Every year they send out a survey to all of their subscribers (over 1 million per their web site), the majority of which are returned. (CR subscribers, demographically, are more data-oriented and are much more apt to turn in surveys where they will be a customer of the final data presentation.) Different surveys are sent out randomly to cover different products. Some might get a survey on, for example, washing machines and dryers and lawn mowers. While others might, for example, get surveys on cell phones and furniture stores. But *every* subscriber gets the auto reliability survey – it’s their biggest topic by far, and the annual auto issue in April is their biggest newsstand seller. The auto survey asked readers to list all cars they owned or leased at some point during the last 12 months and for each the “significant” problems they had in the past 12 months with each of their cars and in which category. CR then compiles this information.… Read more »

“er decides to sell a Toyota or Lexus BEV, it will probably be just as reliable as their ICE ”

Toyota seems to have no plans to sell a bev and the Prius plug in appears to the sole phev they plan.

I am a great fan of them but they don’t believe in Ev.

Nissan is still creating policy based on their ICEVs. They may never catch on to EVs are not ICEVs. In fact, their policy of not offering upgraded batteries in older cars shows they don’t know what they are doing.

Leaf does offer somewhat upgraded replacement batteries : all are ‘lizard’ heat resistant battery chemistry.

Uh oh. I have a 2013 leaf and a 15 S

One dealer trip on each at combined 50k miles. Leaf for charger and S for loose arm rest.

All battery bars on the Leaf. Never had to go to gas station or get oil change. Skipped 3rd battery check on Leaf. I think I’m doing alright. Tesla gave me a loaner and swapped at cars at work for me – yes for an arm rest. Nissan gave me an ICE for the charger swap. I’m thinking overall zero cost and 2 hours total of my time

Maybe it’s the Koch brothers 10m at work

I’m really surprise…Tesla seems to win award on award on award. I’m I right?

Yes. In fact, in one of its driving tests, the Tesla Model S was rated so highly by Consumer Reports that it “broke the ratings system”… achieving an initial score (before it was adjusted) of over 100!

But test drive ratings and reliability ratings are two very different things. The former are done by a few “car guys” driving the car for awhile, and giving their impressions. Contrariwise, reliability ratings are long-term ratings based on results of a survey of owners who have owned the vehicle for awhile.

As “Dan” posted elsewhere in this discussion thread, expensive cars with lots of high-tech geegaws don’t tend to do well in the reliability department, and people who buy such cars don’t generally place a high priority on reliability.

When it comes to Tesla’s cars — and quite possibly other expensive high performance cars — Consumer Reports appears to have great difficulty reconciling the disparity between its driving tests and its reliability ratings.

From what I hear, Tesla stands behind their cars well, and if there was a problem, it get’s fixed. I also think CR’s report on the Model S will have ZERO impact on used S sales.

CR seems to continue to offer highly distorted reliability reviews of cars as they consider the new owners learning curve with paring a phone the same as a transmission failure.

And certainly, CR does this(slamming popular/newsworthy vehicles) for publicity, since it’s doubtful that anyone heard about a reliability issue with the Nissan Juke.

2000 miles on the 2016 Tesla S 90D and not a single bug noted… guess I’ll keep on rolling!

40,000 miles on my 2014 Tesla Model S (RHD), no major problems, just a couple of little snagging items, fixed at time of service (struggling to remember them now – currently there is a bit of spring threatening to come out of the side of the drivers seat, a new seat base is on the way from the US, that’s all I can remember and that’s only because it is still outstanding). So far service has been second to none.

Consumer Reports used cars to avoid list is something you should avoid

I’m not sure, but it looks to me like this is a complete misrepresentation. As I read the tables, only the cars listed in bold italics are “worst cars” that CR recommends skipping over. Look at the BMW list for instance. What does BMW even make that isn’t on the list?!? 1-series, 3-series, 4-series, 5-series, X3 and X5 are ALL on there in addition to i3. For i8 there’s presumably not enough data! So I wonder if the non-bold items aren’t there simply to say what model years are *relatively* worse than others, for a given model. The Nissan list is truncated, but again appears to list basically all their cars…. If my interpretation is correct, neither the i3 nor the Leaf are cars CR says to avoid. In any case, you’d think consumer reports would do a better job to give useful consumer information! Absolutely NOTHING in here seems to be quantified. Clearly they must have based this on some statistics, but not even the thresholds used to classify are revealed, much less the actual numbers for each model/year. This could have been made very accessible with a few interactive graphs that let users compare brands, models and model… Read more »

CR recommends avoiding all used cars that have worse than average reliability, which includes every car on the list. They also show the cars that are much worse than average in bold.

CR is solid. They’re not perfect, but I’d certainly expect if I bought a used Tesla to have more problems than if I bought a used Toyota, which has zero models with worse than average reliability.

Question for the knowledgable r.e. the heater problems on 2013 Leaf: Will those generally all be resolved on used Leafs at this point? That is will they generally already have failed and been replaced? Or if I buy a used 2013 Leaf am I likely to run into the issue? I’m thinking of buying one, but the black mark from that issue is making me think twice.

What the hell? My 2013 Leaf is rock solid, and nearing the end of its lease.

Yet, all the PHEVs/EREVs such as Volt, Fusion Energi, C-Max Energi and Prius Plugin aren’t found on the “avoid list” at all.

I guess the so called “complexity” isn’t all that big deal after all.

I don’t remember people citing sample size or biased reporting when the Model S “broke the rating scale” in Consumer Reports’ initial reviews.

I don’t think it’s reasonable to cheer CR when they produce an evaluation you like and bash them when they produce an evaluation you don’t like.

Sample size is irrelevant to the CR review because that is done by their independent reviewers. However, their reliability survey does rely on sample size because it is a survey.

I wonder how much of this is affected by Tesla policy to frequently replace the whole drivetrain. Would that affect the severity score?

It would be interesting to see raw data. Also they way they design it doesn’t let you see which years are better or worse among those listed.