Oct 012007

RenaultDrivers of 04 and 54 plates beware. Almost half of cars leaving the comfort zone of their 3-year manufacturer warranties will suffer some kind of mechanical failure in the next 12 months, according to new research by independent specialist, Warranty Direct.

As September’s batch of new regiatration vehicles hits the UK’s roads, Warranty Direct’s data shows that 46.9%, or around 1.03 million cars*, entering their fourth year will break down during the next year.

The worst offenders on average from 10 of the UK’s most popular car manufacturers studied by Warranty Direct were Renault and Audi, with more than 68% of cars from the French and German giants breaking down in their fourth year.  Prestige marque Mercedes also fared badly, with well over half (57.1%) of its models likely to develop a fault in their fourth year.

“It’s a well-worn joke that items at home, like washing machines, fail the minute they leave the manufacturer guarantee period,” says Duncan McClure Fisher, managing director of Warrnty Direct.  “Clearly, the same is true of our cars if this data is anything to go by.

“The only difference here is that, instead of suffering a problem with an electrical item worth a couple of hundred pounds, you’re facing big repair bills on a product worth many thousands more than a washing machine.”

Warranty Direct analysed the most common faults to occur across the 10 manufacturers, and found that air conditioning units, ignition and fuel systems are the first things motorists can expect to fail once the peace of mind offered by their manufacturer guarantee expires.

Table showing in which year components are most likely to fail


Fuel system 4
Ignition   system 4
Air   conditioning 5
Steering 6
Cooling   system 8
Engine 9
Axle &   Suspension 10
Transmission 10
Braking   system 10


Table showing at what age cars develop the most failures


Mercedes 4
Peugeot 6
Audi 7
Vauxhall 7
Renault 8
Ford 8
Toyota 10
Honda 10
Volkswagen 10


For example, if you have a four-year old Vauxhall, there’s almost a 1 in 7 chance that its engine will suffer a mechanical failure before it gets to its next MoT, necessitating an average £520 payout for repairs.

Owners of relatively new prestige models shouldn’t think they’re safe either – four-year-old cars built by Audi and Mercedes showed a similar chance of developing problems with their fuel system – 13.7% and 13.9% respectively.

On average, the chances of a Ford developing brake failure more than doubles from 4% to 8.6% when it increases in age from four to six years.  Ford air conditioning units are also twice as likely to break down once the vehicle moves into its fifth year.  These failures cause average repair bills of £155 and £330 respectively.

Although Audi owners may have an uneventful first three years of their car’s life, once it reaches four years old the chances of developing axle or suspension failure almost doubles, from 12.9% to 25.6%. By the time it reaches seven years old, there is a 51.4% chance of failure – almost four times the average of the 10 manufacturers examined by Warranty Direct.

At the other end of the scale, only 1 in 10 four-year-old Hondas or Toyotas develop a major problem of any kind, almost four times less than the average. Honda powerplants also stood out, with an incredible 19 out of 20 engines lasting until they were 10 years old.

Overall, 44% of the cars analysed by Warranty Direct suffered some kind of mechanical problem at some point once outside manufacturer cover.

Audi came bottom in Warranty Direct’s list, with 7 in 10 of the German cars suffering some kind of failure within 12 months of leaving its manufacturer guarantee.  Typically trustworthy, Japanese cars had less problems than most between the age of 3 and 10 years, with Honda and Toyota topping the pile.


Table showing chances of a mechanical failure in any given 12-month period for cars aged between 3 and 10


Honda 22%
Toyota 22.3%
BMW 39.9%
Peugeot 39.1%
Volkswagen 39.1%
Mercedes 40.5%
Vauxhall 42.7%
Ford 47%
Renault 67.3%
Audi 70.2%


Andy Bothwell or Paul Rayner at Performance PR on Tel: 0208 541 3434 Email: andyb@performancepr.com

* Calculation based on conservative estimate of 2.2 million new cars sold each year

Warranty Direct analysed 20,500 vehicles, with an average age of 4 years, 5 months for this survey. All data taken from policies and claims dated between 2001 and 2007 for cars aged between 4 years and 10 years old.