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Popular Cars That Seem Cheap But Actually Burn Up Drivers’ Cash

Cameron EittreimJuly 7, 2022

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37: Ford Mustang

The Mustang was long considered the everyman’s sports car, but as time has gone on, the car has gotten more complicated. New technology has made the Mustang an even more expensive car to repair. Between the EcoBoost engine and the head gaskets, repairs on the current, modern Mustang set drivers back a pretty penny (via Readers Digest).

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The transmission is one of the main failures in the car, and the timing chain has also been known to go bad on the V8 models. The Mustang isn’t the simple car it once was and you can’t work on it by yourself. The new Mustang is a modern vehicle with many computerized systems built in.

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36: Audi A6

It’s true that the A6 has a lot to like about it as Audi is one of the best driving cars on the road. But the A6 has had many reliability problems over the past couple of years. The head gaskets go bad on these cars and the transmission has been known to fail (via Readers Digest).

1997 Audi A6 - 1998 Audi A6
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Another common issue is for sensors like the knock sensor and the O2 sensor to go out. While these seem like minor repairs, the cost can be quite high because it takes a German vehicle specialist to fix it.

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35: Nissan Frontier

Who would think the Frontier could be expensive to repair? The simple truck Nissan has sold for decades is seemingly reliable. But in the long run, many small issues can pop up on these trucks. The transmission is not the best and when it goes out, repairs can be costly (via Readers Digest).

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The electronic 4WD system is also known to fail as the truck ages. Luckily, the Frontier has been built in the same body style for over 16 years, so finding parts isn’t difficult. Yet the Frontier can set drivers back quite a bit in repair costs.

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34: Jeep Cherokee (XJ)

The Cherokee is a bulletproof ride; one that you can have sitting in the driveway for years with no problem. But when problems start to arise, they aren’t cheap to fix, mainly because these early Jeep models are becoming scarce. The Cherokee XJ has recently exploded in value and that translates to expensive repairs (via Readers Digest).

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While the AMC model years were a basic SUV that was fairly cheap to fix, many parts became more complicated after the Chrysler takeover. The newer variations of the XJ have more reliability issues, and these can be costly to fix. Nevertheless, the XJ is a collectible SUV that you can be proud to own.

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33: Mazda 6

The Mazda 6 was a major upgrade for the automaker that overtook the outdated Millenia. The 6 took updated styling and a completely revamped ride quality to create a car that was fun to drive. The repairs, on the other hand, can be costly and many things would go wrong with the Mazda 6 (via Readers Digest).

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The transmission in the early models is not the most reliable transmission on the road. The engine also suffered from head gasket failures. The cooling system is also problematic in these cars, and it can be a pain to get it all sorted out. When the Mazda 6 is operating right, it’s a great vehicle; that just isn’t always the case.

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32: Chevrolet Trax

The Trax is a well-appointed compact SUV released under the radar. There was not much advertising for this car, but it managed to sell well. The Trax was a new design for GM, and there were many new aspects. The CVT transmission was added as it was with most modern cars. The Trax has been popular for GM in the last couple of years but the real cost of ownership hasn’t been revealed (via Readers Digest).

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But as anyone who actually drives will tell you, the CVT transmission is not the most reliable vehicle. The repairs on these transmissions can be through the roof, and the Trax also has the engine disabling feature. While these features add to the fuel economy, they do nothing to mediate the expensive repair costs.

Dodge Caravan Via Edmunds
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31: Dodge Grand Caravan

The Grand Caravan has been on the road for a long time and no one can deny that Chrysler has long dominated the minivan segment. Even as other automakers have offered comparable models, there was just something about the Chrysler vans that consumers liked. The van has maintained many of its original design elements throughout the years (via Readers Digest).

2014 Chrysler Town & Country - 2016 Chrysler Town & Country
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The Grand Caravan was discontinued but it still has strong sales on the used car market. The reliability of the Grand Caravan has always been questionable at best. The thing that made it stand out was the price. But the price of repairs is expensive, and for many drivers, this van will break you in repair costs.

