Most reliable used cars

  • Most of the top 10 are small cars
  • Japanese manufacturers perform well
  • Find out the average repair cost and what goes wrong
Look for approved used Mitsubishi Lancers
Look for approved used Mitsubishi Lancers
Reliability is a key concern for buyers when they are looking for a new car.

A number of manufacturers claim to make cars that last. We've put together a list of cars that have proven themselves to be reliable.

Our partner, Warranty Direct, has compiled data on over 50,000 cars and developed the Reliability Index. The lower the RI, the more reliable the car; a score of 100 is average.

To be included in our survey, cars need to be less than eight years old and Warranty Direct needs to have more than 50 policies.

The top 10 reliable cars get scores of 22 or less. Japanese manufacturers dominate the results with just two cars in the top 10 having no connection with a Japanese manufacturer.

Small, basic cars are the best performers. It seems the less that a car has, the less can go wrong with it.

In this list we tell you the Reliability Index, the average cost to repair, the average time that the car is off the road, the average age of the car and the average mileage. We also detail what is most likely to go wrong.

Joint 1st - Mitsubishi Lancer (2005-2008)
RI 7
Average repair cost £95.43
Average age 4.53 years
Average mileage 36,203
Average time off road 0.98 hours

The Mitsubishi Lancer is not only the most reliable car on the road, it is also the cheapest car to repair in the unlikely event that something does go wrong; 40% of claims are to repair the suspension. Otherwise the Lancer is rock solid and on average spends less than an hour off the road when it does need attention.

Joint 1st - Vauxhall Agila (2000-2008)
RI 7
Average repair cost £98.61
Average age 5.42 years
Average mileage 37,703
Average time off road 0.87 hours

In joint-first place with the Mitsubishi Lancer is the Vauxhall Agila. Vauxhall isn't famous for its reliability but the Agila was a re-badged Suzuki Wagon R so it performs better than the rest. Practically everything except the suspension was made by the Japanese manufacturer. Average repair costs are less than £100, and when something goes wrong 40% of the time it is to do with the fuel system, with the most common repair being the injectors.

Look for approved used Vauxhall Agila >>



3 - Citroen C1 (2005-present)
RI 13
Average repair cost £184.58
Average age 4.20 years
Average mileage 33,779
Average time off road 1.20 hours

The Citroen C1 was developed in partnership with Toyota, but in fact beats the Japanese car by achieving a Reliability Index of 13. Average repair costs are considerably more than the Lancer and the Agila but are still below average. The C1 is an example of a simple car being simple to repair. The cooling and electrical systems are the most likely things to go wrong, while the average repair takes just over an hour.

Read the Citroen C1 Review >>



4 - Mazda MX-5 (2005-present)
RI 16
Average repair cost £204.90
Average age 4.31 years
Average mileage 28,186
Average time off road 1.30 hours

The Mazda MX-5 is a What Car? favourite. It's great fun to drive, good value for money and, as this result shows, very reliable. It's also the only convertible on the list. The air-conditioning and the folding roof can both cause problems but are fixed easily and an average repair cost of just over £200 is very good for a drop-top.

Read the Mazda MX5 Review >>



5 - Suzuki Alto (1997-2006)
RI 17
Average repair cost £118.53
Average age 4.50 years
Average mileage 27,110
Average time off road 1.24 hours

The Suzuki Alto is another example of the Japanese knowing how to make a reliable small car. The Alto is very basic and not very exciting, but it is in the top five for reliability. Not only is it cheap to repair, it's also cheap to run thanks to the small petrol engines. The heater is one of the things that goes wrong most frequently.

Read the Suzuki Alto Review >>



6 - Honda Jazz (2001-2008)
RI 18
Average repair cost £273.33
Average age 4.85 years
Average mileage 34,315
Average time off road 2.12 hours

Honda is famous for making reliable cars. The Jazz continues that trend with a Reliability Index of 18. If something does go wrong, it will most likely be something to do with the suspension. Repair costs are the highest of all the cars in the top 10.

Read the Honda Jazz Review >>



Joint 7th - Ford Fiesta (2008-12)
RI 20
Average repair cost £243.63
Average age 3.25 years
Average mileage 29,897
Average time off road 1.18 hours

The Ford Fiesta is not only popular, it's also very reliable. Britain's favourite supermini has a failure rate of just 8%. The biggest problems are caused by the electrics, but the most commonly replaced parts are in the fuel injection system. When things go wrong, they are fixed quickly.

Read the Ford Fiesta Review >>



Joint 7th= Toyota Aygo (2005-present)
RI 20
Average repair cost £171.10
Average age 4.32 years
Average mileage 32,216
Average time off road 1.48 hours

The Toyota Aygo might have been beaten by its sibling the C1 in the Reliability Index, but it still performs very well. Over half of claims are to do with the cooling and heating system. The average repair cost for the Aygo is less than for the C1, but it is off the road for longer than the Citroen.

Read the Toyota Aygo Review >>



Joint 9th -Honda HR-V (1998-2006)
RI 22
Average repair cost £237.66
Average age 5.40 years
Average mileage 48,815
Average time off road 1.40 hours

The second Honda to appear on the list is the HR-V. The quirky mini-SUV has a Reliability Index of 22 and the average repair cost is lower than the Honda Jazz's. Electrical faults cause the most issues, with problems for the gauges and the wiring being the most frequent.

Read the Honda HR-V Review >>



Joint 9th= Volkswagen Fox (2006-2011)
RI 22
Average repair cost £112.27
Average age 4.13 years
Average mileage 28,473
Average time off road 1.26 hours

The Volkswagen Fox is the best-performing German car in the Reliability Index. The simple city car is cheap to repair, but expensive to buy. The most common problems affect the axle and suspension, with the control arms and wishbones being the parts that are replaced most often.

For details of which used car brands are the most reliable, you can read about Honda topping the 2013 reliability survey.


Find a Volkswagen Fox for sale >>



By Matthew Burrow
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