Many people prefer to buy a new car over a used one due to it having a manufacturer warranty in place, and more often than not, a service plan gets included as well. However, new cars are vastly more expensive than their slightly used counterparts. So, what's better? Should you spend the extra cash and buy a new one, or should you take a leap of faith and buy a used car? Well, we'd recommend doing the latter if you do some proper research beforehand.
Back in the day, used cars outlived their owners with some car brands making some of the most durable engines of all time. However, with the rise of technology, cars are becoming more intricate, and expensive to maintain as a result. Although some carmakers still build reliable cars with bulletproof engines like BMW and Toyota, they remain quite expensive to maintain.,
According to the American Automobile Association, the average price to maintain a car in 2023 is about $792 per year. However, none of the cars on our list come even close to that price point... After all, some modern-day expensive-to-maintain luxury SUVs cost almost three times as much! So, without further ado, let's talk about the worst cars you can buy used that will either cost you an arm and a leg to fix when broken or just financially cripple you to keep up with routine maintenance.
10 Any Subaru WRX
Although the typical Subaru WRX costs about $750 per year to maintain, some fatal issues will either cause it to get towed to the scrapyard or leave you a financial wreck. But why are Subaru WRX models so expensive to maintain? The most prevalent issue with these cars is arguably their head gasket design. If you've been in the car scene long enough, you should have heard one of two people mention Subies and their infamous tendency to blow head gaskets prematurely. And to replace a head gasket on a Subaru typically costs between $1,500 and $3,500.
Furthermore, all WRX models have a uniquely designed engine called a flat-four engine. In essence, this means that the motor mounts horizontally as opposed to traditional inline-four engines. Because of this, mechanics need to remove the engine to get to other parts of the car or even do some work on the engine itself. Of course, the more effort a mechanic has to go through, the steeper the price. If you still don't believe us that a Subaru WRX is a horrible, unreliable used car to buy, just have a look at Donut Media's HiLow series where they built and tested two WRX models.
9 BMW E60 M5
Famous for its orgasmic-sounding naturally aspirated 500-hp 5.0-liter V10, the E60-gen BMW M5 is one of the best sports sedans ever built. That said, just because the E60 M5 is a charismatic car, doesn't necessarily mean it's a good idea to buy one used - especially a high-mileage example. Some of the most common issues include throttle actuators, the SMG transmission as a whole, and the dreaded rod bearing issue.
Sure, an E60 M5 isn't meticulously expensive to service at its required intervals, but when these aforementioned issues occur, be well-prepared to chunk over a big chunk of change. Replacing the rod bearings costs about $3,000, the SMG transmission is an endless money pit, and throttle actuators cost approximately $4,000 too. This is also the first out of many European luxury cars you should avoid at all costs.
8 2013 to 2021 Land Rover Range Rover
If you or anyone you know own a Land Rover product, you'll understand why the Range Rover landed on our list today. See, there's a reason why only the wealthiest of people drive Ranger Rovers, and it's not only because of the luxurious ride and interior. Range Rovers cost an absolute fortune to keep running.
Many owners complain of electrical comments failing them as soon as the car leaves the showroom floor, but after the warranty expires, things get really, really bad. The Car Expert gave the 2013-2021 Range Rover a reliability score of just 11%, and they claimed the average repair cost was £1512.16. Equally guilty as the electronics is the rubbish V8s some of these Range Rovers came with... they never stood a chance against those American V8 engines that'll last 500,000 miles.
7 Maserati Ghibli
On the surface, a used Maserati Ghibli might seem like a steal, but trust us when we say you need to steer clear from the Maserati Ghibli at all costs. Since the Ghibli features a Ferrari-derived V8 engine, maintenance costs are equal to Ferrari prices. On average, a Maserati Ghibli will cost about $6,500 in maintenance costs throughout its first four years of existence, and after that, prices don't get any cheaper.
But that's not all... The Reliability Index for Maserati was 697 in 2019, but as of 2021, this number skyrocketed to 774 - the higher the mark, the less reliable the car is. That's mainly due to all the electronic parts of the Ghibli malfunctioning on a far too regular basis, and some of these electronics are key to monitoring other components of your car.
6 Mazda RX-8
The Mazda RX-8 is arguably the ugly duckling of rotary-powered sports cars but remains one of the most underappreciated sports cars ever made. The RX-8 was the successor to the legendary RX-8, and although it shared the same 1.3-liter rotary engine, the RX-8 was naturally aspirated. If you know anything or two about rotary engines, you know why the RX-8 is on this list.
