25 most unreliable older cars

If you're buying a secondhand car, check our list of the least dependable so you can avoid the models that could let you down...

25 most unreliable older cars

Whatever type of car you're getting, if you're buying secondhand, reliability is an important consideration. Help is at hand from the What Car? Reliability Survey. It is based on data from car owners and should help you buy a car that won't leave you stranded at the roadside or land you with sky-high repair bills. 

We asked the owners of nearly 13,000 cars to tell us if their vehicles had suffered from any faults in the past 12 months. We classified the faults in 14 groups: air conditioning, battery, bodywork, brakes, engine, engine electrics, exhaust, fuel system, gearbox/clutch, infotainment/dashboard, interior trim, non-engine electrics, steering and suspension.

For each fault, we asked the owner to tell us how long the car was off the road and how much the repairs cost. This information was used to create a unique reliability rating for 175 models spanning 31 brands. Those that cost the most and kept the car off the road the longest gained the lowest scores, and those with few or no problems got the highest ratings.

Here we're looking at the data for the worst-performing 25 models first registered between 2000 and 2015.  

The 2021 What Car Reliability Survey is open for you to tell us about your car

The most unreliable older cars

25. BMW 2 Series Active/Gran Tourer (2015-present)

BMW 2 Series Active Tourer

Reliability rating: 78.3%

Owners of the earliest examples of the 2 Series Active/Gran Tourer told us that 32% of their cars had gone wrong; the exhaust and gearbox/clutch were the most commonly cited issues. Two-thirds of cars could still be driven and four out of five were fixed in less than a week. Although 11% of work was done under warranty, 40% of cars cost £500 to £1500 or more to fix.

Read our full BMW 2 Series Active Tourer review >>

24. Audi A6 (2011-2018)

Audi A6 BiTDi 2012 front

Reliability rating: 76.7%

Suspension was the main problem area for A6 owners, accounting for 15% of reported faults. Overall, 30% of A6s went wrong, with other problematic areas including the air-con, brakes, engine, engine and non-electrical systems and interior trim. Although 60% of cars were back on the road in a day or less, only one in five was fixed for free. Other owners paid out £101 to more than £1500. 

Read our full used Audi A6 review >>

=22. Range Rover Sport  (2013-present)

Range Rover Sport

Reliability rating: 76.5%

Only 13% of Range Rover Sport owners reported a fault on their car, with the bodywork, gearbox/clutch and engine electrics being the most common gripes. However, a quarter of those cars were undriveable and two-thirds spent more than a week off the road. Almost half of the work was done for free, but 9% of bills totalled £1000 to £1500. 

Jaguar XF 2.7D V6 Luxury

Reliability rating: 76.5%

According to owners, 35% of previous-generation XFs went wrong with non-engine electrical issues, the biggest trouble spot being the air-con. Other problem areas included the battery, bodywork and engine. Virtually all cars could still be driven, though, and more than half were repaired in a day or less, with 14% of the work done for free and the majority of owners paying no more than £500.

Read our full used Jaguar XF review >>

21. Volvo XC90 (2002-2015)

Volvo XC90

Reliability rating: 75.0%

Faults were reported on 23% of the XC90s we were told about. The most frequent trouble spots were the air-con, brakes, engine electrics and steering. However, about half the issues were rectified in a day or less and only one in five cars spent more than a week off the road. While 9% of work was done for free, other bills ranged from £51 to £1000.

Read our full used Volvo XC90 review >>

=19. Volkswagen Golf diesel (2009-2013)

Volkswagen Golf

Reliability rating: 74.9%

Far more diesel-engined Golfs suffered faults than petrols (37% versus 8%). The exhaust and suspension were the most common problem areas, followed by the bodywork, brakes and engine. All cars could still be driven, though, and just over half were fixed on the same day. Most owners paid out £51 to £300, but 11% faced bills of more than £1500.

Read our full used Volkswagen Golf review >>

=19. Mercedes E-Class (2002-2009)

Mercedes E280 CDI 2008 front

Reliability rating: 74.9%

The E-Class is the least dependable older luxury car. Half of the cars we heard about suffered a fault, with the suspension and engine the most commonly cited areas. Although three-quarters of the afflicted cars could still be driven and half were fixed in a day or less, none of the work was done for free and owners paid out between £200 and £750 per fault.

Read our full used Mercedes E-Class review >>

18. BMW 6 Series Coupe/Convertible (2011-2018)

BMW 6 Series Convertible

Reliability rating: 73.7%

Only 17% of 6 Series owners told us their car had suffered a fault, with the biggest issues related to non-engine electrics, followed by interior trim and steering. However, half of cars were rendered undriveable and 75% took more than a week to put right. No work was done for free and 50% of repair bills exceeded £1500.

Read our full used BMW 6 Series review >>

17. Vauxhall Corsa (2006-2012)

Vauxhall Corsa

Reliability rating: 73.0%

The Corsa may be popular among new drivers, but it's the least reliable small car. More than a third of respondents’ cars went wrong across a wide range of areas including air-con, the battery, brakes, the engine and its electrical systems. All cars could still be driven, but a third took more than a week to fix. Although 7% of cars were repaired for free, two-thirds of owners faced bills of between £101 and £500.

Read our full used Vauxhall Corsa review >>

16. Porsche 911 (2004-2011)

Porsche 911

Reliability rating: 71.9%

A third of 911s of this generation went wrong, according to owners, with just over half of those rendered undriveable and nearly three-quarters taking up to a week to repair. Problem areas included the air-con and electrics. Although 43% of work was done for free, other owners were left with bills of between £501 and £750.