Cars Most Likely to Need a Transmission Replacement

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Drivers naturally become concerned about reliability as a car ages, because the risk of inconvenience and unexpected expenses rises while the miles rack up. Most modern cars can make it to 200,000 miles with little more than routine maintenance and minor repairs for worn components. But Consumer Reports surveys show that some models carry a significantly greater failure rate than their peers.

To understand how often such problems occur, we analyzed data on older models from our Annual Auto Surveys to see which major systems can lead to expensive repairs and identify the models that have a significant risk.

Three problems areas stood out: engines, head gaskets, and transmissions. On some models, these problems occur with surprising frequency at a certain age and mileage.

“Transmission problems can lead to a range of issues such as overheating, slipping gears, and holding on to a gear for too long,” says John Ibbotson, Consumer Reports’ chief mechanic. “Ultimately, minor concerns can lead to catastrophic failure, leaving the car undrivable. A transmission rebuild or replacement is an expensive project that takes time, and not every repair shop will be experienced to tackle this job, adding to the inconvenience.”

Several Nissans stood out for the frequency that their continuously variable transmission needed to be replaced. Some members reported that the work was covered under warranty or that the transmission was replaced under a special Nissan extended warranty program, the type of customer service support that manufacturers sometimes extend to address common problems. Numerous Nissan cars and SUVs were caught up with transmission problems from the 2012 to 2015 model years. One Murano owner reported that the work cost him $5,000.

Pain can be felt in comments from Ford Focus and Kia Forte owners, in particular, who experienced problems with relatively few miles on their vehicles. Some Focus owners said the work was done under warranty. One Forte owner said that their transmission “went out” at just 4,300 miles and that it took 44 days for the transmission to be replaced, underscoring that such major problems can be expensive and/or highly inconvenient.

To help warn both current owners and used-car shoppers, we have collected 10 models that stood out as having the most severe problems, as determined by frequency and cost. We focused on models from the past decade. Looking just a bit further, there are several vehicles that have a disproportionate frequency of transmission issues, including, in rank order: the 2013 Chrysler Town & Country/Dodge Grand Caravan, 2012 Buick Enclave, 2013 Cadillac SRX, and 2013 Fiat 500.

The 10 highlighted models are presented below in rank order, starting with the one with the greatest problem rate among CR members.

We spotlight the model year with the greatest problems (and when applicable, list a range of years affected by this problem) and the typical mileage range when the problem occurs. We then recommend similar alternative cars that don’t have this problem. In cases where there are no alternatives presented, it means there are no similar cars that weren’t found to have the same issue or another significant problem.

The journey to 200,000 miles can be a bumpy one, but it can be smoother if you have a good, reliable car and properly maintain it, per the directions in the owner’s manual.

Consumer Reports always recommends that shoppers consult our reliability ratings, based on our large-scale member surveys, to predict the models that have better odds of being trouble free. This detailed data can be found on the car model pages.

2013 Nissan Sentra

2013 Nissan Sentra
Model years affected:
2012-2013, 2015
Typical mileage when problem occurs: 77,000-123,000
Alternatives without this problem: 2011-2015 Honda Civic, 2011-2015 Toyota Corolla, 2013-2015 Mazda3

2014 Nissan Pathfinder

2014 Nissan Pathfinder
Model years affected:
2013-2014
Typical mileage when problem occurs: 58,000-108,000
Alternatives without this problem: 2012-2016 Toyota Highlander

2014 Ford Focus

2014 Ford Focus
Model years affected:
2012-2017
Typical mileage when problem occurs: 31,000-60,000
Alternatives without this problem: 2013-2015 Mazda3, 2012-2015 Honda Civic

2019 Kia Forte

2019 Kia Forte
Typical mileage when problem occurs:
12,000-23,000
Alternatives without this problem: 2017-2018, 2020 Toyota Corolla, 2017-2019 Kia Soul

2013 Nissan Murano

2013 Nissan Murano
Model years affected:
2011, 2013
Typical mileage when problem occurs:
84,000-119,000
Alternatives without this problem: 2015 Ford Edge, 2012-2016 Toyota Highlander

2011 Ford Fiesta

2011 Ford Fiesta
Model years affected:
2011, 2014
Typical mileage when problem occurs: 115,000-145,000
Alternatives without this problem: 2011-2013 Honda Fit, 2012-2013 Hyundai Accent

2014 Infiniti QX60

2014 Infiniti QX60
Typical mileage when problem occurs:
92,000-95,000
Alternatives without this problem: 2012-2016 Lexus RX

2011 Nissan Rogue

2011 Nissan Rogue
Model years affected:
2011-2012
Typical mileage when problem occurs: 94,000-150,000
Alternatives without this problem: 2011-2013 Honda CR-V, 2011 Toyota RAV4

2016 Nissan Altima

2016 Nissan Altima
Typical mileage when problem occurs: 42,000-77,000
Alternatives without this problem: 2016-2017 Volkswagen Passat, 2015-2017 Toyota Camry

2013 Chevrolet Traverse

2013 Chevrolet Traverse
Typical mileage when problem occurs:
110,000-135,500
Alternatives without this problem: None



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