When it comes to buying a new or a secondhand car, there are lots of different factors that drivers consider before they hand over their hard-earned cash. Buying a car is a major financial commitment, after all, and no one wants to waste their money on a car that is going to break down after a few months on the road.
In a 2018 survey, consumers said that the most important factor they consider when buying a car is the vehicle’s safety record, closely followed by its fuel efficiency, which goes a long way towards explaining the current popularity of hybrid and electric cars! And 47% of those questioned said that driving comfort was a major consideration when choosing a new car, while 45% said that the vehicle’s design was a key factor.
However, while there is nothing wrong with buying a car based on how it looks, it is important to select a model that doesn’t put style over substance. After all, there is no point in a car looking stylish if it is broken down on the side of the road.
The cars on this list would certainly pass the style test but some of these models would fail when it comes to safety or reliability. These attractive cars are definitely ones to avoid if you want to get from A to B without any problems.
Mini Coopers may be some of the most iconic cars when it comes to looks but they certainly let their owners down when it comes to reliability. In the most recent Vehicle Dependability Survey by J.D. Power, which covers models made in 2015, Mini cars were way down the list, with 153 problems for every 100 vehicles sold. If you have your heart set on a Mini, you are probably better buying a restored vintage model than one of the newer vehicles, as standards seem to have slipped since BMW took over the Mini brand in 2000.
Audi is far from the only automotive company from Germany to have an embarrassing model in their back catalog. The BMW X5 is a mid-size luxury SUV, which shares much in its stylish external design with the BMW 5-Series luxury sedan. However, before the vehicle underwent a significant redesign in 2014, drivers reported experiencing a whole host of problems with defective fuel systems and faulty climate control, as well as issues when car parts needed to be replaced. If you are in the market for a second-hand luxury SUV, make sure you avoid any of the BMW X5 models from before 2014.
Unlike Audi and BMW, the name Infiniti is not one which is instantly recognizable to many drivers. In fact, many people don’t even know that Infiniti is actually the luxury division of Nissan. The Q50 is Infiniti’s take on the luxury sedan, and though its design is nothing original, it does encompass all the classic styling you would expect from a sedan. However, the 2016 model had so many issues under the hood that its good looks were irrelevant, scoring a minus 64 when it comes to reliability. Owners reported that the front seats in the car were uncomfortable—bad news for a so-called luxury model—and also that the vehicle had poor fuel efficiency figures.
It is hugely disappointing that the Fiat 500 has been a let-down, as this is a car that looks seriously stylish from the outside. Fiat even hired Jennifer Lopez to promote their chic city car, only she didn’t seem to experience any of the common mechanical problems in her TV advert! Fiat even had to drop the price on new models to try and persuade more people to buy them because the car ended up with such a poor reputation for reliability. And 11% of Fiat 500 owners ended up reporting faults more than once, with the car’s suspension particularly affected by flaws and problems.
The Mercedes-Benz GL SUV was a late addition to the luxury SUV market in 2006, offering a comfortable interior and a stylish exterior, with plenty of room for even the largest families in the three rows of seating. It wasn’t a cheap SUV option, however, and even second-hand models have a pretty expensive price tag, which is reason enough to avoid the Mercedes GL. However, unlike many Mercedes models that have a reputation for solid engineering, the GL started to fall apart much sooner than expected, with the manual transmission stiffening up, brake pads wearing thin, and oil leakages beginning after only 10,000 miles.
It may seem surprising to see an iconic car like the Dodge Charger on a list of attractive cars that should be avoided. For many motorists, it is something of a boyhood dream to own a classic muscle car like the Charger but if you’re in the market for this kind of vehicle, it’s probably best to avoid models built in 2014 and 2015. Not only have owners experienced reliability issues with these vehicles, but some drivers even reported a quite serious issue with the Dodge Charger’s sunroof, which has, in some cases, exploded while the car was in motion!
Given that the BMW X5 SUV has made it onto this list, and given that it is based very heavily on the BMW 5-Series, it is hardly surprising that the 5-Series is also one of the most attractive cars that motorists should nevertheless avoid. The models made between 2008 and 2012 are the worst culprits, thanks to reports of electrical issues. BMW even had to recall thousands of models made in 2011 and 2012 because of problems with fuel leaks and stalling. When you buy a BMW, even a secondhand model, you expect a certain standard, and the BMW 5-Series from these years don’t meet that standard.
