Consumer Reports has published an extensive ranking of vehicle reliability, and the results pour cold water on the dependability of EVs and plug-in hybrids. The survey says electric vehicles suffer from 79 percent more maintenance issues than gas- or diesel-powered ones, while plug-in hybrids have 146 percent more problems. The troubles portray the industry’s growing pains with the relatively new technology as the planet sets record temperatures, and scientists warn of rapidly approaching deadlines to thwart global climate catastrophe.
The survey polled CR’s members about issues with their rides from the past year, gathering data on 330,000 vehicles. The publication’s data included models from 2000 to 2023, alongside a few (early launched) 2024 models. CR studied 20 “trouble areas,” including relatively minor issues like squeaky brakes or a broken interior trim and more problematic ones related to the transmission, engine or EV battery. The number of potential trouble areas varies by type: internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles have 17, EVs have 12, traditional hybrids have 19 and plug-in hybrids have all 20.
The publication combined the data with its own track testing, owner satisfaction survey results and safety info. It then averaged it to assign each brand a numerical score (out of 100).
Non-plugin hybrids scored well, with the survey indicating they suffer from 26 percent fewer issues than gas- and diesel-powered vehicles. CR highlighted the most reliable brands in that space, including the Lexus’ UX and NX Hybrid and Toyota’s Camry Hybrid, Highlander Hybrid and RAV4 Hybrid.
If only plug-in hybrids (PHEV) could enjoy those ratings. Instead, their longer list of trouble spots led to 146 percent more problems than traditional gas-powered vehicles. Lowlights include the Chrysler Pacifica, which scored an abysmal 14 out of 100, and Audi Q5. However, several PHEVs defied the category’s expectations, including “standouts” like the Toyota RAV4 Prime and Kia Sportage. Several others, including the BMW X5, Hyundai Tucson and Ford Escape, scored “average” in reliability.
Fully electric cars and SUVs, the vehicles many automakers aim to fill their dealership lots with by 2030, have mediocre average scores: 44 and 43, respectively. Electric pickups, the newest technology in the bunch, perhaps unsurprisingly scored worse with an average of 30.
Lexus came out on top among EV brands. All but one of its models scored above average or better in CR’s ratings. And the lone exception, the NX, still had an average score. Toyota also did well, including the 4Runner SUV, which CR describes as “among the most reliable models in the survey.” However, its electric Tundra pickup scored poorly. Other EVs with above-average scores include Acura’s RDX and TLX.
Once practically synonymous with electric vehicles, Tesla had overall scores in the middle of the pack (alongside brands like Chevrolet, Buick, Ram, Cadillac and Dodge). CR says the Elon Musk-led company’s EV powertrains tend to fare better than those from traditional automakers. However, Ars Technica notes the company’s reliability scores struggled more with things like bodywork, paint / trim and climate systems.
Regionally speaking, Asian automakers enjoyed the highest average scores in the survey at a healthy 63. European companies were second with an average of 46, while US brands slumped with a somewhat disappointing score of 39.