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30: Mini Cooper

The Mini Cooper is a great-looking car but it’s no secret that the repair costs are expensive. Mini Cooper is built by BMW, and many of these components are just as expensive to replace as BMW parts are. The current generation of Mini Cooper models has become more advanced than the previous iteration (via Readers Digest).

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With all that technology comes an increased cost to repair the vehicle. The transmission in the Mini Cooper models is notorious for going out. In addition, there have also been problems with the cooling system on these cars. The Mini Cooper might be a status symbol but it will cost you a penny to own one.

Kia Soul via Motor Trend
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29: Kia Soul

The Soul has been a success for the company thanks to a unique marketing campaign and many unique features. The car has a lot of stuff that you wouldn’t expect a cheap compact to have. The LED lighting inside the vehicle that flows with the music is a nice touch. The Soul counters that with many reliability issues, however (via Readers Digest).

Kia Soul via Motor Trend
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Between engine fires and transmission failing, these cars have been plagued with issues. Kia has been great about repairing the vehicles, but as time goes on, the warranty on them will expire. Drivers then have to come out of pocket for many of these repairs. The Soul might be cool-looking, but it won’t be nice to your wallet.

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28: Jeep Compass

The Compass was not your average Jeep when it hit the market. There was nothing Jeep liked about this vehicle. But the Compass did have a compact design and cheap price tag that appealed to entry-level consumers. You could get the “Jeep” name for a cheap price and that was appealing (via Readers Digest).

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But the Compass has not been the most reliable car on the road. Again, the CVT transmission is not cheap to fix, and the rest of the car also has reliability issues. The Jeep Compass has poor resale value, and the cost of repairs doesn’t equate to real value. The Compass is definitely a passable vehicle if you’re in the market for a used one.

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27: Acura TL

Just because a car comes from Honda doesn’t mean it is reliable. Case in point – the TL. The TL has been on the market for a long time but the car has not seen any noticeable upgrades in a while. What makes the TL notable is that it has many transmission failures reported by consumers (via Readers Digest).

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These transmission failures can cost thousands to replace and the car also has timing chain failures. Most Acura models are seemingly reliable, but the newer models have so much technology built-in that repairs can cost an arm and a leg. There is a lot to like about the Acura TL but you just have to realize that the repair costs will be expensive.

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26: Hyundai Venue SE

Being a compact crossover vehicle in today’s world is a good thing and that’s why the Venue was released. But the car doesn’t offer anything in terms of value when you factor in how much the repair costs are. The Venue SE has had numerous problems with the transmission and cooling system (via Readers Digest).

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Because these cars are still fairly new, they need to be taken to a specific Hyundai tech. The costs for the repairs can be expensive, especially when you factor in the advanced transmission. The Venue SE will cost you a lot to keep it on the road, but the overall design of the car is comfortable and family-friendly.

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25: Chevrolet Cobalt

The Chevy Cavalier was sold for decades as the pinnacle of GM compact offerings. Then came the time for the company to introduce a modern model. The Cobalt was released as the successor to the Cavalier model. The Cobalt had many reliability issues from the gate and many of them centered around the engine (via Readers Digest).

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These engines were known for getting sludge early on, as well as having cooling system failure. You won’t find a better car when it is running right, but once the Cobalt goes downhill, it can cost a lot to get it going again. The good thing about the Cobalt is that it was a fairly common car so finding usable parts are plentiful.

Also Read: 25 Chevy Models Gm Definitely Regrets Making.

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24: Ford Explorer

The Explorer is a noteworthy SUV because Ford has sold millions of them. This car was also the reason for the original Bronco being discontinued in the 1990s. The Explorer has had many issues over the past couple of decades, many of which are related to build quality (via Readers Digest).

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The Explorer has issues with the CVT transmission, as well as the head gaskets blowing early on. The timing chain has also been known to fail on these cars as it will develop a pinging sound. There is no doubt that while the Explorer is popular, it’s also expensive to repair. You may want its off-road capability but the Explorer can be a pain to drive.

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23: Nissan Murano

Why is the Murano so expensive? At least partly because the crossover shared many components with the Nissan Z sports car. While this was great when the Murano was brand new, it can be expensive as time goes on. The Murano has many repairs that can be expensive to fix. While the performance of the Murano can be exhilarating, it was high repair costs that drove people away (via Readers Digest).

