Most Reliable Cars: 10 Vehicles That Will Last A Lifetime

Tops / 43 Comments

These cars will outlast you.

A list of the most reliable cars will always be controversial because predicted reliability scores can be based on surveys of real people and their experiences but also of hardcore enthusiasts who will defend their chosen brand to the death.

A well-known brand like Consumer Reports collects sufficient data via a survey to give car buyers an average score. That's how we get modern reliability ratings that look at several of the most important factors, such as safety systems, fuel economy, performance, in-car electronics, and maintenance costs.

There are many quality studies, but there are strange anomalies. Did you know, for example, that a 2019 survey found Alfa Romeo to be the most trusted luxury brand? Surely, that's a title better suited to Lexus. And, sure enough, Lexus scored top marks in Consumer Reports' most reliable survey in 2021. In 2023, J.D. Power gave the nod to the Lexus LX. And yet, there will be those who say Lexus products are always poor, so don't trust the first rating you come across.

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These awards for the top 10 most reliable cars are based entirely on a predicted reliability score. Consumer Reports makes it clear that it surveys a new vehicle over three years but that a longer period is preferable. Even though the most essential elements are considered, it's not guaranteed that any given vehicle will be one of the longest-lasting cars.

The only metric that matters is the one reliability ratings can't measure: time. The best reliable cars earn that reputation over time. While a car like a Land Rover Range Rover Sport might be one of the best SUVs, history has taught us that you don't want to be stuck with it when the warranty runs out.

That's why we're going to split this list in half, first focusing on the top 10 reliable cars based entirely on the latest Consumer Reports predicted reliability score.

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Winner With The Best Predicted Reliability Score

The last Consumer Reports survey was published in November 2022. According to the report, the most reliable car brands are Toyota, Lexus, BMW, Mazda, Honda, Audi, Subaru, Acura, and Kia.

The most reliable vehicles are the Toyota Corolla Hybrid, Lexus GX (not the all-new model), Mini Cooper, Toyota Prius, Mazda MX-5 Miata, Lincoln Corsair, Toyota Corolla, Subaru Crosstrek, BMW 3 Series, and the Toyota Prius Prime. No electric vehicles were on the list, and only two hybrid cars made the cut. All but the Miata and Prius Prime were 2023 model years. This suggests Toyota leads the pack in reliability as far as the hybrid powertrain is concerned.

Asian automakers also score high, but that's to be expected. That's the reputation built over time we were referring to earlier.


And while we're taking the time to look at the most reliable car models, we might as well look at the worst. The models most likely to cause car owners emotional trauma are the Jeep Wrangler, Mercedes-Benz GLE, Jeep Gladiator, Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra 1500, Chevrolet Bolt, Ford Explorer, Nissan Sentra, Lincoln Aviator, and the Hyundai Kona Electric.

We're surprised there aren't more Fords on this list, considering it had more recalls in 2022 than any other brand. It's on track to do the same again in 2023.

But that's the problem. At the earliest, these record-breaking recalls will only show up on reliability reports in two years.


The 10 Most Reliable Cars Of All Time

When you write a top 10 list of good, reliable cars, it's only too easy to fill it up with a collection of Toyotas and Hondas. These two brands are most commonly associated with building long-lasting SUVs, pickup trucks, and plug-ins. A list of only Hondas and Toyotas would be boring, but we'll mention other notable models under each car.

The list also covers a broad spectrum of segments. The only segment we missed was the small SUV.

We need to understand longevity to better understand what makes a car reliable. Earlier cars were less complex, with very little to go wrong. An ECU can't turn your car into a brick or go into limp mode if it doesn't have one.

The average lifespan of a car these days is 200,000 miles or 12 years. If you look at features like Mercedes-Benz's Hyperscreen, it's pretty clear that cars are designed to become obsolete. While that screen looks brilliant today, you have to wonder what it will look like 12 years from now. The iPhone 4S came out 12 years ago. We're now on iPhone 15 and might be on iPhone 18 by the time you finish reading this. Technology is glorious, but it doesn't age well.

