2000 Ford Explorer

2000 Ford Explorer

Many people think that it's a good idea to give the old family SUV to a teenager going off to college. After all, it is big, brawny, presumably safe and roomy enough to carry a bunch of stuff back and forth.

But giving a relatively inexperienced teen driver, especially one going off from home for the first time, an SUV that does not come equipped with a stability control system is a terrible idea.

It wasn't for no reason that the the U.S. government required, beginning in 2008, that al vehicles under 10,000 pounds eventually have stability control systems. Knowing this, Ford made its system standard starting in the 2005 model year.

These systems use sensors to apply braking to wheels that help compensate for when a vehicle is subjected to under-steer and over-steer. These events typically happen when vehicles are going fast around turns, in sudden events like tire blow-outs and when SUVs with higher centers of gravity than passenger cars are subjected to turns and twists at high speeds.

We shouldn't just pick on the Explorer here. The same principal goes for any older SUV like Chevy Trailblazers, Blazers, Jeep Grand Cherokees, etc. Don't give one of these to a young driver unless it is equipped with electronic stability control.
2009 Audi Q5

2009 Audi Q5

If you are smart, you look for good quality used luxury cars to buy when you want to reward yourself and upgrade your wheels. Why buy new when you can let someone else pay for two or three years of depreciation? And Audi is a hot brand.

But Q5 owners, according to Consumer Reports, have had an array of problems and complaints, including the engine cooling system, audio system, squeaks, rattles, power windows and doors. No way we would recommend the Q5 without the warranty being in force.
Volkswagen New Beetle

Volkswagen New Beetle

The revival of the Beetle as the New Beetle in 1999 is widely considered to be the event that saved Volkswagen's business in the U.S. The hype and excitement around bringing back this icon pumped up interest in all the other models in VW showrooms. Before the Beetle showed up in auto shows, the company was in such dire shape in America that it considered pulling up stakes.

It is a pity that the car wasn't made to be as reliable as the original Beetle. Consumer Reports says models from 2007 and older are full of issues. While the boxes are not checked for suspension, brakes, exhaust and the climate control system, Consumer Reports says based on owner surveys that virtually everything else in the car will eventually need attention. Yikes.

It is worth noting that the Beetle that VW introduced in 2011 is not showing the same level of problems. VW has steadily been cleaning up its act when it comes to quality and reliability.
2002, 2006, 2007, 2009 Mercedes-Benz M-Class

2002, 2006, 2007, 2009 Mercedes-Benz M-Class

Mercedes-Benz builds the M-Class SUV in Alabama, and as popular as this vehicle has been in the U.S., it doesn't seem to have the same quality as the vehicles engineered and built in Germany. The 2006 and 2007 models are especially bad, according to Consumer Reports. They suffer from major engine failures, electrical problems, broken body hardware and transmission failures.
2008 Chrysler Town And Country

2008 Chrysler Town And Country

We arbitrarily chose the 2008 model year, but the truth is that it's hard for us to recommend any T&C that is no longer under warranty. We love the Chrysler minivan when it is new and everything is covered. The styling, interior and Stow 'n Go seating package is terrific. But owners have huge complaints, especially when the van is off warranty. The van has been known for costly problems with the transmission, suspension, brakes, electrical and fuel systems.

New owner Fiat is addressing these things, and the next minivan, we bet, is going to be a lot better in terms of long term reliability. But in the meantime, old milk spills and melted crayons in the carpet of a used T&C will probably be the least of your problems.