EVs Are Far More Reliable Than PHEVs, But Still More Problematic Than ICE Cars

Reliability is a big factor when it comes to buying a new car. I know I want my car to last as long as possible and to have as few issues as possible. Why wouldn’t I? But while electric vehicles have come a long way in this respect, they still have some catching up to do compared to combustion vehicles.

At least that’s what Consumer Reports is saying in its latest Annual Auto Reliability Study, which is based on the feedback from consumers to predict reliability ratings for new cars from every major mainstream model. In 2023, CR gathered data on more than 330,000 vehicles from the 2000 to 2023 model years, as well as a few newly introduced 2024 models, so it’s a pretty solid starting point.

According to the survey, EVs have 79% more reliability problems on average than combustion cars, with the biggest issues relating to the charging experience and the high-voltage battery.

“EVs are still in their relative infancy as mainstream vehicles, so it’s really not surprising that manufacturers, by and large, are still working out the kinks,” said Jake Fisher, senior director of auto testing at Consumer Reports. “That said, we are seeing signs of movement in the right direction. And as our data has consistently shown, reliability-minded consumers would be best served by forgoing brand new vehicles in their first model year.”

Plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) fared even worse in the survey with an average of 146% more problems, while hybrids were on the other end of the spectrum with 26% fewer problems than ICE cars on average.

With this being said, Tesla–the biggest player in the American EV market–was a bright spot in the survey with comparatively fewer issues in the charging and battery categories. Additionally, the Model 3 and Model Y are good enough to be recommended by Consumer Reports, while the more expensive Model S and Model X have been tagged as having below-average reliability.

The Austin-based EV manufacturer continues to have issues with body hardware, paint, trim, and the climate system on its models, but the motor, charging, and battery categories are not as problematic as with other carmakers, according to Consumer Reports.

Tesla Model S, Model 3, Model X, and Model Y

Overall, Tesla is the second-highest-ranked domestic car manufacturer in CR’s brand rankings. Sitting in 14th place, the Elon Musk-led American company is surpassed only by Buick which sits in 12th place overall.

On the other hand, some EV models from other automakers had fewer reported problems related to build quality but higher rates of powertrain, battery, and charging issues, although CR doesn’t mention what those models are.

The most reliable brands, according to Consumer Reports, are Lexus and Toyota, followed by Mini, Acura, Honda, Subaru, Mazda, Porsche, BMW, and Kia. On the other end of the list is Chyrsler, which is dead last in 30th place.

Rivian is in 28th place on CR’s list, with both the R1T pickup and R1S SUV scoring below average when it comes to reliability. Owners complained about issues with the drive system, climate control system, body hardware, and EV charging.

2022 Rivian R1T

Likewise, the Ford F-150 Lightning is below average, while the F-150 Hybrid is described by CR as being among the least reliable models overall. Both F-150 Lightning and F-150 Hybrid owners noted issues with their batteries, while Hybrid owners added transmission, drive system, and exhaust problems to the list. On the list of most reliable brands, Ford sits in 22nd place.

This year’s CR survey covered 20 problem areas including engine, electric motors, transmission, in-car electronics, EV/Hybrid battery, EV charging, and more.