Rotary engines are notoriously difficult to live with, and they need to be cautiously babied every single day, otherwise, you might just cut their lifespan dramatically short. The most common problems with the Mazda RX-8 include starter failure, catalytic converter failure, ignition coil failure, engine flood, and the dreaded apex seal leaking. If that last part sounds a bit unfamiliar, it's because only rotary engines typically have apex seals, and they should last just about 100,000 miles before needing replacement. However, this seems to be rarely the case as most RX-8 owners never knew how to properly drive their cars without putting excessive wear on the powertrain. Therefore, it's recommended to replace your apex seals as soon as possible when buying a used RX-8, and this means taking apart the entire engine and doing it yourself by paying between $1,500 and $2,000 for parts at minimum or getting someone else to do it for you for a much higher price.
5 Any Tesla
Teslas aren't inherently bad cars. After all, they're quick, good for the environment, don't have an engine to maintain, and are jam-packed and full of technology. That said, Teslas suffer from miserable build quality ranging from mismatched paint panels, inconsistent panel gaps, and a flimsy assembly process. But that's not even the worst part...
Teslas feature lithium batteries. Although lithium batteries have an excellent life span and can generate a ton of power, these lithium batteries are nearly impossible to repair. Earlier this year, J.D. Power claimed that Tesla batteries lose about 1% of range per year, and a replacement battery costs between $13,000 and $20,000.
4 First-Generation Porsche Cayenne
Generally speaking, Porsches are some of the most reliable German cars ever made, however, usually when carmakers go outside their comfort zone, a few things go wrong. In this case, it was Porsche's first attempt at building an SUV, the Cayenne. And let's just say we wouldn't touch a first-gen Porsche Cayenne with a 10-foot pole.
Although some well-kept models proved to be reliable, they are ridiculously expensive to keep running with Car Edge claiming that the average Cayenne costs $20,552 in maintenance costs throughout the first ten years of ownership, and there is a 60.89% chance that it will require a major repair along the way. Furthermore, the 2004 Cayenne is arguably the worst year model for the Cayenne since that model in particular suffered from drivetrain-, cooling-, and electric issues which cost more than approximately $3,000 per issue to fix.
3 Jaguar XJS
If you want a cool, affordable classic car that'll bankrupt you through maintenance costs and repair costs, buy a Jaguar XJS. Powering the XJS was a problematic V12 engine that put out up to 300 hp, so it's safe to say this British grand tourer isn't just easy on the eyes, but it's a hoot on the Autobahn too. Do keep in mind though, these cost a myriad of money to keep alive.
According to Your Mechanic, a Jaguar XJS costs about $1,045 per year to maintain, and that's not even considering other minor repairs. Normal wear-and-tear items or insignificant technological components cost a small fortune to fix. For example, the front windshield wiper motor for a '95 XJS costs about $2,894.19 to replace, a window motor/regulator for an '84 XJS will run you about $1,020.43, and to replace an '87 XJS's fuel injection system will set you back $6,787.76.
2 BMW 7-Series E65
Although there are a handful of Mercedes-Benz cars everyone regrets buying, no S-Class owner can ever feel the pain an E65 BMW 7-Series owners do. After one year of ownership, the first owner of the E65 7-Series paid about $560 in maintenance costs and had less than a 20% chance of something major failing - which is still a bit too high if you ask us.
But as the years go on, both the maintenance cost and repair probability figures increased at an exponential rate. So much so, that after being ten years old, an E65 7-Series would cost you $2,970 in maintenance and have a near-80% chance of needing a drastic repair.
1 Porsche 911
Again, don't get us wrong. Porsche is one of the most reliable car brands to date, but that doesn't exclude the fact their flagship sports car, the 911, is one of the most expensive sports cars to maintain and repair in history. Sure, its rear-mounted, rear-wheel-drive layout is one that many enthusiasts crave to experience, but that's beside the point when you realize not only is a Porsche 911 expensive to buy, but it's expensive to own as well.
According to Car Edge, after 10 years of ownership, a Porsche 911 typically costs $18,231 combined in maintenance costs, and that's excluding any surprise repairs if they were to happen. Even worse is that there's a 47.59% chance that the 911 will require a major repair throughout that time frame. By no means do we want to discourage you from buying your dream car, but it's important to know what you're getting yourself into.
Sources: American Automobile Association, Get Jerry, Bimmer Forums, The Car Expert, OSV, Rusnak Maserati of Pasadena, J.D. Power, Car Edge, Co Pilot