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The transmission has known failures early on depending on which model you get. The engine also has an expensive timing chain that can cost more to repair than an entire engine replacement. There are also small issues with the car that can cost hundreds to repair, and that adds up quickly.

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22: Mitsubishi Mirage

Step behind the wheel of the Mirage and you might feel like you took a trip back to the early 2000s. The car is not only bland and basic but also has many reliability issues. The Mirage is the smallest car in the Mitsubishi lineup and has a paltry engine. Common problems include the transmission failing and the timing chain acting up (via Readers Digest).

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These aren’t cheap to repair and the Mitsubishi dealership network is small. The Mirage is cheaply-built and the lack of quality is evident throughout the car. When it comes to expensive cars, the Mirage just doesn’t make sense. The lack of a modern design and a declining market for subcompact cars make this car an idiotic one to own.

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21: Volkswagen Passat

The Passat has long been an upmarket version of the Jetta. It’s slightly larger with luxurious appointments. But the Passat is also an expensive car to maintain because of many issues that can arise. The Passat has serious problems with the transmission failing early on (via Readers Digest).

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The Passat also has many issues with sensors and engine components. All these issues can lead to an expensive repair bill. Likewise, the Passat also has a bad reputation for timing chain issues and oil leakage on the 2.0T models. If you don’t want an expensive repair bill, avoid the Passat at all costs.

Range Rover
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20: Range Rover

The Land Rover Range Rover has become one of the most iconic status symbols in the world. What makes this SUV so great? Well, nothing in particular because it is just another luxury SUV. But brand recognition is why people purchase the Range Rover these days. There is no denying the recognizability of a Range Rover SUV (via Readers Digest).

Range Rover
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The Range Rover has issues with the water pump going out as well as the timing chain. These vehicles can also develop an intermediate misfire which can be costly to diagnose. The price of repairs on the Range Rover can be over the top. Even with the brand recognition, this vehicle can be expensive to repair.

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19: Maserati Ghibli

The Ghibli is another well-known exotic car sold on the market lately. The main issues with this car revolve around misfires and transmission failure. A tune-up for one of these cars can cost thousands of dollars. The Ghibli has a Ferrari-derived engine, which means a professional must do the repairs (via Readers Digest).

Maserati Ghibli
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You won’t get away with cheap repairs on the Ghibli, which is why these cars don’t hold their value well. The Ghibli is a well-rounded sports car when it’s running right, but when it’s not, you’ll spend some serious money. Sure, the driving characteristics are fun but nothing is fun to drive when it is stuck in the shop nonstop.

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18: Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class

The GLA-Class is one of the most popular crossovers the brand has ever had, but with that success came many reliability issues. The GLA-Class is remarkable for its small size and high emphasis on driving comfort. But just an oil change for this car costs upwards of $300. The maintenance for a Mercedes-Benz model is not cheap and you will pay a premium (via Readers Digest).

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The GLA-Class has also been noted for having issues with transmission reliability. There is no doubt that these problems will cost people who own a used one. If you want to save money owning a crossover, the GLA-Class isn’t the car for you. The Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class is a notable car but costs a lot to own.

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17: Nissan Kicks

The Kicks is a new crossover SUV released for the brand, and it has some unique attributes. It has a unique look in an already crowded field of vehicles, which has helped it stand out. But early on there were issues with the CVT transmission and Nissan had to issue a few recalls (via Readers Digest).

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The Kicks is different than the Rogue and other Nissan SUVs on the market. It stands out from the crowd for having a unique look and personality, but drivers can’t get over the high maintenance costs. Nissan doesn’t offer a competitive warranty like many other automakers.

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16: Ram 1500

The Ram is a good truck with a good personality and the sales have been strong. But you can’t deny that there are many reliability issues with the Ram. First and foremost is the transmission, which is well known for failing. The Magnum V6 engines also suffer from many fuel injection issues as well as timing chain issues (via Readers Digest).

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It’s the little quirks on these trucks that make the maintenance so expensive. When the truck gets higher into the mileage, you will start having issues with overheating and more. The trucks are comfortable and stylish, but the reliability is iffy at best.

