The most reliable car brands

Cars get more complicated every year, but that needn't mean that modern cars have to be unreliable. We've rounded up the most trusty brands

Chris Rosamond
Jul 27, 2020

All car makers want you to think their products are ultra-reliable, and for the most part modern cars that have been looked after and regularly serviced should be pretty trouble-free. However, some brands produce more reliable cars than others, so if you want a machine that you can be sure will look after you well, check out the brands below - the brands that produce the UK's most reliable cars.

And if you want maximum peace of mind, check out the new cars that come with a seven-year warranty and cars that include a five-year warranty, plus top deals on used cars with five years' warranty remaining and the best used cars with three years' warranty left.

Reliability - or the lack of it - can make the difference between having a car you can trust or one you dread taking out for a drive. The cost of big maintenance bills can also be a cause for significant stress - especially if you've budgeted carefully for PCP finance or Hire Purchase monthly payments.

So reliability definitely needs to be a consideration, however you pay for your next car. The truth is, these days, many of the differences in reliability between rival brands and their various models are relatively marginal. But some manufacturers go above and beyond to make sure their cars can be relied upon year after year, and they’re the ones that are rewarded when the annual reliability, dependability or customer satisfaction surveys are published.

The brands below are the ones that have excelled in a raft of recent reliability surveys. Some of them are brands with a reputation for offering impressive reliability, while others may be a bit of a surprise. Keep reading for all the info.

Most reliable car brands

Toyota

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Volkswagen may have promoted itself with the 'if only everything was as reliable as a Volkswagen' slogan, but in more recent years it’s Japanese manufacturers - such as Toyota and Honda - that have gained the strongest reputation for making sturdy, long-lasting cars.

Out of all the Japanese car makers, it’s Toyota that really sticks out. While the company is rarely associated with making exciting models or frivolous marketing campaigns, you can’t argue with its rigorous approach to product development. It’s an approach that has been rewarded with repeated success in dependability surveys - in fact rival manufacturers must be sick of the sight of Toyota sitting at the top of reliability tables.

Part of the secret of Toyota’s success is the sheer volume of cars it sells, as the world’s biggest manufacturer producing vast quantities of similar products makes it easier to iron out mistakes. But it’s not purely a numbers game, and Toyota’s company philosophy of ‘continuous improvement’ is pursued religiously by engineers in Japan and around the world - with impressive results when it comes to dependability.

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Peugeot

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A few years ago anyone mentioning a French manufacturer such as Peugeot in the context of reliability, would likely not have been uttering kind words. Across the board, they picked up a reputation for somewhat flimsy build quality, but times have changed and nowadays French companies like Renault and the Peugeot Citroen group have been forced to improve their quality by the sheer strength of competition.

The improvement is evident in the fit, finish and ‘feel’ of the cars, especially in the cabin when you jump behind the wheel. Apart from that rather subjective aspect, the French brands have been doing better in a more measurable sense - with Peugeot even managing to top the table in one recent high-profile dependability survey, which is why we’ve picked the company out here. The 3008 SUV is one of the new generation of models leading the way, having topped its segment in the same survey.

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Skoda

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Czech brand Skoda has a proud automotive engineering history that goes all the way back to the dawn of motoring - not that you’d have known in the 1980s when its products were the butt of many a joke.

From the takeover of Skoda by the Volkswagen Group in the early 1990s that has changed rapidly, though, with the brand working relentlessly on its image as a purveyor of practical and reliable family transport since then. And that's not just marketing - there's a quality to the products that the company is creating.

As a result of its efforts - and access to the VW parts bin, which means the company's cars share all their engineering and technology with pricier cars from Seat, Volkswagen and Audi - the Skoda brand has done extremely well in reliability and satisfaction surveys for years. In fact, it’s not unusual to see Skoda topping the lists, and performing ahead of its VW Group stablemates, in spite of their shared technology.

