The 6 Best Used Car Brands for Reliability: A Smart Buyer's Guide

The 6 Best Used Car Brands for Reliability: A Smart Buyer's Guide

If you're looking to buy a used vehicle, you probably already know all the stress that can come with this decision because you never know how the car has been treated before you bought it. So, by creating a guide on the best used car brands for reliability, we hope to help you make the best informed decision. The brands we selected for this article all have proven track records, making sure you can rely on your next car when you need it most.

Key Takeaways

  • Toyota is considered to be the go-to vehicle for reliability, while brands like Honda, Mazda, Subaru and Hyundai are also highly ranked for their quality and cheap maintenance costs.
  • Brand recognition isn't the only factor for choosing what's a reliable vehicle. Other factors we took to account when creating this article were safety ratings, repair costs and customer feedback.
  • Choosing a used luxury vehicle can often lead to lower car depreciation rates and lower insurance premiums.
  • Finding a reliable used car brand is also a great financial choice because it will save you money in the long run and bring you more peace of mind.

Top Reliable Car Brands for Value and Performance

If you're looking at buying a used vehicle, it's wise to choose from a list of the most reliable used car brands on the market. Here are some of the most dependable used vehicle brands you can start with:

All of the five brands are known for their high reliability ratings, and offer great value and consistent performance across their models.

Toyota: Consistent Quality and Durability

best used car brands for reliability - toyota


Starting with one of the most reliable used cars, Toyota is a car make with more than 80 years of rich history and awards. It is highly recognized for its reliability, low depreciation in value and longevity. Toyota is also known for its commitment to quality control and excellence in engineering, which is always reflected in its models, many of which are known for their quality and durability. Toyota’s are built using high-quality materials and engineered for endurance, which makes them great choices for used car buyers.

Toyota's great reputation for reliable cars is not a coincidence. The brand has done a great deal of work in making sure its brands are consistently reliable across its vehicle lineup. Some of the factors that contributed to it include:

  • The Toyota Production System, which is known for minimizing and catching defects
  • Strong relationships with suppliers who provide quality components
  • Extensive testing and validation efforts under diverse driving conditions

All of these factors ensure the resilience and longevity of Toyota vehicles which the brand is known for.

Notable models that showcase Toyota’s consistent quality and durability include the Toyota RAV4, and Toyota Corolla. The Toyota 4Runner and Tacoma are also known for great quality and slow depreciation in value.

Honda: Engineering Excellence and Low Maintenance Costs

best used car brands for reliability - honda


Another brand that produces some of the most reliable cars is Honda. This make is known for its excellence in engineering and low maintenance costs. The Japanese manufacturer has a great reputation for producing dependable vehicles that are also some of the best cars when it comes to longevity.

Some of the most well known models, that prove Honda's excellence in engineering are Honda Accord and Honda Civic. But it has a wide line-up of cars that are as reliable.

Take the used Honda CR-V gas edition, for example, which boasts a high reliability rating of 95.4%, according to WhatCar, emphasizing Honda’s reputation for engineering reliable vehicles. The CR-V also has a very low fault rate of just 14%, which shows that Honda models need less frequent repairs than the average SUV. The CR-V is also great for offering better fuel economy, which makes its overall cost-efficiency even better for owners.

Mazda: Stylish Design and Dependable Performance

best used car brands for reliability - mazda


For those seeking to buy a dependable vehicle that is also known for its beautiful design, we recommend searching for a used Mazda. These vehicles are built to last as well as look modern and bold compared to some other brands.

The Mazda CX-5 and Mazda3 are great examples of car longevity and the manufacturer's commitment to modern design. These models often surpass 320,000 - 400,000 kilometres (200,000-250,000 miles) or 13-17 years of service, when properly looked after.

The Mazda CX5 is not only one of the more reliable choices as a used vehicle, it also boasts great performance and design features like all-wheel drive, rigorous quality control, and innovative SKYACTIV technology. The CX-5 has been engineered to avoid using complex car parts, which helps to reduce the car's maintenance costs for the owners.

Additionally, models like the Mazda MX-5, Mazda2, and Mazda3 have the fewest reported issues, which emphasizes Mazda's commitment to building reliable models throughout their line-up.

