Cheap Reliable Cars: 10 Affordable Cars That Will Last Forever

Smart Buy / Comments

These cars won't frighten your mechanic or accountant.

It's not easy to find modern cars that are both cheap and reliable. Vehicles like the Lexus GX, certain Ford Super Duty pickups, and Toyota Land Cruiser are known to rack up extremely high miles over many years, but none are cheap to buy new. Many of the cars that last longest tend to be larger, too, owing to generally hardier components and engines, but they rule out the value proposition unless you buy a much older version.

To that end, we've assembled ten smaller cars that will likely last many years without breaking the bank. Most of these are thoroughly rational purchases, so don't expect the best styling, finishes, or technologies.

Our list limits entries to two per brand (Toyota and Honda would otherwise dominate), to a maximum price of $30k, and to model years not older than 2020.

Toyota Tundra Toyota CarBuz
Toyota Tundra

1. Toyota Corolla

The poster child for automotive reliability, the 2024 Toyota Corolla, starts at a very reasonable $22,050 or $23,500 for the Hybrid LE. The gas-only model only produces 169 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque and keeps things simple with no turbocharger.

The current generation of the Corolla has been around since 2018, so it's not overloaded with too many alien technologies that can go wrong. Between the 2021 and 2024 model years, there have only been two airbag recalls and none for the mechanicals. And, according to the latest Consumer Reports brand ranking for predicted reliability, only Lexus is ranked above Toyota.

For even less money, you can pick up a previous-gen Corolla on the used market.

2023-2024 Toyota Corolla Sedan Front View Toyota 2023-2024 Toyota Corolla Sedan Emblem Toyota 2023-2024 Toyota Corolla Sedan Dashboard Toyota 2023-2024 Toyota Corolla Sedan Engine Bay Toyota
2023-2024 Toyota Corolla Sedan Front View
2023-2024 Toyota Corolla Sedan Emblem
2023-2024 Toyota Corolla Sedan Dashboard
2023-2024 Toyota Corolla Sedan Engine Bay

2. Toyota RAV4

A starting price of $28,675 for a new RAV4 LE may not be dirt cheap, but you can easily pick up a lightly used example for less than that. Like the Corolla, the base RAV4 has a naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine; it makes 203 hp and 184 lb-ft.

No serious recalls have affected the RAV4 in recent years, and while the interior isn't as luxurious as a Mazda CX-5's, it holds up well after extended use. Consumer Reports pointed out that RAV4 Hybrids are also very reliable, with the RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid being one of the most reliable new cars in the agency's survey.

2019-2024 Toyota RAV4 Three Quarter Front Right Side View Toyota 2019-2024 Toyota RAV4 Three Quarter Rear Left Side View Toyota 2019-2024 Toyota RAV4 Infotainment System Toyota 2019-2024 Toyota RAV4 Engine Toyota
2019-2024 Toyota RAV4 Three Quarter Front Right Side View
2019-2024 Toyota RAV4 Three Quarter Rear Left Side View
2019-2024 Toyota RAV4 Infotainment System
2019-2024 Toyota RAV4 Engine

3. Honda Civic

A "great" quality and reliability rating from J.D. Power, brilliant build quality, and a starting price of $23,950 makes the Honda Civic easy to recommend for value and long-term longevity. Some Honda Civic generations are better than others, but it's a nameplate that's as sensible as any other.

The base model's naturally aspirated 2.0-liter engine makes 158 hp and 138 lb-ft, and the K-series mill is proven. The much more energetic turbocharged engine is also known to be reliable.

As a brand, Consumer Reports rated Honda as one of the top five for reliability in 2023.

2022-2024 Honda Civic Sedan Forward View CarBuzz 2022-2024 Honda Civic Sedan Rearward Vision CarBuzz 2022-2024 Honda Civic Sedan Dashboard CarBuzz 2022-2024 Honda Civic Sedan Engine Bay CarBuzz
2022-2024 Honda Civic Sedan Forward View
2022-2024 Honda Civic Sedan Rearward Vision
2022-2024 Honda Civic Sedan Dashboard
2022-2024 Honda Civic Sedan Engine Bay

4. Honda CR-V

Although its quality and reliability rating is very good but not best-in-class, few would disagree that the CR-V has a high chance of lasting for many years. According to an iSeeCars study, the CR-V is one of the few compact cars that has a high chance of hitting a quarter-million miles.

