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The Absolute Best Year Of The Mazda 3

The Absolute Best Year Of The Mazda 3

Writing about the Mazda 3 is almost a weekly ritual on this blog. We’ve written extensively about the features and capabilities of this car. However, we have yet to answer what model year you can best buy on the second-hand market. Let’s start with a quick answer and then dive into more detail:

The 2012 and 2017 model years of the Mazda 3 are the best second-hand models you can buy. Both models have no transmission or engine problems. Also, they’ve been recalled fewer times than other model years, and their recalls weren’t as severe. Finally, they’re cheap in maintenance, with the 2012 model year costing $459 per year and the 2017 model costing $369.

However, that certainly doesn’t tell the whole story. Below we’ll dive into extensive detail about the 3 and the different model years. We’ll look at what model year has the most and most minor problems, and we’ll do the same for the recalls it has had. Furthermore, we’ll discuss the maintenance cost for each generation so you can get a feeling of how much each model year costs. Read on!

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What Year Has The Least Problems?

Let’s start with the common problems you can encounter with a Mazda 3. The reason for that is that this allows you to make an informed decision about whether the Mazda 3 is the car for you and what model year is the least problematic.

Below we’ve highlighted the five most common problems. However, let it be clear that these problems aren’t usually preeminent and that the Mazda 3 does seem to be a reliable car overall.

Airbag Warning Light

In 2004-2009, 2011, and 2013 models, the seat belt pre-tensioner may not function properly, which will cause problems during a crash. This means the airbag warning light will illuminate. This problem typically occurs around the 110,000 – 120,000 miles mark. Fixing this problem will cost between $150 – $200.

Vibration At Higher Speeds

2004 – 2015 (except the 2012 and 2014) models of the Mazda 3 are also known for vibrating at speeds above 55 mph. This is usually caused by motor mounts that do not sufficiently dampen the shocks.

Mazda has revised motor mounts to fix this problem. If your car has these problems, they will likely occur around the 90,000 miles mark. Expect to pay between $300 – $400 to replace the motor mounts.

Also read: Mazda 3 Transmissions: Overview, Problems, Fluids

Loose Stabilizer Bar Links

In 2004 – 2015 (except for the 2013) models, you may hear a rattling noise caused by loose stabilizer bar links from the rear suspension. If this is not causing the problem, you’ll most likely have to change the sway bar bushings.

This problem typically occurs around the 90,000 – 100,000 miles mark. Expect to pay between $150 – $200 for the stabilizer bar links or sway bar bushings.

Open Thermostat

In 2004 – 2010 and 2013 Mazda 3’s, the thermostat will be stuck in the open position, which means the check engine light will illuminate. The problem occurs around the 100,000 miles mark. This means the thermostat needs to be replaced and will cost you between $400 – $450.

Squeaking Rear Brakes

Another problem for the 2004 – 2011, 2013, and 2015 models is that the rear brakes of the Mazda 3 can make a squeaking noise because the rear brake pad is touching the brake rotor. Similar issues have also been observed with the Mazda 2.

Mazda has revised brake pads for this, and replacing them will cost you between $180 – $220. This problem occurs relatively early in the lifespan of the Mazda 3. Expect to notice it around the 40,000 – 50,000 miles mark.

Which Model Year Seems The Most Consistent?

When we look at the most common problems, we can conclude that some model years tend to have all these problems. The 2004 – 2010 model years are a little older, increasing their sensitivity to the issues mentioned above.

Furthermore, the 2012 and 2014 model years seem to be the only ‘older’ cars with very few of these problems overall, which is interesting to keep in mind. Also, it’s interesting to conclude is that the 2016 – 2021 model years don’t seem to have any of the mentioned problems.

Now, this is a regular occurrence with newer models. Of course, because newer models haven’t had time to reach higher mileages, their likelihood of problems is lower. However, the 2016 and 2017 model years usually show some problems because they are already a couple of years old.

Our preliminary conclusion, therefore, is that the 2012, 2014, 2016, and 2017 model years seem to be the most promising used models. However, we’re not done yet.

Which Year Has The Least Recalls?

Besides problems, we also like to look at the number of recalls model years have had. The reason for doing so is that this also allows us to get a picture of the built quality of the newer models. This is because newer models usually don’t have any common problems, but they may have already had several recalls.