Subaru: All-Wheel Drive and Rugged Capability

best used car brands for reliability - subaru


Another reliable car brand that is also known for its rugged capability and resilience is Subaru. Subaru has one of the best all-wheel drive systems on the market, therefore it's often loved by outdoor enthusiasts and people who like to go on adventures during their free time.

Two of their most well-known models, that stand out for their all-wheel drive systems and dependability are the Subaru Outback and Subaru Forester. Both of these models are suitable for various terrains and harsh driving conditions.

Both the Outback and Forester are not just great adventure companions, they are also built to last and often appear in the lists of top used vehicles for longevity. Because of their reliability, spacious cargo and the well-built AWD systems, these cars are highly sought after in the used car market, sometimes making them hard to find.

Hyundai: Affordable Quality and Generous Warranty

best used car brands for reliability - hyundai


Another brand we'd like to put on the radar for those looking to buy reliable used cars is Hyundai. Compared to some of the previously mentioned brands, Hyundai offers affordable quality vehicles. This translates to better prices for both new and used cars on the market. Models like the Hyundai Tucson, Santa Fe and Sonata are some of the most sought after vehicles in the brand's line-up.

Compared to other brands, Hyundai also offers one of the best warranties out there. So, depending on the year of the used vehicle you're looking to buy, you might still be able to get coverage in case of any repairs.

In addition to great warranty, Hyundai has also been recognized for it's advanced technology and safety, which is another factor contributing to the reliability of this make. This brand allows you to experience modern amenities and fancy features luxury cars have for a fraction of the price.

That's why Hyundai vehicles are great choices for buyers who want an affordable vehicle without compromising too much on quality.

Lexus: Luxury and Award-Winning Dependability

best used car brands for reliability - lexus


When it comes to top car dependability, Lexus often takes the #1 spot without too much competition. Although we do have to note, that it's a luxury brand, which is why one can't equally compare it to the previously mentioned makes.

As a premium auto manufacturer though, Lexus has been recognized for its commitment to excellence, which is evident in the brand's top ranking in the J.D. Power vehicle dependability study. Climbing to the top position two years in a row, it has not only outperformed other luxury brands like Porsche or BMW, but also every other brand on the general market for least problems per 100 vehicles (PP100).

Lexus' reputation further extends to its line-up of models, which includes some of the best sedans, SUVs and hybrids on the market. The brand is not only well praised by various car magazines, but it is also well-trusted by consumers.

If you decide to buy a used Lexus, you're not just investing in luxury, you are also choosing superb quality and longevity, as well as a vehicle that will keep its value for much longer than many of its competitors.

Some of the models that are worth mentioning are the Lexus RX, LS and the ES Hybrid, but you really can't go wrong with any of their models.

Reliability Factors for Used Cars

When it comes to evaluating vehicle reliability, it's not just about the brand and the model or its reputation. When you're trying to get a clear picture about whether or not a car will serve you well, you need to take into account factors like safety ratings, repair costs, and consumer reports. Resources like J.D. Power, which analyzes historical car trends, can provide great insights into a car brand's reliability.

Understanding a car’s average repair costs can also help you a lot. It will help you figure out how often you may need to do potential future repairs and how much it might cost you per year. Most vehicles are resilient and fixed pretty quickly, but you want to avoid getting a vehicle that has a knack for breaking down hard, costing you a lot of money.

Safety Ratings

Another important factor to analyze when looking for a reliable used vehicle is its safety rating. Resources like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) can help you a great deal.

These safety ratings are based on various crash tests, that affect multiple elements of the vehicle.

Higher safety ratings are a good indication of overall vehicle reliability. This is particularly noticeable in Toyota models, which often earn top safety ratings from the IIHS.

best used car brands for reliability

Repair Costs and History

Repair costs and vehicle's history is another factor that can impact its reliability. For example, car repair costs have recently increased by 20%, according to Market Watch, which can be even more daunting should one choose the wrong car. Such a high spend growth has been influenced by things like:

  • Advances in car tech, which requires more difficult repairs
  • Higher labor costs
  • Supply chain issues and shortages
  • A rise in vehicle accidents due to increasing road traffic

Factors like these led to higher repair prices and lower part availability. So, by finding out the brands that require less repairs, you are also choosing a more reliable vehicle. Resources like RepairPal are also great for finding the brands that have been constantly proving to cost less in repairs.

