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Can You Trust J.D. Powers?

Updated: Oct 27, 2021

When I'm helping a family member or friend search for a new vehicle, one of the main considerations I always bring up is reliability. I understand reliability isn't important for everyone. But, for many, it's an important factor when you're looking for a new vehicle. Buying a new or used vehicle is a big commitment so it's natural that it's something you may be concerned with.

With that being said, when you Google car reliability, one of the first results that come up is from J.D. Powers. So, can you trust J.D. Powers? Personally, I think J.D. Powers is a good starting point, but not where your research should end.

What Do You Consider Reliable?

When I'm looking for a new car, I consider reliability in terms of how long the vehicle will run with just basic maintenance. I'm not concerned too much about other components, more just about engine and transmission reliability. However, I know infotainment usability, electronics, and other miscellaneous items could be what you consider as part of reliability. So it's important to remember this when you're looking at reliability ratings from J.D. Powers or any other source.

What Factors Does J.D. Powers Look At?

J.D. Powers technically has two ways they rate vehicles. Their vehicle dependability studies (VDS) and their initial quality studies (IDS). IDS takes a look at the most current year vehicle and determines their initial quality. This is where things can get confusing because a vehicle may score well on the J.D. Powers IDS, but that doesn't mean that it's reliable. What good is a "quality rating" if it's just the initial score? What you'll want to take a look at if you use J.D. Powers is the VDS. The VDS verifies vehicle ownership from real-world drivers and helps determine if there are any issues. So, what's part of the reliability ratings for the J.D. Powers VDS? Take a look below:

  • Audio/communication/entertainment/navigation (ACEN)

  • Engine/transmission

  • Exterior

  • Interior

  • Features/controls/displays (FCD)

  • Driving experience

  • Heating, ventilation, & air conditioning

  • Seats

What I Think of J.D. Powers

As I mentioned, I think J.D. Powers is a good place to start your research, but not where it should end. Even the VDS ratings from J.D. Powers don't tell the whole story about vehicle dependability. Here's how I typically research vehicle reliability:

  • Forums: I'll start by scouring the forums. Most vehicles will have a forum with common issues that a vehicle is known to have.

  • Know the Engine/Transmission: Most engines and transmissions will have a specific code. For example, the Lexus GX has a 1UR engine so I'll look up "1UR reliability" and read forums, posts, links, and anything else related to the engine.

  • Social Media: Finally, if I'll check to see if there's a Facebook group or any other social media groups about the specific vehicle I'm looking at. Once I join the group, I'll search for common issues and posts from other members.

Do You Research Before Buying a Car?

As someone who has been around cars for a long time, I just have a natural inclination to read and research about cars all the time. But, I know that I'm a minority and not everyone researches reliability before they buy a car. Most shoppers likely test drive the car, try out its features, and if it checks their boxes, they'll take it home. Do you research before buying a car? Let me know!

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