Top 16 most reliable used cars
Driving can be costly at the best of times, from learning and passing to purchasing your first car. All require significant outlay, so it’s a good idea to know about the most reliable cars when it comes to ownership.
After all, you’ll be forking out for car insurance, tax and fuel, so the last thing you want to add to that costly list are repair bills month after month.
Some brands are just known for being unreliable and they’ve earned a stigma over time, we won’t name names here. We’ve created this guide to help you choose a car if reliability is top priority alongside things like MPG and tax costs.
Other manufacturers hide their reliability downfalls well, with superb aftercare so you’re less likely to hear about their problems.
So what are the most reliable cars? This guide divides up the most reliable vehicles into their segments, we’ve picked the top two most reliable models in each, saving you the arduous task of trying to find them out for yourself.
We mainly used the Reliability Index from Warranty Direct, it’s a list of cars where 100 is the average reliability rating of a vehicle. Anything under that is more reliable than the average, cars that score over 100 are less reliable than the average.
This index takes into account the number of times a car fails, the cost of repair, average time spent off the road for repairs as well as the average age and mileage of the vehicles sampled.
That index is updated semi-regularly, so we’ve added in more vehicles from other reliability guides from around the internet.
Our top 16 most reliable cars include:
- Hyundai i10
- Ford Ka
- VW Polo
- SEAT Ibiza
- Mazda MX-5
- BMW 2 Series
- Honda CR-V
- Skoda Kodiaq
- Volkswagen Golf
- Honda Civic
- Ford C-Max
- Vauxhall Zafira
- Honda Insight
- Toyota Prius
- Suzuki Jimny
- Lexus RX
City cars are small, economical and most importantly affordable. They make for great second cars, and as their name implies they excel around town where space is tight and you just need to get from A to B.
1. Hyundai i10 – 2008 – 2013
Hyundai’s loveable little i10 is one of the top-performing city cars according to the Warranty Direct Reliability Index.
Scoring just 12, the average age of the models sampled were 5.65 years old and had roughly 31,500 miles on the clock. An average repair cost of only £147.25 makes it a cheap car to fix, and the majority of issues are related to suspension.
A low off the road average time of just 1.3 hours means you wouldn’t be without your little i10 for long if the worst did happen.
Yes, the Toyota iQ has an even lower score of just 3, but due to its incredibly small and limiting size it doesn’t make it onto our list.
2. Ford Ka – 2009 -2016
Another surprise is the last generation Ford Ka. According to the Reliability Index, it scores just 17 out of 100, with a repair cost of £171 per fault.
The average age is around four and a half years with 30,000 miles on the clock. Most faults come from the suspension, but the electrics make up for 20% of reported issues as does the fuel system.
1.12 hours is the repair time for most issues, so slightly less than the Hyundai i10.
Ford’s Ka is another excellent city car, but the lack of rear doors and a slightly smaller than average boot may make you want to opt for the i10 after all.
Most reliable small hatchback cars
Small hatchbacks or B-Segment cars as they’re also known are larger in size than city cars, offering far more practicality and space inside. They also have wider engine choices and far more luxuries, making them ideal for everyday driving and as a main car.
1. VW Polo – 2009 – 2017
VW has always been known for its reliability, the 2009 to 2017 Polo is no exception. A score of 23 means it’s the most reliable small hatchback on the list.
Again, you could argue that the Honda Jazz with a score of just 10 should hold this title, but the Polo is far better looking and appeals to a much younger demographic. It’s also available in a three-door version, which the more ‘family’ hatch, the Jazz isn’t.
Average age is 4.2 years, with nearly 40,000 miles on the clock across all the cars sampled. Repair costs are £184 with the off road time clocking in at 1.4 hours.
Most issues are with the axles or suspension, but the heating and cooling system also account for nearly 30% of repairs, with the rest of the faults split between electrical and the braking system.
2. SEAT Ibiza – 2006 – 2009
Based on the Polo the SEAT Ibiza scores just one point more at 24, so you’d really have to be splitting hairs deciding between the two small hatches.
This only covers the 2006-2009 models, not the whole range.dd.
Average repair costs are £140 with the age of vehicles sampled being 5 years old and having covered 42,000 miles.
In terms of the faults, no one area is to blame. The majority of problems come from the axle and suspension, followed by the gearbox, then split evenly between the heating system and engine.
Issues also occur with the gearbox, steering, braking and electrical system. The only parts that score 0% are the air-con and fuel system.
