Best & worst car brands for reliability

Some cars rarely end up in a garage between services and others can't stay away. The What Car? Reliability Survey reveals the best and worst brands for reliability...

People can have many reasons for replacing their car, from changing jobs to starting a family.

Reliability survey compilation image

But when it comes to why people stick with the same brand year after year, one factor has the biggest influence: reliability.

You're unlikely to remain loyal to a brand that regularly leaves you stranded by the roadside. To save you from finding out the hard way, we asked the owners of more than 18,000 cars to tell us if their vehicles had suffered from any faults in the previous 12 months.

We classified the faults into 15 groups: air-con, battery, bodywork, brakes, engine, engine electrics, exhaust, fuel system, gearbox/clutch, interior trim, non-engine electrics, steering, suspension, wheels/tyres and other.

For each fault, we asked the owner to tell us how much the car cost to repair and how much time it spent lingering at the garage. We used this information to work out a unique reliability rating for each model, with those that cost the most and were off the road longest penalised more severely than those that had few or no faults and cost little or nothing to fix.

The result is real-life reliability data on 159 models from 31 different car brands. If you're not sure which model to buy, then it's worth checking out the reliability rating for the brands you're interested to help pick the most dependable car. Join us as we list the top 10 brands for reliability and the 10 that performed the worst.

The most reliable car brands:

Seat Leon estate

10: Seat

What Car? Reliability rating: 95.2%

A strong performance from the Seat Leon placed it as the fourth most dependable family car, while the Ateca also took the fourth-place spot among family SUVs. Both helped to boost the Spanish brand into the top 10.

9: Hyundai

Hyundai

What Car? Reliability rating: 95.4%

The shining star of the Hyundai line-up is the i30, which is the best family car for reliability, while the i10 and Santa Fe each claimed fifth position in their respective classes.

8: Alfa Romeo

Alfa Romeo Giulia

What Car? Reliability rating: 95.5%

Alfa Romeo has hardly been historically renowned for its reliability, but the Italian brand’s new Giulia saloon is bucking that trend so far. While 17% of cars had a fault, most were minor, such as issues with the air-con, brakes and exterior lights.

7: Skoda

Skoda

What Car? Reliability rating: 95.6%

Unusually, diesel-engined Octavias proved more durable than petrols; diesels were the third most reliable family hatchback with 10% of cars suffering a fault compared with 12% of petrol-engined models.

Other Skoda models that put in a good performance included the Citigo and the Superb petrol, both of which claimed sixth place in their classes.

=4: Subaru

Subaru

What Car? Reliability rating: 95.8%

It's in the four-to-10-year-old car section where Subaru shines, with petrol and diesel versions of the Outback earning an impressive score of 93.6% and the Forester chalking up 93.3%.

=4: Mitsubishi

Mitsubishi

What Car? Reliability rating: 95.8%

If you’re after a dependable hybrid SUV the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is well worth considering. In the newer car charts, it’s the most reliable hybrid SUV and the third most reliable of all the hybrid and electric cars that owners told us about in our survey.

=4: Kia

Kia

What Car? Reliability rating: 95.8%

The latest Sportage stands out as the best family SUV for reliability and it’s predecessor isn’t far behind – in fifth place. Meanwhile, the Ceed also looks good, taking sixth place in the family car rankings.

3: Toyota

Toyota

What Car? Reliability rating: 96.8%

The Yaris may be a small car but it’s big on dependability – with a faultless reliability rating of 100% it’s the joint-best performer in the survey, tying with the Suzuki SX-4 S-Cross. With a score of 99.6%, the RAV4 isn’t far behind the Yaris; it’s our top performer in the large and luxury SUV class.

2: Lexus

Lexus

What Car? Reliablity rating: 97.5%

Lexus has two outstanding models in the hybrid and electric car class: the IS saloon is in fourth place with 97.6% and the NX SUV is sixth with 96.6%.

1: Suzuki

Suzuki

What Car? Reliability rating: 97.7%

The diminutive SX4 S-Cross, with a reliability rating of 100%, propels the Suzuki brand to the top spot (alongside Toyota) in the car brand reliability charts.

The larger Vitara helps to bolster it score too – it’s the fourth most dependable small SUV and scored 97.2%.

And now, the least reliable brands:

The least reliable car brands:

Mini Cooper S

10: Mini 

What Car? Reliability rating: 91.2%

It’s the hatchback and Clubman estate that drag the Mini brand down. The Clubman is the fourth least reliable small car with a rating of 88.1% and the diesel hatchback isn’t far behind with 90.3%. The petrol hatchback, meanwhile, fares a little better with a score of 93.8%.

9: Porsche

Porsche

What Car? Reliability rating: 90.9%

Porsche's cars aren’t the worst for durability, but they’re not the best either, hence the brand's placing fairly close to the middle of our brand chart.

The 911 is the third best sports car with a rating of 94.5%, and the Cayman is the third worst with 91.0%. The Macan, meanwhile, sits midway down the family SUV table with a score of 90.1%.

8: Peugeot

Peugeot

What Car? Reliability rating: 89.4%

In contrast, Peugeot models can be found at the top and towards the bottom of different car class tables. The 208 is the poorest performing small car and the 308 is the worst family car. However, the 3008 is the third best family SUV and the 2008 is the second best small SUV.

7: Citroën

Citroën Berlingo

What Car? Reliablity rating: 88.1%

This French brand doesn’t have any highly scoring models to pull its score up. The C4 Cactus is the least dependable small SUV with a rating of 82.5%, and the C3 Picasso and C4 Grand Picasso sit at the bottom of the MPV table with 87.8% and 86.2% respectively.

6: Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes-Benz

What Car? Reliability rating: 88.0%

It’s a tale of two halves from Mercedes’ luxury cars: the previous generation E-Class tops the luxury class with 92.4%, while the current E-Class is second from the bottom with 83.5%. The C-Class is the least dependable exec on 83.1% and the B-Class is the most dependable MPV with 95.9%.

5: Nissan

Nissan

What Car? Reliability rating: 87.1%

Nissans feature close to the bottom of quite a few car class charts: the Note is the second least durable small car, the Pulsar is second from bottom in the family car league and the petrol and diesel Qashqai take the bottom two places in the family SUV table.

Only the Leaf bucks this trend, sitting at the top of the hybrid and electric car chart.

4: Jaguar

Jaguar

What Car? Reliability rating: 84.9%

Just like its rival Mercedes, the previous generation of Jaguar’s luxury car – the XF – proves more dependable than the latest one. The XE is the second least dependable exec, but the F-Pace does better, ranking 17th out of 25 in the large and luxury SUV class.

3: Jeep

Jeep

What Car? Reliability rating: 82.7%

The only Jeep model we have a big enough sample size to report on separately is the Renegade, which ranks second from bottom of the small SUV league in the newer car charts with 87.3%.

Data for older examples of the Cherokee and Grand Cherokee pulls the overall brand score down a little.

2: Land Rover

Land Rover

What Car? Reliablity rating: 76.5%

The full-size Range Rover is the worst performing vehicle in our large and luxury car class, scoring a lowly 67.3%. It’s joined in the bottom 10 by the Range Rover Evoque, the latest Discovery and Discovery Sport, which all score a little better, although not strongly enough to raise the overall brand score by much.

1: Tesla

Tesla

What Car? Reliability rating: 57.3%

This is the first time we’ve had enough data on Tesla to rate it as a brand, but sadly it’s not good news for the American electric car brand. Newer examples of its Model S are the poorest performing EV, with a score of 50.9%, and older models only drag the brand's overall score up by a few percentage points.