The most reliable older family cars - and the least

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

Having a family isn't cheap, so you're not going to have much spare cash to keep your car going.

Most and least reliable older family cars

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. 

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10. BMW 1 Series petrol (2011-2019)

BMW 1 Series front three quarters

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. 

10. BMW 1 Series petrol (2011-2019)

BMW 1 Series - interior

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.

9. Honda Civic (2006-2012)

Common Honda Civic ('06-'12) problems

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. 

9. Honda Civic (2006-2012)

Used test: Honda Civic vs Volkswagen Golf vs Audi A3 vs BMW 1 Series

Two thirds of cars could still be driven and all were fixed in less than a week. 

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. 

8. Vauxhall Astra petrol (2009-2015)

Used car of the week: Vauxhall Astra

Although the problems rendered the cars undriveable, all were back on the road in less than a week. 

7. Ford Focus diesel (2011-2018)

Ford Focus (petrol)

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

7. Ford Focus diesel (2011-2018)

Ford Focus

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.

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

6. Skoda Octavia petrol (2013-2020)

Skoda Octavia 1.0 TSI S - interior

Repair bills ranged from £51 to £750 and all cars remained driveable and were put right in less than a week. 

5. Seat Leon petrol (2013-2020)

Seat Leon 1.5 TSI EVO XCellence [EZ]

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. 

5. Seat Leon petrol (2013-2020)

Seat Leon interior

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. 

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

4. Kia Ceed (2012-2018)

Kia Ceed

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. 

=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

=2. Honda Civic (2012-2017)

Honda Civic Tourer

All cars remained driveable and 75% were fixed in a week or less, with repair bills ranging from £101 to £500. 

=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

=2. Volvo V40 diesel (2012-2019)

Volvo V40 2012-2019 dash

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.

1. Seat Leon diesel (2013-2020)

Seat Leon 1.4 ECOTSI 150 FR

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. 

1. Seat Leon diesel (2013-2020)

Seat Leon Estate 2019 RHD dashboard

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.”

So that's the most reliable cars - what about the least? Read on:

5. Audi A3 (2013-2020)

Used Audi A3 2013-present

What Car? reliability rating 77.7%

Owners told us that 25% of their previous generation A3s had gone wrong, with air-con faults the most common complaint. There were also reports of problems with the engine and suspension. No repairs were done for free, and bills ranged from £101 to more than £1500. That said, two-thirds of cars could still be driven and all were put right in less than a week.

4. Ford Focus petrol (2011-2018)

Used Ford Focus

What Car? reliability rating 75.6%

It's the petrol Focus that's letting owners down more often than the diesel; 39% of the cars we were told about suffered a fault. There were problems in a range of areas, including the battery, bodywork, engine and its electrical systems and the gearbox. Although half of cars could still be driven, a third took more than a week to put right. Around one in five cars was fixed for free, but most people paid out between £51 and £500 and some were faced with bills exceeding £1500.

3. Volkswagen Golf diesel (2009-2013)

Used car of the week: Volkswagen Golf Plus

What Car? reliability rating 74.9%

Far more diesel-engined Golfs suffered faults than petrols (37% versus 8%). The exhaust and suspension were the most common problem areas, followed by the bodywork, brakes and engine. All cars could still be driven, though, and just over half were fixed on the same day. Most owners paid out £51 to £300, but 11% faced bills of more than £1500.

2. Mercedes A-Class (2005-2012)

Mercedes-Benz A-Class MPV (05 - 12)

What Car? reliability rating 56.3%

A high percentage (40%) of older A-Classes developed issues, with the brakes being the most common trouble spot, followed by the air-con, engine and suspension. Most of the affected cars remained driveable, but a third lingered in the workshop for more than a week. Repair bills ranged from £51 to £750.

1. Skoda Octavia (2004-2013)

Used Skoda Octavia vRS

What Car? reliability rating 54.4%

A whopping 53% of Octavia owners told us their car had suffered a fault, and almost a quarter of those related to the engine. Other problem areas included the brakes, fuel system, gearbox, infotainment and suspension. On the bright side, three-quarters of the cars could still be driven and were back on the road in less than a week, but half of the owners paid out £501 to £1500 for repairs. 

Owner's comment "Catastrophe struck after I’d owned my diesel Octavia for less than a week. It needed a new engine and injectors.” 

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