The most reliable old cars and the second-hand models to avoid

New data has revealed the most reliable older cars as well as identifying the second-hand picks that could cause buyers the biggest heartache.

Reliability studies often focus on models up to three or five years old but the latest research goes beyond that, looking at models between five and 20 years old to see how well they survive in the no-man’s land between new and classic status when manufacturers’ warranties have expired.

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Japanese brands, particularly electric and hybrid models, dominate the top of the list while European luxury SUVs languished at the bottom. Six of the 10 best performing marques were Japanese while two more were South Korean.

The Toyota Yaris hybrid (2011-20), Toyota Rav4 (2013-19) and Honda CR-V (2012-18) proved to be the best of the bunch, all being reported as faultless by owners.

Honda CR-V owners didn't report any faults over the last year (Photo: Honda)Honda CR-V owners didn't report any faults over the last year (Photo: Honda)
Honda CR-V owners didn't report any faults over the last year (Photo: Honda)

Overall, Toyota’s sister brand Lexus topped the table with a 96 per cent reliability rating, ahead of Kia (92.7 per cent), Toyota (92.2 per cent) Suzuki (91.9 per cent) and Honda (91.6 per cent).

EVs and hybrids were the most reliable class, with a 96 per cent rating, led by the Yaris, Lexus CT and Lexus IS. Behind them were large SUVs, topped by the Honda CR-V, and two generations of Rav4.

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At the opposite end of the spectrum Land Rover failed to live up to its reputation for rugged machinery, with an overall reliability rating of 66.3 per cent. Its Discovery Sport (2014-present) was also among the worst-performing individual models, with a rating of just (51.4 per cent).

However the Porsche Macan proved to be the least reliable older car of all, rated at just 40.4 per cent. That put it bottom of the least reliable class - the sports and luxury SUVs - just ahead of the 2007-13 BMW X5 (42.6 per cent) and 2004-17 Land Rover Discovery (45.7 per cent). Overall the class scored a relatively low 63.1 per cent.

The Porsche Macan was bottom of the WhatCar? rankings (Photo: Porsche)The Porsche Macan was bottom of the WhatCar? rankings (Photo: Porsche)
The Porsche Macan was bottom of the WhatCar? rankings (Photo: Porsche)

Behind it, the MPV class was the second-worst segment, with 75.3 per cent reliability. While the 2011-onward Ford C-Max scored a respectable 91.3 per cent, the segment was dragged down by models includin the 2008-15 Vauxhall Zafira (60.6 per cent), 2014-onwards Citroen Grand C4 Picasso (61.7 per cent) and 2003-15 Volkswagen Touran (63.3 per cent)

The figures were obtained by WhatCar?, which surveyed almost 13,000 drivers. They were asked if their car had experienced any problems in the last 12 months, how long the car had been off the road and how much the repair had cost. An individual reliability rating for each model was calculated from this data.

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Despite the age of the cars featured, 17 per cent of all faults were fixed for free, while nearly a fifth were fixed for less than £200. For five per cent of owners, repair costs exceeded £1,500. The most common issues were related to the suspension, non-engine electronics, brakes and battery.

Claire Evans, consumer editor at What Car?, said: “Our research highlights the importance of doing your homework when buying a used car. While some models make excellent used buys, others can set new owners back hundreds or even thousands of pounds in repairs.

“With one-in-five older used cars breaking down last year, buyers can avoid some nasty pitfalls simply by spending a bit of time reviewing and researching their next used buy.”

WhatCar? reliability index cars aged 5-20

  1. Lexus - 96.0% reliability rating
  2. Kia - 92.7%
  3. Toyota - 92.2%
  4. Suzuki - 91.9%
  5. Honda - 91.6%
  6. Mitsubishi - 91.2%
  7. Seat - 90.7%
  8. Hyundai - 89.2%
  9. Subaru - 87.8%
  10. Volvo - 84.7%
  11. Mazda - 84.6%
  12. Skoda - 83.5%
  13. Mercedes-Benz - 83.0%
  14. Audi - 82.9%
  15. Ford - 82.8%
  16. BMW - 82.5%
  17. Citroën - 81.3%
  18. Porsche - 78.4%
  19. Peugeot - 78.2%
  20. Mini - 78.0%
  21. Volkswagen - 77.5%
  22. Jaguar - 77.2%
  23. Vauxhall - 75.8%
  24. Fiat - 74.6%
  25. Renault - 72.6%
  26. Nissan - 70.4%
  27. Land Rover - 66.3%