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J.D. Power reveals the most common problem on 2019 cars

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The results of the latest J.D. Power 2022 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study (henceforth referred to as the VDS) were released earlier this month — and thanks to the treasure trove of data within those results, we can dig up some useful tips for used car shoppers, including the most popular problems with 2019-model-year vehicles.

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Annually, the VDS looks at survey data from thousands of owners of three-year-old vehicles and asks them to fill out a report card on their experience. A recent update to the testing metrics sees this year’s study examining more possible trouble areas like driver assistance features, and also asks owners to rate their satisfaction with the vehicle’s condition after three years of usage.

Data is crunched to determine a rating called Problems Per 100, or PP100 — that is, the number of problems reported per hundred vehicles. Problems could be mechanical, electronic, or even relate to difficulty using certain vehicle features and functions. Problems, as they relate to the VDS, include virtually anything a vehicle owner might consider a problem. 

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The key findings of the annual VDS are always interesting, and this year they’re perhaps moreso, since the study is fresh out of a redesign that captures even more relevant information.

Key takeaways?

Infotainment systems remain a key sore spot. This was also the case in last year’s study, and current data shows more than half of surveyed owners reported problems here. Voice recognition, not enough power and USB ports, outdated maps and difficult to use navigation systems also showed up as trouble areas, as did connectivity to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

If you’re a test-driving shopper checking out a used car that’s a few years old, those are areas you’ll want to be paying close attention to during your test drive, as they’re the most common source of trouble in 2019-model-year vehicles. 

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J.D. Power VDS data also shows that cars from mainstream brands average 14 fewer reported problems per 100 vehicles than those from premium brands which use more complex electronics that power advanced technology.

Translation? Buying a luxury model instead of something more mainstream makes it somewhat more likely that you’ll run into a problem.

A ranking of brands in the 2022 J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Study
A ranking of brands in the 2022 J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Study Photo by J.D. Power

By the way, one of the easiest ways to fend off potential trouble with vehicle electronics is to ensure you’re always running a fresh and healthy battery, and even trickle-charging if your vehicle is often parked for extended periods. As cars sit during the pandemic, battery health takes a hit — and you don’t want to underestimate the havoc a weak or dying battery can wreak on new car electronics. 

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The top-performing brand in this year’s study was Kia, with the highest overall dependability and a score of 145 PP100. Dodge, Buick, Toyota and Hyundai also rank high in this year’s study, so if you’re shopping for a few-year-old car or crossover, these brands make a great place to start.

If you’re shopping for a premium used vehicle, Genesis leads the results with 155 PP100. Lexus, Porsche, Cadillac and Lincoln round out the top five. These brands make great places to start looking if you’re after a dependable premium ride.

Brands closest to the industry average reliability score of 192 PP100 include Ford, GMC, Mercedes and Jeep.

2022 Porsche 992 911 GT3
2022 Porsche 992 911 GT3 Photo by Elliot Alder

The most dependable car in the whole entire study? The Porsche 911. If that’s not in the cards for your next used car purchase, consider checking out some segment winners instead.

Amongst car segments, top ratings went to the Toyota Corolla, Chevrolet Impala, BMW 4 Series, Hyundai Sonata, Mazda MX-5, Ford Mustang, and Lincoln MKZ. Amongst SUV segments, top marks went to the Lexus NX, Hyundai Santa Fe, Lexus UX, Buick Envision, Chevrolet Suburban, Buick Encore, Lexus RX, Kia Sorento and Porsche Cayenne. In the Pickup and Van segments, segment leaders are the Toyota Tundra, Chevrolet Silverado HD, Nissan Frontier, and Dodge Grand Caravan.

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This list of segment winners is a who’s who of the most dependable 2019-model-year vehicles a used-car shopper can consider today. By the way, high scores in the VDS strongly correlate to high scores in the Initial Quality Study, or IQS, which first analyzed owner experiences with these vehicles during the first 90 days of ownership. So seven of the 10 highest ranked brands in this year’s VDS were also the highest ranked brands in the IQS. Put simply, brand-wide, a strong initial quality score is a good predictor of a good vehicle dependability score, three years later.

By the way, you might want to consider putting brands like Land Rover, Volvo, Acura, Jaguar, and Alfa Romeo on your “to-avoid” list — they all scored at or near the bottom of this year’s rankings.