Are German cars still risky to buy?

My car has come to the end of it's life so it's time for another one. I've always owned Japanese/Chinese/Korean cars for the reliability and invulnerability, but Im thinking it might be time to go for something a little nicer.

My budget is around $20k (maybe a tiny bit higher) and was looking at the Audi A5 (second hand obviously). I've always bought used cars in the past and have never been burned as I know what to look for and what to avoid.

Question is, what's the likelihood on average that I'll be paying for expensive repairs on a second hand German car? Traditionally I was told to stay away unless you don't mind paying stupid prices for tiny things playing up all the time, but is this still true?


  • +92

    what's the likelihood on average that I'll be paying for expensive repairs on a second hand German car?

    Almost certain

    • -31

      Same answer for any other origin.

      • +1

        Nah, second-hand repairs on, say, Australian and Japanese cars would be cheaper than a second-hand German car.

    • +2

      I concur

    • +6

      esp with Audi

  • +18

    My budget is around $20k

    Have a look at Lexus IS.

    • will be way expensive than $20k unless OP really goes for like 10yr old car

      • +2

        An Audi A5 in good condition may also cost over $20k.

        • +5

          I think a VW Golf is the most popular European car on the Aussie roads.

          So if you want to reduce the risk, that's probably the best model to go for in terms of reliability, servicing and parts. I'd love to recommend the V6 Amarok, but can't do that with a clear conscious. For sports cars, European models are okay since you expect to pay a lot of money for servicing them anyways (eg Porsche) as opposed to say British or American alternatives.

          • -3

            @Kangal: V6 amarok is around $40k cheapest as well.

            Great car but not an amazing engine as with all diesel they misrepresent there power bands as the selling points.

            • +1

              @abuch47: The 3.0 V6 isn't an amazing engine? Power and is misrepresented?

              • +1
                • +3

                  @abuch47: Sorry but I'll go off my own experience, rather than listen to anything that idiot says. Amarok has great torque not far off idle, and hauls ass for what it is.

                  Funny how he says that the X class suspension is crap for towing because it's coil spring. Yet the 200 series he mentions as a benchmark is coil sprung. He is a clown.

                  Also, how weird that the one he recommends is the one he's trying to sell haha.

                • +1

                  @abuch47: That guy has a hard on for Mazda and trashes everything else, he just swears a lot and doesn't actually say how things drive.

          • @Kangal: I've heard mixed things about Porsche. Seems they might actually be pretty reliable

        • Can pick 2011-12 model around $20k. My mate just bought 2015 50k done for $30k.

  • +6

    I think you didnt word your question correctly what you mean to say is are buying German made cars worth it?

    the question are German cars still risky to buy? implies the product is faulty or untrustworthy which if you ask me they are normally of the highest quality!

    I have only had Japanese cars myself and i doubt unless i win a load of money that ill ever have a German let alone European car because of the reasons you mentioned expensive parts and servicing

    'Most' cars from your older brands are pretty reliable esp from Korea, Japan, Germany - buying 2nd hand is more about the current owner then the car itself.

    So to answer the real question are German made or in your case an Audi A5 worth it - that really depends on your personal feelings towards the car if you want a car to get you from A to B then hell no it isnt worth it - if it is about the look and feel of the car then maybe….

    But for me the answer is it isnt worth the extra cost as long as you arent driving a awful Mitsubishi Mirage or something a long those lines a car gets you from A to B imo as long as it meets your 'needs' why spend more $$$ on it

    • +2

      Reminds me of school day when my answer to an essay would be like one replied by @Peace Maker(almost certain) and my friends would ask for extra sheets.

  • +10

    Maintenance costs never drop as a car gets older. Costs to service and maintain european cars will always be higher in Australia.

    • +2

      My Japanese car is serviced on a 10,000km/6month cycle.

      My other cars are on 15,000km/12months.

      Unless you're referring to dealership servicing, my mechanic charges the same labour fee. Incidentally, the Japanese car uses less engine oil so subtract a few buckaroos for that. If I use my mechanic, I BYO my 5W-30 that I stockpile from ozbargain so it's roughly $6/litre.

      "Major" parts such as belts, spark plugs, brake pads, rotors… they're roughly the same as well.

      Transmission issues are the costly ones as dual clutch automatic cost more but those exist on budget model euros, not all euros and certainly not prestige euros.