Tesla has quickly become a familiar name in the auto industry, thanks in part to their innovative technology in creating all-electric cars, but mostly because of their eccentric founder, Elon Musk, and his publicity stunts (including sending a Tesla Roadster into space). As with all new technologies, however, there have been more than a few teething problems with some of the Tesla vehicles, including the Model X, which at first glance appears to be a stylish and sophisticated take on the traditional SUV. For some reason, though, Tesla fitted the Model X with Falcon-style doors which take a full six seconds to open and another six seconds to close.
The Chrysler PT Cruiser might be something of a controversial entry on this list, as not everyone thinks this quirky and creative car is actually attractive. There is almost something retro about the curved lines of this family car, especially in the arched hood and the over-sized fenders. Regardless of whether you find the PT Cruiser attractive or not, there are some other issues with the car that potential buyers should be aware of, particularly the vehicle’s low safety rating. In fact, the Institute for Highway Safety rated the Chrysler PT Cruiser the most dangerous small car in the US.
From a car whose appearance might be viewed by some to be a disadvantage to one whose appearance was thought to be its only redeeming quality! The Cadillac STS was a beautifully-designed sedan, at least from the outside. Best of all, you can pick up second-hand models for less than $10,000. However, there is a reason why such a good-looking model is so cheap and that is the sheer number of mechanical faults which afflict the vehicle after a few years on the road, particularly issues with the transmission and the catalytic converters, which can become blocked, leading to an expensive repair bill.
Like the Dodge Charger, which made an appearance earlier in this list, the Chevy Camaro is a classic muscle car which looks great when viewed from the outside. The Camaros which were built in the 1960s and 1970s still remain the pinnacle when it comes to this model, and if you can afford a restored vintage Chevy Camaro, then that is the way to go. Modern models, particularly Chevy Camaro cars which were built in 2010, have been the subject of repeated complaints from owners and hundreds of models were recalled because of a potentially dangerous fault with the ignition system.
Jeep has been making its vehicles in the US since the end of the second World War, but the current iteration of the Jeep Wrangler, designed for off-roading, has only been in production since 2007. For an SUV designed to head off the beaten track, the Wrangler still manages to look stylish enough to drive around city streets too—so long as you stay away from the 2008 model. That year was clearly a bad one for the Jeep Wrangler, as it received thousands of complaints regarding failure of the vehicle’s Totally Integrated Power Module, which controls all the electrical systems in the Jeep.
The Audi Q5 is a luxury crossover SUV, so it is hardly surprising that the vehicle looks good both inside and out. The Q5 manages to combine the classic style of Audi cars with the expected reliability when it comes to engineering under the hood. Except for the Audi Q5 models made in between 2013 and 2015, that is, which should be given a wide berth. Many drivers have reported that as soon as the Q5 gets to around the 8,000-mile mark, the vehicle’s steering starts to lock up, which can be as dangerous as it is annoying—as well as very expensive to fix.
Jaguar makes some of the most stylish and luxurious cars on the market and from the outside, the Jaguar S-Type is no exception. This executive car, in production between 1998 and 2008, mimics the appearance of classic Jaguar cars from the 1950s and 1960s and features the same classic and timeless design as many of their older vehicles. A second-hand S-Type may seem a great opportunity to actually own a Jaguar—but only if you plan to never have any passengers (as the rear seats are uncomfortably small) and only if you are willing to pay regular visits to your local repair shop.
The Chevy SSR is another vehicle whose appearance probably divides many gearheads. Some appreciate its quirky individuality; others think it looks like something out of a cartoon rather than something that any serious motorists would want to drive. Whether you like it or not, there is no doubt that the SSR’s design is original, a feat which is difficult to achieve in modern motoring. However, even if you like the way the Chevy SSR looks, the fact remains that the idea of creating a convertible pickup truck was not a practical one. As a convertible, it wasn’t comfortable to drive, and as a pickup truck, there was no real space on the bed to transport anything.
Another car which may well divide opinion regarding its aesthetic appearance is the Chrysler Sebring. This is a fun, chic, and sporty convertible—but probably not one that serious drivers would be interested in buying. Its V6 engine only produces 172 horsepower, which goes a long way to explaining why second-hand models can be bought for less than $3,000. Jeremy Clarkson, of BBC motoring show Top Gear, described the Sebring as the worst car in the world and the vehicle also had some safety issues, particularly with the hard top, which would often not fit into place properly after a few years of use.
