When you’re buying a new car, the big thing you want is reliability. Yes, all those fancy doo-dads, gadgets, and features are nice, but if your machine is breaking down all the time, you don’t actually ever get to use any of that. Thankfully, you don’t have to go out and test every single vehicle available right now to determine which is the most reliable: Consumer Reports has already done that for you.
CR is pretty much constantly analyzing vehicle reliability, and it has a pretty neat way of gaining that info. You can read more about it on CR’s website, but this is the big thing you need to know:
For reliability, we ask members to note any problems with their vehicles that occurred in the past 12 months. They are asked to identify problems that they considered serious (because of cost, failure, safety, or downtime). We ask them to include problems covered by warranty, but not the ones resulting from accident damage or due solely to recall. Respondents check off problems from a list of trouble areas, ranging from the engine and transmission to climate system, brakes, electrical system, and power accessories. They also tell us in writing (verbatim) specifically what their experiences were to help us understand precisely what problems they are having.
In all, CR has collected responses on 329,000 different vehicles in the last 12 months, with about 200-300 samples for each model year. The survey doesn’t just ask for, say, engine or transmission reliability. It also asks about squeaks, leaks, and paint defects that impact the ownership experience—albeit with the major problems given more weight in CR’s analysis.
With all that out of the way, let’s dive into the 10 most reliable cars, according to CR. These are measured on a scale of 100, with 100 being the most reliable, and I’ve listed them from most to least reliable:
- Toyota Prius
- Lexus NX
- Buick Encore
- Lexus GX
- Honda HR-V
- Toyota Prius Prime
- Hyundai Kona
- Audi A5
- Audi A4
- Mazda CX-5
The cheapest of the cars listed is the Hyundai Kona, with the 2021 model starting at $20,400. The most expensive starting price for a car in the list is that of Lexus GX, which starts at $53,100 for the base model.
Now for the least reliable cars. You can read more about the ranking here on CR, but I’ve listed them, again, from most to least reliable:
- Volvo XC60
- Ford EcoSport
- Jeep Wrangler
- Tesla Model S
- Chevrolet Colorado
- Volvo XC90
- Jeep Compass
- Volkswagen Atlas
- Subaru Ascent
- Chevrolet Silverado
There is a much bigger spread of pricing in this list, with the cheapest being the $19,995 Ford EcoSport base model and the most expensive being the $69,420 base Tesla Model S.
If you want an average, the 10 most reliable cars ranked by CR average out to being $31,414 to $41,837. The 10 least reliable cars average out to a price range of $34,998 to $52,905. A more expensive car doesn’t necessarily mean a more reliable one.
And that’s not the only research CR collected. Out of all 17 areas of problems the site evaluated, CR determined which model was most likely to have problems in that specific area. So, for example, the 2018 Ford Expedition is most likely to have a major engine problem, while the 2019 Audi Q8 is most likely to have problems with a drive system. You can explore those results here.
CR also determined the most reliable brands overall, while also detailing how each automaker compares to its competition from its respective region. The most reliable automaker overall this year is Mazda, which replaces Lexus at the top of the charts due to the Lexus LS’s consistent problems. Buick takes the cake for North America, while Porsche leads in Europe.
The information here is honestly pretty fascinating. This is the time of year when people start looking at buying new cars, and there are plenty of deals already going on. Just make sure you’ve done your research before you buy.