      • +4

        That 10k vs 15k service schedule is all about the oil used not the magical engineering of the car.
        Use a quality synthetic oil and filter if you want to take the 15k option. I do this but still change at 10k… my choice.

        • -6

          I just do every 6 months for my cars regardless of mileage. If I start working on one car, may as well do all.

          I agree with the service schedule thing but that's not how your warranty works. You still gotta follow the book. That book is king.

      • +6

        6 Month servicing has nothing to do with the mechanics of the engine. It's purely a cash grab by the manufacturer. Mazda Aus used to dictate a 6 month servicing, but overseas it was 12 months.

        Unless of course you have a high performance car with a turbo etc.

        • Depends on use as well

        • +1

          to play devils avocado, perhaps our hotter weather contributes to a different service schedule?

          • @ProlapsedHeinous: Hot weather would help oil life as the engine wouldn't be running cold for as long.

            • +2

              @JIMB0: You also have to factor in that we have poor quality fuel - which might shorten the life of oils (not sure). It probably is a cash grab though.

        • The oil will have changed colour long before 12 months.

          With 6 months, at least you get fresh new oil mid way through.

      • What do you mean? A Porsche 911 has a dual clutch auto!

        • I think in context of the conversation, were not referring to a 911.

          I'm not really sure but I doubt many people buying a 911 is asking about servicing cost.

          • @DisabledUser88699: My reply was referring directly to this incorrect claim about dual clutch transmissions which is incorrect - "dual clutch automatic cost more but those exist on budget model euros, not all euros and certainly not prestige euros."

            • @JTTheMan: I've reread the comment. I forgot to include the word dry/cheap dual clutch. Those are the ones much more prone to failure.

              My mistake. I'm very aware of the DSG otherwise known originally and aptly as the PDK.

      • That wasn't Halo's point.

        Euro is considered premium in Australia so their is more mark up on spare parts in Australia.

        Euro's parts are often engineered for earlier failure, as the expect life of cars is far shorter in many markets (expected service life of say three years, not five to fifteen), so manufacturers can save money and increase profits.

        General services (which you quote) should be almost identical between all makes for the first few years for most modern cars. The 6-12 month intervals you refer to is just to get you into the dealership more often to sell you more stuff. The 12k/15k service intervals is more to do with different manufacturer's confidence of the engineering and production of their products/risk management.

        • Euro's parts are often engineered for earlier failure, as the expect life of cars is far shorter in many markets (expected service life of say three years, not five to fifteen)…

          You'd have to provide some sort of citation for such a bold claim.

          I am ready to accept on face value that japanese cars have a better reliability reputation and to some degree, may actually be more reliable.

          I highly doubt euro manufacturers would continue to manufacture in a way that is detrimental to their reputation. Even less so considering the alleged practice has been around for such a long time and people are still buying their cars, and there hasn't been some sort of inquiry into parts being manufactured for failure at "three years".

          It's a very bold claim. Very bold.

          • @DisabledUser88699:




            Australia's average car age may be higher than the EU as a whole (10.2 years vs 10.7), but the EU's 10.7 year average life includes eastern countries with averages above 15 years.

            Germany is 9.3, Ireland, Austria and France are all below 9, and the UK is below 8 years average life span. In contrast, the ACT has Australia's the newest fleet at 9.4 years average.

            If a car only has to last 9 years for your major markets, you would be a complete idiot to engineer/validate parts past 20 years.

            I never said EU parts were engineered poorly. There are plenty of of poorly designed products from all regions (I've seen plenty of recalls from japan, the USA and Korea). But if a car has an expected life of 15 years, it's not unreasonable to design a car's water pump as a serviceable item at five and ten years.

            there hasn't been some sort of inquiry into parts being manufactured for failure at "three years".

            Oil filters 'last' six to 12 months. Air filters one to three years. There are filter designs that will last far longer. They are not used.

    • Maintenance costs never drop as a car gets older.

      Generally no, but new parts get cheaper when they've been on the market long enough for 3rd party manufacturers to start production, and 2nd hand parts become cheaper as they become more plentiful.

      There will be more labor, but parts will get cheaper. So a low mileage car that's a bit older will generally be a better option than a newer car with high mileage.

  • +2

    porsche, cant go wrong

    • +1

      Until you have an IMS kaplowy.