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15: Ford F-150

The F-150 has been on the block for a long time but with that prestige comes a lot of reliability issues. On the V8 models, there have been known issues with the timing chain, as well as overheating. These trucks also have a lot of issues with the automatic starting system, and once this shorts out, it can cost thousands of dollars to get it diagnosed (via Readers Digest).

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The F-150 has long been the best-selling truck in America, and that’s for a reason. But when it comes to it, the issues are costly. You will spend quite a bit to keep this truck on the road long-term, which is why many consumers have decided to move toward other truck brands.

Also Read: 20 Reasons Drivers Will Choose Ford’s F-150 Over Tesla’s Cybertruck.

1999 Lincoln Navigator
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14: Lincoln Navigator

When the Navigator hit the scene, it pretty much revived a dying Lincoln brand. But the Navigator is not the most reliable car when it gets up there in age. The Navigator has a lot of expensive technology built-in that can cause pain at the mechanic shop. Small things like the electric seats and the dashboard blacking out all the way up to the air-ride suspension going flat (via Readers Digest).

1999 Lincoln Navigator
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You will spend thousands of dollars to keep the Navigator on the road once it gets old and riddled with mileage. There are many positive attributes about this car if you can find a low mileage one, but those are few and far between. You’ll spend a lot of money just to keep an older Navigator on the road.

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13: Lincoln Aviator

The same goes for the Aviator, which is basically a rebadged Ford Explorer. Because the Aviator had a lot of technology, there’s a chance it will fail. The Aviator, much like the Navigator, also had an air-ride suspension, and when this goes out, it can be costly. The V8 engine is shared with the Mustang Mach and it also has reliability issues (via Readers Digest).

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Between timing chain failures, valve jobs, and misfires, this SUV is a pain to keep on the road. Coupled with the relatively limited resale value, you won’t get a good deal on the Aviator. There are better options that are much more reliable and offer more bang for the buck when it comes to driving.

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12: Lincoln Zephyr

This interesting sedan was a breath of fresh air for Lincoln in 2006, but after the initial beauty wore off, you could tell that the Zephyr was nothing special. The look and feel of the car are two benefits of driving one, but the reliability is shaky at best. The engine has many issues with the head gaskets and timing chain (via Readers Digest).

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The Zephyr has also been known to have premature fuel pump failures that are expensive to repair. You won’t find this car on any of the most reliable comparisons and that’s because maintenance on this car is expensive. That’s before drivers consider the fuses and interior items that tend to burn out as well.

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11: Dodge Dart

The Dart is a relatively new car even though it has been around for about five years. But this car was one of the biggest failures ever at Chrysler. The engine was notoriously unreliable but even worse is its CVT transmission. These cars are known to have transmission failures around 20,000 miles (via Readers Digest).

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The Dart is generally out of warranty by now, and the fact that the car has these kinds of failures only exemplifies the poor craftsmanship. Other issues with the Dart included the electrical components shorting out. There were better compact cars for the price and the Dart is unfortunately not one of them.

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10: Dodge Journey

There’s no doubt that the Journey is a car long in the tooth. It was one of the first crossover vehicles to hit the market. But the craftsmanship and build quality on the Journey was also quite questionable. The crossover had many reliability issues and the main one centered around the CVT transmission (via Readers Digest).

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These CVT transmissions have not been proven long enough in the automotive industry and most drivers like to avoid them altogether. Not only are they unreliable, but the repair costs are more than the average transmission used to be. The Journey also had many issues with the timing chain and engine cooling system.

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9: Dodge Neon

By now, the Neon is about a 30-year-old car getting up in age. But the Neon is also one of the most affordable cars drivers can get their hands on. The car has many issues and the main issues relate to the drivetrain. The engine is notorious for snapping the timing chain, and once that happens, repairs are nearly impossible (via Readers Digest).

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On top of all that, the Neon also has a checkered past with transmission failures. You might find a Neon for a reasonable price, but after you deal with the transmission failure or the timing chain snapping, you’ll be stuck with a lemon. The Neon just doesn’t cut the mustard when it comes to the reliability drivers need.

