The Long-Term Quality Index is a Real-World Tool For Determining the Reliability of Your Next Car

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The question we get most frequently when talking with people about used cars is: “What can I buy that’s going to give me some peace of mind, but isn’t going to cost a fortune?” Everybody would like a Honda Accord, but not everybody has Accord money. What are the cars that have Accord-level long-term quality, but with a much cheaper price? It was anybody’s guess, but now there’s an actual solution based on real data: The Long-Term Quality Index.

The LTQI  is a project between Steve Lang (who we talked about a few weeks ago) and and Nick Lariviere, and it’s designed to give the average car buyer “a picture of what the long-term reliability of different makes and models are based on real-world used vehicle data.”

Lang is well-versed in the used car business, and he’s taken 600,000 unique data samples from all over the United States that have been collected over the past two years. The hope is that by the end of 2015, there should be a million data samples shaping the reports.

The idea is this: “Most quality studies offered to the general public either focus on initial quality (90 days) or what industry analysts have called long-term quality (3 years to 5 years). An awful lot of vehicles end up receiving recommendations earlier in their life, and then become rolling money pits as they get older. Our goal is to show whether each specific brand and model is indeed living up to their public billing, or simply using clever marketing strategies at the beginning and shafting their customers in the long run.”

It’s the problem with JD Power, and with recommendations you read from auto reviewers everywhere, including here. But the LTQI is going to provide a much clearer picture of what a car might be like 10 years down the road, so new car buyers can predict longevity, and used car buyers can feel confident they’re buying a decent used vehicle.

The surprise is right on the home page: The most powertrain issues aren’t occurring with Jaguars, BMWs or Mercedes-Benz cars. It’s Mazda.

Mazda, 626 32.7% (297/907 vehicles)
Mazda, CX-7 32.8% (200/609 vehicles)
ISUZU, Axiom 34.4% (53/154 vehicles)
Land Rover, Freelander 34.7% (69/199 vehicles)
Mazda, Millenia 39.7% (137/345 vehicles)

The CX-7 was a widely recommended vehicle when it launched, but pretty quickly, those who purchased them were suffering with major engine failures at an alarming rate. The fact that it beats out the Land Rover Freelander for issues — one of the most lambasted vehicles in history — is a strong indicator that the CX-7 is a car to stay away from on the used market.

There’s a staggering volume of data here, but it’s boiled down into easy-to-read and FREE tables for anyone in the market to look at.

Screen Shot 2015-01-07 at 1.06.01 PM

Information is broken down by brand and by model, stretching back to models that are more than a decade old. At a glance, you get a good look at what a car’s potential issues might be, based on the car’s overall mileage and the industry average.

It’s an amazing resource that average car shoppers haven’t had access to. Before you buy a new or used car, spend some time understanding how these cars perform not within the first 90 days, but over a span of almost 20 years.

Craig Fitzgerald

Craig Fitzgerald

Writer, editor, lousy guitar player, dad. Content Marketing and Publication Manager at