Should I Really Avoid a Car in the First Model Year?

Image: Ford
Image: Ford

As Jalopnik’s resident car buying expert and professional car shopper, I get emails. Lots of emails. I’ve decided to pick a few questions and try to help people out. This week we’re discussing the risks of buying a car in the first year of production, certified pre-owned cars being sold “as-is,” and why it’s so hard to search for cars with specific features.


First up: Is the first model year of a car really risky?

I need a mid-size pickup would like to end up in a Ranger, Tacoma, or Colorado/Canyon with V6 (except Ranger), 4WD, an extended cab (not crew), and 6' box.

The used market for these trucks is really strong here, to the point that I’m considering biting the bullet and buying new. One hangup is that the 2019 Ranger with the extended cab isn’t available yet, so I will have to wait on that one. Should I be afraid of the first year back for the Ranger with problems cropping up?

This is another one of those old bits of car buying wisdom, to avoid cars in their first model year because you want to wait for the manufacturer to “work the bugs out.” It’s not really as pervasive as it used to be.

While some cars have hiccups when they first launch (I’m looking at you Alfa Romeo), the vast majority of recently released vehicles are pretty high in quality. I purchased a Volkswagen GTI within its first model year, and I now have 47,000 miles on that German hatchback with no issues. Granted other folks were not as lucky.

The Ranger has a few things going for it that means it’s probably a safe bet even in the first model year. First, it’s a Ford truck, a segment that automaker is especially good at. Second, the Ranger, in various iterations, has already been sold in other markets for a while, which gave Ford the opportunity to learn from any issues that have already cropped up. We’ll see what happens with the Ranger’s quality and reliability, but waiting until the second model year of production won’t necessarily guarantee you anything.

Next: Why is it so hard to search for cars with specific features?

I am finding it very frustrating to search for cars with the modern features I’m looking for. On websites like Autotrader, CarGurus, etc. options like windshield wiper are listed but Adaptive Cruise is hidden in some other package that the dealer doesn’t even know about.

I already assume the car has wipers, but why can’t these advanced tech features be a filter?


I share your frustration as I spend hours every day searching these sites’ inventory, looking for cars that are a match for my customers’ needs and requirements. The problem is that the search and filtering on these listing sites are only as good as the parameters they put in place. If they don’t have a checkbox for “Adaptive Cruise Control” or whatever the dealer can’t select that for their particular car to narrow the inventory field.

While third-party listing sites are certainly valuable, they seem to be stuck in the past when it comes to the search tools available for the car buyers looking for specific features and options. Hopefully, they will catch up soon.


And finally, can a certified pre-owned car be sold “as-is”?

I’m in the market for a Cadillac CTS-V coupe. I stopped by on my way home, dealership already closed, just to take a look; especially, since its sitting outside the lot. To my surprise, the sticker with the two checkboxes that you find on most used cars as-is, vs dealer warranty had the check in the as-is no warranty box? I called a salesman and inquired, does that mean “If the turbo fails a month out of the dealership, will you warranty and fix it?” He stated, and I quote, “It can be fixed anywhere in the country.”

I haven’t had a chance to get back to test drive, as I live and work in neighboring states, and have been off a week. I did notice today that on their website, the car has been removed from the CPO section, yet the advertisement when you click on the actual car, still says CPO. Just wanted to know if you have any thoughts before I go in there? Is the As-Is a standard practice on a used car?”


It is common practice for used cars to be sold “as-is” especially if they are beyond their warranty period, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here. It seems like someone just put the wrong sticker on this car. If a car is labeled, advertised, and being sold as a “certified pre-owned” model that car comes with whatever warranty coverage is guaranteed by the certification.

Of course, not all “CPO” programs are the same. But I assume we are talking about a Cadillac CPO car, in which case that car would get the coverage that GM puts on their certified models. Make sure when you finalize the purchase you get paperwork indicating that the car is certified, and that there is a record of the VIN being attached to that warranty coverage.


Got a car buying conundrum that you need some assistance with? Email me at!



As an owner of a 2012 Ford Focus I say yes, avoid that first year at all costs. Also as the owner of a 2012 Ford Focus I say dont buy a car new...or a Focus.