That's why most of the cars on this list are on the older side. Nothing can go wrong if there's nothing to go wrong.


1. Lexus LS 400

We'll launch right into a car that contradicts what we wrote a paragraph earlier. The LS 400 is at the top of this list because it's completely over-engineered. Toyota knew it stood no chance against established luxury brands, so it needed to create a flagship rival. So it started developing "Flagship" in the early '80s, starting with a blank check.

The Lexus LS had nothing in common with any existing car, and Toyota set itself several near-impossible targets. It was like the '80s version of Piech and the Bugatti Veyron.

The "Flagship" team comprised 60 designers and 1,400 engineers, divided into 24 units. An additional 2,500 workers supported them.

You could write a book about this car, but to demonstrate how insane the attention to detail was, the teams went through 24 kinds of wood and multiple types of leather. These were tested over two years before the production spec was chosen. One man was employed to ensure the damping on the buttons was perfect. And you can tell because if you get into a well-looked-after example in 2023, it still looks and feels premium.

It was built to such a high standard that it's nearly unkillable, which brings us to our next car.

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2. Toyota Hilux

Top Gear famously proved that it's impossible to kill a Hilux. After trying for an entire season, it gave up and put the car on a plinth. All Hiluxes are reliable, but the most robust of the lot is the sixth generation, built between 1997 and 2004. There is still some debate about which engine was the most reliable.

You could have a 3.0-liter naturally aspirated diesel or the furious 3.0-liter KZ-TE with added turbocharging. The latter produced 123 horsepower and 218 lb-ft of torque at 2,000 rpm. The maximum engine speed was 4,400 rpm. This engine is less stressed than a beach bum on a weed binge.

Throw in a robust frame built to sustain consistent abuse for decades, and you have a winning recipe. And if it does require maintenance, you're guaranteed to find 99.9% of a sixth-gen Hilux's parts bin at a makeshift milk and bread shop in Zambia.

The Hilux is arguably the most robust of Toyota's trucks, but the Tacoma, Tundra, Sequoia, and 4Runner deserve a shout-out. The latter traditionally had much in common with the Hilux, so the same basic arguments apply.

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3. Toyota Camry

If you're looking for something a bit more modern than the W124 Benz we'll get to eventually; the Camry is just the thing. The same is true for the Lexus ES based on the Camry.

The reason the Camry is one of the most reliable vehicles is simplicity. You get a transverse-mounted four- or six-cylinder engine, a simple front-wheel-drive setup (all-wheel-drive eventually became an option), a massive cabin with seating for five in the middle, and a big trunk at the rear.

Even modern cars stick to this same recipe, and adding hybrid engines has not damaged its reputation. Owners simply got better fuel economy.

The same is true of the Corolla, which is an equally simple and reliable car.

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4. Mercedes-Benz E-Class (W124)

The W124 predates the E-Class model designation, and it dates back to an era when the German brand completely over-engineered its cars. It was built between 1984 and 1995, and it's basically bulletproof. The diesel-powered engines are particularly robust, but there wasn't a bad apple in the group. These things are known for covering 500,000 miles with ease, requiring only minimal maintenance.

Naturally, we all want the famous 500 E (later E 500), developed in cooperation with Porsche. But if you want a cheap runabout that won't cost an arm and a leg made by Mercedes when it still understood what luxury meant, the W124 is a win.

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5. Honda Civic

The Toyota Corolla predates the Honda Civic by a few years, but the two are remarkably similar. It's not just the simplicity of these two cars but also the thought that went into the ownership experience.

First and foremost, the Civic was designed to be cheap and durable, which is a trait that's in short supply these days. Then Honda perfected the art of building reliable cars on a mass scale, which is something some legacy manufacturers still struggle with.

Finally, Honda ensured a steady supply of affordable parts. This meant the Civic was cheap to maintain, so owners didn't skip maintenance.

Best of all, the same is true of all Civic models, including the Type R. They're all built to the highest standard, making them perfect for first-time shoppers or people on a tight budget.

