What's The Most Unreliable Car You've Ever Owned?

Illustration for article titled What's The Most Unreliable Car You've Ever Owned?
Photo: Raphael Orlove

I remember buying a car that overheated on the drive home. Another one that couldn’t idle when I bought it. Another that couldn’t hardly make it around the block that I had to flatbed to my buddy’s house when I picked it up. I don’t know if I’ve ever owned what constitutes a reliable car.


But my cases are a little extreme. I’ve never needed any one of my cars to be reliable, exactly. I buy them worn out, and I fix them up, bit by bit, with various breakdowns in between, usually caused by my own poor efforts to fix them up. I’m currently working on getting my Volkswagen to idle right (I think I have it figured out finally) after I mistakenly tweaked my idle mixture screw thinking it was my idle speed screw and ended up stranded on an on-ramp in New Jersey for half an hour. A very kind man in a Land Rover gave the Bug a tow downhill to a gas station where it happily bump-started back to life.

Photo: Raphael Orlove

Still, I can pretty well trust that the Bug will get wherever I need to go, so long as I know it’s not in the midst of some malady. For every other time, there’s the subway.

I say this knowing well and truly that this very same Bug is most certainly the least reliable car I have ever had. It has exploded, failed, gotten towed more times than I can remember. It took over a calendar year for it to get across the country. There are parts of the car that I am fairly sure are cursed. There is at least one area that I am not sure connects to the temporal world. It’s a black hole. Bare wires come out of one side of it, but I’m not sure that there’s an other side at all. I’ve never found it, that’s for sure.

But surely you out there have owned something worse, something more inclined to leave you stranded by the side of the road. Something like the time that Bug let a single wire come loose off of the ignition coil when I was in the middle of nowhere New Hampshire.

Raphael Orlove is features editor for Jalopnik.



I currently own my least reliable car. It’s in the shop. Again. 2010 Mini Clubman S.

I learned to drive in a ‘73 BMW Bavaria (3L 6-cyl), which was as bulletproof a car as there ever was. My dad had 6 BMWs over 30 years, each one reliable, and of course, fun to drive. But modern BMWs aren’t reliable, and that extends to the Mini brand. Yes, lots of fun to drive, and stick, of course.

Unfortunately, my story isn’t unique—the Mini community is rife with reports of reliability issues. I am looking forward to getting whatever is next (haven’t decided, yet).