Ranked: the most and least reliable older cars
On a tight budget and looking to buy an older car? These are the brands to go to and the ones that are probably best avoided...
Ranked: the most and least reliable older cars
What Car? recently published its annual Reliability Survey, focusing on models between one and three years old.
In this feature, we’re publishing the data on cars over four years old. Reliability data for older models is arguably even more important, because cars tend to be out of manufacturer warranty and their increasing age can inevitably lead to wear and tear related issues, as well as a higher risk of equipment failure.
Here’s the results, with the most reliable brands at the start, and the least at the end:
1: Lexus – 94.9% reliability score
Not content from being very nearly the reliability leader on newer models, Lexus is also the make to buy if you want a trouble-free experience with an older car. Lexus derives its impeccable engineering standards from parent Toyota; cars that go wrong are simply not tolerated, even as they age.
Its most reliable model is the CT200h (pictured), first launched in 2011 but still on sale today; it has a reliability score of 98.8%.
2: Dacia – 93.1% reliability score
Dacia not only makes some of the cheapest cars you can buy, but also some of the most reliable too. This is probably in part down to tried-and-trusted engineering – their cars are based on older Renault models – and a lack of equipment to go wrong in the first place. PICTURE: Dacia Sandero
3: Honda – 90.0% reliability score
Honda has long been known for its rigorous quality standards. If you’re choosing an older car, a Honda is a safe bet.
Its most reliable model is the 2012-17 Civic with a petrol engine, with a 97.9% reliability score. The least is the 2006-2012 CR-V SUV (pictured), but even that notches up 80.7%, so it’s relative.
4: Toyota – 89.7% reliability score
Toyota is not too far behind its premium division Lexus in the reliability stakes – like most Japanese car companies it views excellent product durability as a badge to be worn with pride. This is especially notable given that much of the Toyota range features complicated hybrid options.
Its most reliable model is the 2013-18 RAV4, with the remarkable reliability score of 100%. Its least reliable model is also the RAV4, but the model sold between 2006 and 2013 (pictured): it gets 81.6%.
5: Suzuki – 88.4% reliability score
Suzuki is a rather smaller player than its more famous Japanese brethren in the UK, but that doesn’t stop it selling very reliable cars that age well.
Its most reliable model is the 2010-17 Swift (pictured), that scored 96.0%.
6: Kia – 87.8% reliability score
Kia has a fast-expanding model range, and our data suggests a Kia is a good bet if buying an older car.
Its most reliable model is the 2011-17 Picanto city car (99.3%); the least is the 2010-16 Sportage SUV (84.4%, pictured).
7: Porsche – 85.9% reliability score
Porsche prides itself on making prestige cars that can be used every day, and our data suggests this belief isn’t misplaced. Its most reliable model is the 2012-present 911 sports car (pictured), scoring 86.9%.
8: Subaru – 85.5% reliability score
Subaru owners value toughness and dependability, and Subaru usually delivers – which is why you’ll find plenty of older examples doing their thing in rural parts of the country. PICTURE: Subaru Outback from 2015
9: Aston Martin – 85.3% reliability score
Aston Martin has produced some magnificent cars over the years, but it’s never been a badge associated with reliability. Our data suggests this popular belief is wrong. PICTURE: Aston Martin V8 Vantage
10: Skoda – 83.7% reliability score
Skoda scores as the first VW-group brand in the table, and impressively ahead of Volkswagen itself. The Czech make dominates sales in Eastern Europe, and so Skoda needs to make cars designed to deal with the region's often-poor roads and cold weather. So they don’t fare too badly here either...
Its most reliable model is the 2012-present Citigo city car (99.3%), while its least reliable is the 2006-15 Roomster MPV (pictured), scoring 66.9%.
11: Mazda – 83.6% reliability score
Like nearly all the Japanese marques, Mazda has a good reputation for reliability and our data backs this up.
Our data suggests its most reliable models are the 2007-12 6 hatchback and the 2005-15 MX-5 convertible (both scored at 85.8%). The least? The 2009-14 3 hatchback (pictured), with a score of 70.5%.
12: Hyundai – 82.7% reliability score
It’s a fair bit behind sister company Kia in this table, but it’s still a solid top-half-of-the-table performance from Hyundai.
Its most reliable model is the 2012-17 i30 hatchback (91.5%), while its least reliable is the 2006-12 Santa Fe large SUV (70.7%, pictured).
13: Seat – 79.6% reliability score
VW’s Spanish offshoot stands not too far behind its Czech cousin, but still ahead of VW itself.
Its overall score is boosted by very good numbers on the 2013-present Leon hatchback with a petrol engine (95.9%), but let down by some poor ones on that car’s 2005-13 predecessor (66.0%, pictured).
14: Ford – 79.4% reliability score
Ford has long been a maker of cars for middle Britain, and it’s surely appropriate for it to stand at very nearly the midpoint of the reliability table.
Our survey suggests that the 2011-18 Focus hatchback is very reliable (93.0%), but the brand’s score is dragged down by the car our data suggests is its least reliable, the 2008-12 Kuga SUV (pictured), which scores just 44.2%.
15: Mercedes-Benz – 78.5% reliability score
Many buyers crave the reassurance of the three pointed star on the front of their car, but this confidence is not always well placed.
Its most reliable older model is the 2012-present B-Class MPV (91.3%), but our data suggests its least reliable is the 2009-16 E-Class Coupe, on 77.8% (pictured).
16: BMW – 78.0% reliability score
Rightly famed for making cars that are fun to drive, in recent years some of BMW’s models have acquired a reputation for unreliability, especially in the area of their often complex electronics.
Heavy and complicated it may be, but the 2013-present X5 SUV scores a highly creditable 98.9%. But other models let the side down, with the 2004-11 1 Series hatchback (pictured) scoring a miserable 49.0%.