Honda's solid build quality is legendary, and the CR-V has hardly any recalls to its name over the last four or so years. The all-new CR-V still starts at under $30,000, and its turbocharged engine is a trusted unit. As per Consumer Reports, Honda is one of the most reliable brands.

2023-2024 Honda CR-V Driving Front Angle Honda 2023-2024 Honda CR-V Rear Angle View Honda 2023-2024 Honda CR-V Dashboard Honda
2023-2024 Honda CR-V Driving Front Angle
2023-2024 Honda CR-V Rear Angle View
2023-2024 Honda CR-V Dashboard

5. Kia Forte

Think small sedans are dead? Kia sold just under 124,000 Fortes in the USA last year, proving that its combination of value and dependability hold much appeal. The base, frill-free Forte starts at under $20,000 and uses a 2.0-liter four-pot making 147 hp and 132 lb-ft.

According to J.D. Power, the quality and reliability rating of 87/100 for the Forte places it above the Civic and Corolla - and everything else in the segment. Throw in Kia's ten-year/100,000-mile warranty, and you end up with a car that delivers a trouble-free ownership experience.

The only factor that may prevent your Forte from staying in the family for a long time is its tendency to be stolen.

2022-2024 Kia Forte Side Perspective Driving KIA 2022-2024 Kia Forte View Out Back KIA 2022-2024 Kia Forte Dashboard KIA 2022-2024 Kia Forte Engine KIA
2022-2024 Kia Forte Side Perspective Driving
2022-2024 Kia Forte View Out Back
2022-2024 Kia Forte Dashboard
2022-2024 Kia Forte Engine

6. Kia Soul

There's much to like about the Kia Soul, a cheerful subcompact crossover that starts at only $200 more than the Forte. The base Soul has the same 2.0-liter engine as the Forte and matches that sedan's excellent quality and reliability rating of 87/100.

Although the 2023 Soul does have three recalls to its name, none are expected to affect its ability to pack on many miles. Kia's brilliant warranty is a bonus if anything goes wrong.

2022-2024 Kia Soul Front Angle View KIA 2022-2024 Kia Soul Rear Angle View KIA 2022-2024 Kia Soul Steering Wheel Design KIA
2022-2024 Kia Soul Front Angle View
2022-2024 Kia Soul Rear Angle View
2022-2024 Kia Soul Steering Wheel Design

7. Subaru Crosstrek

There are many reliable Subarus that relish hard lives with adventurous families. But the Crosstrek is one of the most attainable, with its starting price of just over $25,000, a sum that buys you the base model. With only 152 hp from the 2.0-liter Boxer four-cylinder engine, you won't be going anywhere in a hurry, but a larger 2.5L mill with 182 hp is available.

Consumer Reports ranked Subaru just behind Honda in its list of most reliable brands in 2023, and the Crosstrek has an impressive 83/100 quality and reliability rating from J.D. Power. Meanwhile, RepairPal gives the Crosstrek 4.5 out of 5 for reliability, lower than average ownership costs, and a low chance of needing a severe repair.

2024 Subaru Crosstrek Front View Driving Subaru 2024 Subaru Crosstrek Side View Driving Subaru 2024 Subaru Crosstrek Dashboard Subaru 2024 Subaru Crosstrek Engine Bay CarBuzz
2024 Subaru Crosstrek Front View Driving
2024 Subaru Crosstrek Side View Driving
2024 Subaru Crosstrek Dashboard
2024 Subaru Crosstrek Engine Bay

8. Hyundai Accent

Although it was discontinued for the 2022 model year, the subcompact Hyundai Accent is a very reliable car, boasting a J.D. Power quality and reliability rating of 87/100. Being a budget-minded sedan, the simple 1.6-liter naturally aspirated engine is underpowered but robust, and running costs are appreciably low.

We found many sub-$15k examples with low miles; if well maintained, a two- or three-year-old example still has plenty of life left.

