I need help choosing a used compact luxury SUV

John Paul, AAA Northeast's Car Doctor, answers a question from a reader who is having second thoughts about a BMW X1.

The 2017 BMW X1.
The 2017 BMW X1. –BMW

Q. I am considering purchasing a 2016 or 2017 BMW X1 and I’m looking at vehicles with less than 40,000 miles on them. I have been attempting to research the vehicle and what I have seen makes me question my decision. The reviews, for the most part, are not very positive regarding the cost of overall vehicle upkeep and mechanical issues. I have had three Ford Escapes (all purchased new) over the years and for the most part all it has needed is regular oil changes, new wiper blades, and new tires. This will likely be my last vehicle purchase, and I wanted to treat myself to something nice. I would like an SUV on the small side with some style. Your opinion is appreciated and will help me make this purchase with my eyes wide open.  

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A. If you were to buy a used BMW X1, the 2017 would be the year to buy. It certainly looks to be the year that has the best dependability. It has been my experience that, as good as BMWs are to drive, after five or more years, reliability and repair costs can be an issue. Personally, if I were looking for a used compact luxury SUV, I would look at the Lexus NX, it handles well, is nicely appointed, and has very good reliability. The 2018 Acura RDX is a good choice as well.  

Q. We purchased a 2017 Honda CRV-Touring model. Within a few months the car would not start and needed to be jumped. They replaced the battery twice. I got no answers of what was wrong other than being told the car needed to be driven more often. After it happened again, we traded it in for a 2018 CRV Touring model, and guess what — the same problem happened. The battery has been replaced once but jumped three times. This is very frustrating. In one of your columns you mentioned other models that have had similar issues. My wife wants to get a new car, but we want to know which other cars have a similar issue. She’s looking at the Toyota RAV4 and a Mazda, among others.  Can you tell us the other models to avoid? 

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A. This is an issue we are seeing more and more often. Recently I was looking at a two-year old car that had 18 separate computers. All these computers use some electricity when the engine is off. Driving short distances only a few times a week effectively takes more electricity out of the battery than you are putting back in during normal driving/recharging. So far, from what I am hearing, the Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX-3, and Hyundai Tucson have been trouble-free. Although, specifically with your vehicles it really can be a function of how often and how far the vehicle is driven. A solution may be having a repair shop wire in a solar-battery charger. You could leave the solar panel on the dash and the electricity generated by the sun may help maintain the battery charge. 

Q. I have a 2012 Ford F-150 pick-up truck. The rear tires are worn very unevenly. They are sort of cupped and sound like snow tires at 40 miles per hour. The truck has been great and I haven’t really had to repair or replace any parts. I want to buy new tires, but what caused the uneven wear? 

A. Cupping or scalloping wear with tires is typically caused by a combination of poor tire balance and worn shock absorbers. At eight years old, if the shocks are original, it would be money well spent to replace both the front and rear shocks. 

Q. I have a new 2019 Honda Fit EX CVT with Honda Sensing which activates on and off for no apparent reason. It is a bit startling when it happens. I have turned off all the sensing items relating to lane change and off-road mitigation because my roads have virtually no lane markers, but it still activated for no reason. I have kept the collision avoidance system on, but that also activates sometimes for no apparent reason. I had the dealer look at it, but it continues. What do you think?

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A. The system uses the front camera for all these systems, so perhaps it is an issue with the camera. I looked for technical service bulletins and found none that would relate to this issue. Interestingly, Honda did issue a technical service bulletin about electrical mysteries. The bulletin suggested when all else fails, disconnect the battery and connect the positive and negative cables together for a few minutes. Like a home computer this clears the cache/memory and could solve the problem. 

Update: In a recent column there was a question about a transmission issue with a 2013 Honda CR-V. A reader reminded me that Honda extended the warranty (not a recall) on certain CRVs to eight years or 80,000 miles for transmission torque converter issues. Thanks for the reminder.  

John Paul is AAA Northeast’s Car Doctor. He has over 40 years of experience in the automotive business and is an ASE-certified master technician. E-mail your car question to jpaul@aaanortheast.com.

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