How to choose a reliable used car – and avoid one that may break down

Reliable used car

Drivers may be tempted to imagine that the most reliable cars are the most expensive models from the poshest brands. But the latest independent surveys of car owners suggest otherwise.

Audi, BMW and Land Rover can be found languishing at the bottom of tables ranking the most and least reliable car makers. And budget brands, including Skoda and Suzuki, are often given the highest ratings.

It means that when buying a used or new car, drivers should do their homework carefully. If they don’t, they run the risk of their car being off the road and unexpected repair bills.

To help inform car buyers, we’ve got some top tips on how to choose a car that won’t let you down.

Choosing a reliable used car: ignore brand image

Reliable used car

The Audi A1 performed poorly in the 2017 Driver Power survey (Picture © Audi)

Don’t be swayed by a car maker’s brand identity – it counts for nothing when it comes to engineering dependable cars.

For example, Audi’s slogan – Vorsprung durch Technik – means ‘Advancement through technology’. It was carefully chosen to create the impression that Audis are at the cutting edge of technology and more rigorously engineered than others. But customer satisfaction surveys suggest the brand’s cars could be more reliable.

Always take a moment to see how a brand performs in independent car reliability surveys. We’ve shared some of the most reputable, below.

Choosing a reliable car: don’t be the first to own a new model

Some drivers like to be the first to own the latest model of car. It’s a risky habit. Ask around the car industry, and the general consensus is that cars are now so complicated that in the first year or so of being on sale, plenty of bugs and glitches are still being ironed out. Do you really want to risk paying to be a guinea pig?

The most reliable car brands – by J.D. Power

reliable used car

Kia is the most dependable car brand in the 2017 JD Power Vehicle Dependability Study (Picture © Kia)

J.D. Power has been measuring consumer satisfaction since 1968. Its surveys tell it like it is and are feared throughout the car industry.

The 2017 J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Study looked at the ownership experiences of more than 12,000 drivers of cars that were between one and three-years old.

The top five dependable brands were in order: Kia, followed by Volvo, Skoda, Suzuki and then Hyundai.

Languishing at the bottom of the table was BMW. Just above, and in order, were Audi, Land Rover, Fiat and budget Romanian brand Dacia.

Britain’s most reliable cars – by Auto Express readers

reliable used car

Toyota Prius is the most reliable used car in the 2017 Driver Power survey (Picture © Toyota)

As part of its 2017 Driver Power survey, Auto Express asked more than 60,000 owners of cars aged between three and six-years old to rank their car for reliability and build quality. The consumer title also asked whether or not they had suffered specific problems with their car.

The results saw the Toyota Prius declared the most reliable car. The Prius is a hybrid car that uses a petrol-electric powertrain. It offers a glimpse into the future, given more car makers will switch to hybrid or pure-electric models due to regulations banning the sale of new petrol or diesel models.

Next came the Toyota RAV4 SUV, followed by the Mercedes E-Class saloon, Lexus RX SUV and the Skoda Superb family car.

How to check the reliability of specific older cars

Another useful resource for used car buyers is the Reliability Index. This is compiled from more than 50,000 warranty policies held by drivers, and details the likelihood of a car going wrong plus the average cost of repairing it.


Buy Green Flag cover at half the price of your AA or RAC renewal quote. Save 50%. (For vehicles 10 years and under on our closest equivalent UK vehicle based cover.)

Leave a Reply