The Index Explained

Overview

Since 1996, CarMD has compiled and maintained the industry’s largest and most comprehensive database of “check engine “light-related problems and repairs. The database is procured from CarMD’s nationwide network of Automotive Service Excellence (ASE)-certified technicians, who recommend, validate and upload repairs and costs to the database on a daily basis for 1996 vehicles to present. CarMD has millions of verified repairs in its proprietary database that apply to more than 200 million on-board diagnostic, second generation (OBD2) vehicles on the road in the U.S. Beginning in 1996, the U.S. government mandated that OBD2 be included on all foreign and domestic cars, light trucks, vans, SUVs and now hybrids driven in the U.S. This universal technology is designed to detect malfunctions, set a diagnostic trouble code (DTC) and turn on the “check engine” light if there is a problem. This system provides vital health and safety information for roughly 80 percent of a vehicle’s systems, and is installed on roughly 85 percent of the vehicles in the U.S. today.

  • As a result of compiling the industry’s most comprehensive database of repairs for “check engine”-related problems, CarMD is uniquely able to provide statistics on a wide range of vehicles and manufacturers. By offering this unbiased and unprecedented repair and reliability information over time, CarMD is able to present an unparalleled view of reliability over the lifecycle of vehicles, enabling consumers and the industry to compare and contrast makes based on facts and not just opinion surveys.
  • • Each spring, the company releases its CarMD® Vehicle Health Index™ of unbiased statistical information covering the most common “check engine” light-related car repairs and associated costs, on a national basis. Each summer, CarMD shares state-by-state rankings of car repairs and costs to help motorists better understand how geography and climate play a role in car maintenance and repairs. Each fall CarMD reports on the most reliable manufacturers, vehicles and used cars.

Additional information, including Index news releases and full reports can be accessed via the CarMD Press Center.

Methodology

CarMD has compiled the industry’s most comprehensive database of expert repairs for “check engine”-related problems provided by automotive technicians and vehicle owners since 1996. Each CarMD® Vehicle Health Index™ draws from this database and CarMD’s network of Automotive Service Excellence (ASE)-certified technicians who have input and validated failures and fixes into this database. Outputs are based on the input received from CarMD’s customers and network, and do not necessarily cover all makes and models.

The number of vehicles included in each Index report varies by quantity of vehicle check engine-related incidents and repairs reported for each given Index report period. The Index is based on downloaded information from each vehicle’s government-mandated onboard diagnostic computer, combined with uploaded repair information from CarMD’s network of automotive technicians. Repair costs are based on original equipment retail MSRP. Labor rates are procured from several sources as well as the average amount of time required for each repair. Both are updated annually.

For the Manufacturer & Vehicle Rankings Index report, CarMD has contracted with a third-party web-based project management company to program a formula that factored in the number of registered vehicles on the road for each manufacturer, make, model and year. A CarMD Vehicle Health Index rating was then assigned using the total number of red reports (or failures) per vehicle (or manufacturer) divided by the total number of vehicles in the population. Percentage of problems and average repair costs have been equally weighted in the CarMD Overall Index rating. The overall Index ranking for the Top Ranked Manufacturers and Vehicles were derived by the average of the Index and cost ranking and reliability scores.

On a daily basis, CarMD’s nationwide network of thousands of factory-trained OE (original equipment) and independent automotive repair technicians recommend, confirm and upload repairs and costs by region to the CarMD database. As a result, subsequent CarMD Vehicle Health Index reports will draw from a larger sampling of expert fixes and repair costs.

FAQ

The CarMD Vehicle Health Index is an annual report of the most common automotive diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs), fixes and repair costs for 1996 and newer vehicles in the U.S. – foreign and domestic.

Since 1996, the U.S. government mandated that on-board diagnostics (OBD2) be included on all foreign and domestic cars, light trucks, minivans and SUVs driven in the U.S. This universal technology is installed in each vehicle’s computer system, and is designed to detect malfunctions, set a DTC and turn on the “check engine” light if there is a problem. The system provides vital health and safety information for approximately 80 percent of a vehicle’s systems.

