Your car breaks down, you pull over and think, “I knew I should have bought ____ instead.” Hopefully, this scenario does not find you; however, odds are at least one reader of this article will experience this unfortunate event. There is much to consider when purchasing a car. Used cars are a great option for buying like-new vehicles for a fraction of a new car price.
There are top brands that, decade after decade, produce high-quality, reliable cars, and there are cars that only appeal to the true believers in their particular car brand niche. Cars are significantly more reliable from 2010 on, this is across the board for all car companies, but there are some top brands and models that stand above the rest of the competition.
Top Choice: Toyota/ Lexus/ Scion
You might be aware that Toyota, even on a “bad” year, is usually ranked at the very top for reliability. This excellence carries over to Lexus, Toyota’s luxury brand. Lexus, like Toyota, is routinely noted for reliability, but this should not be surprising. What is surprising about Toyota is that far from focusing solely on mundane practical sedans and SUVs, they are committed to motorsports having won the 24 hours of LeManns in 2018 and 2019 with their in-house Gazoo racing team.
This enthusiasm for motorsports trickles down to the 86, Supra, and TRD (Toyota Racing Division trucks and SUVs built for off-roading.) This commitment to excellence in all aspects of the auto industry is why Toyota is the biggest and most successful car company and why I have it ranked as my number one overall auto-brand.
*Toyota has two racing/performance divisions.
Toyota’s Top Models
Since its birth in the Gas-crisis of the 1970s, Toyota has sold more than 44 million Corollas making it the all-time best-selling vehicle in the world. This is the definitive economy car, fuel-efficient, reliable, low-cost maintenance, and with plenty of room for passengers and cargo.
The Lexus ES is based on the full-size Toyota Camry, taking its reliable platform and upgrading it with a refined interior and sleek exterior body panels. Luxury cars tend to be more expensive to repair because of the brand; fortunately for a Lexus owner, that should be a rare occasion.
Scion FRS/ Toyota 86
Also known as the BRZ under the Subaru badge, this car was designed for enthusiasts. Rear-wheel drive, a standard six-speed manual transmission connected to a reliable and efficient engine means you don’t have to sacrifice practicality for some fun.
Whenever the UN dispatches to remote corners of the world for humanitarian aid, they use Toyota trucks to get the mission accomplished. If you need a long-lasting work truck, this would be an ideal choice.
Second Choice: Honda/Acura
Did you know that Honda is the world’s largest producer of motorcycles since 1959? Why does this matter? Motorcycles need lightweight, gas-sipping, high-revving engines, and to be simple and efficient enough to require minimal maintenance and be easy to work on when repairs are necessary.
This ethos is infused into Honda throughout the company producing quality cars that enthusiasts can really get excited about. Maybe you’re not a car enthusiast; you just need a reliable, fuel-efficient vehicle to get to work and run errands. Whatever your level of enthusiasm is, you’re sure to find a Honda that you’ll be able to live with happily.
Honda and Acura’s Top Models
The main rival to the Toyota Corolla, the Honda Civic is amongst the most reliable cars ever made. Honda in general, and the Civic, in particular, is seen as a sportier alternative to the Toyota Corolla, but this is, frankly, hyperbolic nonsense. The Civic Si with v-tec, is a sporty, high-revving performer that is reliable and efficient as well; this could be a good option for those that want to have a fun daily driver.
Based on the Honda Accord, the now-defunct Acura TSX is a luxury bargain. The sophisticated leather interior cabin will allow you to relax in style as you cruise along. Honda’s efficiency and strong reliability will keep you calm with the thought of seeing a mechanic out of your mind.
Third Choice: Chevrolet
Chevrolet is America’s most reliable car company. They are more reliable, efficient, and cater to more car enthusiasts than almost any other car brand. There are so many beautiful and unique cars that have had their old unreliable engines swapped out and replaced with a Chevy crate motor: just start typing “LS swap” on YouTube or Google and you find an endless list of cars and drivers that have found their dream engine.
Chevy makes the best V8s in the world. Other car companies might make better four or six-cylinder engines, but the V8 selection from Chevy is top-notch: plenty of power, easy to work on, incredibly reliable, and superb tech like cylinder deactivation means these are also the most fuel-efficient V8s in the world. Chevy makes good cars all around, but they are best at V8 trucks, V8 sports cars, and V8 crate motors that you can buy online and have installed into whatever you want like a Mazda Miata, Jaguar XJ6, BMW E30, Ford Mustang, etc, etc, etc…
Chevy’s Top Models
Chevy Corvettes have been the benchmark for American performance cars since its debut in the 1950s. Lightweight fiberglass body panels and a V-8 means the Corvette is built for speed and is capable of going head-to-head with far more expensive European exotics.
The Chevy Suburban has been around since the 1930s and has found action all across the world from seeing action in WWII to protecting V.I.P.s in convoys, or taking big families on road trips. It might not be the most fuel-efficient vehicle, but at least you can count on a Suburban to get you through anything (as long as you have gas).
Your Used Car
In my opinion, the cars in my top three list are the best brands to buy from. Some brands are tried and true, decade after decade, while others have a bad reputation but still manage to capture the imagination and excitement of potential buyers. The intent of the article is meant to give you an impression based on a consensus from reviews, long term testing, and personal experience as a driver for a rental car company.
Even “less” reliable cars can buck the trend and prove naysayers wrong, but it’s rare and usually requires the owner to be vigilantly in-tune with their vehicle. With all used cars, you should do yourself a favor by getting a Carfax report, having an independent mechanic inspect it, and doing diligent research such as looking up potential recalls for the year and model you are interested in. Time is money, so take your time to find the exact vehicle you want; you will save money in the long run.