10 cheap everyday cars that will ruin you with maintenance bills and repairs
The dream of everyday cars being cheap to maintain and repair turns out to be more of a nightmare. Big names and bigger egos soon crumble with this selection of money pits.
Score one for manufacturers with unrealistic maintenance plans. Regular maintenance programs include only the bare necessities, covering vital fluids and safety devices. Beyond that, you’re at the mercy of dealer “recommended” extras. At least you’re only tied to an authorized dealer for the duration of your warranty.
Our advice is to ignore the warning signs at your peril. It will only end in bank accounts and wallets shrinking before your eyes. Dealerships and garages are not your best friends. Once you leave the forecourt, you are another money-making opportunity waiting to happen.
ten Porsche Taycan
Electric vehicles are becoming a common sight on our roads promising greener credentials. It’s no surprise that Porsche jumped on the bandwagon with its impressive Taycan. Not quite a Porsche sports car in the vein of the 911 or the Boxster. The Taycan follows a similar path to the more expensive Tesla Model X.
Porsche’s confidence in the future of battery and engine power is well founded, with demand outstripping production forcing the German automaker to rely on external manufacturing facilities. Gearheads with $80,000 burning a hole in their pocket might be tempted by the routine Taycan service starting at $199, but aside from the basics, everything else is sure to cost a lot more.
9 Tesla Model 3
As technology advances, battery-powered cars will become more affordable. This is where the Tesla Model 3 fits in with the glut of EVs vying for hard-earned gearhead money. Launched with an asking price of $47,000 for the Model 3, Tesla pretty much has the budget EV niche.
That low price gets you a rear-wheel-drive twin-motor setup that offers a range of 358 miles. Maintenance is also cheaper, with major dealers handling the cleaner EV drivetrain for $295 at a time. But, as with all lithium-ion batteries, the Tesla Model 3 has a cycle time limit. Beyond Tesla’s 1500 cycles, you’re looking at over $14,000 for a replacement.
8 Ford Focus RS
You’d be hard pressed to find better value in a hatch. The Ford Focus RS emerged as the best hatchback for gearheads who didn’t fancy a Type R. It was cheap too, at $42,000. Ford, however, had cut some corners when it came to build quality.
In 2018, the Focus RS featured a 2.3-liter 350bhp EcoBoost engine promising a sub-five-second sprint at 60mph. Cheap to buy, and give reasonable gas mileage, that’s where it all starts to come apart. In a recent Edmunds study, servicing the Focus RS in the first year alone costs thousands of dollars.
seven Mini Cooper JCW
Small, nimble and fast, the Mini Cooper has been a fan favorite since BMW took control of it in 1996. Add to the original retro-modern appeal a dose of German engineering, and you have a winner. But for Mini enthusiasts, the news of BMW’s interference is not good news. Five years of service alone is a third of the original purchase price.
Just as the Mini name itself is ingrained in gearhead memory, so is the hotter Cooper range. Under the JCW’s hood, you’ll find a 2-liter four-cylinder producing 228bhp, enough to launch the mini to 60mph in 6 seconds.
6 Dodge RAM 1500
In a car versus truck dispute, the gearheads will say they need a truck for occasional off-roading. Most hide the real truth that the truck feels safer to drive. The safer high riding position comes with a welcome bonus, they are also cheaper. The Dodge RAM 1500 is excellent value for money at $34,000. The truck looks unbeatable.
But, given a few years of ownership and maintenance, the RAM 1500 looks less appealing. In the fifth year, with a lot of kilometers under its wheels, the maintenance bills increase sharply. Engines, regardless of fuel type, are losing the battle against breakdowns. Symptoms, including excessive oil use, coolant leaks and engine knocking, are common.
5 Toyota Prius
With over 15 million cars sold, many of which go to Uber, the Prius is the best-selling hybrid. In 1997, Toyota launched the Prius with a greener and cheaper driving promise. But, ask any Uber driver about their gas mileage, and you can be sure it won’t be Toyota’s claimed 56 MPG.
Cheaper rather than cheaper is the best you can hope for. This raises the tricky question of battery life, not daily use but longevity. Dealing with falling load levels? No problem, a $1,900 recondition might be enough. Otherwise, your wallet is going to feel like $5,000 lighter for a new battery.
4 Jeep Compass
Willy’s Jeep was an icon of defiant do-it-all capability. Of course, adventure-seeking gearheads wanted in on the action. Jeep has listened and obliged over the years with more civilized offerings. Launched in 2006, the Jeep Compass moved closer to its high-end rivals offering more for less.
Updated for 2017, the Compass ditched its rugged pedigree and got softer. Despite all its tweaks in the urban jungle, Jeep has managed to keep sales and maintenance prices low. But at what cost ? We hope the Jeep survives mild off-road encounters. But the Compass has many problems with its brakes, suspension and CVT. Making the cheap Jeep a more expensive proposition than you would have bargained for.
3 Chevrolet Cruze
The Chevrolet badge here is a misnomer. In all generations of the Cruze, Chevrolet opted for less expensive imported designs. Cheap to buy, drive and maintain. Two out of three weren’t bad for the Cruze lineup. But, the wonky build and reliability is what caused the biggest financial pain.
In 2018, gearheads brave enough to take on a Cruze found themselves with a sour taste in their mouths. Common engine failures are symptoms of cracked pistons, weak water pumps, and leaks. The Cruze was a financial black hole, even though Chevrolet covered some warranty costs.
2 Volvo XC90
New or used, the Volvo CX90 is grim reading. Sweden’s most famous safety-conscious luxury car maker does not enjoy a favorable reliability rating. Halfway between the most popular segments of wagons and SUVs, the XC90 is a jack-of-all-trades, but does not master any of them.
There was a time when the Volvo brand denoted supreme durability regardless of age. But the XC90 is a compromise of luxury, space and versatility that doesn’t come cheap. With each generation of the XC90, lingering flaws remain. Chief among them are water and electricity problems leading to costly repair bills.
1 BMW 330i (G20)
Have you ever wondered why the classifieds are full of cheap used BMWs? In part, gearheads are spoiled for choice due to the large number sold. But, there’s a darker side to BMW ownership that the German automaker would rather you didn’t know about. When they go bad, the maintenance bills are rather exorbitant.
The BMW 330i is a shining example of when things go wrong, owners resort to drastic measures. Launched in 2018, the G20 330i is one of BMW’s weakest offerings. Plagued by structural issues, the G20 is far from the ultimate driving machine. Under the hood, fluid loss and other engine problems make this BMW a money pit.