CarMD has compiled the industry’s most comprehensive database of DTCs downloaded by automotive technicians and vehicle owners since 1996. In addition to diagnostic trouble code data, CarMD has compiled the most comprehensive database of “fixes” or recommended repairs that correspond to each trouble code scenario. On a daily basis, a nationwide network of thousands of automotive service excellence (ASE) technicians recommend, confirm and upload repairs and costs by region to the CarMD database. As a result, CarMD has built the largest, most up-to-date database of diagnostic trouble codes, expert fixes and repair costs.

CarMD plans to release this data on a yearly basis to provide vehicle owners and the industry the most in-depth view of vehicle health and repair. This level of data has never before been released or available to the public.

The CarMD Vehicle Health Index was launched in April 2011 to help consumers and the vehicle market put their finger on the pulse of the raw data associated with vehicle failures, repairs and safety issues. It is CarMD’s goal to take benchmarking data and new information to show unbiased trends and give consumers an edge when it comes to what may happen with their vehicle in the future. The CarMD Vehicle Health Index will help consumers and professionals better diagnose vehicle problems, make more informed new and used car purchases, and ultimately stay one step ahead of what may happen to their vehicles in the future. Because CarMD.com Corp., procures information from a network of thousands of ASE certified automotive technicians, and customers from all 50 states, its data covers more than 80 percent of vehicles on the road, giving a unique perspective on vehicles driven in the U.S.

The CarMD Vehicle Health Index April 2011 report provided the following information on the most common failures and costs across all vehicles nationally and by state, with benchmarking data from 1996-2010, and then 2010-specific data.

1. Top 25 most common diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs) for 1996-2010 vehicles across the U.S.
2. Top 10 most common type of vehicle failures in the U.S. – 1996 to 2010
3. Top 10 most common type of vehicle failures in the U.S. – 2010
4. Top 25 most common vehicle repairs and associated repair costs in the U.S. – 1996 to 2010
5. The top 25 most common vehicle repairs and associated repair costs in the U.S. – 2010
6. National Average for Repair Costs by region (Northeast, Southwest, Midwest) – 1996 to 2010
7. National Average for Repair Costs (parts and labor) 2010
8. Top 20 most expensive vehicle fixes in the U.S. 1996 to 2010
9. Top 25 Most Common DTCs by region (NE, SW, Midwest) – 1996 to 2010
10. Top 10 most common types of vehicle failures by region (NE, SW, Midwest) – 1996 to 2010
11. Top 10 most common automotive repairs by region (NE, SW, Midwest) – 1996 to 2010
12. Top 10 diagnostic trouble code/repair categories by region (NE, SW, Midwest) – 1996 to 2010

 

The November 2011 report provides the first ever ranking of manufacturers and vehicles with the fewest combined “check engine” failures and lowest repair costs, adding an unprecedented level of transparency for consumers when purchasing new and used vehicles:

1. Top 10 vehicle manufacturers. This ranking is based on a rating derived from the combined rating of lowest percentage of “check engine” light-related problems and lowest average repair costs over the past year for model year 2001-2011 vehicles.
2. Top 100 vehicles on the road MY 2001-2011. This list takes a never-before-seen approach to ranking vehicles based on the total vehicle population, making it possible to compare a 10-year-old vehicle with a newer one. This is particularly important since drivers are holding onto vehicles longer than ever before with an average vehicle age in excess of 10 years.
3. Common repairs and costs by vehicle brand. This particular list enables vehicle owners and shoppers to identify common problems and related costs, which can be beneficial to both car shoppers as well as owners in their purchase, maintenance and repair decisions.
4. Top 3 ranked vehicles by category Model Year 2001-2011. This ranking is based on combined fewest and lowest cost “check engine”-related problems across the most popular vehicle categories.

The Index features benchmarking data from 1996-current, as well as annual data from the previous, and most current year. In the April 2011 report, the most common diagnostic trouble codes, fixes and related costs are presented on a national and regional level. You can observe trends by simply comparing the most current year’s data with the previous or benchmarking data. Other trends can be ascertained by looking at regional differences, costs and even outside data such as climate.

The November vehicle manufacturer focused index takes a never-before-seen approach to ranking vehicles based on the total vehicle population, making it possible to compare a 10-year-old vehicle with a newer one. This is particularly important since drivers are holding onto vehicles longer than ever before with an average vehicle age in excess of 10 years.

