Summary

  • Tesla is the most-recalled brand, with the Y, 3, X, and S occupying 4 of the top 5 slots
  • Mercedes-Benz leads the least-recalled list, followed closely by Toyota and Lexus
  • 33 Models are projected to experience 1 or fewer recalls over their lifespan
  • 25 Models are projected to experience at least 10 recalls over their lifespan
  • The Tesla Model Y is projected to have 62 recalls over its lifespan

Nobody wants to receive a recall notice, but in 2022 there were over 400 automotive recalls issued, impacting more than 25 million vehicles. The 2021 numbers were even higher: over 1,000 recalls involving over 35 million vehicles. Cars, like any mass-produced item, are subject to variables related to component and build quality, meaning every vehicle has a chance of being recalled for a safety issue at some point.

But, as iSeeCars’ latest study reveals, the potential for a recall varies – quite dramatically – between models. iSeeCars analyzed vehicle recall campaign data provided by the National Highway Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for models from the last 10 model years to calculate the number of projected recalls over an expected 30-year lifespan. 

The overall average for lifetime projected recalls across all makes and models is 4.0. The least-recalled cars average one projected recall or less; conversely, the most recalled car, Tesla’s Model Y, is projected to have more than 62 recalls. As a brand, Mercedes-Benz has nine models making the list of least recalled cars, while Porsche and Tesla each have four of the most recalled models. But note that Tesla’s entire model line occupies four of the top five most recalled vehicles.

“Recall rates can vary between makes and models,” said iSeeCars’ Executive Analyst Karl Brauer, “but the extreme variation in the number of recalls a car is projected to receive over its lifetime is something we didn’t expect. For consumers who don’t want to deal with a recall, the top models offer a substantially lower risk than even average models, such as the Chevrolet Equinox or Honda Ridgeline, with four predicted lifetime recalls. Avoiding a recall by owning  a highly rated model, like the Hyundai Elantra GT or Mercedes CLA, means less time spent scheduling a dealer visit, taking the vehicle in, and waiting for repairs to be made.”

The 33 Least Recalled Cars

The 33 cars to make the least recalled list are projected to experience 1 or fewer recalls over the course of their lifespan. Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, and Toyota are the most prominent brands, but a wide spectrum of models from Chevrolet, Fiat, Ford, Hyundai, Infiniti, Kia, Lincoln, Mazda, Mitsubishi, and Nissan, also make an appearance, with the top spot going to the Mini Convertible. Buyers seeking a model with a low recall rate have plenty of choices, while brands like Mercedes and Toyota have strong reputations for quality, and this list backs up their brand image.
Models with the Fewest Safety Recalls - iSeeCars Study
Rank Model Expected 30-yr Lifetime Recalls Compared to Overall Average
1 MINI Convertible 0.2 0.05x
2 Lexus NX 300h 0.3 0.08x
3 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid 0.5 0.13x
4 Mercedes-Benz CLA 0.5 0.13x
5 Lexus RX 450h 0.5 0.13x
6 Nissan 370Z 0.5 0.13x
7 Hyundai Elantra GT 0.6 0.15x
8 Mercedes-Benz GLA 0.6 0.15x
9 Mercedes-Benz GLC 0.7 0.18x
10 Lexus IS 300 0.7 0.18x
11 Mercedes-Benz GLE 0.7 0.18x
12 Ford Fusion Energi 0.7 0.18x
13 Mercedes-Benz AMG GT 0.7 0.18x
14 Mazda CX-3 0.7 0.18x
15 Lexus ES 300h 0.8 0.20x
16 Kia Rio 5-Door 0.8 0.20x
17 Lexus RC 350 0.8 0.20x
18 Mercedes-Benz GLB 0.9 0.23x
19 Infiniti QX50 0.9 0.23x
20 Chevrolet TrailBlazer 0.9 0.23x
21 Mercedes-Benz S-Class 0.9 0.23x
22 Ford Fusion Hybrid 0.9 0.23x
23 Mercedes-Benz GLS 0.9 0.23x
24 Nissan Titan XD 0.9 0.23x
25 Lexus IS 350 1.0 0.25x
26 MINI Clubman 1.0 0.25x
27 Mitsubishi Mirage G4 1.0 0.25x
28 Toyota Prius Prime 1.0 0.25x
29 Toyota Corolla Hatchback 1.0 0.25x
30 Mercedes-Benz A-Class 1.0 0.25x
31 Toyota Camry Hybrid 1.0 0.25x
32 FIAT 500X 1.0 0.25x
33 Infiniti Q60 1.0 0.25x
Overall Average 4.0

