Best and worst older cars for reliability
How dependable are cars as they get older? Here’s what the owners of cars between six and 15 years of age have told us...
Buying a new car is usually a reasonably safe prospect; if anything goes wrong, the chances are the cost of getting it fixed will be covered by the manufacturer’s warranty. Step outside of the new car market, though, and the risks are higher. The majority of warranties last for only three years, and most owners stop paying out for franchised dealer servicing once cars are four or five years old. So, if you don’t choose carefully, you could buy a car that hasn’t been well maintained and might suffer a costly fault.
However, you can significantly reduce the chances of buying a money-pit used car by choosing a reliable make and model. The best older cars suffer almost no faults at all, even when they’re up to 15 years old, and in some cases, issues are resolved for free, even though the cars are out of warranty. In contrast, faults occur in more than half of the least dependable models, with many repair bills exceeding £1500, according to the annual What Car? Reliability Survey, sponsored by MotorEasy. On an older car, those costs could even exceed the car’s value.
Our survey covers the ownership experiences of 18,119 motorists over a 12-month period, spanning 31 makes and 218 models. Here, we’re focusing on cars aged six to 15 years old. Many are the type of car you might be thinking of buying as a second family car or a first car for a new driver, so their dependability is a prime concern.
We asked car owners to tell us what went wrong with their car, grouping the faults into 14 different areas: air conditioning, battery, bodywork, brakes, engine, engine electrics, exhaust, fuel system, gearbox, interior trim, non-engine electrics, sat-nav, steering and suspension.
To come up with our unique reliability ratings, which are expressed as a percentage, the two main areas we looked at were how long each faulty car took to be fixed and how much owners had to pay out for repair bills.
Reliability rating 97.8%
What went wrong? Bodywork 6% Brakes 6%
Age is no barrier to being dependable, as Peugeot’s 107 demonstrates; it dates back to 2005 and went off sale six years ago, yet it has a superb reliability record. Only 12% of cars had a problem, and the only areas concerned were the bodywork and brakes. All cars were fixed the same day, with no bills exceeding £100.
Owner comment: “Cheap to own, fun to drive and ridiculously reliable, plus parts are cheap”
Reliability rating 96.0%
The latest Fiat Panda is proving pretty sturdy so far, with only 8% of cars suffering a fault. Repair bills ranged from £100 to £200 and the battery was the only afflicted area. The same can’t be said for the previous-generation model (see below).
Reliability rating 92.8%
The Skoda Citigo fares better than its stablemate, the Volkswagen Up, for reliability, although the Up isn’t far behind, in fourth place with 90%. Owners told us that 16% of Citigos had an issue, with suspension being the most common problem, followed by the gearbox/clutch and non-engine electrics. All cars remained driveable and half were fixed under warranty, but some took more than a week to fix and cost up to £750.
Reliability rating 69.3%
What went wrong? Air-con 9% Gearbox 9% Suspension 9% Battery 6% Exhaust 6% Non-engine electrics 6% Bodywork 3% Brakes 3% Engine electrics 3% Interior trim 3% Steering 3%
The Fiat 500 struck problems in 11 of our 14 different categories. Owners told us that 32% of their cars suffered a fault, with the air conditioning, gearbox and suspension all cited as big areas of concern. A third of the cars couldn’t be driven and repair bills of £300 to £500 were common, with some costing up to £1500.
Owner comment: “It’s suffered one fault after the next, including one the day after it came out of the garage”
Reliability rating 71.0%
If you want a Panda, we’d advise you buy as new as you can, because this little city car doesn’t age well. Owners said 32% of previous generation Pandas had a fault, with the gearbox and suspension being the most common gripes, followed by the battery. Although no repair bills topped £750, a third of the cars were rendered undriveable.
Reliability rating 77.3%
With 45% of cars suffering a fault, the Aygo isn’t as bulletproof as its twin, the Citroën C1, which gained an 84% reliability rating and had fewer faults (25%). The most commonly reported problem area on the Aygo was bodywork, followed by the exhaust and gearbox. Most cars could still be driven and were fixed the same day, but a small proportion of owners were stung with bills of up to £1500.