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8: Chrysler Aspen

The Aspen has been attracting more attention lately, as consumers flock to the used car market. For those who don’t remember, the Aspen was a large luxury SUV that hit the market in the middle of the 2008 recession. This was far from great timing by Chrysler and even worse was that it was just an outdated Dodge Durango (via Readers Digest).

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The Aspen had many faults but reliability is the biggest problem as the engine is prone to timing chain failure and the oil pump going out. The transmission on these SUVs is also trash as you can bet that you will be taking this to the transmission shop more than once.

Dodge Nitro - Dodge
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7: Dodge Nitro

The Nitro was another compact SUV Chrysler released over the last decade. The Nitro had an upright look and it seemingly caught on with consumers. The problem is that the Nitro was also one of the more unreliable offerings. The transmission was the main problem as it is with most Dodge products (via Readers Digest).

Dodge Nitro via Chrysler Corporation
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If you were unlucky, then you’d have the transmission fail early in the ownership of the car. The reliability of the Nitro is also questionable at best. The head gasket tends to blow from time to time and the cooling system also fails.

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6: Hummer H3

The H3 is a compact SUV released at the end of the Hummer brand’s lifespan. It had a lot going for it, other than the fact that there was a recession going on. This meant consumers didn’t want Hummers anymore. Another problem with the H3 was that it used the five-cylinder Isuzu engine as the base engine (via Readers Digest).

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This is one of the most faulty engines ever to enter a GM product. The engine is known for having an intermediate misfire that occurs from a defect in the air intake gaskets. This is not a cheap fix, and generally, once this happens, you’ll need a whole new engine.

Chevrolet Uplander
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5: Chevrolet Uplander

The upright SUV-style minivans sold by GM in the mid-2000s have started to pique the interest of buyers lately. These vans never sold well when they were new, so it doesn’t make sense why consumers want these. The engines were notably unreliable and the vans had many issues that made them questionable (via Readers Digest).

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The Uplander was a van with a faulty V6 engine. When it was running right, the overheating problem would arise. And if you could skip those problems, the transmission probably would fail on you. The Uplander was not the best-looking van and didn’t stand out from the crowd.

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4: Honda Odyssey

Honda products have the reputation for being reliable. And while the Odyssey was popular, the van did have an expensive defect. The first and second-generation models of the Odyssey are widely known to have faulty transmission. The transmissions in these vans can fail at any time and will cost an arm and a leg to repair (via Readers Digest).

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Another problem that the Odyssey is common for is the need for a valve job, which can happen at odd periods throughout the van’s life. The problem is that only a certified Honda professional can do this, and the repair is expensive. Needless to say, these early-model Odysseys might have been nice but repairs were pricey.

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3: Chrysler 200

Like the Dodge Dart, Chrysler had invested over a billion dollars in the design of this car. The 200 was supposed to be the next-generation sedan that changed the industry. Instead, consumers were critical of the car’s small size and high price tag. The Chrysler 200 didn’t do anything well, and its reliability was highly questionable (via Readers Digest).

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The CVT transmission was panned from day one, and it caused consumers to flock to other car brands. The sales for the Chrysler 200 were incredibly poor, and you find them on the used car market all the time.

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2: Volvo XC60

The Volvo XC60 is perhaps another well-known compact SUV that has been popular with drivers lately. But if you know about Volvo products, then you know that this SUV is not as reliable either. The XC60 has many electrical issues that make the SUV inoperable. The transmission is also finicky and can need repairs early on (via Readers Digest).

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Because the XC60 is such an advanced vehicle, there are many electrical components throughout the car. You’ll have to have a professional make these repairs, and that can be costly and something that most consumers don’t want to do. The XC60 is a vehicle that should be avoided by the common consumer.

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1: Ford Bronco

Consumers and the automotive press have panned the new Bronco for catastrophic engine failures. The Bronco is not reliable by any means, and when you open the hood, you are exposed to hoses and wires. There’s no doubt that the Bronco was simply rushed together and then pushed onto the market (via Readers Digest).

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Consumers have also complained about issues with the automatic transmission. Luckily, a lot of these issues are still under warranty, but once that warranty expires, these repairs will be expensive. Bronco loyalists are disappointed because the Bronco was traditionally an easy-to-repair rig with great styling.

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