When buying a used car, one of the most important things you should be researching is how reliable it is.
A car might be incredibly appealing because of its low price. However, spend some time searching for maintenance horror stories and you might find that running costs are extortionate and will cancel out any savings you think you’ve made at the point of sale.
This is particularly important if you’re buying a car through finance and have carefully judged your monthly payments in accordance with your budget – you don’t want to suddenly find all your extra income is being spent on car parts!
We’ve scoured reliability surveys to put together a list of five cars that have a reputation for lasting hundreds of thousands of miles without needing expensive maintenance to help you get a bargain.
Naturally, every car is different and even cars with excellent reputations can go wrong. It’s important to check any paperwork associated with the car to see if there are any hints of a recurring issue that might come back to haunt you in the future.
If you’ve owned a super-reliable, cheap-to-own car that hasn’t made this list, why not let us know in the comments?
1. Honda Accord
As a general rule, cars built by Japanese manufacturers are a good bet for reliability, which is why this list is dominated by them.
In consumer surveys, complaints about Accord maintenance costs are few and far between. This is because not only do the cars last a long time, when things do go wrong parts are commonplace so don’t cost a fortune.
Older, sixth-generation cars can be had for under £1,000. However, a quick perusal of the Motors.co.uk classifieds finds that if you double that budget you can easily get into a seventh-generation car.
These Accords were built between 2002 and 2007 and therefore offer modern reliability despite their low purchase price.
2. Lexus LS
The Lexus LS is a luxury car and therefore you might think it would be expensive to run. However, it is widely regarded to have been massively over-engineered, so the only maintenance you’re likely to face is normal consumables such as brakes and tyres.
To prove its invincibility, an American journalist is currently attempting to see his personal Lexus go past one million miles. He’s had a few major repairs recently, but with the odometer now well past 800,000 it’s highly impressive that it’s running at all.
The best bargains are to be had with cars that are under £5,000. Keep the price fairly low and you’re treated with inexpensive, bulletproof engineering and luxury motoring for the price of a small hatchback.
3. Toyota Yaris
Speaking of small hatchbacks, now would be a good time to talk about the Toyota Yaris. These small city cars almost never go wrong.
Toyota has built quite a reputation for making reliable cars. Add that know-how to a car with a small engine and not much power and it’s easy to see why wear and tear issues are minimal.
Insurance costs are low, fuel economy is excellent, and looking through the classifieds shows there’s a car for every budget. Student’s first car? A few hundred quid will get you a car built in the early 2000s, while £15,000 gets you a nearly-new example.
4. BMW 5 series 1995 – 2003
To be honest, BMW doesn’t have a fantastic record for being reliable, and parts can be surprisingly expensive. However, don’t discount the German brand entirely.
Pick up a 525 variant of the fourth generation – that’s cars built between 1995 and 2003 –with the 2.5-litre straight-six petrol engine and it would take genuine effort on your part to break it. As is the case with so many reliable cars, the engine was over-engineered because BMW also offered it in a higher state of tune.
That meant that it was built to take a lot more power, so with a lower performance output the engine was barely worked. These cars go for less than £1,000 so they’re an absolute bargain.
5. Mazda 6
If there’s one thing that Mazda has a reputation for – rotary engines aside – it’s building engines that last.
The great thing about the Mazda 6 is that it combines the Japanese manufacturer’s excellent engineering know-how with Ford’s ability to build a brilliant chassis. Get yourself one of the earliest examples and the 6 is essentially a Ford platform with Mazda mechanical bits.
The result of that is a car that handles well and won’t break down every five minutes. With plenty of room for families, it’s perfect for those with little ones who want to transport their kids around on a budget without the added stress of wondering if the car will break down.