JD Power auto dependability trophies

How to Measure Auto Dependability, According to J.D. Power

J.D. Power shared the most dependable cars with us for 2021, and it came as no surprise that the Porsche 911 topped the list for auto dependability once again. Other cars on the lineup included models from the brands Kia and Lexus (for mass market and luxury, respectively).

But how do they determine what’s dependable and what’s…not?

The ranking criteria in the Vehicle Dependability Study tells us a bit about what auto dependability really means to the professionals.

Auto dependability criteria includes reliability and vehicle quality

How does J.D. Power use reliability and quality to determine auto dependability? First, they count up the defects, design flaws, and malfunctions in the vehicle. This includes the vehicle’s engine system and headlight functionality just as much as its air conditioning and media center. You can imagine it’s important that every aspect of a vehicle be spick and span.

In this case, J.D. Power gives a higher rating to cars with less problems.

Experience at the dealership matters, too

You may not think dealership experience has anything to do with auto dependability, but you’d be wrong. Purchasing and service are all a part of vehicle ownership, and it’s crucial that this step delivers transparency and trust. A manufacturer cannot skimp on the consumer-facing side of things to focus solely on the building process.

The quality of the customer service, facilities, and the actual work performed on the vehicle all matter.

What is the driving experience like?

J.D. Power collects data on each vehicle’s driving experience. This comes from a holistic perspective, noting everything from performance and design to safety and functionality. Ergonomics play a factor along with automation.

Because of these criteria, you can imagine that newer vehicles fare better in this category. That makes sense considering they’re more technologically designed using a streamlined approach. After all, auto on/off high beams and power windows are hard to compete with.

For J.D. Power, resale value accounts for auto dependability

A vehicle is truly dependable when you know you can sell it in a handful of years and still get a solid value for your ride. Not every car will pass this test. In fact, some brands like Ford have a notoriously low resale value, while other brands like Subaru tend to resell at higher rates.

J.D. Power considers the vehicle’s three-year depreciation factor. The less it depreciates, the better it performs.

Raising the bar on auto dependability

Simply setting up a competition does a good job of raising the bar on auto dependability, so good on J.D. Power for taking the responsibility. Their awards help people decide on the right car for them day in and day out, and that’s nothing to take lightly. The most popular cars aren’t always the most dependable, and vice versa but it’s yet another study for consumers to take into consideration.

It’s always good to have an unbiased meeting place to help us make sense of the data and make smart, safe decisions. If it helps automakers deliver greater auto dependability with each model year, I’m all for it.

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Rachel Curry
"Hey! My name's Rachel Curry and I'm a full-time writer who loves telling the world's stories as much as hanging with my dogs (and that's saying a lot). A University of Delaware graduate, I've traveled extensively, living everywhere from Ireland to Thailand. Bylines include Matador Network and Delaware Today."

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    1. Actually a useful article. I definitely need to know what is a dependable vehicle on my car shopping journey. Thanks!

    2. I feel that Consumer Report makes more sense than JD Power for a few reasons.

      JD Power
      -For Profit
      -Sells Information
      -Funded by Car Companies

      Consumer Reports
      -Non Profit
      -No Ads
      -Funded by Subscribers

      Check out the video link here to see what JD Power is all about: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKisRZd8VYw

    3. This was very interesting. I would love to see a longer list for how the top 5 may have scored in each category. I enjoyed the hyperlink to the most popular cars by state as well. I must have previously missed that article. It was interesting to see that the most reliable is somehow not the most popular anywhere. I wonder why that is.

    4. It’s interesting how many things are factored into dependability.

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