The most reliable car brands - and the least

Some cars never seem to be out of the garage for long, while others rarely end up there between services. Here we look at the best and worst brands for reliability...

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.

Reliability brands header

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.

Intro (cont.)

Reliability survey

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

Reliability Awards - BMW 1 Series

=9. BMW 

What Car? Reliability rating 95.2%

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 

Mazda CX-3 Front

What Car? Reliability rating 95.2%

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

Honda Jazz

What Car? Reliability rating 95.3%

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

Kia Sportage

What Car? Reliability rating 95.9%

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

Hyundai i20

What Car? Reliability rating 96.3%

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

Reliability Awards - Skoda Citigo

What Car? Reliability rating 96.4%

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

Reliability Awards - Mini Countryman

What Car? Reliability rating 96.8%

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

Reliability Award - Toyota Yaris

What Car? Reliability rating 97.7%

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

2020 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV RHD front right cornering

What Car? Reliability rating 97.9%

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

Reliability Award winner - Lexus

What Car? Reliability rating 98.7%

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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Next: the three least reliable car brands >>

The three least reliable car brands

Used Tesla Model X 16-present

3. Tesla 

What Car? Reliability rating 88.6%

Tesla has had a lot of build quality problems with the Model S and Model X and that's why it sits so low down in the reliability brand league table. That said, the future looks promising – its newer Model 3 sits at the top of the electric car class with a score of 99.4%. 

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2. Renault 

Renault Kadjar front

What Car? Reliability rating 87.6%

Renault's Kadjar SUV has suffered more than its fair share of faults according to owners; it received a reliability rating of 88.6%. However, the smaller Captur is proving pretty robust: it scored 95.0%. 

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1. Land Rover

New Skoda Kodiaq vs used Land Rover Discovery Sport: which is best?

What Car? Reliability rating 78.2%

Land Rover appears to be struggling across the board when it comes to reliability; the Discovery Sport and Range Rover Sport were its poorest performers, with scores of 73.1% and 74.2% respectively. In fact, all three of the least dependable luxury SUVs were from the Land Rover stable.   

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