The Best and Worst Car Brands for Customer Satisfaction
If you're looking for a new car in 2019, you'll want to check out how satisfied customers are with their driving choices.
The ACSI Automobile Survey
The American Customer Satisfaction Index measures on a scale of 1 to 100 how satisfied American consumers are with all types of products and services. The ACSI has been analyzing customer satisfaction with their cars for over two decades, capturing customer opinions about critical elements of the automobile experience, including:
- Driving performance (handling, drivability)
- Exterior (look, style)
- Interior (features, space)
- Vehicle safety
- Technology (audio, navigation, controls)
- Gas mileage
The overall results
Americans are increasingly satisfied with their cars, with the industry-wide score increasing one point since last year—to 82. Both the cars and the servicing of those autos have improved, but the rise in driver satisfaction is largely the result of better value, according to the ACSI. The following brands are ranked from the highest to lowest rating on the consumer-satisfaction scale.
Lexus has been one of the top five car brands since 2011, according to the number crunchers at 24/7 Wall Street who analyzed the 2018 survey. This year, its score was 85, down from 86 last year and placing it in a tie with Volvo.
Tied for the top position, Volvo garnered the company’s highest score in its history with an 85. (Last year, Volvo got an 82.) And its sales reflect the bump up in customer satisfaction with a 27.6 percent increase in the number of vehicles sold; that was the largest increase of any car brand in the survey.
The second spot is shared by Lincoln and Subaru, each garnering 84 points. Lincoln has climbed two points since 2017. That said, this Ford luxury brand saw a 10 percent drop in sales in the last year.
The good news for Subaru is that sales are up from last year by more than 5 percent. And while it tied for the second spot in customer satisfaction for the second year in a row, it did drop a point from 85. These are the 10 things you should never do to your car.
This year, this Volkswagen luxury brand rose a point in terms of customer satisfaction with a score of 83, placing it in a tie for the third spot. And according to 24/7 WallStreet, this is a substantial improvement from 2014, when Subaru scored 79, tying for third worst that year.
Last year, Honda came in as one of the less-satisfactory car brands with a score of 81. That’s changed now: It scored 83 points this year, placing it in a tie with Audi and Toyota. Though Honda’s overall sales are down by nearly 2 percent this year, SUV sales have been improving. Don’t miss these weird car features you didn’t know you might have.
Bittersweet results for Toyota this year: The brand has dropped to an 83 this year. It had been at 86 last year, which put it in a tie with Lexus for the top ranking.
BMW, Cadillac (GM), Mercedez-Benz, and Volkswagen all scored an 82 in terms of customer satisfaction for 2018. That places BMW precisely where it was last year, although its sales are up 2.5 percent.
“Cadillac has had its share of struggles,” 24/7 Wall Street points out. But the good news is that, with its score of 82, it’s GM’s highest-ranked brand on this list, and it’s enjoyed a 5.4 percent sales increase this year. Make sure you know these simple tricks for outsmarting car salesmen.
The brand is tied with Cadillac, but Mercedes-Benz is on a bit of a downswing. Customer satisfaction dropped to 82—from last year’s 84—and sales are down 13.4 percent.
This brand tied with Cadillac and Mercedes with a score of 82, an improvement from its 2017 score of 79. Sales are up 8 percent, as well. The analysts at 24/7 Wall Street see this as evidence the German automaker has made significant strides in recovering after its 2016 carbon emissions scandal.
While below the industrywide average score of 82, Acura’s 81 is a percentage point higher than last year. That said, there’s plenty of room for improvement: 24/7 Wall Street points out that Acura is close to the bottom of luxury brands.
Buick is floating in the middle with a score of 80 (which it shares with GMC, Hyundai, Jeep, Mazda, Mini, Nissan, and Ram). Unfortunately, there’s been a downward trend ever since Buick scored an 88 in the 2010 ACSI survey. Watch out for the 7 ways you’re completely wasting your money on car maintenance.
