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Cheap Cars With Price Tags That Make Fools Out Of Drivers

Cameron Eittreim September 14, 2022

Photo Credit: Jeep

Jeep Cherokee (XJ)

The Jeep Cherokee XJ is one of the most iconic SUVs on the road. But recently, the Jeep has become a status symbol instead of the off-road icon it once was. There was a time when a Jeep Cherokee was a sensible vehicle for those who needed versatility and capability. With the Cherokee becoming trendy, prices for them have skyrocketed (via Readers Digest).

Photo Credit: Car Domain

But let’s not forget a short decade ago when the Cherokee XJ fell out of favor. Chrysler discontinued the model in 2001 when the platform was dated and problematic. At its core, the Cherokee XJ was a 30-year-old car, and with that old platform, many issues followed. There were better SUV models from this era that were far less expensive to purchase and maintain.

Photo Credit: Edmunds

Mazda 6

The Mazda 6 was a new midsize sedan for the company that reinvented the image. Before the 6 hit the market, there were millennia, and it was not a popular car. The first generation of the Mazda 6 offered spirited driving and performance. The Mazda 6 was notorious for timing chain failures and transmission problems (via Readers Digest).

Photo Credit: Edmunds

The driving experience was pleasurable when the car was running. But when it had to be repaired, it was expensive. There were better options for the price, that included the Mazda 3. The Mazda 6 continued to be a sales success, but don’t let it fool you.

Photo Credit: Edmunds

Chevrolet Trax

General Motors spent decades building cars that people liked. The Trax was a crossover vehicle not advertised heavily. The design of the car was similar to what else was being sold at the time. The reliability of the Trax was questionable at best and its build quality was cheap (via Readers Digest).

Photo Credit: Edmunds

The CVT transmission was problematic and expensive to repair. GM didn’t offer a comprehensive warranty, and most drivers got stuck with the bill. The Trax offered reasonable versatility and gas mileage for the price, but when it came down to the build quality, it was lackluster at best.

Dodge Caravan Via Edmunds
Photo Credit: Edmunds

Dodge Grand Caravan

The Grand Caravan was around for decades in one form or another. There was a time when it was the most popular minivan on the road. Chrysler made a completely new segment in the automotive industry. The final generation of the Grand Caravan was not as unique as the previous vans (via Readers Digest).

2014 Chrysler Town & Country - 2016 Chrysler Town & Country
Photo Credit: Chrysler

Chrysler stuck to a cookie-cutter design, and it showed. The reliability of the van was questionable at best with several recalls. The transmission was also problematic, as was the case with most CVT transmissions at the time. The Caravan was still a versatile attractive-looking van, but looks were only skin deep.

Photo Credit: Edmunds

Mini Cooper

The Mini Cooper was always a car with a distinct reputation. When it was reintroduced to the U.S. market in 2001, there was much fanfare. The car got a new following and proved to be a sales success. But the Mini Cooper was never touted as the most reliable car on the road (via Readers Digest).

Photo Credit: Edmunds

Not only were the insurance costs for a Mini Cooper high, but the reliability was also questionable at best. Whether it was the head gasket going or the transmission going, the Mini Cooper was not cheap to keep on the road. The car was able to maintain a reasonable resale value, but that doesn’t mean it’s worth it.

Kia Soul via Motor Trend
Photo Credit: Motor Trend

Kia Soul

The Kia Soul was a completely new car for the Kia Motor Company. The styling of the Soul was unique and it was accompanied by an aggressive advertising campaign. Initial sales of the car were decent but the lackluster build quality and reliability were evident early on (via Readers Digest).

Kia Soul via Motor Trend
Photo Credit: Motor Trend

The Soul was also plagued by a myriad of recalls and engine fire problems. The issues were not resolved for the entirety of the first generation. The Soul was a decent concept for a new type of car, but the product was not well vetted or reliable compared to the competition.

Photo Credit: Jeep

Jeep Compass

The Compass was one of the most confusing SUVs in the history of the Jeep brand. The first problem with the Compass was that it wasn’t an SUV at all. The Compass was a car that shared its design with the Dodge Caliber of all cars (via Readers Digest).

Photo Credit: Jeep

The Caliber was not a popular car by any stretch of the imagination. Another problem with the Caliber was the cheap build quality and questionable reliability. The Jeep Compass was also the first Jeep not Trail Rated or capable of going off-road.

Photo Credit: Edmunds

Acura TL

The Acura brand was a mere shadow of its former self by the mid-2000s. The Integra was discontinued and the cars became decidedly more boring. The TL was based on the Honda Accord and the car was not without faults (via Readers Digest).