The 25 Most Recalled Cars

The 25 most recalled cars are projected to have at least 10 recalls over a 30-year lifespan, with Tesla and Porsche models appearing on the list four times each. Thankfully, Tesla’s ability to enact over-the-air (OTA) updates suggests at least some portion of its recalls won’t involve service center visits. BMW and Jeep make the list three times, while Ford, Lincoln, Ram, and Volkswagen show up twice. Chevrolet and Kia each have one model on the list.
Models with the Most Safety Recalls - iSeeCars Study
Rank Model Expected 30-yr Lifetime Recalls Compared to Overall Average
1 Tesla Model Y 62.4 15.60x
2 Porsche Panamera 61.8 15.45x
3 Tesla Model 3 56.8 14.2x
4 Tesla Model X 27.3 6.83x
5 Tesla Model S 26.4 6.60x
6 Lincoln Aviator 23.0 5.75x
7 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport 22.4 5.60x
8 Volkswagen Atlas 20.8 5.20x
9 Ram 1500 20.5 5.13x
10 Ram 1500 Classic 20.5 5.13x
11 Ford F-150 16.9 4.23x
12 Porsche Macan 16.1 4.03x
13 Porsche Cayenne 15.6 3.90x
14 Kia Telluride 14.4 3.60x
15 Porsche 911 13.0 3.25x
16 Lincoln Corsair 12.7 3.18x
17 BMW X7 12.4 3.10x
18 Ford Explorer 11.8 2.95x
19 BMW 3 Series 11.7 2.93x
20 BMW 5 Series 10.7 2.68x
21 Jeep Grand Cherokee 10.4 2.60x
22 Jeep Grand Cherokee L 10.4 2.60x
23 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 10.2 2.55x
24 Subaru Ascent 10.1 2.53x
25 Jeep Wrangler 10.0 2.50x
Overall Average 4.0

What About Over-the-Air Updates and Safety Recalls?

Are OTA (over-the-air) recalls really recalls if they don’t require a dealership or service center visit? How serious could an OTA issue really be?

Even though safety recalls that have OTA fixes are more convenient to repair, it should be noted that all safety recalls are issued for the same reason: The NHTSA’s analysis of the vehicle issue identified a safety-related defect that violates its vehicle safety standards and needs to be addressed.

The following data shows the top 25 rankings for projected lifetime safety recalls, excluding recalls repaired with OTA updates, to give owners and shoppers a sense of which models require the most dealership visits to address recalls:

Models with the Most Safety Recalls, Excluding Over-the-Air (OTA) Repairs - iSeeCars Study
Rank Model Expected 30-yr Lifetime Recalls, Excluding OTA Recalls Compared to Overall Average
1 Porsche Panamera 61.6 16.21x
2 Lincoln Aviator 23.5 6.18x
3 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport 22.7 5.97x
4 Volkswagen Atlas 20.9 5.5x
5 Ram 1500 Classic 20.9 5.5x
6 Ram 1500 20.8 5.47x
7 Tesla Model Y 19.3 5.08x
8 Ford F-150 16.8 4.42x
9 Porsche Macan 16.5 4.34x
10 Porsche Cayenne 16.5 4.34x
11 Tesla Model 3 15.2 4.00x
12 Kia Telluride 15 3.95x
13 Porsche 911 13.2 3.47x
14 Lincoln Corsair 12.7 3.34x
15 BMW X7 12.5 3.29x
16 BMW 3 Series 12.2 3.21x
17 Ford Explorer 11.8 3.11x
18 Subaru Ascent 10.9 2.87x
19 BMW 5 Series 10.8 2.84x
20 Jeep Grand Cherokee L 10.5 2.76x
21 Jeep Wrangler 10.5 2.76x
22 Jeep Grand Cherokee 10.4 2.74x
23 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 10.3 2.71x
24 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 10.2 2.68x
25 Kia Sorento 9.6 2.53x
Overall Non-OTA Average 3.8

Tracking Recalls Over Time

iSeeCars.com Car Recall Study Chart

In the graph above three curves are plotted for three representative vehicles: the Nissan 370Z, representing low recall rate vehicles; the Toyota Camry, representing average recall rate vehicles; and the Tesla Model S, representing high recall rate vehicles. Each curve shows the average number of recall campaigns per year over the first 10 years of these three vehicles’ lifespans.

“There are two critical components to think about when analyzing recalls,” said Brauer. “Obviously the number of recall campaigns is the first factor, but the timing of the campaigns is also important. Most vehicles behave like the Toyota Camry–most of their recalls are issued when they are first introduced, with a rapid decline after 1-3 years. But some cars, like the Tesla Model S, see a pattern of ongoing recalls, or even an increasing number of recalls, as time passes. Owners of vehicles with that pattern will continue to face recall hassles for years after they acquire their car.”

For more information on NHTSA recalls, and to check any open recalls on a specific model, visit their website. Recall repairs are free for car owners (other than the time they take to resolve), and should be addressed to ensure a vehicle is operating safely. Sadly, only about a quarter of vehicles involved in a recall are ever repaired due to low consumer action on this issue.

 

More from iSeeCars.com

iSeeCars.com Recall Ratings for Every Brand

Latest Industry Recall Statistics

Methodology

iSeeCars analyzed vehicle safety recall campaigns as of April 7, 2023 from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for cars from model years 2014-2023. The number of campaigns for each model was aggregated and projected for an expected 30-year lifespan, taking into account the overall behavior of the automaker and when each recall campaign was issued in the car’s lifetime. The resulting estimates were then used to rank models with the fewest and most expected safety recalls. Heavy-duty vehicles, low-volume models, and models discontinued prior to the 2020 model year were excluded from further analysis.

About iSeeCars.com

iSeeCars.com is a data-driven car search and research company that helps shoppers find the best car deals by providing key insights and valuable resources, including the iSeeCars VIN Check report and Best Cars Rankings. iSeeCars has saved users over $390 million so far by applying big data analytics powered by over 25 billion (and growing) data points and using proprietary algorithms to objectively analyze, score and rank millions of new cars and used cars.