Cars I Have Known


I’ve owned a few cars by now. In chronological order of ownership:

  1. ~1972 Oldsmobile Delta 88
  2. ~1972 Oldsmobile Toronado
  3. ~1989 Honda Prelude
  4. ~1998 Subaru Legacy Wagon
  5. ~1985 Volkswagon Vanagon
  6. 2007 Subaru Outback
  7. 2016 Tesla Model S
  8. 2019 Tesla Model 3
  9. 2017 Nissan LEAF
  10. 2019 Chevrolet Bolt

Tesla manages to be very much in the public conciousness. There’s this persistent story that the cars are poorly built and unreliable. That hasn’t been my experience.


This next list ranks these cars from most to least reliable, including a need for repairs, taking into account that gas cars have a higher baseline maintenance burden.

  1. ~1989 Honda Prelude: Nothing
  2. 2017 Nissan LEAF: Several recalls when we first bought it
  3. Tesla Model 3: Recall on a cable in the trunk
  4. 2019 Chevrolet Bolt: Software updates can’t happen over the air, and a battery recall that was still open when we bought it
  5. ~1998 Subaru Legacy Wagon: Alternator failure made car die over train tracks!
  6. Tesla Model S: Three door handle microswitch failures, all covered by warranty
  7. 2007 Subaru Outback: Head gasket failed
  8. ~1972 Oldsmobile Delta 88: Older car needed lots of twiddling
  9. ~1972 Oldsmobile Toronado: Older front wheel drive car needed lots and lots of twiddling
  10. ~1988 Volkswagon Vanagon: An endless parade of mechanical problems

Overall ownership experience

Now including regular maintenance items, here are the top 5 from most to least pain in the butt to own:

  1. Tesla Model 3: The only shop visit has been to replace tires
  2. Tesla Model S: Multiple warranty repairs all happened in our driveway
  3. 2017 Nissan LEAF: One shop trip to have multiple recalls performed
  4. 2019 Chevrolet Bolt: One shop trip to have recalls performed
  5. ~1989 Honda Prelude: Required regular maintenance at an auto shop
  6. ~1998 Subaru Legacy Wagon: Regular maintenance at shop, and alternator replacement ate 3 days from our vacation and also required body work because it fell off the tow truck

Servce Center Experience

And in terms of best to worst service center experience, the list is:

  1. Tesla
  2. Everybody else

I could write pages and pages of complaints about the dealership service center experience for every car we’ve had. I’m really hoping, now that Tesla has illustrated how to sell and service cars without dealerships, that other manufacturers start doing the same thing, because the dealership experience is uniformly horrid.

$SPOUSE, on reading this list, commented that if she had to buy a gas car again, she’d want something like the Legacy wagon. I agree with that: it was a pretty good gas car.

But we’d rather have any electric than any gas car. They need way less regular maintenance, which means that even the nightmare experience of dealing with a dealership is less frequent.