      • The statistics suggest that the versions used for model years 2000 to 2005 are most susceptible (mostly the 996 version of the 911 and the Boxster 986), while the chances of IMS bearing failure on a Boxster 987 or Cayman manufactured after a stronger bearing was introduced in late 2005 are very slim.

        Never had an issue with mine.

        • -2

          I forgot that Porches made anything other than 911 even though I'm in a Cayenne every other weekend.

          • +2

            @DisabledUser88699: It's the best VAG money can buy, esp the Cayenne :-)

            • +6

              @resisting the urge: Cayenne isn't mine. It's fishing buddy's. Best money can buy but smells like a fishing vehicle all the same.

              I'd never buy a performance SUV. It's like buying a sports fridge.

              • @DisabledUser88699: I bought a Jeep (I feel small and am frustrated enough to take the risk)
                I bought a premium brand SUV (I feel bullied and am frustrated enough to take the risk)
                I bought a 911 (sick of slow transport, want something that does what it claims to)

                Its a bit like the appliance of sports cars, but proves over and over that it can't be beaten by its contenders on real terms

                • @resisting the urge: I bought a Jeep (because the company pays for it so who cares about reliability and parts cost).
                  I bought a premium brand SUV (I have kids that play soccer).
                  I bought a 911 (I'm going to be bald and have a midlife crisis.)

                  The wife is due for a car change so may go test drive the cayenne but I kinda wanna hold out for a Model X competitor.

                  • -3

                    @DisabledUser88699: I was going to upgrade to a cayenne when our 3rd kid came along but there's something about its lines that I find off-putting. Ended up trading my old macan for a new macan instead.

                    The Mrs got a 7-seater car instead.

                    • +1

                      @DisabledUser102420: If I had 3 kids, I'd get a Vellfire. Not even kidding in the slightest.

                      • -1

                        @DisabledUser88699: .. and would get the Mrs to drive it? :p That's a fugly people mover.

                        • +1

                          @DisabledUser102420: Why would I?

                          My vanity level is in the negatives. I have nice cars that no one sees and my Ute is the daily driver.

                          A Vellfire is a step up! … and what an interior.

                          • -2


                            My vanity level is in the negatives

                            Sounds like my wife. She returned an F-pace, declined a Lexus and bought herself a Santa Fe.

                            If we have another kid or adopt another pet…

                            • @DisabledUser102420: It's a nice car the Santa Fe.

                              Not many Vellfires around but if your local Toyota has one on display, it is mind-blowing. Definitely worth a joy ride.

                              • @DisabledUser88699:

                                it is mind-blowing.

                                I don't get my mind blown easily. Last time it happened was when I saw a 'turbocharged' electric car :p So, yep takes quite a bit to blow my mind.

                          • @DisabledUser88699:

                            My vanity level is in the negatives.


                            • -2

                              @idonotknowwhy: There's a difference between being vain, which I'm not, and being proud of what you have achieved and wanting your family to have the best, which I do. What's wrong with that?

                              • @DisabledUser102420: You just stated you wouldn't drive a car because it's ugly…

                                Didn't neg you by the way

                                • @brendanm: Do you mean the cayenne? I wasn't willing to trade a car that I like for a bigger, more expensive and less fuel-efficient car that I thought looked like a bloated version of my current car. I vaguely remember you and I having this conversation before where you agreed that you preferred the macan to the cayenne too.

                                  Unless you mean the vellfire? Surely, I can't be the first parent you've come across who baulks at the idea of having to drive a people-mover? I do drive my wive's Santa Fe from time to time and I don't mind it. Although, I find that if I do school pick up or soccer/basketball practice with my macan, I only ever end up with 4 kids in the car, whereas if I use the Santa Fe, I almost always have 6 kids. Sometimes only 1 of those 6 kids are mine.

                                  • @DisabledUser102420: Not driving something because of its looks is vanity though. I don't care, I wouldn't drive a SsangYong if they were the best cars in the world, because they were beaten with the ugly stick so damn hard, and I'd drive almost anything. It's vain, but that's the way it is.

                                    Cayenne is just a bigger Macan anyway. What engine did you get? Get a q7 next time, then you can take all the kids haha

                                    • @brendanm:

                                      Sometimes only 1 of those 6 kids are mine.

                                      *only 1 of those kids is mine.

                                      I originally wrote 2 and then remembered that time someone handed over their toddler to me, while they rushed their other kid to hospital. Not sure who was more confused: the toddler or me. So yeah, I had 6 kids in the car and only one of them was mine.