Another GM brand with a downward trend in customer satisfaction: This maker of vans, SUVs, and trucks has dropped 5 percent to a score of 80.
While J.D. Power ranks Hyundai as one of the 10 best car brands, owners of Hyundai vehicles are not completely convinced: The brand’s ACSI fell from 83 to 80, and its sales dropped a couple of percentage points as well. Here are 9 things to consider before buying a car online.
Jeep (Fiat Chrysler)
Customer satisfaction held steady with a score of 80. That means Jeep is the crown jewel for Fiat Chrysler. Plus, Jeep’s sales are up almost 21 percent from last year, and it’s actually the only major Fiat-Chrysler brand to report any sales growth over that period.
We’ve got good news and bad news regarding Mazda. The good news is sales are up 11.5 percent since last year. The bad news is that with a below-average score this year of 80, down from 82 last year, some of the shine appears to be coming off the brand. Check out these 20 awesome car accessories that will change the way you drive.
Like Mazda, Mini (BMW) fell from 82 to 80 from last year. But when it comes to dealer experience, Mini gets a perfect 10, according to J.D. Power—one of just four car brands to earn that score in dealer experience.
With a score of 80, just like last year, this Japanese automaker is showing signs of struggles, according to 24/7 Wall Street. There were big decreases in sales during 2018, although J.D. Power still gives the brand a 9 out of 10 for overall quality. Look out for these 13 ways you’re shortening the life of your car.
RAM (Fiat Chrysler)
Appearing in the survey for the first time this year, RAM earned a mediocre score of 80. But from Fiat Chrysler’s perspective, it could be seen as a bit of a win. RAM isn’t even close to the worst-ranked of the Fiat-Chrysler brands this year, which came in below the industry average of 82.
And now we reach the bottom third of the survey: Although Chevrolet is the third largest-selling auto brand after Toyota and Ford—sales are up by 5 percent this year—owner satisfaction scores a low 79, and that compares unfavorably with GM’s other divisions, such as Cadillac, Buick, and GMC. Here’s how to handle the 10 scariest driving situations.
Kia is tied with Chevrolet and Mitsubishi, but its owner-satisfaction rating is down 4 percent from last year’s 82. Kia has shown a slight decrease in sales in 2018, down 1.6 percent.
Up from last year’s 78, Mitsubishi still appears to be falling short in owner satisfaction. However, sales are up 23.4 percent since last year and, depending on how that works out for the purchasers, that could have a positive effect on the brand’s score next year.
With sales down a whopping 43.7 percent since last year—the largest decline of any car brand in the survey—it’s not surprising that Fiat fell from a 78 to 75. At least the brand has moved up from last year’s position of dead last. Make sure you know these 14 signs your car is about to die.
Infiniti’s score of 78 is a bit alarming when you consider it’s a luxury brand, and luxury brands tend to be ranked higher in terms of owner satisfaction. In fact, Infiniti is the only luxury brand to score below this year’s average of 82. Not a particularly auspicious debut for Infiniti—this is the brand’s first year in the survey.
Dodge received a 77, placing it in a tie with Ford for second-to-last in the rankings, but this score is actually an improvement from last year’s 75. Like the other five brands at the bottom of the survey, Dodge’s sales are down (by 3.5 percent since last year).
For a brand as popular as Ford, it’s surprising how low customer satisfaction is. Ford boasts a 14 percent U.S. market share but is tied with Dodge for second-to-last in these rankings; the brand’s satisfaction score has fallen from 79 to 77 this year.
And that brings us to Chrysler—dead last in customer satisfaction. The brand got a 74. Last year, it scored a 79, and sales are down 13.1 percent. As 24/7 Wall Street puts it, “No auto brand ranked worse or fell harder in the rankings than Chrysler.” Better luck next year. If you’re in the market for a car, take a look at these 34 secret car-buying tips that dealers won’t tell you.