Maserati is one of the most iconic names in motoring, just one of the many companies from Italy which makes some of the most stylish and expensive supercars in the world. The Maserati Coupe, which was in production between 2001 and 2007, had the gorgeous looks you would expect from a Maserati but none of the impressive engineering. The Coupe was made on the cheap compared with many other Maserati models in a bid to make it more affordable to regular motorists. Secondhand models are likely to suffer from regular breakdowns and you could end up spending more on repairs than you did on the car!
Porsche is perhaps an even more exclusive name than Maserati when it comes to stylish supercars, and there is no doubt that the Porsche 911 996 (996 is the internal designation given to the Porsche 911 models built between 1997 and 2006) looks like everyone’s dream car, especially when second-hand models can be picked up for less than $20,000. However, buyers need to beware that this particular model can experience IMS bearing failures, which can lead to significant and expensive engine problems, along with radiator and exhaust corrosion, as well as issues with the Cabriolet and Targa roof mechanisms if you have your heart set on a convertible.
Motorists can usually rely on Audi's efficiency and reliability, especially when it comes to their cars, but every now and then even the most reliable car brands get things wrong, and this is what happened with the 2009 and 2010 models of the Audi A4. Cars made in these years struggled with electrical issues and given how much modern cars rely on their electrical systems, any such issues can cause some serious and expensive breakdowns. Regardless of how sophisticated the 2009 and 2010 Audi A4 looks on both the inside and the outside, this is one car to steer well clear of.
The Mercedes CL is possibly the most effortlessly stylish car on this list. The full-size luxury car features all the usual sweeping lines and curves which we have come to expect from Mercedes cars. Built between 1992 and 2013, this was a profitable model for the manufacturer, though secondhand models have proven to be less successful. Vehicles built in 2011 and 2012 had to be recalled because of a serious flaw with the fuel lines, which could leak, increasing the risk of the car catching fire. This might be an unlikely scenario, but not one which Mercedes buyers expect to have to deal with.
The Chevy Corvette C5 is far from the worst car on this list and its exterior styling certainly makes it one of the most attractive. The C5 was popular throughout its production run between 1997 and 2004, and even afterward. However, despite its stylish appearance, and its relatively reliable long-term performance, there was one area where the Chevy Corvette C5 was a real let-down for motorists and that was the interior. Not only are the seats uncomfortable, thanks to their lack of padding, but the dashboard and trim are made of cheap plastic. Perhaps an interior refit is the answer if you want to pick up a cheap Corvette.
In production between 2005 and 2009, the Solstice was Pontiac’s attempt to create a fun and stylish—yet cheap—sports car and to a certain extent, it worked. Certainly, the Pontiac Solstice looked the part with its curved lines, low-riding seats and soft-top, but that was as far as its success went. The Solstice always seemed like a bit of a last-minute idea by Pontiac, who went cheap when it came to parts, leading to owners reporting problem after problem with the car, especially failures with the electrical system. And it only gets worse with secondhand models that are ten years old.
The Saturn Ion was, in many ways, an unremarkable sedan but it certainly looked good from a distance. Spot one from the other side of the road and the Ion looked like a classic sedan but get closer, and you could see just how cheap the plastic body panels were, which is a clue to how badly Saturn had engineered the rest of the vehicle! The Saturn Ion was uncomfortable and even difficult to drive and was subject to several recalls involving faults with the ignition system, fading headlights, and even a sudden loss of power steering, which could easily increase the risk of a serious accident.
What do you get when you cross a classic Detroit car designer with a manufacturer in Europe? The Chrysler Crossfire. This was a sports car which was devised by Chrysler but was actually built by Karmann between 2004 and 2008. The Crossfire may look like an automotive work of art but it borrowed heavily from the much more stylish Mercedes SLK, which meant that by the time it was finally launched, motorists had already seen it all before. Add into the mix a recall in 2016 for a significant airbag failure and you can see why this car is one to avoid.
The original Smart Fortwo, itself, could easily make this list if you happen to be one of those people that find the vehicle’s innovative design attractive but there is no doubt that the Smart Roadster beats it (hands down) as far as style goes. Yet despite its sophisticated appearance, the Smart Roadster still has the same problems that afflict all Smart cars: a lack of size. Yes, they may be great for city driving and finding a parking space but if you want to transport anything more than one passenger or more than one suitcase, then you’re in big trouble.
Sources: Consumer Reports, Extreme Tech, Chrysler Problems, and Digital Trends.