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6. Subaru Legacy

The Subaru Legacy has to be one of the most underrated cars in existence. Its bigger brother gets all the attention, but the Legacy is a decent luxury sedan with loads of space and an inherent amount of fun built into the chassis.

We're particularly fond of late-model fourth-generation cars. It was available with a 3.0-liter flat-six producing 245 hp and 215 lb-ft of torque. Prodrive (Prodrive and Subaru have done some special stuff together) also fettled with Subaru's automatic gearboxes to make them a bit more responsive, and, naturally, all-wheel-drive is standard.

There isn't a particularly bad Legacy year, but later models and their lackluster CVT transmission spoiled the fun a bit. Subaru also gave up on giving the Legacy its unique design; these days, it's just an anonymous blob.

The fourth-gen and its aggressive design was peak Legacy.

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7. Chevrolet Suburban

The Chevy Suburban might seem like an odd car to include on this list, but there's a cool GM hack. Whenever a new Suburban is introduced, it's terrible. It scores average reliability ratings at best. The number of complaints during its first year in production is usually in the hundreds, and it eventually drops down.

The 2006 Suburban is a prime example. Chevrolet was on the verge of introducing the tenth generation in 2007. That year, the car only received four complaints from owners.

As soon as the tenth-gen was introduced, complaints spiked to 353.

If, for some reason, you don't want a 4Runner or Sequoia, get a Suburban. But make sure it's the final model year of a specific generation.

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8. Volkswagen Beetle

Yes, the Beetle is Adolf Hitler's brainchild, but a mild-mannered British Major called Ivan Hirst made it famous. Wolfsburg was a major production hub for Germany, so naturally, the Allies bombed it to shreds. After winning the war, the Allies did an inspection to see what could be salvaged. The general consensus was that the Beetle factory was to be blown up because the Germans used it to build military vehicles. But Hirst spotted an early Beetle in the corner and saw great potential. So, he convinced the powers that be to allow him to restart production.

The Beetle still holds the record for the longest-running and most-manufactured car. Production only stopped in 2019 in Brazil, at which point more than 23 million Beetles were sold.

Not only was the Beetle reclaimed as a widely recognized symbol of peace, but it's also extremely robust. It has a simple air-cooled flat-four engine, and you'll never struggle to find parts. It's no small wonder it remains the first car of choice for many young people.

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9. Citroen 2CV

Your faithful correspondent is a big fan of the Mini and wanted to give this spot to it. But it has one fatal flaw: rust.

In many ways, Alec Issigonis' creation is better than Pierre Boulanger's deux chevaux vapeur, but the Frenchman had some great forward-thinking ideas. Like the Beetle and the Mini, it remained in production for decades, even when most models went modern with newfangled concepts like fuel injection.

Boulanger didn't care about making money off customers on the service side. He equipped the 2CV with an air-cooled two-cylinder and a four-speed manual so servicing could be done at home. It's such a simple engine that you can take it apart and put it back together in a day, and it's no harder to figure out than a Lego set.

The 2CV also had rust problems, but Boulanger got around this by building the car on a separate steel tube chassis, which was less prone to rust. And the 2CV looks the way it does because those panels were stupidly easy and cheap to stamp out. Instead of trying to fix a rust spot, you simply replaced the panel.

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10. Mazda Miata

We wanted to include at least one sports car on this list. The S2K is a bit more aggressive, but since Honda doesn't appear to be interested in building a new ICE one, prices have skyrocketed.

That leaves us with the Miata, which has its issues. But overall, it has that same Japanese build quality and a reputation for being robust, especially from the NC generation onward.

Still, the first-gen models are sturdy. Two members of the CarBuzz team have NA ownership experience. One example is mint, the other less so. At 200k miles, it needed a new radiator and exhaust system. And that's pretty much it.

Fixing a Miata is also cheap, and parts are readily available. It's a great, affordable sports car, especially if you want to do all the servicing yourself to learn more about engines.

Treat it well, and it will last decades.

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2016-2023 Mazda MX-5 Miata Front Angle View
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