How Reliable Are Smart Cars? (We Checked)

Ever since their inception in the auto industry, Smart cars have had their fair share of lovers and haters. The brand made waves when it was first announced because of its rather smaller size and design.

Smart cars came into being as a collaboration between Mercedes and Swatch companies. Big-name companies, but a small car might seem like a recipe for disaster.

However, these cars are fun to drive and very easy to park because of their size. With these benefits in mind, we only need more information about dependability.

In this article, we’re looking at how reliable Smart cars are when compared to other small competitors.

Do Smart Cars Last As Long As Other Tiny Cars?

There aren’t a lot of manufacturers that make cars as small as Smart cars out there. The closest competitors, such as Hyundai and Citroen, get much higher reliability scores than Smart cars.

Typically, long-term owners of Smart cars usually get past the 100,000-mile mark with no serious issues. The Smart car reliability scores are much lower than close rivals because of insufficient data.

For example, the Citroen C1 has a reliability score of 4 out of 5 from J.D. Power and the Smart ForTwo gets a lower score of just 2 out of 5.

Some competitors like Hyundai and Citroen are quite established in the industry and have high dependability. However, these bigger name brands also have a lot of complaints from owners.

The 2017 model of the Smart ForTwo has only one recall for a failing left front axle steering knuckle. This was a serious issue, but not an expensive one for such a small car.

With proper care and maintenance, Smart cars can last well over 150,000 miles in some special cases.

With that said, a Smart car that is at around 80,000 miles is a high-mileage car.

Do Smart Cars Break Down More Than Other Cars?

Smart cars break down slightly more than their close competitors. This is mostly because of the collaboration with Mercedez which is a high-maintenance brand.

The Smart ForTwo has experienced significant problems and breakdowns as soon as the 20,000-mile mark. Complete engine failure on a Smart car model can set you back as much as $15,000.

Another issue with these models is that they are quite expensive to repair. This might be because of a lack of parts and dealerships.

High repair costs on Smart cars are likely because of the difficulty of working on such a tightly packed engine compartment. This means there are fewer mechanics willing to fix it and therefore it is more expensive.

The relevancy of breakdowns in Smart cars is not that much higher than in other cars. This might be because the Smart car models also have a traditional engine with moving parts.

However, other cars can be driven in different conditions other than city driving. This can usually lead to a risk of more problems occurring.

In terms of breakdowns, the 2009 Smart Fortwo has had many problems that are associated with it. This model had problems with the transmission and trouble shifting gears.

The model with the least complaints seems to be the 2016 Smart ForTwo. It had decent reliability scores and fewer visits to the dealership and mechanic.

Are Smart Cars Reliable In Cold And Hot Weather?

Smart cars are reliable in both cold and hot weather because of the design of the traditional gas engine. They have trouble in areas that experience very high amounts of snowfall.

Smart cars will have trouble in heavy snowfall because of their small stature and wheelbase. To avoid the car being slippery, many owners are advised to install snow tires for more grip on the road surface.

The car’s size means it can easily slide out of control when driven on slippery surfaces. This makes the Smart car quite unreliable in snowy conditions.

Smart cars work just as well in hotter weather. The engine sometimes overheats because it has so many components in such a small space.

Gas engines need plenty of air and lubrication in order to work efficiently. In hotter weather, components in the Smart car don’t get enough ventilation.

With that said, because of their size, Smart cars are not ideal for extremely hot or cold weather.

Please also read our article about Smart cars with the most recalls.

Are Smart Cars Reliable for Longer Trips?

Companies have always advertised Smart cars as small and affordable city cars. They are not very dependable for long-distance trips.

Smart cars are not quick in acceleration and do not reach the top speeds you see in other cars. This can frustrate you when on longer trips that require joining highways and overtaking.

The top speed of some latest model Smart cars is around 96 mph. This is enough for highway driving, but the acceleration of the car is not enough.

In such a small car, going at anything over 60 mph is perilous because of its small wheelbase and design. The car can easily swerve out of control when there are strong winds.

Another issue with such a small car is the availability of mechanics and dealerships that can help if something goes wrong. Smart cars are often hard to repair because of the small engine space.

On a long trip, you need to have the peace of mind that you can get immediate help if something goes wrong. With a Smart car, you might have to wait a little longer.

Fortunately, Smart cars have passed standard safety scores that are given to cars in the same segment. This means safety features are good enough on Smart cars for long trips.

If you’d like to drive this car on long trips, please read our article about whether Smart cars are good on the highway

Are Smart Cars Good on the Highway?

Smart cars perform well on the highway if there aren’t a lot of crosswinds and the road surface is smooth. The car will easily change lanes and get good acceleration for overtaking on the highway.

Smart cars can keep up relatively well with highway speeds even though they will perform way better in city driving. Windy conditions on the highway and safety concerns are major drawbacks.

People are worried about the safety of such a small car if it were to get into a crash. You can still see Smart cars on the highway, but owners would rather use a bigger car for highway driving.

Because of the size of the Smart car, it can be rather difficult to control at highway speeds if it loses control. This will be even more difficult if there are strong winds hitting the car.

Bigger cars passing you by on the highway can also be felt really hard when you’re in a Smart car. Another issue is how frightening it is when much bigger cars pass you by abruptly and unnoticed.

A good recommendation is to keep highway trips really short with Smart cars in order to minimize risk. You should also try to keep speeds much lower than the speed limit in order to control the car better.

When Do Smart Cars Start Having Problems?

Most Smart cars typically show problems when they reach the 30,000 and 50,000-mile mark. This is when they start experiencing serious problems like suspension and braking issues.

The first signs of trouble are mostly with the suspension on most Smart cars. The factory suspension should last about four years, but it rarely goes that long.

A problem with the suspension can set you back around $500 on average. Many owners have complained about the stock suspension on Smart cars.

A good advantage of tire replacements on Smart cars is that they last much longer. This is due to the wheelbase and less weight of the car.

You can typically expect to get around 60,000 to 100,000 miles on a set of brake pads. This is way miles compared to a standard car.

It goes without saying that regular maintenance and proper care go a long way when it comes to vehicle reliability. Regular oil changes and routine maintenance are just as important in a Smart car as it is in other cars.

What Are the Most Typical Issues With Smart Cars?

Typically, issues with Smart cars range from electrical issues all the way to suspension problems. The most common issues that owners complain about is with the suspension and engine failure.

Of all these problems, the engine failure problem is the most expensive and troublesome to fix. Transmission issues can also be quite tricky to diagnose and repair.

Owners mainly complained about the failure of the transmission to get into reverse gear and sometimes completely failing. The issue comes up on most Smart cars but is prevalent on the Smart Fortwo.

The more recent Fortwo EQ electric vehicle has had issues with the charging unit. The car would stop charging at some point, and these really worried owners.

Fortunately, Smart cars have not undergone a lot of recalls throughout the years. This indicates stability in engine design.

However, many complaints since the inception of the brand point to an unstable engine. Engine failure with Smart cars can occur anywhere after the 50,000-mile mark.

An engine failure can set you back a hefty $15,000 if it is not cared for and maintained. Moreover, it can take a long time to repair sometimes because parts need to be sourced from somewhere else.

When it comes to convenience, the Smart ForTwo just has its ups and downs. The advantages range from fuel economy and an affordable overall purchase price.

On the downside, the car is tiny and not suitable for really tall adults on really long trips. Most people are also concerned about safety because the Smart car is such a small car.

For more information about typical issues with this brand, please check out this article about common problems with Smart cars.

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