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Most (and least) reliable brands for older cars

Most older cars won't have a manufacturer warranty to help out if they go wrong, so you'll need to pick a dependable brand. We reveal the most and least reliable...

Most and least reliable brands for older cars header

Some people remain loyal to one car brand throughout their driving life, and an important factor behind this is reliability.

If you're on your sixth Mini and they've all performed faultlessly, you're likely to be happy to get another, but if your cars have spent more time in the garage than on the road, you're probably thinking about switching to another make as soon as you can.

To save you from finding out the hard way which brands are the most – and least –dependable, we asked the owners of nearly 13,000 cars to tell us if their vehicles had gone wrong in the past year. We classified the faults into 14 groups: air-con, battery, bodywork, brakes, engine, engine electrics, exhaust, fuel system, gearbox/clutch, infotainment/sat-nav, interior trim, non-engine electrics, steering and suspension.

For each fault, we asked the owner to tell us how much the car cost to repair and how long it took to fix, and we used the information to work out a unique reliability rating for each model. The result is real-life reliability data on 175 models from 31 car brands. Here we list brand reliability data for cars aged between six and 20 years old.

Complete the 2021 What Car? Reliability Survey so we can continue to reveal the most and least dependable cars. 

Top 10 most reliable brands for older cars

10. Volvo 

What Car? Reliability rating 84.7%

Volvo XC90

Volvo models are generally a good choice if you're after a solidly built and dependable secondhand car. The V40 (2012-2019) is the second highest achieving older family car, with a rating of 95.6%, while the XC90 (2002-2015) is the third best luxury SUV, with a 75.0% score. 

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9. Subaru 

What Car? Reliability rating 87.8%

2015 Subaru Forester 2.0d XC Premium review

Although the sample sizes at model level were too small for us to be able to report on specific Subarus, the brand as a whole posted a strong score. Its two top performers were the Outback (2015-present) and Forester (2013-present).  

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8. Hyundai

What Car? Reliability rating 89.2%

Hyundai i10 2009 front

The Hyundai i10 (2008-2013) is advancing into old age now, but it's still proving rugged, posting a score of 89.0%. The iX20 (2012-2019) looks like a sound secondhand buy, with a reliability rating of 94.6%, and the i30 hatchback (2012-2017) isn't far behind on 81.6%.  

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7. Seat 

What Car? Reliability rating 90.7%

Seat Leon ST

The Seat Leon (2013-2020) is not only an affordable used buy, it's also an extremely reliable option, especially if you get a diesel-engined model. It gained a 98.7% rating and owners said the only problem area was the braking system. The smaller Ibiza (2008-2017) isn't as robust, but a score of 82.0% for such an old model is still impressive.  

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6. Mitsubishi

What Car? Reliability rating 91.2%

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

The Outlander plug-in hybrid (2014-present) is the star of the Mitsubishi line-up, posting a creditable score of 87.3%. We don't have enough examples to give the ASX (2010-present) a rating, but that looks like a sound secondhand buy as well. 

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5. Honda

What Car? Reliability rating 91.6%

Honda CR-V

Three models stand out as high-achievers for Honda: the Jazz (2008-2015) is the second most reliable small car, the Civic (2012-2017) is the second best family-sized car, and the CR-V (2012-2018) is the best large SUV. The CR-V shares its accolade with Toyota's RAV4 – both gained a reliability rating of 100% because owners told us they hadn't suffered a single fault in the previous year. 

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4. Suzuki

What Car? Reliability rating 91.9%

Suzuki Swift Sport

The Swift (2010-2017) is one of the most dependable small cars, with a rating of 95.1%, and although we don't have enough examples to create ratings for them, the SX4 S-Cross (2013-present) and Vitara (2015-present) also appear to be extremely dependable. 

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3. Toyota

What Car? Reliability rating 92.2%

Toyota RAV4

The recently replaced RAV4 (2013-2019) storms ahead, with a reliability rating of 100%, and the previous RAV4 (2006-2012) isn't far behind on 95.7%. The diminutive Yaris Hybrid (2011-2020) also proved fault-free, scoring a perfect 100% and demonstrating the durability of Toyota's hybrid technology. 

Used Kia Picanto Hatchback 11-17

With a reliability rating of 98.5%, the Picanto (2011-2017) is the shining star of Kia's older car line-up. Owners told us the only problem area was the battery. The larger Ceed (2012-2018) is also looking durable, gaining a score of 94.2%. 

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1. Lexus

What Car? Reliability rating 96.0%

Lexus IS

The fact that most Lexus models are hybrids, and therefore more complex than conventionally-engined cars, makes its extremely high level of dependability even more impressive. The CT (2011-present) is the second highest scoring model in the electric/hybrid class with 98.0%, and the IS (2013-present) is right behind it with 97.6%.  

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