Best and Worst Used Cars

Savvy car buyers know that the best way to get the most vehicle for their money is to buy a used car. With the average new car losing 47 percent of its value in the first three years, buying used is an affordable way to get the safety and comfort features you want at a far better price.

The Best of the best list guides you to the 2001 to 2010 models that scored well in our road tests when new and have been consistently reliable over time. Each has achieved multiple years of above-average used-car verdicts (available to subscribers), indicating that owners have had relatively few problems.

Models built by Toyota and Honda dominate the list once again, and many of the best used vehicles are from Asian manufacturers. But high-quality vehicles are available from domestic and European automakers as well.

The Worst of the worst list shows models that have had multiple years of below-average reliability in our survey. It is dominated by vehicles from domestic and European manufacturers, primarily General Motors, which had 16 of the 29 models listed.

Our reliability data are derived from our Annual Auto Survey, which generated responses from subscribers on 1.3 million vehicles.

Best and worst used cars

The most reliable models and those to avoid

Last reviewed: April 2011
2009 Honda Fit
2009 Honda Fit
 

Savvy car buyers know that the best way to get the most vehicle for their money is to buy a used car. With the average new car losing 47 percent of its value in the first three years, buying used is an affordable way to get the safety and comfort features you want at a far better price.

The Best of the best list guides you to the 2001 to 2010 models that scored well in our road tests when new and have been consistently reliable over time. Each has achieved multiple years of above-average used-car verdicts (available to subscribers), indicating that owners have had relatively few problems.

Models built by Toyota and Honda dominate the list once again, and many of the best used vehicles are from Asian manufacturers. But high-quality vehicles are available from domestic and European automakers as well.

The Worst of the worst list shows models that have had multiple years of below-average reliability in our survey. It is dominated by vehicles from domestic and European manufacturers, primarily General Motors, which had 16 of the 29 models listed.

Our reliability data are derived from our Annual Auto Survey, which generated responses from subscribers on 1.3 million vehicles.

We also list reliable cars by price range (available to subscribers), so that you can easily see what’s available for your budget.

Our Used cars to avoid list (available to subscribers) highlights specific models and the years that they had below-average reliability.

 

Best of the best

Here we highlight the most reliable and well-rounded vehicle in each category. We also list other contenders in order of their overall reliability scores for model years 2001 to 2010. Each model has at least three years of reliability data.

Small cars

Honda Fit

The Fit has been an economical, reliable, and versatile hatchback ever since it went on sale in the U.S. in 2007. It packs a huge amount of usable space into a small package and has standard antilock braking and curtain air bags. But before 2011 electronic stability control (ESC) was available only on models with the optional navigation system.

  • Other good choices:
  • Toyota Echo
  • Honda Civic
  • Scion xB
  • Pontiac Vibe
  • Toyota Corolla
  • Toyota Matrix
  • Mazda3
  • Subaru Impreza (nonturbo)
  • Honda Civic Hybrid
  • Volkswagen Rabbit
  • Suzuki SX4
  • Mazda Protegé
 

Family cars

2004 Toyota Prius

2004 Toyota Prius

Toyota Prius

The Prius has had outstanding reliability and has delivered standout fuel economy. But the redesigned 2010 model has only average reliability. Look for one with optional ESC, starting with 2004 models.

  • Other good choices:
  • Ford Fusion (FWD)
  • Mercury Milan (FWD)
  • Toyota Camry Hybrid
  • Honda Accord
  • Toyota Camry
  • Nissan Altima Hybrid
  • Mazda6 sedan (4-cyl.)
  • Nissan Altima
 

Upscale cars

Lexus ES

The ES has long been a strong contender in this category. It has had outstanding reliability over the past 10 model years and is quiet and comfortable. ESC became standard with the redesigned 2007 model, which included a bigger engine and a six-speed automatic transmission.

  • Other good choices:
  • Lexus IS sedan
  • Toyota Avalon
  • Acura TL
  • Acura TSX
  • Infiniti G35, G37
  • Infiniti I30, I35
  • Volvo S60 (FWD)
  • Lincoln MKZ, Zephyr (FWD)
 

Luxury cars

2005 Acura RL

2005 Acura RL

Acura RL

While the RL isn’t the sportiest car, it has had excellent reliability wrapped in a comfortable and refined package. The 2005 redesign brought standard all-wheel drive but complicated controls. The Infiniti M35 is sportier and the much-larger Lexus LS is more luxurious.