However, as you can see in the table below, the Mazda 3 is an incredibly consistent car. All model years between 2019 – 2021 have had zero recalls. The 2017 and 2018 model years have only had one recall which involved a defective windshield wiper relay that may cause the windshield wipers to become inoperative, reducing the driver’s visibility (19V272000). This is not a significant problem which is still a good sign.

When we look at our other prospects, we see that the 2016 model does seem to have problems with its built quality. The car has been recalled five times in the past years. When we take an in-depth look at these recalls, we see that three of them have to do with the fuel system.

Model YearRecalls

Some 2015 – 2016 models were installed with a fuel tank with a shut-off valve to allow fuel to enter into the fuel tank emissions systems (15V621000). This could result in leaks and engine stalls. In another case, for 2014 – 2016 models, the fuel tank of the affected vehicles may have been improperly handled during manufacturing. As a result, the welded attachment of the Inlet Check Valve (ICV) may fail and allow fuel to leak (16V684000).

Also, during manufacturing, the fuel tanks for the affected vehicles may have deformed, resulting in a fuel leak from the recirculation pipe welded connection (16V685000).

Another recall affected the 2014, 2015, and 2016 models, which had problems with the parking brake. Water could enter the brake caliper causing the parking brake actuator shaft to corrode and possibly bind (17V393000).

Continuing, 2014 – 2015 models had a recall for the alternator belt. When driving the affected vehicles in heavy rain or deep puddles, the alternator belt may slip, causing the Power Control module (PCM) to incorrectly assume failure of the charging system (14V173000).

The 2012 and 2013 models have only had one recall. The liftgate support struts may corrode on the affected vehicles, possibly causing the struts to break and/or the liftgate to drop unexpectedly (16V644000).

So, what’s our interim conclusion at this point? The 2014 and 2016 models have had some major recalls that seem problematic. However, the 2012 model has only had one recall that didn’t affect many cars. Furthermore, the 2017 models have only had one small recall. Therefore, these two model years seem the most promising.

Which Year Costs The Least In Maintenance?

Finally, we feel it’s essential to give an overview of the average annual maintenance cost per model year. For this, we’ve used the database of Here we found that the average yearly maintenance cost of a Mazda 3 is $433 per year. On average, a compact car costs $526 per year in maintenance costs. This means the Mazda 3, as a general rule of thumb, costs less in maintenance than the average compact car.

When we look at the table below, we can see that all Mazda 3’s annual maintenance cost is pretty much the same. Of course, the younger models have slightly lower maintenance costs because they have driven fewer miles. However, Mazda 3’s seem to top out at $462 per year.

When we look at the most promising model years, we see that the 2012 model years cost $459 per year, which is expected from a decade-old model. However, given that this car has very few problems, it’s an option worth considering if you’re in the market for an older car.

Finally, the 2017 model year has one of the lowest maintenance costs of them all. This is because this model year is still relatively new. Expect the maintenance cost to increase slightly in the upcoming years. However, this is most likely your best choice if you want a car that still has 50 – 75% of its life left.

Please note that there’s currently no data about the newest Mazda 3’s maintenance cost. This is because many of them are still covered under warranty. However, expect this to be between $250 – $300 per year.

Year Of ManufacturingMazda 3 Maintenance Cost
2018 $     338
2017 $     369
2016 $     374
2015 $     400
2014 $     440
2013 $     460
2012 $     459
2011 $     454
2010 $     445
2009 $     462
2008 $     446
2007 $     408

What To Expect From A Used Mazda 3 In Terms Of Price?

Finally, we feel it’s important to discuss what you can expect to pay for a 2012 or 2017 Mazda 3 in the second-hand market. This way, you can also estimate what car would fit your needs and budget best.

Looking at the 2017 model, we see that car would be around five years old. Using data from, we see that a 5-year old Mazda 3 will have depreciated 48%. Assuming an average usage of 12,500 miles per year, this would mean the car has a mileage of 62,500.

Assuming a maximum mileage of 200,000, this would mean the Mazda 3 still has 11 years left for 52% of the price. Combine this with the fact that this model year seems to be the most reliable, and we would consider this a good deal.

When we run the same calculation for the 2012 model year, we see that this 10-year-old model will have depreciated 75%. Furthermore, it will have 125,000 miles on the odometer. This means you’ll have 75,000 miles (6 years) left for 25% of the price. If you’re looking for a budget option, we would advise you to consider this option as well.


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