Last post on Oct 31, 2011 at 2:14 PM
You are in the Ford Explorer
What is this discussion about?
Ford Explorer, Mercury Mountaineer, SUV
#3136 of 3348 Re: Latest Consumer Reports Ratings [mtnman1]
Mar 15, 2006 (3:29 pm)
My father subscribed to Consumer Reports (CR) when I was growing up and I have been turning to it for purchase information since I bought my first car in 1984 or so. I have found the information to be pretty reliable.
Having said that I like to think I've gotten a little more sophisticated. I tend to buy newer used vehicles so I check with the NHTSA for Recalls, Technical Service Bulletins, Defect Investigations and Consumer Complaints. I haven't made a scientific study of how well that info tracks with Consumer Reports reliability data but my sense is that they tend to be fairly consistent with each other.
I also check chat sites like this to see what people in the real world have to say about any problems they have.
I do agree with one other poster that the reliability data CR gets depends upon what their average member drives but I don't know that more CR members buy foreign than domestic vehicles. Assuming, for the sake of discussion, that more of them buy foreign that doesn't mean the data is statistically invalid unless you further assume that blind loyalty compels them to under-report problems. In my experience anyone who has been inconvenienced &/or hit in the pocketbook by an unreliable vehicle is probably going to vent their grievance, given the opportunity.
Currently I am in the market for a newer used SUV. I have been pretty happy with my 1997 Subaru Outback (Imprezza) Sport so I had been looking for a 2005 Subaru Outback (Legacy). One with average miles and about 1 1/2 to 2 years left on the warranty is going for about $19,000 to $20,000. A discounted "Gold Plus" extended Mfr warranty, 7 years / 100K, $0.00 Deductible would cost me about $1,400.00. Consumer Reports gives Subaru a better than average rating for the OB / Legacy overall but the 2005 is only about average. As much as I liked the OB Sport the extended warranty did get a workout so I want the warranty this time for the peace of mind.
But since I was hoping to do better on price I started looking at some domestic alternatives including the 2005 Ford Explorer which CR rates as worse than average on reliability. Since I could save about $2000 to $3,000 buying a 2005 Explorer with 18 months, but only 6,688 miles left on the original Mfrs warranty I would definitely need the extended warranty. However, the MSRP on a comparable Ford warranty is about $800. Worse yet, the difference between the best discounted price on a Subaru warranty and the ford warranty is about $1,300.
So the real difference in cost between the Outback and the Explorer is about $700 to $2,300 but that difference could get eaten up by repairs pretty quickly after the extended warranty runs.
So, I have come to believe that what a Mfr charges for their extended warranties is a pretty good indicator of the faith they have in their product and probably a fair predictor of reliability.
As additional examples here is a rough idea of what Toyota and GMC warranties cost at MSRP and after a decent discount. Note, both of these warranties are the highest level of coverage I could find for the Mfr in question and are for 7 year / 100K, $0.00 Ded.
Toyota MSRP: $2,400; discount price: $ 900
GMC/Chevy MSRP $3,300; discount price: $2,800 (appx'ly)
Interestingly, in my limited experience, if you shop aggressively you can save about 40% on a foreign Mfr warranty but only about 15% on a domestic Mfr warranty. I don't think that is any sort of predictor of reliablity though.
Anyways, these are just my observations; for what they are worth.
#3137 of 3348 Re: Latest Consumer Reports Ratings [cathmac]
Mar 15, 2006 (4:08 pm)
Anyway, I don't know how you can compare an Outback against an Explorer. The Explorer is a true SUV, with optional seating for seven. And while I haven't looked up the numbers, I would venture to say the Explorer probably has more interior room and towing capacity (if you opt. for the V8) than the Subaru.
In addition, I really don't agree with your assessment of the cost of warrantys. It is the dealers (unfortunately) that sets the ultimate sales price of the warranty, not the manufacturer.
#3138 of 3348 Re: Latest Consumer Reports Ratings [chuck1]
Mar 15, 2006 (4:29 pm)
There is no comparison. The Subaru can't tow anywhere near the 6900lbs and Explorer/Mountaineer with the V-8 can. As far as interior space again it's like comparing Apples to Oranges. Subaru is listed as a small SUV along with the CRV, Escape, etc. Explorer is a mid Size. No one is buying a Subaru to tow with. Most people that buy them probably like the idea of having a family vehicle with the ability of an AWD vehicle. I on the other hand wanted an SUV with towing capability and the comforts of a luxury vehicle. The Mountaineer with the Luxury trim level is loaded plus it comes standard with a third row seat. I don't think the guy really meant to compare them as SUV's, but was making a comparison in pricing and reliability.
#3139 of 3348 Re: Latest Consumer Reports Ratings [mtnman1]
Mar 15, 2006 (5:31 pm)
After checking Edmunds for specs I found that the Explorer V-8 can tow 7240 lbs vs. 3000 lbs for the Subaru Outback. Edmunds lists the Outback as a Mid Sized Station Wagon not an SUV. Again, I don't think anyone buys a Subaru Outback with the idea of any serious towing. They like the car and it suits their needs just like the Explorer may suit someone else better.
#3140 of 3348 Re: Latest Consumer Reports Ratings [cathmac]
Mar 15, 2006 (6:34 pm)
great post. one of the best of original thought i have seen here. really makes a lot of sense. after the zillions of posts i have read and made, all i can say is thanks.
it is a breath of fresh air.