                                      The toddler stayed long enough that my toddler started referring to him as his twin or like he said, my twin bro "my tween boh" πŸ™„ They hug each other like long-lost brothers whenever they see each other now.

                                      There won't be another luxury car, unless I crash this one within the next 3 years. Retiring when I turn 40 and moving to Paradise Island :) I'll have to take whatever car the Mrs buys me since she'll be the breadwinner and I'll technically be the kept husband . I'm hoping to hell it's not a vellfire…πŸ˜’

                                      Like I said, I'm not vain. So didn't get the performance package :p Didn't think the $13k extra was worth it.

                                      • @DisabledUser102420: Sounds like a good plan, maybe she'll get you a SsangYong stavic πŸ˜‹ You'll then be wishing for a vellfire.

                                        You got the diesel? Or the little V6?

                                        • @brendanm: The v6 which looks good on paper but is a little underwhelming irl.

                                          • @DisabledUser102420: Should have got the diesel. I really love that diesel. The weight takes a bit of the punch out of the smaller capacity petrol cars.

                                            • @brendanm: I got sold on the lower carbon emissions and faster delivery. I was on a tight deadline. But yes, that diesel engine gave its all, all the time and you could feel it.

                                              • @DisabledUser102420: Damn, that's the way it goes sometimes I suppose. At least you have your people mover to look forward to anyway.

                                                • @brendanm: I've just asked the missus.. She said I can get whatever car I want if I'm nice πŸ€” Not too sure what "nice" means. Here's to hoping it means what I think it means 😊😁

                                • @brendanm: All good :) Didn't think it was you negging me. I've gained a little pet negger. His only pleasure in life is to stalk me online and try to get my attention. It's actually quite sad.

                                  Edit: Thought I might link to the ozb mental health page in case they're reading this.Hope you get the help you need, matey:)

                              • @DisabledUser102420: Nothing wrong with that. I'm not even really reading the thread closely and don't know (profanity) all about cars, I just saw that sentence and really liked it.

              • @DisabledUser88699: My dad's Old Station Wagon seems like a much better choice for a fishing vehicle. You'd have to have a lot of money to spend over 20k on a vehicle you're going to make smell like fish.

                • -1

                  @ribbonsofnight: People spend millions to have a boat that smells like fish. A cayenne is nothing to some people.

    • -1

      My old man had a boxster it was a POS, had so many problems.

      Got him to drive my then 10 year WRX after I recently did a turbo swap and doubled the power. Said after porsche had no chance to keep up with my station wagon, sold the porsche 2 weeks later and bought a Forester.

      • +1

        How old was it? The old 986 was a piece of crap.

        • +2

          Yep that model, MY00 2.7L with tiptronic (junkmatic) gearbox.

          Boxter kept breaking down. Gearbox constanly went into limp mode, parts are stupidly expensive and annoying to work on. When it did work it was slow and boring. Modded WRX totally outclassed it. The following 3.2L supposed to better but a low bar imo

          Cant comment on what Porsche is like now. Much better options these days for the price.

          • @Bid Sniper: Porsche are great now, newer boxters are great, no horrible tiptronic auto, pdk dual clutch now, and even the base models are quite quick.

            • @brendanm: Porsche had to lift their game last decade after the GTR broke their records in the ring. Thats good to hear they've improved, mate is looking at a Caymen GT4, nice looking car but pricey for what it is.

              PDKs ok? I'm suspicious of dual clutch gearboxes. I know Germans can make great manual gearboxes (Getag, ZF)

  • +1

    Block-quote what's the likelihood on average that I'll be paying for expensive repairs on a second hand German car? Traditionally I was told to stay away unless you don't mind paying stupid prices for tiny things playing up all the time, but is this still true?

    Every cars have different characteristic. But ultimately yes. Yes it will be more expensive, and yes more things can go wrong. And once it does, chances are it can be dear. But then again, this is true with any vehicle.

    The trump card with Asian cars in general is that it tend to be more simple with higher/wider tolerance. So even if things goes out of specification, it will still run. Though newer Japanese cars is getting more and more complex, so I am not sure how true this is still.

    If it is of any indication, at this moment in time, I'd still pick German made vehicle. Just not Audi.

    Also keep in mind that on top of maintenance, you need to factor in things such as fuel (98 Octane) and insurance cost.

