Consumer Reports engineers find the new BMW 3 Series is great to drive, but its surveys show some older models aren't aging well. For example, the BMW 335i from 2007 through 2010 tends to have fuel pump and fuel injection troubles.
There are other popular used cars that can wind up in the shop. Consumer Reports' reliability information on nearly 250 models identifies the most likely problems.
"Car problems don't happen randomly. From the millions of car problems our subscribers report each year, we identify key trouble areas," said Jon Linkov of Consumer Reports.
The Ford Focus, model years 2003 through 2006, shows problems with the alternator, ignition switch and battery. And owners of Dodge Grand Caravans from 2003 through 2006 complain about the power steering, tie rods, water pump and air conditioning.
"Even Toyota and Honda, which tend to be the more reliable, have model years that are trouble-prone," Linkov said.
The Honda Accord V6 from 2003 and 2004 has a high rate of transmission failure. And many Accords from 2008 through 2010 experience brake problems. And the four-cylinder Toyota Camry from 2008 suffers excessive brake wear.
"Of the 17 trouble spots we look at, brakes are the biggest problem with used cars beyond normal wear and tear. Brakes are definitely something you should check carefully before you buy," Linkov said.
And whatever used car you're considering, Consumer Reports says always get it checked by an independent mechanic.
Consumer Reports identifies the best used cars for the price. For under $10,000, good choices are the 2009 Pontiac Vibe, the 2008 four-cylinder Hyundai Sonata, the 2004 Acura TSX and the 2004 Toyota RAV4. For more of Consumer Reports' recommended used cars, visit http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2013/04/best-worst-used-cars/index.htm.