  • Other good choices:
  • Lexus LS
  • Lexus GS (RWD)
  • Infiniti M35
  • Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan (V6, RWD)
 

Sports & sporty cars

2007 Mazda MX-5 Miata

2007 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Mazda MX-5 Miata

The Miata is affordable and fun to drive. Look for models after 2006, when ABS became standard. The Lexus SC is a top-down cruiser with the added comfort of a folding hard-top roof. For a sportier alternative, consider the Acura RSX coupe and the Honda S2000 roadster.

  • Other good choices:
  • Lexus SC Acura RSX
  • Honda S2000
  • Toyota Camry Solara
  • Honda Civic Si
  • Ford Mustang
  • BMW Z3, Z4
  • Toyota Celica
  • Porsche Boxster
  • Scion tC
  • Volvo C70
  • Mercedes-Benz SLK
 

Small SUVs

Honda CR-V

The CR-V is comfortable and drives like a car, with a fuel-efficient four-cylinder engine. In 2005 ESC and curtain air bags were made standard, and the 2007 redesign brought more power and improved fuel efficiency. The Acura RDX is quick and agile but has a stiff ride. The Toyota RAV4 and Mitsubishi Outlander offer third-row seats.

  • Other good choices:
  • Acura RDX
  • Mitsubishi Outlander
  • Toyota RAV4
  • Kia Sportage (’05-09)
  • Hyundai Tucson (V6)
  • Subaru Forester
  • Infiniti EX
  • Nissan Rogue
 

Midsized & large SUVs

Toyota Highlander

The Highlander is quiet and refined, with a comfortable ride. It delivers good fuel economy, especially the Hybrid model. The Land Cruiser combines luxury with serious off-road ability.

  • Other good choices:
  • Toyota Land Cruiser
  • Toyota 4Runner (V6)
  • Honda Pilot
  • Toyota Highlander Hybrid
  • Lexus RX
  • Lexus RX Hybrid
  • Acura MDX
  • Infiniti FX35
  • Toyota Sequoia
  • Mazda CX-9
  • Lexus GX
  • Subaru B9 Tribeca, Tribeca
 

Minivans

2008 Toyota Sienna

2008 Toyota Sienna

Toyota Sienna (FWD)

A Lexus-like ride and comfort are hallmarks of the Sienna. The well-mannered suspension and refined V6 engine, along with very good reliability, are among its strong suits. Look for post-2004 models, which are roomier and more powerful. AWD is optional, but the run-flat tires may wear somewhat quickly. The Honda Odyssey has better handling, but its reliability has not been as good.

 

Pickup trucks

2007 Honda Ridgeline

2007 Honda Ridgeline

Honda Ridgeline

The Ridgeline combines car-like handling with the utility of a pickup truck. It is easy to get in and out of the cabin, the tailgate can open horizontally or drop down, and the composite bed has a lockable, all-weather trunk. The Toyota Tundra offers greater towing and cargo-hauling capacities.

  • Other good choices:
  • Toyota Tundra (V8, 4WD)
  • Toyota Tacoma (V6, 4WD ’05-10)

Worst of the worst

These models, listed alphabetically, have multiple years of reliability that’s much worse than average among 2001 to 2010 models.

Audi A6 (2.7T, 3.0T) GMC Acadia (AWD)
BMW 535i (AWD) GMC Canyon (4WD)
BMW X5 GMC S-15 Sonoma (4WD)
Cadillac SRX (AWD) GMC Safari
Chevrolet Astro Hummer H3
Chevrolet Aveo Jaguar S-Type, XF
Chevrolet Blazer Kia Sedona
Chevrolet Colorado (4WD) Mercedes-Benz R-Class
Chevrolet Impala (V8) Mini Cooper Convertible
Chevrolet S-10 Pickup (4WD) Pontiac G6 Coupe & Convertible
Chevrolet Uplander Saturn Outlook (FWD)
Chrysler PT Cruiser (turbo) Saturn Relay
Chrysler Town & Country Volkswagen New Beetle Convertible
Dodge Caravan Volkswagen Passat (V6, FWD)
Dodge Grand Caravan

One comment

  1. Mark Wilson · November 9, 2011

    I always like Honda and Ford Cars these two are best of best to me and especially Ford fiesta is best and reliable.

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