No. The CarMD Vehicle Health Index is stripped of all individual customer and automotive technician information before it is used to produce the Index. In no event does CarMD.com Corp. provide name, vehicle VIN information, address, email, or any other personally identifying information such as to any third parties in connection with the CarMD Vehicle Health Index. Please click here for CarMD’s consumer privacy policy.

As a result of compiling the industry’s most comprehensive database of diagnostic trouble codes and repairs for “check engine”-related problems, CarMD is uniquely positioned to provide statistics on a wide range of vehicles and manufacturers. By offering this unbiased and never-before-seen repair and reliability information over time, CarMD is able to present an unparalleled view of reliability over the lifecycle of vehicles, enabling consumers and the industry to compare and contrast makes based on facts and not just opinion surveys. This never-before-seen approach to ranking vehicles based on the total vehicle population, also makes it possible to compare the reliability record of 10-year-old vehicle with a newer one. This type of comparison is totally new and is particularly important since drivers are holding onto vehicles longer than ever before with an average vehicle age in excess of 10 years.

While other organizations provide valuable information on consumer satisfaction, buyer behavior, product quality and even vehicle history reports, no single organization – until now, has put its finger on the pulse of the raw data associated with vehicle failures, repairs and safety issues. The CarMD Vehicle Health Index is the first research project to collect and statistically assess fixes and diagnostic trouble code scenarios for the majority of model year 1996-current vehicles.

The first annual CarMD Vehicle Health Index was released in two reports on April 27, 2011, encompassing the most common failures and costs across all vehicles nationally and by region; and on Nov. 14, 2011, ranking manufacturers and vehicles with the fewest combined failures and lowest cost per repair. Each April, CarMD.com Corp. will release the overall vehicle failures and repair cost data during National Car Care Month. In November, CarMD will release the manufacturer and vehicle rankings and lists.

The CarMD Vehicle Health Index pulls its information from the extensive CarMD diagnostic database, which has captured diagnostic trouble code and fix information for model year 1996-present. The company began collecting data for 1996 vehicles because that was the year that the U.S. government mandated that second-generation on-board diagnostics (OBD2) be included on all cars, light trucks, minivans and SUVs driven in the U.S. – Foreign and domestic. This universal program is installed in each vehicle’s computer system, and is designed to detect malfunctions, set a diagnostic trouble code (DTC) and turn on the “CHECK ENGINE” light if there is a problem. CarMD uses this data, as well as repair information from its nationwide network of thousands of automotive technicians to produce its Index.

The size of the Index sample varies depending on which report you’re looking at and is growing on a daily basis. For instance, the 1996-2010 fix data is based on approximately 200,000 fixes that apply to roughly 180 million vehicles on the road in the U.S. The 1996-2010 diagnostic trouble code data includes approximately 82,000 scenarios. The regional samplings are smaller with roughly 26,000 fixes in the Midwest and 41,000 in the Southwest in the benchmarking data.

The November 2011 data was based on more than a half-million repairs in its proprietary database that apply to roughly 189 million on board diagnostic, second generation (OBD2) vehicles on the road in the U.S., including an estimated 136 million MY 2001-2011 vehicles, from which the 2011 CarMD® Vehicle Health Index and Ranking was procured

On a daily basis, CarMD’s nationwide network of thousands of OE (original equipment) and independent automotive repair technicians recommend, confirm and upload repairs and costs by region to the CarMD database. As a result, subsequent CarMD Vehicle Health Index reports will draw from a larger sampling of diagnostic trouble codes, expert fixes and repair costs. Methodology will remain as defined above.

Virtually all 2001 to 2010 makes and models of cars, light trucks, minivans and SUVs – foreign and domestic – with on board diagnostic second generation (OBD2) technology are included in the Index. For the 2011 Vehicle Health Index, CarMD focused on model year 2001-2011 vehicles, since the average age of a vehicle is now just over 10 years old, and these are the vehicles that will be of most interest to new and used car buyers. In determining the Top 10 manufacturers and Top 100 vehicles, CarMD included all makes and models that were listed among the U.S. vehicle population, according to R.L. Polk data, and had a CarMD diagnostic report. In determining the Top 10 manufacturers, brands were grouped under their parent manufacturer (i.e. Lexus under Toyota; Acura under Honda; Buick, Chevrolet, Cadillac, GMC, Oldsmobile, Pontiac and Saturn under GM; etc.)

QbxVehicle Health Index Introduction