#3141 of 3348 Re: Latest Consumer Reports Ratings [explorerx4]
Mar 16, 2006 (8:59 am)
Thanks for the kind words. I'll "correct" two typos of mine here --regarding the Ford and Toyota warranties-- before anyone points them out. The Ford warranty MSRP is $800.00 more than the Subaru warranty MSRP (I omitted the word "more"). The Toyota MSRP is about $1,400 (not $2,400). Sorry for any confusion.
Chuck1 and Mtnman1,
Regarding the differences between the Subaru Outback and the Explorer, for a more accurate frame of reference I did price a Taurus warranty at www.fordesp.com (where I got the $3,300 warranty MSRP on the Explorer). I put in comparable vehicle info (Year & Mileage) for a comparable warranty (highest / longest level of coverage, $0.00 Ded) for a Taurus (without AWD or 4WD). The price I came up with is $3760. (?!?!?!?!) I believe that price is inflated since it is higher than the price I got just yesterday for the Explorer on that site, using the same warranty and vehicle parameters. I have no idea how or why that happened. It must be some sort of marketing thing.
However, they are running a 10% - 25% "promotion" which at best (25% off) would translate to $2,820. This would still be about $300 more than the Subaru MSRP on a comparable Outback warranty. And of course the Subaru has AWD, which would increase the cost of potential repairs, all other factors being equal.
Obviously this isn't a scientific survey but it reinforces my impression that domestic warranty prices are more expensive than Japanese warranties (again, for comparable vehicles). To to the observation about dealers setting the final cost, that may be corect to an extent. The real indicator of reliability would be the wholesale price the Manufacturer charges the dealer, which is probably the amount that would cover the Manufacturer's risk of repair (plus the Manufacturer's profit, if any). Nevertheless, I maintain that as with any kind of insurance, the price is a pretty good reflection of the actuaries' assessment of the risk of repair. Otherwise the prices would be arbitrary and unrealistic and if market forces didn't correct that then no one would by them.
I should note that my husband's gripe with Consumer Reports is that they do not tend to report the cost of repairs. His impression is that American cars may need repairs more often but those repairs tend to be less expensive. The big weakness in any almost any reliablity data (not just CRs) has more to do with the severity of potential problems, than the likelihood.
As an example, my sister recently got a great price on a used Lexus RX300. The CR reliability data is excellent but knowing how expensive they are to fix I went to the NHTSA Technical Service Bulletins and to Edmunds Forums and found what is essentially a voluntary recall and warranty extension for oil sludge problems. I went back to CR online and found a separate article on that repair issue for a variety of foreign and domestic manufacturers. Needless to say I helped her find a good price on a Lexus backed used car warranty.
Interestingly, I had never heard about oil sludge problems in any vehicles before. And no one else I have spoken to since had heard of the problem before. I specifically had to research this particular vehicle to find the issue. So I'm not sure it reflects poorly on CR that that uncommon but serious issues aren't highlighted in their reliability data.
However, knowing that a lot of used car buyers only look at the Annual Auto issue I would feel better if they could find an efficient way to spotlight infrequent, but potentially catastrophic failures, perhaps in sidebar articles in those issues so that people can weigh the likelihood of potential problems against the severity. Maybe that's impractical, since I would imagine there are a lot of infrequent but potentially catastrophic repairs.
For what it's worth, in my opinion CR, is as unbiased as it can be but it has its limitations and car buyers would be wise to look to the NHTSA and sites like this for supplemental information. If Iím not mistaken, this is consistent with CR recommendations on researching major purchases.
#3142 of 3348 Re: Latest Consumer Reports Ratings [cathmac]
by Stever@Edmunds HOST
Mar 16, 2006 (9:18 am)
The True Cost to Own tool will estimate repair costs for a new car for the first five years of ownership.
I like to check out JD Power too, and I think their sampling methodology is better than CR's. We report their Power Circle ratings here for many makes/models.
Lots of good resources out there. Oh, this was an interesting safety score link Varmint posted last week: Informed For Life (via Straightline Blog)
Mar 16, 2006 (11:34 am)
I just purchased a 2002 Explorer XLT that seems very highly optioned. Is there any source where one could enter a VIN and get what amounts to the options on this vehicle?
#3144 of 3348 Re: Latest Consumer Reports Ratings [steve_]
Mar 16, 2006 (1:23 pm)
I know that CR gets its reliability data from its members, a method that has obvious limitations but no obvious actual reliability bias that I'm aware of. What methodology does JD Powers use and do they rate the reliability of used vehicles? I'm familiar with the JD Power's term "initial quality" used in new car advertising but it never occurred to me they might have used car data.
Do they buy the new vehicles themselves, as CR does?
I like the NHTSA info when making a used car purchase so I I can bring any potentially expensive issues to the attention of the mechanic doing the pre-purchase inspection. Even if I have another Subaru dealer doing the inspection I wouldn't assume they are going to be familiar with all of the Recalls, TSBs, or certainly consumer complaints that haven't resulted in a Recall or TSB.
"Straightline" link but it doesn't seem to take me to any safety score info, Varmint or otherwise.
#3145 of 3348 Re: Latest Consumer Reports Ratings [cathmac]
Mar 16, 2006 (2:36 pm)
You need to click on one of the links near the top of Varmint's page. It's a link to a .pdf file which requires the Adobe Acrobat Reader in order to view it. If your browser isn't set up to handle those files you may need to install the reader (Varmint provides a link on his page!)