    As far as suggestion goes. Gather up all the information. Take different make/model/vehicle for a test drive and consider the cost/benefit for yourself.

  • +1

    The most expensive car we ever had to maintain was our Honda Civic - they charged like wounded bulls for everything. We currently have a 10 year old A class and it hasn't cost us a huge amount, but we dont drive it a lot either. You need to consider all the variables, including safety, finish, service history etc.

  • +22

    Since when are chinese cars reliable?

    • +26

      Sir, they're very reliable.

      I can rely on it crapping out.

    • Hey you are the VW owning mechanic if I am remembering correctly. And I am the apprehensive VW owner.
      I had another question regarding modern VW’s (and any other modern car with direct fuel-injection).
      We will leave the DSG discussion in the past, but I was wondering about the direct fuel-injection.
      I am aware that since the the fuel is electronically injected directly into the combustion chamber, the valve inlet can get a lot dirtier since in the older design the fuel would help wash the inlet.
      In your experience has this been an issue with modern Vehicles? (Does it only apply to vehicles with X00,000kms etc)

      I am aware some other manufacturers are introducing engines with dual-type of injection as a way to improve efficiency at certain loads and also combat this downfall of direct fuel-injection.

      • +1

        Yes it can be an issue, worse with turbocharged cars. It can be helped a lot by fitting a good catch can, as the deposits getting burnt onto the backs of the valves is oil from the pcv system. As you say, back in "the old days" the fuel would wash the backs of the valves. I've seen late Audi/VW 1.8 turbos fairly dirty at under 100k km, but they are an oil burner, which doesn't help.

        Petrol direct injection has been somewhat commonplace since the early 2000s. It's not ideal to have the valves filthy, but in everyday driving I doubt the vast majority of people are going to notice.

    • I remember when people said this about their electronics, especially their phones… LOL.
      Give them time, they can and will rock the auto industry also.

      • +5

        There is nothing wrong with things that are made on china, but have their quality specs set and overlooked by others. Things made in china by Chinese companies, not so much. I was offered a job to work in the warranty department of Foton, the failures, and failure rates, as well as stuff that simply wasn't designed to work together, was shocking.

  • +3

    Repairs are not too bad on German cars if you are prepared to avoid the dealerships for service/repairs and go with generic parts.
    BMW/MB dealerships labour rates are about $260ph - your local mechanic about ???
    Genuine parts will be (at least) twice the price of generics, even if they are made by the same manufacturer, just rebranded.

    • +1


      I like it when my surgeon costs less than german branded car mechanic.

  • +25

    Get a German Shepherd- much more reliable


  • +2

    Search for reliability ratings on different brands.

    I suspect that German cars are well built and no less likely to go wrong than a Japanese car, it’s just when they do they tend to cost a lot more. The more you pay up front the more you will pay in parts and labour. Premium brands ask for more money because hey are premium brands, not necessarily because they are more expensive to build parts for.

    • I think I can deal with that. I'm very happy with the rate at which my Honda (and Mitsubushu & Toyota previously) needed service or repairs. Service every 6 montha and random repair every year and a half or so. If an Audi can stay at that same rate I'm more than happy to pay a little extra.

      I guess the real question then is that would local, independent mechanics still be able to service an Audi for me? Last I heard most German cars are intentionally designed to be complex at servicing to force owners to use the dealership who have all the special keys and software.

      I'm friends with a few mechanics who have always done the servicing and repairs for me (though still charged me normal prices, they wouldn't work for free obviously). Guess I'd have to check with them.

      Is servicing a German care independently advisable?

      • +2

        You have answered your own question. Two things to do:
        1. Google the exact model you are interested in to see if there are any common problems. Different models may have different problems. A few have been mentioned in this thread.
        2. Ask you friendly neighbourhood mechanic about servicing costs and issues for the model you are interested in. If they say no, search again.

  • +9

    As a Q5 owner….I will never buy German again.

    If it has to be luxury, Lexus.

    Audi Perth so far have been very very good to me but the product itself lacked the quality I expected from Audi.

    • +7

      Care to elaborate a bit on the quality issues?

      • +3

        Oil burn rate is high and Audi sticks to their stance that it is 'within tolerance'.
        Lost coolant 3 times which necessitated over the 3 occasions the replacement of most of the coolant system.
        Unexplainable clicking/tapping noises from under the dash.

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