Photo Credit: Edmunds

The Acura TL was not a bad car when it came to the refinement factor. But the reliability was not the best and a lot of the tech was untested. The performance of the TL didn’t fall in line with the image of the Acura brand. There were much better cars to choose from during this era than the TL.

Photo Credit: GM

Chevrolet Cobalt

By the mid-2000s, the Chevy Cavalier was long in the tooth. That meant that it was time to introduce something new to the market and that was the Cobalt. The Cobalt was a completely new compact car that utilized a new engine and a larger design (via Readers Digest).

Photo Credit: GM

The problem was that the Cobalt was still considered an inferior compact car compared to the competition. The Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla were becoming more luxurious by the day. The Cobalt was lacking in performance and refinement and even the SS model wasn’t enough to save the brand.

Photo Credit: Ford

Ford Explorer

The Ford Explorer was a completely new project for the Ford Motor Company. Positioned to compete with the Jeep Cherokee and the Chevy S-10 Blazer, it was a four-door SUV. The first generation of the Explorer was a massive success, but by the second generation, there were serious questions about the quality (via Readers Digest).

Photo Credit: Ford

The Explorer was caught in the crosshairs of controversy due to a faulty roof design. When the Firestone tires were part of a multimillion-dollar wrongful death lawsuit, the reputation of the Explorer suffered. There were more capable off-road SUVs that were more compelling than the Explorer.

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Nissan Murano

The Murano was one of the first crossover vehicles on the market. It had many positives, such as styling and performance. But when it came down to it, the reliability was questionable and the build quality was not in line with its high price (via Readers Digest).

Photo Credit: Car Domain

The Murano was notorious for transmission problems that were costly to fix. The Murano was a success for Nissan but that didn’t mean that it was a viable used car. The crossover segment evolved over the next decade and the Murano was at the forefront.

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Mitsubishi Mirage

The Mirage was a well-known nameplate for much of the 1990s. The car was cheap and affordable and sold seemingly well. So when Mitsubishi announced the nameplate was making a return, there was some fanfare. Unfortunately, the production car was very low quality and lacked quality (via Readers Digest).

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The Mirage was a car with a lot of potential, but the final product was not well executed. Mitsubishi dropped the ball on the design of the Mirage. The automotive press continually dogged the car for the less than satisfactory design and lackluster build quality.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

Volkswagen Passat

The Volkswagen Passat was a stellar car in the 2000s. Volkswagen reached a pinnacle with the design, the car drove better and lasted longer than before. But the parts used in the 2000s Passat were still problematic once the car aged. As a used car, the Passat was one of the most expensive models to keep on the road (via Readers Digest).

Photo Credit: Edmunds

Special editions such as the W8 only amplified that fact with an engine notoriously difficult to repair. The Passat had some strong attributes, but the high price of repairs can’t be ignored. There were better cars from the same era that required less attention in the maintenance department.

Photo Credit: Mecum

Range Rover

Over the past couple of years, it’s become trendy to buy old cars and trucks from the 1990s. The Range Rover was one such vehicle that gained a following in the hip-hop community. The Range Rover was a more than capable off-road vehicle with a lot of luxury features (via Readers Digest).

Photo Credit: Mecum

But as far as reliability went, the Range Rover did not stack up with the best, or even close. Repairs could even cost thousands of dollars. Even the most basic repairs on the Range Rover were expensive. The Range Rover from the 1990s was not a reliable SUV by any stretch.

Photo Credit: Dodge

Ram 1500

The Ram 1500 that was introduced for the 2002 model year was a completely modern truck. The Ram was improved in every way possible over the previous model. Consumers were attracted to the big rig style design and the incredible performance offered by the Hemi V8 engine (via Readers Digest).

Photo Credit: Dodge

But the Ram 1500 was not a success in all aspects, as reliability still fell short. The transmission in the Ram 1500 was notoriously bad and prone to failure. Electrical issues also plagued the truck and the repairs were expensive. There were better trucks from this era that were far less expensive to maintain.

Photo Credit: IMDB

Ford F-150

The Ford F-150 was one of the most influential pickup trucks of all time. The F-150 outsold just about every other pickup truck on the market for decades. The model that was introduced in 1997 was one of the most modern and most comfortable pickup trucks on the road (via Readers Digest).

Photo Credit: Arlen Motors

Even the most popular generation of the F-150 was not without its fair share of problems. The engine was notorious for timing chain failures. The F-150 was also known for electrical shorts which would happen on the interior as well as with engine components.