17: Mini – 77.2% reliability score
BMW’s oh-so-British brand Mini stands just behind its parent in the league table. Niggling electronics faults are often associated with some of its models.
Its 2006-13 Mini hatchback scores 74.5%. PICTURE: 2014 Mini ONE
18: Fiat – 77.0% reliability score
It’s a solid near mid-table result for Fiat.
Its models do appear to vary widely, from the excellent 87.4% of the 2012-present Panda small hatchback to the distinctly sub-par 67.4% of the 2008-present 500 city car (pictured).
19: Audi – 76.9% reliability score
Audi used to have a good reputation for making durable cars. In recent years however, as with BMW, its increasingly complex electronic systems have been prone to failure – and on an older out-of-warranty car, you could be looking at a hefty bill to fix them.
Audi today has a very large model range, and as such our data suggests its models do seem to vary significantly. At the most reliable end, the 2011-present Q3 diesel SUV scores an excellent 96.5%. At the other end of the spectrum, the 2003-13 A3 hatchback (pictured) lets the side down with a score of just 66.8%.
20: Jaguar – 76.8% reliability score
Jaguar has an expanding range of usually desirable models, but reliability has not always been its strongest suit.
Our data suggests its most reliable model is the 2006-15 XK coupé (pictured), but Jaguar’s overall score is dragged down by its XF saloons especially.
21: Mitsubishi – 76.4% reliability score
Just because it’s Japanese doesn’t mean it must be reliable. Though not a huge seller in the UK, Mitsubishi does occupy some interesting niches, and dependability is a useful asset in them. Shame then the cars don’t always measure up on the reliability front.
Its most reliable model is the 2010-present ASX small SUV (pictured), with a creditably high score of 96.3%.
22: Volvo – 76.4% reliability score
Volvo’s reputation for making solid cars solidly has changed in recent years, and not always in a good way. Its 2012-present V40 hatchback leads the pack with 86.4% - helped perhaps by it being based on a tried-and-trusted Ford Focus platform launched some years before it. But its least reliable car is the 2007-2016 XC70 soft-roader (pictured).
With a score of 68.3% it’s a full 17.6 percentage points behind the V70 estate of the same era, which is mechanically very similar. That’s probably down to the fact that the vast majority of XC70s featured four wheel drive, with the attendant extra weight and complexity.
23: Volkswagen – 75.6% reliability score
VW used to be a byword for solidity, but this reputation has slipped recently. And as already noted, it’s surprising that it’s so far behind its sister brands Seat and Skoda.
Its best performer, the 2010-18 Touareg SUV, scores a very impressive 94.1%, but its overall score was dragged down by indifferent scores from many models, and a dire 38.4% for the 2002-09 Polo hatchback (pictured).
24: Nissan – 74.5% reliability score
Nissan may hail from Japan, but our data suggests this marque doesn’t have the dependable qualities of most of its brethren. At least it’s ahead of sister company Renault.
The very high score of the original 2007-13 Qashqai SUV (90.1%) is seriously undermined by the very low score of its successor 2014-present model (pictured), which scores just 53.6%.
25: Citroën – 73.7% reliability score
Citroën has often been associated with interesting and innovative cars, and with models like the C4 Cactus SUV this reputation continues.
Its 2009-17 C3 Picasso MPV (pictured) does score well, with 94.1%, but others models drag the overall score south.
26: Peugeot – 71.6% reliability score
Peugeots and Citroëns are very similar mechanically so it’s no surprise to find them having very similar scores.
The creditable 87.8% notched up by the 2005-14 107 city car is countered by the rather discreditable 56.5% score for the 2006-14 207 hatchback (pictured).
27: Renault – 71.3% reliability score
Renault has not always had the best reputation for quality, and it doesn’t look like this is changing for its older models.
While the 2007-12 Laguna range of hatchbacks, coupes and estates scores a respectable 81.2%, several scores in the 60s let down the team, with the 2005-13 Clio hatchback bringing up the rear, on 62.6%.
28: Vauxhall – 68.0% reliability score
Drool Britannia may be Vauxhall’s new advertising slogan under new French owners PSA, but the only people drooling over its survey data may be bonus-hungry service managers.
The data suggests its most reliable model, the 2010-15 Astra diesel-powered hatchback, just creeps over the 70% mark, with 70.8%. But this is countered by the 2004-10 Astra and the 2008-17 Insignia range of saloons, hatchbacks and estates (pictured), both on 58.3%.
29: Land Rover – 66.5% reliability score
Land Rover’s off-road virtues are impeccable – but so sadly are its off-the-road credentials, and our survey data suggests this situation isn’t changing, years after the company said it was taking steps to address quality issues.
The current 2014-present Range Rover Sport SUV chalks up a creditable 85.6%, but it’s countered by a miserable 35.4% for the 2002-13 Range Rover (pictured).
30: Alfa Romeo – 66.1% reliability score
If you like having your everyday automotive prejudices confirmed, you’re in the right place. Yes, older Alfa Romeos are not the cars to buy if you don’t want to be on first name terms with your local garage's staff.
While its 2010 Giulietta petrol-powered hatchback manages a very respectable 92.4%, the diesel version scores just 66.2%. And as for the 2008-present Mito (pictured), its score of 27.7% is the lowest of any car in the survey.
31: Chevrolet – 61.5% reliability score
The UK never officially got the thirsty but often interesting cars from the US that made the Chevrolet name. Instead we tended to get re-branded Daewoos, very few of which were very good – or reliable.
Which partially accounts for the fact that the brand left the UK at the end of 2015, and parent General Motors effectively followed suit by selling Vauxhall to PSA in 2017. PICTURE: Chevrolet Captiva