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In association with MotorEasy

Most and least reliable used cars and SUVs

We name the most dependable – and most troublesome – secondhand cars and SUVs aged from six to 20 years old, based on owners’ experiences...

Most and least reliable used cars main image

Used car prices are set to soar in 2023 for several reasons, including the reluctance of many motorists to switch to electric models, the limited supply of fairly new models due to the pandemic, and demand for cleaner used cars for use in low-emission zones. 

That means it’s more important than ever to choose your second-hand car wisely, and reliability is a crucial factor in keeping costs down – especially if you’re buying an older car that’s no longer covered by the manufacturer’s warranty.

A dependable model shouldn’t land you with anything other than routine servicing and maintenance bills for the foreseeable future. However, if you pick a car that’s prone to faults, you could end up facing a constant barrage of expensive repair bills.

To help used car buyers select the best models aged from six to 20 years old, we asked nearly 25,000 car owners to tell us how reliable their cars had been over the previous 24 months. This data forms our annual What Car? Reliability Survey which is compiled in association with MotorEasy.

How we compiled our ratings

We asked owners to tell us if their car had broken down in the previous 24 months. To highlight the most common fault areas for each model, we asked all those who said yes, to tell us which of 15 different areas of the car were concerned: air-con, battery, bodywork, brakes, clutch/gearbox, engine, engine electrics, exhaust, fuel system, infotainment/sat-nav, interior trim, non-engine electrics, steering, suspension and other.

And, to measure the seriousness of each fault, we also ask how long each car took to be repaired and how much the work cost. The worst offenders – cars that were off the road for more than a week and cost more than £1500 to fix – receive the lowest reliability ratings. Those with minor niggles that were fixed for free gained higher scores. Our data encompasses 400 models from 30 brands.

Scroll down to read about the most and least reliable small cars – our table provides links to our used car review for each model.

To read the data for other car classes follow these links:

Family cars here
Executive cars here
Luxury cars here
Small SUVs here
Family SUVs here
Large SUVs here
Luxury SUVs here
Electric and hybrid cars here
Sports cars here
MPVs here
Car brands here

Help us get data on more cars by completing the 2023 What Car? Reliability Survey

The most reliable small cars 

1. 2015-2020 Honda Jazz

Reliability rating 100%

What went wrong? Nothing

Honda Jazz EX 1.3 i-VTEC Manual

The third-generation Jazz offers the low running costs you’d expect of a small car and the space and practicality of a mini MPV. On top of that, it’s very unlikely to let you down because it’s extremely robust. In fact, not a single older Jazz suffered any faults at all, according to the owners who completed our survey. 

Used Honda cars for sale >>

2. 2011-2020 Toyota Yaris

Reliability rating 98.6%

Toyota Yaris hybrid front driving shot 2018

Toyota has a rock-solid reputation for building dependable cars – it’s been in the top three brands in our newer car reliability survey for the past six years, so it’s a great choice if you want a car that won’t let you down. Just 5% of the cars we were told about had a problem and the only area concerned was the suspension. All faulty cars were repaired and back on the road in a day or less, and bills were minimal: half of owners paid out no more than £50 and the rest paid less than £300.

Used Toyota cars for sale >>

3. 2010-2017 Suzuki Swift

Reliability rating 98.1%

Used Suzuki Swift Sport 2012-2017

The Swift might not be the most popular small car, but it’s got a lot going for it, including great driving manners, a reasonable amount of space and a high rating for safety. Like other Suzuki models, it’s also bulletproof, even as it ages. Only 6% of the Swifts in our survey developed a fault, and the battery was the only component affected. All cars could still be driven and half were fixed in less than a day, and no repair bills exceeded £100. 

Used Suzuki cars for sale >>

The least reliable small cars

3. 2010-2016 Nissan Micra

Reliability rating 66.4%

2013 Nissan Micra review

The Micra suffers more than its fair share of problems, according to owners, who told us 47% of their cars had gone wrong in the previous 24 months. The most common gripe was about the suspension, affecting 29% of faulty cars, followed by the engine’s electrical systems (18% of faults). Problems rendered 50% of cars undriveable, and kept a similar proportion in the garage for up to a week. Cars were often costly to put right. Although a third of repairs came in at less than £200, the other two thirds ranged from £201 to £1000. 

2. 2002-2008 Ford Fiesta

Reliability rating 65.5%

Ford Fiesta front three quarters

The Fiesta is cheap to buy and fun to drive, but it’s no joy to live with if you get one that suffers a string of costly faults. And that is a possibility, because owners told us that 46% of their cars had suffered an issue. The most frequent trouble-spot was the suspension, affecting 18% of broken cars, but there were also issues with the air-con, bodywork, exhaust and gearbox. Two thirds of faulty cars could still be driven, and 45% were out of the workshop in less than a week, but some repair bills were pricey. Although 64% of bills were below £200, the rest ranged from £201 to £750 per repair.

1. 2010-2016 Citroën C3

Reliability rating 53.0%

What went wrong? Air-con, brakes 13%, engine, exhaust, gearbox/clutch, suspension 9%, battery, engine and non-engine electrics, fuel system, sat-nav, steering 4%

Used test: Ford Fiesta vs Volkswagen Polo vs Citroen C3

A wide range of issues affected the C3s we were told about, but the most frequent were with the air-con and braking system. They rendered more than 50% of cars undriveable, and kept 40% of them in the garage for more than a week. The only good news is that 10% of faulty cars were fixed for free and 43% of bills totalled less than £200, but the remaining owners had to find between £201 and £750 to get their cars put right. 

Reliability of small cars aged six to 20 years old

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