1999 Lincoln Navigator
Photo Credit: Lowrider

Lincoln Navigator

The Navigator was a massive success, so much so that it saved the Lincoln brand from extinction. When no other Lincoln model was selling the Navigator was breaking records. The first generation of the Navigator was a massive success, but it was also not without its problems (via Readers Digest).

1999 Lincoln Navigator
Photo Credit: Lowrider

The In-Tech V8 engine was known to have electrical issues which were expensive to fix. The suspension was an air ride, which meant the system would go out after many years. Without proper repair to the air ride suspension, the Navigator was left in an inoperable state.

Photo Credit: Ford Motor

Lincoln Aviator

The Aviator was another well-known Lincoln model in the early 2000s. The company hoped to build on the success of Navigator with a midsize offering. The Aviator was not popular due to the high price tag and lack of features. The Aviator also lacked the reliability of other well-known offerings in the segment (via Readers Digest).

Photo Credit: Car Domain

For the price of an Aviator, consumers could just opt for the full-sized Navigator. There were other offerings in the segment that was more reliable and offered more features. The final blow for the Aviator came when it was discontinued a few years later.

Photo Credit: Lincoln

Lincoln Zephyr

The Zephyr was part of Lincoln’s renaissance in the early 2000s. The Zephyr was the first original Lincoln model in years. Slotted below the Town Car the Zephyr was meant to entice young affluent buyers into Lincoln showrooms. The sport sedan design of the Zephyr was appealing but its high price of maintenance was not (via Readers Digest).

Photo Credit: Edmunds

The Zephyr was not effective in bringing younger shoppers into Lincoln showrooms. The car was problematic with a long list of reliability issues. Repairs were pricey and the warranty wasn’t comparable to other luxury brands. While the Zephyr has a cheap price tag on the used market, the headache and maintenance aren’t worth it.

Photo Credit: Chrysler

Dodge Dart

The Dodge Dart and Chrysler 200 were part of a billion-dollar investment by Fiat Chrysler to revitalize the passenger car segment. The problem was that the investment was made 10 years too late, as consumers moved on to crossovers. The Dart was not a bad car initially but the design was smaller than the competition and the reliability was questionable (via Readers Digest).

Photo Credit: Chrysler

The Dart was a great concept that utilized a well-known nameplate. But unfortunately, it was built a little too late. By the time Chrysler decided to take passenger cars seriously, the market appetite already moved to crossovers. The Dart was far too unreliable and undersized to be a real threat to Honda or Toyota.

Photo Credit: Dodge

Dodge Journey

The Journey was a crossover that was far too long in the tooth by the time Chrysler discontinued it. The Journey was an affordable offering, albeit lacking in refinement. In typical Chrysler fashion, the Journey was lacking in interior quality and its reliability was questionable (via Readers Digest).

Photo Credit: Dodge

The Journey was a long-term failure for the Dodge brand in general. The brand image of the car was tarnished by a seeming lack of quality. There were far better crossovers that were released around the same period that offered far better performance and price.

Photo Credit: Edmunds

Dodge Neon

The Neon was one of the most popular compact cars that Chrysler sold in the 1990s. The design of the Neon was straightforward and value-oriented. The performance of the DOHC engine was lauded by the automotive press. But there were shortcomings with the second generation of the Neon (via Readers Digest).

Photo Credit: Car Domain

The second generation Neon lacked the groundbreaking design of the first car. The second time around, the car felt cheap, and reliability was questionable. It was discontinued in favor of the Dodge Caliber, another lackluster compact car that was eventually discontinued.

Photo Credit: Chrysler

Chrysler Aspen

Chrysler picked the wrong time to introduce their luxury SUV model. The Aspen was introduced to the market right amid the 2008 economic recession. The Aspen was nothing more than a rebadged Dodge Durango SUV, which itself was outdated by 2008 (via Readers Digest).

Photo Credit: Chrysler

The Aspen was a nice SUV from an exterior standpoint. The styling was attractive and there were a lot of chrome and accent pieces to set it apart. But the interior was cheaply put together and not much different from the interior you’d find in the Durango.

Dodge Nitro - Dodge
Photo Credit: Dodge

Dodge Nitro

The Dodge Nitro was an interesting SUV concept that was based on the Jeep Liberty. The upright styling of the Nitro was radical looking at the time. There was an R/T version of the SUV that was nothing more than an appearance package. From the outside, the Nitro looked unique, but it wasn’t all that great (via Readers Digest).

