Best car brands for reliability (and the ones to avoid)

Some cars rarely end up in a garage between services and others can't stay away. The What Car? Reliability Survey reveals the shining stars of the automotive league and the brands that constantly...

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

Read the full What Car? Reliability Survey results

We classified the faults into 15 groups: aircon, 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. On the following pages we list the top 10 brands for reliability, as well as the bottom 10. 

Complete the 2019 What Car? Reliability Survey to help us continue to reveal the most and least dependable cars. 

The most reliable car brands

10. Seat 

What Car? Reliability rating 95.2%

Seat Leon ST

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.  

Read our full Seat Leon review or our Seat Ateca review

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9. Hyundai 

What Car? Reliability rating 95.4%

Used Hyundai i30 Tourer (17-present)

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. 

Read our full Hyundai i30 review

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8. Alfa Romeo

What Car? Reliability rating 95.5%

Alfa Romeo Giulia 2018 right front wheel detail

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.

Read our full Alfa Romeo Giulia review

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7. Skoda 

What Car? Reliability rating 95.6%

Skoda Octavia

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. 

Read our full Skoda Octavia review

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=4. Subaru

What Car? Reliability rating 95.8%

Used Subaru Outback 15- present

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%. 

Read our full Subaru Outback review

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