Most reliable coupe cars
Coupes are often sporty in looks, but not always in the way they perform. Think of them as more style over substance as many can be paired with frugal diesel engines. They’re ideal if there’s just the two of you, or as a fun weekend toy.
1. Mazda MX-5 – 2005 – 2015
Heading the top of the tables when it comes to sports cars, is the MX-5, naturally. Not only is it the most iconic roadster ever built, but thanks to its Japanese roots, it’s the most reliable sports cars.
Scoring just 18, the MX-5 has an average repair cost of £202, with an off the road time of 1.2 hours. The models in the index were on average 5.2 years old and had nearly 32,000 miles on them.
Again, the area with the most significant faults was the suspension with 30% of problem reported, followed closely by the braking system. Electrical and then engine are next, with the rest of the issues spread across the steering, fuel system, gearbox and air-con.
2. BMW 2 Series – 2014 – Present
Not yet on the Warranty Direct Reliability Index, the BMW 2 Series has been highly rated for reliability in other studies.
Honest John rate their cars out of a 1-10 figure, the 2 Series scored an impressive 9.81 from owners, ranking high for build quality and the low cost of repairs when faults arose.
Far larger than the humble MX-5 the 2 series is the most reliable sporty coupe we’ve found to date.
It’s still early days as the 2 Series has only been around since 2014, but it’s looking promising.
Most reliable crossover cars
Crossovers bridge the gap between a saloon and a fully fledged SUV. They’re higher up giving a commanding view of the road ahead and offer lots of space for families. In recent years they’ve taken over our roads with every manufacturer fighting to take a chunk of the market.
1. Honda CR-V – 2007 – 2012
Our first large SUV comes in the form of the Honda CR-V. The Japanese brand are known for making incredibly reliable cars, with the likes of the Jazz and Civic always high on reliability lists, the CR-V is no exception.
Overall an index rating of just 57 makes it’s the most reliable used SUV on the list. The repair price is quite high though at £351, with nearly 2 hours off the road for every repair. Mileage is around the 56,000-mile mark on average.
Repairs are mainly with the electrical system, followed by the engine and suspension. But no part of the CR-V is immune from faults.
2. Skoda Kodiaq – 2017 – Present
Another vehicle that hasn’t made it to the Reliability Index yet is Skoda’s Kodiaq. Another large, and newer SUV than the rated CR-V, the Kodiaq.
Drivers have reported few faults and praise the Kodiaq for being great to drive and easy to live with day to day. It’s especially ideal if you need seven seats.
The 2018 Honest John Satisfaction Index gave it a 92.5% out of 100. Only closely in front of the Porsche Macan, but you’d need far more money to buy one of those.
Most reliable family hatchback cars
Family hatchbacks are far larger than their B-Segment younger brothers, hence them also being known as C-Segment cars. Ideal for families or someone looking for a car that’s larger and more substantial but doesn’t need the size of a saloon.
1. Volkswagen Golf – Most years
As always, a Volkswagen Golf will feature in a ‘top list’. Not only is it an incredibly popular car, but it’s also reliable.
All model years feature on the Reliability Index, with scores ranging from just 65 to 129. Remember that the magic figure of ‘reliable’ is rated at 100 here, so the Golf is either nearly half that figure, or a smidge over.
Issues are spread across the board, with only the steering and air conditioning escaping any faults. The majority come from the electrical system or engine.
But it’s not just the Reliability Index that scores the Golf high, it also appeared eighth in the HJ 2018 study, albeit in estate form. The hatchback wasn’t far behind at number 12, with a score of 90.2% out of 100.
2. Honda Civic – Most years
2018’s Honest John Satisfaction Index placed Honda’s Civic in 15th place with 89.7% out of 100, but it’s not just the newer models that are known for their incredible reliability.
Civics have placed high on the Reliability Index since the year 2000. The previous generation to the ones currently sitting in showrooms scored just 30, whereas the older Civic shows 26 out of 100.
Interestingly enough, electrical issues seem to be the problem with most of the last-gen Civics, accounting for 31% of failures. The other big ones were suspension, and the engine, followed lastly by the air con system.
Most reliable MPV cars
When your family gets too big to be accommodated in a crossover and you don’t need a large 7-seater SUV an MPV is the perfect fit.
Smaller models cater to 5-seats, but larger models fit 7 with ease and still leave plenty of room for luggage.
1. Ford C-Max – 2010 – Present
A long-running favourite, Ford’s C-Max is a firm hit with smaller families. It offers all the necessities of a larger MPV in a small and compact package.