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Nissan

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Nissan is another Japanese brand, that like Toyota, performs well when it comes to reliability. Typically, its cars turn in notably above average performances in reliability tests when scores are being dished out, perhaps helped by the fact that its product lineup generally consists of pretty mainstream cars - aside from the high-tech and expensive GT-R sports coupe, the firm is not generally at the cutting edge of technology.

You could say that’s a good thing, and it certainly seems to pay dividends when it comes to dependability across the range. The Nissan Micra supermini is one example where paying attention to the practical appeal of reliable and affordable A to B transport has led to extremely good reliability scores across a range of sources and surveys.

The same applies to the Nissan Note, but impressive reliability isn’t limited to the brand’s most basic models, as even the larger and more complex Qashqai SUV scores relatively well in comparison to rivals.

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Hyundai

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Korean brand Hyundai may not have the history or heritage of many European rivals, but it certainly pulls no punches when it comes to dependability. And when it comes to warranty cover, too, offering a thorough five-year warranty on all of its new cars - more than most of its rivals.

The company didn't always make such satisfying cars to live with, though. Its early cars from the 1970s and 80s were cheaply made and felt that way - though since then the company has ramped up the quality and desirability of its cars.

By investing heavily in cars that offered value, practicality and reliability since the early 1990s, Hyundai has raced from zero to hero in just a few short decades. Now the company is able to trade off a reputation that has seen it grow to the world’s third biggest car maker after Toyota and VW.

You don’t reach those dizzy heights with a reputation for cars breaking down or falling apart, and Hyundai now regularly tops independent industry surveys and reader polls alike.

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Vauxhall

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Vauxhall is now owned by the Peugeot Citroen Group (PSA), and while it’s always had a solid reputation for cars that keep on going, the use of PSA engineering and platforms for its newest models is likely to lift its reputation higher.

The first models to benefit from the tie-up were the Corsa supermini and Grandland X SUV - both using PSA underpinnings and engines - and the Grandland X sharing its oily bits and tech with the Peugeot 3008 that’s recently been declared most dependable in its sector.

Astra and Corsa models have always tended to score well in surveys of this kind, as much due to their simplicity as anything else, and the PSA-led freshen-up of the range is sure to bring further improvements.

While some drivers may have memories of Zafira people-carrier fires and multiple recalls, we reckon Vauxhall reliability is set to improve over the coming years, particularly thanks to the involvement of Peugeot Citroen group.

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Lexus

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Premium brands rarely manage to do very well in customer satisfaction surveys. They have two main problems - firstly they tend to make expensive cars jam-packed with advanced technology which has a habit of going wrong, and secondly their customers have very high expectations.

Lexus customers have very high expectations too, but theirs are well-founded. Lexus - Toyota's luxury division - is streets ahead of any rival when it comes to reliability, and it has been that way ever since the first Lexus LS 400 arrived to give Mercedes and BMW a fright in 1989.

Toyota reportedly spent more than $1bn developing its new luxury model at the time, and the company definitely wasn’t about to let reliability issues knock its reputation. It’s been that way ever since, with successive Lexus models taking their place at the top of the reliability charts - a record that has left European luxury manufacturers floundering.

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Honda

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Yes, it’s all getting very predictable we know, but Japanese car makers just won’t let the reliability issues get in the way of their reputations. Honda is another case in point, with a product line-up that includes cars such as the Jazz, Insight, Civic and Accord - all of which have been praised in the past in reliability and satisfaction surveys.

It’s a fine example from a still independent car company operating in a world of global partnerships and alliances, and proves that you don’t need to be a huge company to get the basics right. You just need a diligent approach to engineering, which has been a core philosophy since Honda started making cars in the 1960s - although let’s not pretend the company is ‘small fry’, having built well over 100 million cars in the intervening years.

To be fair, though, we could just as easily have added Mazda, Suzuki or even Daihatsu to our list of impressively reliable brands. The bottom line is that Japanese brands such as those all seem to have particularly good reputations, so their cars shouldn't let you down.

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