Dodge Nitro via Chrysler Corporation
Photo Credit: Chrysler Corporation

The Nitro was never a sales hit for Dodge, and the SUV was discontinued in the late 2000s. The Nitro didn’t offer anything unique that wasn’t already on the market. Consumers looked for unique SUV models and the Nitro was underpowered and overpriced.

Photo Credit: GM

Hummer H3

The H3 was a final hurrah for the Hummer brand based on the Chevy Colorado. Perhaps the most questionable thing about the Hummer H3 was the five-cylinder engine. At the time the H3 was released, the appetite for gas-guzzling SUV models was waning (via Readers Digest).

Photo Credit: Edmunds

The Hummer H3 looked like the larger Hummer models that were offered. But the H3 didn’t offer anything unique in value, and it was overpriced. The H3 was notoriously unreliable, with the five-cylinder engine being the worst culprit. Consumers didn’t want gas guzzlers by the time the H3 was released and the sales reflected that.

Chevrolet Uplander
Photo Credit: GM

Chevrolet Uplander

For decades, GM attempted to hit a home run in the minivan segment. The automaker never attained the same type of success that Chrysler had in the minivan segment. The Uplander was one last attempt to try and sell a viable minivan model to the public. The most notable thing about the Uplander was the SUV-inspired styling (via Readers Digest).

Photo Credit: Edmunds

But the Uplander was not able to gain traction in the minivan segment and it was the final GM minivan. It was more profitable for GM to sell crossover vehicles than it was to try and sell a minivan. The Uplander was not the most value-oriented van on the market, and the styling was hideous.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

Honda Odyssey

The first generation of the Honda Odyssey was not the polished minivan that we see today. The Odyssey was Honda’s attempt to enter the lucrative minivan segment. The problem with the first generation of the Odyssey was that it was undersized and had a four-door design, instead of a sliding rear door like other minivans (via Readers Digest).

Photo Credit: Car Domain

The first generation of the Honda Odyssey was also sold as the Isuzu Oasis minivan. The design was not popular and the sales numbers were low. The van was redesigned for the 1999 model year. The second incarnation of the Odyssey was much more popular than this model.

Photo Credit: Edmunds

Chrysler 200

The Chrysler 200 was the product of a major investment by Fiat Chrysler. The car was marketed with an aggressive slogan “imported by Detroit”. The problem with the Chrysler 200 was that the design was smaller than other competitors in the segment (via Readers Digest).

Photo Credit: Edmunds

The Chrysler 200 was not a success and the sales were lackluster at best. The car was undersized and the interior quality was not what consumers expected. It was a sedan released at the wrong time in the automotive industry.

Audi TT Coupe via Motor Junkie
Photo Credit: Edmunds

Audi TT

The Audi TT was one of the longest-running two-door sports cars in the automotive industry. When the TT was released in 1999 the design of the car was groundbreaking. But that design remained the same for almost two decades with very minimal changes (via Readers Digest).

2012 Audi TT RS - 2019 Audi TT RS
Photo Credit: Edmunds

The maintenance costs associated with owning an Audi TT are some of the most expensive that you’ll pay. The car had to be maintained by specialty technicians, and those are difficult to find. There were other sports cars from the same era that offered the same amount of performance with fewer headaches.

Mitsubishi Lancer EVO
Photo Credit: Edmunds

Mitsubishi Lancer

The Lancer was never as popular of a compact car as the Honda Civic or the Toyota Corolla. But the car had a dedicated community of enthusiasts behind it. The styling of the Lancer was always out of the box, and the performance of the Lancer was excellent (via Readers Digest).

Photo Credit: Edmunds

The Lancer was discontinued after the sales numbers dropped. There were better options in the compact car segment than the Lancer. The final incarnation of the Lancer had a radical new design at first, but the hype surrounding the car quickly faded away.

Pontiac G8
Photo Credit: GM

Pontiac G8

The Pontiac G8 was the final new Pontiac model that was ever released. The G8 had a powerful V8 engine that was one of the best from GM. There was a heavy advertising campaign that surrounded the G8, but shortly after it was released, GM filed for bankruptcy, and the Pontiac brand was discontinued (via Readers Digest).

Pontiac G8
Photo Credit: GM

The Pontiac G8 was a tragic case of a great car that was released too little too late. The styling and the performance of the G8 were unlike anything else that was on the market. But consumer interest had shifted away from the V8-powered sports sedans, and the G8 was the last of its kind.

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