Most (and least) reliable older family cars

Family cars need to be dependable. To help you choose the best secondhand model we reveal the most - and least - reliable older models...

Most and least reliable older family cars

Having a family isn't cheap, so you're not going to have much spare cash to keep your car going. And that means you need a car that's durable as well as practical.  

The good news is that you don't have to pick a premium brand to get a dependable family car; most of the cars in our reliability top 10 are affordable models from mainstream brands. Our data is based on information supplied by nearly 13,000 car owners across the UK who participated in the latest What Car? Reliability Survey, and can help to pinpoint the best car for you. 

Looking exclusively at the results for used cars aged five to 15 years old, we've rated all the family cars we were told about. Those with the most faults and costly repair bills get a lower score than those that provide problem-free motoring. Here, we reveal the 10 most reliable and the three cars that are best avoided. 

10. BMW 1 Series petrol (2011-2019)

BMW 1 Series

What Car? reliability rating 86.9%

Although petrol-engined 1 Series models suffered far more faults than diesels – 29% versus 13% – they were far less likely to land owners with expensive bills and the cars were often fixed in a day or less. 

The most common problem area was the engine, followed by the brakes, fuel system, gearbox and infotainment. A third of cars were fixed for less than £50, and only 17% of bills cost between £501 and £750. More than three-quarters of cars could still be driven and were fixed in less than a week. 

Read our full review of the used BMW 1 Series

See how much you could save on a new BMW 1 Series


9. Honda Civic (2006-2012)

Honda Civic

What Car? reliability rating 89.2%

Only 16% of Civics went wrong; minor issues were reported with a range of components, including the air-con, brakes, bodywork, electrics, gearbox and suspension. More than half of cars were put right for less than £201 and no repair bills exceeded £750. Two thirds of cars could still be driven and all were fixed in less than a week. 

Read our full review of the used Honda Civic

See how much you could save on a new Honda Civic


8. Vauxhall Astra petrol (2009-2015)

Used car of the week: Vauxhall Astra

What Car? reliability rating 89.5%

Only 15% of Astra owners reported a fault on their car, citing the battery and gearbox as the only problem areas. Half of the cars we were told about were fixed for less than £200, but the other half cost up to £1500. Although the problems rendered the cars undriveable, all were back on the road in less than a week. 

Read our full review of the used Vauxhall Astra

See how much you could save on a new Vauxhall Astra


7. Ford Focus diesel (2011-2018)

Ford Focus

What Car? reliability rating 89.9%

Diesel-engined Focus models are proving more robust than petrols, according to owners; 30% of the petrol cars we were told about went wrong, compared with 39% of petrols. Engine electrics were the main cause for concern, followed by the air-con, battery, brakes, fuel system and gearbox. Three-quarters of repairs cost less than £100, and no owners paid out more than £200. Almost all cars could still be driven and 90% were fixed in less than a week.    

Read our full review of the used Ford Focus

See how much you could save on a new Ford Focus


6. Skoda Octavia petrol (2013-2020)

Used Skoda Octavia 2013-present

What Car? reliability rating 90.5%

It's petrol-powered Octavias that are the better bet if you're after a reliable car; 21% of petrol cars suffered a fault, compared with 24% of diesels. Problem areas included the battery, engine, gearbox and non-engine electrics. Repair bills ranged from £51 to £750 and all cars remained driveable and were put right in less than a week.  

Read our full review of the used Skoda Octavia

See how much you could save on a new Skoda Octavia


5. Seat Leon petrol (2013-2020)

Seat Leon

What Car? reliability rating 93.5%

The petrol Seat Leon is pretty durable, although not as bulletproof as its diesel counterpart – see below. Owners told us that 26% of cars went wrong, with non-engine electrics the main concern, followed by the bodywork and suspension. Two-thirds of repair bills cost less than £100 and non topped £200. Four out of five cars could still be driven and two-thirds of problems were rectified in a day or less. 

Read our full review of the used Seat Leon

See how much you could save on a new Seat Leon


4. Kia Ceed (2012-2018)

Deal of the day: Kia Ceed

What Car? reliability rating 94.2%

Although 28% of Ceeds had a fault, the majority were minor electrical issues. That said, there were also a small proportion of issues with air-con, bodywork, brakes, gearbox and interior trim. All repair work was carried out for free and all cars could still be driven; no cars lingered in the garage for more than a week. 

Read our full review of the used Kia Ceed

See how much you could save on a new Kia Ceed


=2. Honda Civic (2012-2017)

Honda Civic diesel

What Car? reliability rating 95.6%

Honda has a solid reputation for durability and this is upheld by the previous-generation Civic. Only 10% of cars had a problem, with issues split evenly between air-con, battery, engine and engine electrics. All cars remained driveable and 75% were fixed in a week or less, with repair bills ranging from £101 to £500. 

Read our full review of the used Honda Civic

See how much you could save on a new Honda Civic


=2. Volvo V40 diesel (2012-2019)

Volvo V40 2012-2019 front corner

What Car? reliability rating 95.6%

Faults were reported by nearly a quarter (23%) of V40 owners, with issues split evenly between the bodywork, engine electrics, exhaust and suspension. However, all cars could be driven and 75% were put right in a day or less, with the same proportion being fixed for free. The rest cost between £101 and £200 to put right.

Read our full review of the used Volvo V40


1. Seat Leon diesel (2013-2020)

Seat Leon

What Car? reliability rating 98.7%

If you’re after a diesel-powered family car, the Leon is the most dependable option; just 5% of those we heard about went wrong. The only problem area was the braking system, and all cars could still be driven and were back on the road in a day or less. A third of the work was done for free and no repair bills topped £200.  

Owner's comment “The best things about my Leon are its reliability and the overall high level of build quality”

Read our full review of the used Seat Leon

See how much you could save on a new Seat Leon