Most (and least) reliable car brands

Some cars never seem to be out of the garage for long, and others rarely end up there between services. The What Car? Reliability Survey reveals the best and worst brands for reliability...

Reliability brands header

Some people switch brands every time they replace their car, but many stick with the same make through thick and thin – and a big reason for this is reliability.

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 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 had spent getting fixed. 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 175 models from 31 different car brands. If you're not sure which model to buy,  it's worth checking out the reliability rating for the brands you're interested in, to help pick the most dependable car. On the following pages we list the top 10 brands for reliability, as well as the bottom three. The results are for cars up to five years old.

Complete the 2021 What Car? Reliability Survey to help us continue to reveal the most and least dependable cars. 

The most reliable car brands

=9. BMW 

What Car? Reliability rating 95.2%

BMW 1 Series front - red

BMW comes out on top in four of the 12 car classes we examined. The shining star of its line-up is the previous generation 1 Series, which received a reliability rating of 99.2%, followed by the current BMW X1 with 98.1%. Elsewhere, the older 5 Series was the most dependable luxury car and the 2 Series Convertible / Coupé was the best in the coupé, convertible and sports car class.  

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=9. Mazda 

What Car? Reliability rating 95.2%

Mazda CX-3 Front

Two models gained a creditable score of 98.0%: the CX-3 and Mazda 6, making them the second most dependable models in their respective classes. And the evergreen MX-5 wasn't far behind on 93.3%. 

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8. Honda

What Car? Reliability rating 95.3%

Honda Jazz

The Jazz isn't just a practical hatchback, it's extremely durable too, scoring 99.0% in our survey. The CR-V is also a reliable option, whether you buy new or used; the current model scored 97.9% and the 2012-2018 CR-V 94.8%. 

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7. Kia 

What Car? Reliability rating 95.9%

Kia Sportage

Whether you opt for a Sportage SUV or an Optima executive saloon, you should be getting a dependable car; both of these models gained more than 96% for reliability. The Niro plug-in hybrid ranks almost as highly, with a score of 95.8%. 

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6. Hyundai

What Car? Reliability rating 96.3%

Hyundai i20

If you're after a small car that won't let you down, Hyundai models should be on your shortlist; the i20 hatchback scored an almost perfect score of 99.3% and the i10 city car achieved 98.8%. And if you want a fuel sipping hybrid the Ioniq is worth considering – it scored 97.4%.   

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5. Skoda

What Car? Reliability rating 96.4%

Skoda Citigo

The Citigo city car was one of just three cars that gained a faultless score of 100% in the reliability survey, with owners telling us their cars hadn't suffered any faults in the previous 12 months. If you're after something with lots more room, the Superb is also a strong contender with a score of 98.3%.    

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4. Mini

What Car? Reliability rating 96.8%

MINI Countryman front three quarters

The Countryman is the most dependable small SUV according to owners; it gained a score of 98.3%. The Clubman isn't far behind with 97.1% and the Mini hatchback gained a creditable 96.1%. 

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3. Toyota

What Car? Reliability rating 97.7%

Toyota Aygo front

The Aygo is the second car to gain a full 100% reliability rating from owners, and the slightly larger Yaris isn't far behind with 99.7%. Toyota's hybrid models are also proving dependable, with the Corolla gaining 98.4% and the Auris 97.4%.  

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2. Mitsubishi

What Car? Reliability rating 97.9%

Mitsubishi Outlander 2020 RHD wide front left cornering

It's the hugely impressive performance of the Outlander plug-in hybrid that has helped propel Mitsubishi into second place in our reliability league table. It scored 97.8% and just 13% of owners reported a problem with their car.    

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1. Lexus

What Car? Reliability rating 98.7%

Lexus NX long-term review

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. Its NX and RX SUVs both gained scores of more than 99%.  

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