Some brands like Honda, for example, are well known for having a big selection of parts readily available, as well as being easier to fix due to a widespread mechanic knowledge of the brand.

Customer Reviews and Testimonials

Another crucial factor to consider is customer reviews and complaints. Getting feedback from those who have actually experienced owning certain vehicles can help you make the right decision.

Sources like Consumer Reports, for instance, can provide you a broad perspective on vehicle reliability and the most common complaints. Though when you're looking at such sources, avoid painting yourself a picture on a brand by looking into individual accounts. Instead, try to see a general picture that comes from multiple accounts, to see if you can spot any negative patterns or positives users liked.

Tips for Finding the Most Reliable Used Car for Your Needs

Buying a used car is not just about the right brand; it's also about finding what you like and what suits your needs. Here are some tips that will help you buy a reliable used vehicle.

best used car brands for reliability

Conduct Thorough Research

Begin with conducting a thorough research into used car prices. When you find the vehicles you prefer, decide who you want to buy the vehicle from. Choosing a private seller, an auction or a dealership can be a difficult decision, all of which offer some positives and drawbacks. We invite you to connect with our sales team at Kaizen Auto for great used car deals and advice.

Purchasing from a dealership like Kaizen Auto means you benefit from a professional team's expertise, ensuring that the market value of your chosen vehicle is aligned with its long-term reliability and performance.

Inspect the Vehicle and Obtain Records

Before making the decision, it's very important to thoroughly inspect the vehicle and checking its history records. Make sure to also check the car's interior and exterior condition, rust, any paint scratches or inconsistencies, and electronics. A test drive is another crucial step we recommend taking, not just to identify potential mechanical issues, but to make sure the vehicle is right for you.

Getting a vehicle history report like CARFAX can also provide a lot of important information. It will tell you about the car's service history, its frequency, maintenance details. It can also unveil many issues, such as previous accidents, vehicle registration problems or frequent ownership changes. Such reports are invaluable when you need to negotiate the price.

Consult with Trusted Mechanics or Experts

One of the last tips we want to provide is to consult with a trusted mechanic or an expert dealership technician about a potential vehicle you want to purchase. They can often provide some insights on frequent underlying issues, concerns or potentially higher repair costs for certain brands.

It’s always better to be safe than sorry when investing in a used car, so don't worry about asking questions.

A trusted expert's advice can help you reveal potential car issues you haven't spotted yourself. Request car maintenance reports from the seller or any other needed information. If you don't feel you have enough information to do the right call - don't buy the car. Wait for the right choice to come your way. This is a better option than risking to buy an unreliable vehicle. Also remember, that vehicles bought in dealerships often come with a limited warranty, which can add additional peace of mind for the buyers.


So, there you have it - a thorough guide to finding the most reliable used car for your needs. We covered everything from exploring top reliable car brands like Toyota, Honda, Mazda, Subaru, Hyundai, and Lexus to understanding the factors that influence a used car’s reliability. With the right research, careful inspection, and expert advice, you’re well on your way to buying a used car that offers reliability, value, and performance.

best used car brands for reliability

Frequently Asked Questions

Which used car brand is most reliable?

When it comes to reliability, Lexus and Toyota take the crown with their consistent performance. Honda and Subaru are also well-known for their engineering excellence and ruggedness, making them great choices for used cars.

Which car brand is best for secondhand?

You can't go wrong with a secondhand Lexus or Toyota. Not just because of their reliability ratings, but also for great resale value in the future.

What used car has the least amount of problems?

Honda's are your best bet for a reliable used car that does not require a lot of fixing. This Japanese brand doesn't usually have a lot of problems and is cheaper to fix when it eventually occurs.

How do safety ratings impact a used car's reliability?

Better safety ratings often mean fewer issues and accidents on the road, leading to a more reliable used car - so go for those top-rated vehicles!

Categories: Used vehicles