Buying a car can be an exciting experience — and a nerve-wracking one. Yes, it’s awesome to find the ride of your dreams at a price that won’t give you nightmares, but you won’t know whether you purchased a lemon until you’re driven the car off the lot and put enough miles on it to get familiar with its various coughs and hiccups.
This is true of any kind of vehicle, no matter where it’s manufactured. Although certain European models have a sporty flair favored by auto enthusiasts, some also land on lists of the least reliable cars to buy.
If you are in the market for a European vehicle, there are some models you should avoid. Here’s a look at six European cars to stay away from buying.
Sweden-based Volvo ranked No. 11 on TopSpeed’s list of the 15 Most Unreliable Car Brands Of 2023, with a reliability rating of 45 out of 100, according to Consumer Reports. Although Volvos have a good reputation for safety, they are only sometimes that reliable. The average yearly maintenance costs are $769 across all models, and the estimated maintenance costs during the first ten years are $13,513. According to TopSpeed, the climate system seems to be “a common trouble spot for the brand,” as is the electrical system. The 2023 XC40 was listed among the worst models to buy.
These models of the German carmaker were included in ReDriven’s 2023 Lemon List – especially the 2004 to 2010 E60 series, which ReDriven calls “the very worst of the BMW 5 Series generations” due to “some of the worst BMW engines ever.” Regarding specific models, ReDriven cites the BMW 520i, whose engine is prone to timing-chain issues that damage the oil pump. This can result in “catastrophic engine failure.” The model also has fuel injector problems and oil pressure issues that can lead to engine seizing.
Germany-based Volkswagen ranked third on TopSpeed’s list of most unreliable brands, with a predicted reliability rating of 31 out of 100. The 2022 and 2023 Taos models were listed among the worst options, with the Taos compact SUV cited as the “worst offender of the bunch.” Across Volkswagen models, you can expect average yearly maintenance costs of $676 and estimated maintenance costs of $8,166 during the first ten years of owning the car.
Italy’s Fiat has made a name for itself in urban car design, but this model was listed among the HotCars website’s Worst SUVs to Buy in 2023. Although HotCars notes that the Fiat 500 is “one of the best city cars to get around town quickly,” the larger Fiat 500X has suffered from a lack of mechanical upgrades. Among other things, the 500X has “a tiny 1.3-liter engine that is severely underpowered,” meaning that even upgraded models “don’t get much of a performance boost.”
Here is another German car brand that has taken hits for some of its models. ReDriven specifically cited the Audi A6’s fourth-generation C7 series as the “problem child” of the A6 family – which is why it landed on the 2023 Lemon List. There are particular problems with models made between 2012 and 2015. Various consumer and reliability reports awarded A6 models just 1 out of 5 stars, according to ReDriven, mainly because of “brake squealing problems, steering issues, and engine issues across the range.” Consumers have also reported the fuel pressure regulator and serpentine belt failures, along with “excessive oil consumption.”
The iconic German luxury brand ranked No. 1 on TopSpeed’s list of the 15 Most Unreliable Car Brands Of 2023, with a 24 out of 100 predicted reliability rating. The average yearly maintenance cost is $908, and the estimated maintenance cost during the first ten years is $15,986. The GLE – which TopSpeed calls “one of the brand’s most popular offerings” – scored the lowest of all Mercedes models. It also ranked as the No. 9 lowest-rated model across all segments and automakers for 2023. In its segment, “only the Lincoln Aviator scored lower than the GLE’s rating of 23/100.”
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