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Frequently Asked Questions

Also known as the “who the heck are you?” page.

What is PainRank™? Where Does it Come From?

PainRank™ is a algorithm that uses complaint data from owners (the average mileage of failures, the cost to make repairs, etc), relative complaints analysis, sales numbers, NHTSA data, & owners’ own vehicle rankings to come up with a number representing how much pain a car inflicts on its owners.

The higher the PainRank™ score, the more painful a car is to own (typically).

What Are Vehicle Generations?

Generations are groups of model years where the vehicles are continuously produced, use similar engineering, and share features.

Manufacturers will sometimes do a mid-generation “refresh” to introduce a new feature or a slight redesign. If the car is totally redesigned or the engineering is changed, a new generation is usually born.

Generational data is not always cut-and-dry – manufacturers might not always release generation information, some generations might last longer in different countries, and various trim levels and model variants can make the whole thing confusing. We do our best but make no guarantees about our generation data. When in doubt, we stick with data about US models.

Why Do Some Vehicles Not Have a 1st / 2nd / 3rd Generation?

You might notice that some of our data starts at generation 5, 6, etc. So what happened to the older generations? One of two things.

  1. some models have been around a long time and we don’t have any complaint or NHTSA data about them.
  2. some new models share the same platform as existing models, so we typically tie them together. For instance, a new hybrid vehicle might be introduced during the 5th generation of its non-hybrid counterpart. We’ll typically start the hybrid’s generation at 5, unless it’s otherwise noted.

Where Does Your Data Come From?

We’re a part of the network — a series of sites that are dedicated to car owners. We don’t sugar-coat things or take paid endorsements.

What we do take are complaints and data from real owners. We then combine that with information from NHTSA1, IIHS2, and CAS3 to provide a complete picture about a vehicle.

The end result is a quick summary of what’s likely to go wrong in a specific vehicle. And if we can’t dig up much, we’ll celebrate and recommend the vehicles that keep people happiest.

Our name might have complaints in it, but it’s not all storm clouds and frowns around here.

Where Can I Add a Complaint?

Someday we hope to take complaints directly on this site. Until that day, you can tell us about it on and your information will be used to help this site.