• Sign in
  • |
  • Sign up

Car Buying

Buying a Car: Should I Avoid the First Model Year?

RELATED READING
RESEARCH BY MAKE
Honda cars, trucks and SUVs Nissan cars, trucks and SUVs Ford cars, trucks and SUVs Toyota cars, trucks and SUVs Lexus cars, trucks and SUVs Acura cars, trucks and SUVs Hyundai cars, trucks and SUVs Mercedes-Benz cars, trucks and SUVs
Acura cars, trucks and SUVs Alfa Romeo cars, trucks and SUVs Aston Martin cars, trucks and SUVs Audi cars, trucks and SUVs Bentley cars, trucks and SUVs BMW cars, trucks and SUVs Buick cars, trucks and SUVs Cadillac cars, trucks and SUVs Chevrolet cars, trucks and SUVs Chrysler cars, trucks and SUVs Dodge cars, trucks and SUVs Ferrari cars, trucks and SUVs FIAT cars, trucks and SUVs Ford cars, trucks and SUVs Freightliner cars, trucks and SUVs GMC cars, trucks and SUVs Honda cars, trucks and SUVs Hyundai cars, trucks and SUVs Infiniti cars, trucks and SUVs Jaguar cars, trucks and SUVs Jeep cars, trucks and SUVs Kia cars, trucks and SUVs Lamborghini cars, trucks and SUVs Land Rover cars, trucks and SUVs Lexus cars, trucks and SUVs Lincoln cars, trucks and SUVs Lotus cars, trucks and SUVs Maserati cars, trucks and SUVs Mazda cars, trucks and SUVs McLaren cars, trucks and SUVs Mercedes-Benz cars, trucks and SUVs MINI cars, trucks and SUVs Mitsubishi cars, trucks and SUVs Nissan cars, trucks and SUVs Porsche cars, trucks and SUVs RAM cars, trucks and SUVs Scion cars, trucks and SUVs smart cars, trucks and SUVs SRT cars, trucks and SUVs Subaru cars, trucks and SUVs Tesla cars, trucks and SUVs Toyota cars, trucks and SUVs Volkswagen cars, trucks and SUVs Volvo cars, trucks and SUVs
RESEARCH BY STYLE
AWD/4WD
Commercial
Convertible
Coupe
Hatchback
Hybrid/Electric
Luxury
Sedan
SUV/Crossover
Truck
Van/Minivan
Wagon

author photo by Doug DeMuro

Many shoppers interested in buying a car will avoid one that's in its first model year. Some swear by this rule, stating that a car's problems aren't really ironed out until its second or third model year. But is this rule really accurate? We've provided our take for anyone who may be wary of buying a new or used vehicle from the first model year.

The Unknown

One reason many shoppers avoid a first-year car is that its dependability record is simply unknown. No one is sure if the car will have major problems right away -- and some do. It's also hard to know whether the car will be subjected to a handful of recalls, as some new models are. If you're worried about the unknown, buying a first-year model may be a bad idea.

Reliability Data

There may not be as much unknown as you think. Today, automakers spend thousands of hours on the road testing cars over millions of miles before releasing them for sale. Cars are repeatedly tested at over 12,000 feet in elevation. They're tested at temperatures well below zero. And they're tested in the extreme desert heat. Test drivers actually try to break vehicles to simulate problems owners may experience. So it's unlikely that a first-year model will develop problems an automaker hasn't seen -- and corrected.

Data on the topic tends to support this conclusion. J.D. Power's Vehicle Dependability Study often ranks first-year models at or near the top of their segments for 3-year dependability. On average, the last few Vehicle Dependability studies prove that first-year models don't fare any better or worse than their longer-running rivals.

The conclusion: While first-year cars offer uncertain reliability, that doesn't mean they're going to be subpar.

Missed Improvements

Perhaps the best argument for skipping a first-year car is that drivers who choose such a vehicle may miss out on improvements that come later. An automaker may realize a gear lever feels better with a different knob and tightened shift action, for example. Or a missed feature may be quickly added after the first model year.

Shoppers who quickly spring for a first-year model will miss out on these changes -- and they'll miss out on any later special editions, as well. For some drivers, however, missing the occasional improvement is a small price to pay for having the latest and greatest new model.

AutoTrader's Advice

With such major advancements in automotive reliability over the years, it's hard to say first-year models perform any better or worse than cars in later model years. If you're buying a car and you really want a first-year model, go for it. But don't get mad if you miss out on updates and revisions that come just a few months later.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Close 
Buying a Car: Should I Avoid the First Model Year?