The average age of cars sampled was 5 years, with 44,000 miles on the clock. A time off the road for repair figure was just 1.9 hours, with the cost of each repair being £294.
It gets a rating of 52, making it one of the best MPV’s on the used market. Although faults are often found in the electrics and the suspension, the rest of the C-Max doesn’t do too badly.
2. Vauxhall Zafira – 1999 – 2005
Vauxhall had a significant problem with the last generation Zafiras catching fire, it was a widely known issue which a recall soon fixed. Look back to the first generation of the model though, and reliability jumps up massively.
A low rating of 35 out of 100 makes it even more reliable than Ford’s C-Max when it comes to MPV’s. The average age was 5.6 years when the index was carried out, mileage was 51,000 on the vehicles sampled.
Repair costs are cheap at £179 per fault, with the off-road time rated at 1.9 hours. Problems were found mainly in the electrical system, with lesser culprits being the air-con, suspension and cooling system.
Most reliable hybrid cars
If you’re after saving as much fuel as possible a hybrid is the way forward. They combine small, petrol engines with battery packs and motors which take over under light loads, or in stop start conditions. Hybrid vehicles are becoming ever more popular as a stop-gap between petrol, diesel and full EV machines.
1. Honda Insight – 2009 – 2014
Our first hybrid of the list, surprisingly it’s not the Prius, that’s up next. First, in terms of the most reliable hybrid is the Honda Insight.
A low score of 17 means that once again, Honda feature on this list. The average age was 4.6 years, with nearly 40,000 miles being covered by each vehicle.
An off the road time of 1.15 hours means the Insight is an easy car to repair and the lows cost of just £159 per issue proves that hybrids don’t have to be complexed and expensive to fix.
Issues were almost exclusively found with the suspension and axles, with the only other main item being the steering.
2. Toyota Prius – 2003 – 2009
Sadly, the Prius doesn’t fair as well as the Insight, an additional 10 points give it a score of 27 on the Reliability Index.
Repair bills are also higher, with an average of £278 to fix each fault. It also took longer at 2 hours off road time per fix.
Models surveyed were just over 5 years old, with around 52,000 miles on the clock.
Major faults ranged from the suspension to the heating and cooling system. Electrical problems were low down on the list, as were issues with the engine and braking system.
Most reliable 4×4 cars
Many love the looks of big 4×4’s but few often use them off-road, if you live in the countryside and have to battle through mud and possibly even snow during the winter time having a 4×4 can give you added safety and the ability to get anywhere when the going gets tough.
1. Suzuki Jimny – 1998 – 2018
Yes, those dates are correct, the last-gen Suzuki Jimny was on sale for an astonishing 20 years. While safety improved dramatically in that time, the Jimny remained mostly unchanged. Even the latest model only scores three stars in the EuroNCAP crash tests.
In terms of reliability, the dinky little mud plugging 4×4 can’t be beaten. A score of just 32 makes it the highest-ranking 4×4 on our list.
Average repair bills were just £200 with the age of vehicles sampled being nearly six years old and having covered 34,000 miles.
Although the repair cost was cheap, the time off the road is the highest we’ve found out of all the cars, at 2.36 hours per fault.
As we’ve seen across the board, the majority of problems come from the suspension and axles. Other faults were divided evenly among the braking, steering, gearbox and cooling system. The only parts that seem to remain fault free were the gearbox, fuel system and the air con.
2. Lexus RX – 2009 – 2016
If you’re after a large, chunky SUV the Lexus RX ticks all the right boxes. What Car recently carried out their own reliability study, and the Lexus RX came in at number 6. It had a score of 95.4%.
They hold their money well, so expect to pay more than the competition on the used market, there’s also a hybrid 450h model if you need a few extra MPG.
It’s one of the few models on our list to feature on two reliability surveys, it also crops up on the Warranty Direct listings.
A score of just 65 makes it the most reliable, large sized SUV on the list. An average age of 5.44 years and 55,000 miles made up the sample.
Repair costs are high at £433 per fault, and the repair time is 2.19 hours per issue.
In terms of faults, the biggest issue was with the RX’s heating, and cooling system, next was the suspension followed by the braking system and then the Lexus’ electrics.
There you have it, our list of the most reliable used cars on the market today. If you’re after something that won’t break down often, you should be able to find something in our list to fit your needs.
Forget about reliability, what about new cars that have a warranty?
A new car with a warranty means everything is covered for you, that’s another excellent reason why leasing new vehicles can save you money, you’ll never have a repair bill.
Take a look at our other guides that cover new cars, leasing deals and more.