2018-2022 Hyundai Accent Sedan Front View Hyundai 2018-2022 Hyundai Accent Sedan Right Side View Hyundai 2018-2022 Hyundai Accent Sedan Infotainment System Hyundai 2018-2022 Hyundai Accent Sedan Engine Hyundai
2018-2022 Hyundai Accent Sedan Front View
2018-2022 Hyundai Accent Sedan Right Side View
2018-2022 Hyundai Accent Sedan Infotainment System
2018-2022 Hyundai Accent Sedan Engine

9. Mazda MX-5 Miata

Sports cars are not typically top of mind for long-term reliability, but the MX-5 - which starts at a respectable $28k - has always bucked this trend.

Over the years, Mazda has resisted adding complex turbocharged engines, dual-clutch transmissions, and unnecessary technologies to the small convertible, which explains why you have to go all the way back to the 2019 model year to find a single recall for the Miata. For that model year, one of the problems was a software issue with the automatic transmission, so we recommend springing for the manual if you want the simplest, most engaging, and most reliable ownership experience.

Mazda ranked seventh out of 30 automakers for reliability by Consumer Reports last year, so the MX-5 is a top choice for sports car thrills without the scary repair bills.

2016-2023 Mazda MX-5 Miata Front View CarBuzz 2016-2023 Mazda MX-5 Miata Rear Angle View CarBuzz 2016-2023 Mazda MX-5 Miata Dashboard CarBuzz 2016-2023 Mazda MX-5 Miata Engine CarBuzz
2016-2023 Mazda MX-5 Miata Front View
2016-2023 Mazda MX-5 Miata Rear Angle View
2016-2023 Mazda MX-5 Miata Dashboard
2016-2023 Mazda MX-5 Miata Engine

10. Nissan Frontier

An all-new Frontier arrived for the 2022 model year, but the new one already has one of the best quality and reliability ratings in its segment. It's the previous-gen D40 Frontier that is a safe bet for long-term ownership and our focus here, however - it was on sale in the USA for over 15 years, more than enough time to iron out any major issues.

It lacked the modern features of many rivals, but this made it easy to fix, and its most recent quality and reliability score was a brilliant 87/100. The V6 engines were also solid, but it was a four-cylinder model known to reach a million miles, with the original clutch good for over 800,000 miles.

Alongside the Tacoma (which would have made this list if we included more than two models from a single brand), the Nissan can withstand years of abuse before throwing in the towel, and used examples in the low $20k range can easily be found.

2012-2021 Nissan Frontier Front Angle View Nissan 2012-2021 Nissan Frontier Rear Angle View Nissan 2012-2021 Nissan Frontier Front Seats Nissan 2012-2021 Nissan Frontier Engine Nissan
2012-2021 Nissan Frontier Front Angle View
2012-2021 Nissan Frontier Rear Angle View
2012-2021 Nissan Frontier Front Seats
2012-2021 Nissan Frontier Engine

Honorable Mentions

If you're willing to spend more or buy an older used car, these cars are known to reach or exceed 250,000 miles over many years with adequate maintenance:

  • Toyota Camry
  • Toyota 4Runner
  • Toyota Tacoma
  • Toyota Tundra
  • Toyota Sequoia
  • Toyota Avalon
  • Toyota Land Cruiser
  • Honda Accord
  • Honda Ridgeline
  • Hyundai Elantra
  • Ford F-250/F-350 Super Duty
  • Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD
  • Ram 2500
  • Subaru Outback
  • Acura MDX
  • Lexus LS
2024 Toyota Camry Front-End Bumper Toyota 2022-2024 Toyota 4Runner Forward View CarBuzz 2023-2024 Honda Accord Driving Front Angle Honda 2023-2024 Ford F-250 Super Duty Driving Back View Ford 2024 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD Front-End View Chevrolet
2024 Toyota Camry Front-End Bumper
2022-2024 Toyota 4Runner Forward View
2023-2024 Honda Accord Driving Front Angle
2023-2024 Ford F-250 Super Duty Driving Back View
2024 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD Front-End View

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2023-2024 Toyota Corolla Sedan Front View 2023-2024 Toyota Corolla Sedan Emblem 2023-2024 Toyota Corolla Sedan Dashboard 2023-2024 Toyota Corolla Sedan Engine Bay 2019-2024 Toyota RAV4 Three Quarter Front Right Side View
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