When it comes to buying a pre-owned vehicle, it can certainly pay in the long run to pick one with a strong and proven reliability record. After all, who doesn’t want a car that can keep going and going, suffering little to no maintenance or breakdown problems throughout the year? The most reliable used cars can certainly make buying and owning a vehicle easier and a lot cheaper too.

Tips for buying a used car

Knowing which makes are considered reliable can be a deciding factor in buying the right vehicle for your needs. It also allows you to buy with confidence. However, when purchasing a reliable pre-owned car you still want to follow all the regular checks that you would normally do. It’s best practice to:

  • Check with the seller the interior and exterior of the used car and make note of any bumps, scratches, and/or faults
  • Have a look at the interior quality and check how well it has been cared for, cleaned, and maintained
  • Check for accident damage: for any dents, paint discolouration, and/or panel gaps
  • Be prepared to walk away if the car or the price does not meet your expectations, but be clear with the seller and give them a chance to meet you half way
  • Be prepared to negotiate in advance

Top 10 most reliable used cars

One great aspect about reliable used cars, aside from the obvious point that you could enjoy cheaper servicing and maintenance bills in the long run, is the fact that you can find some fantastic pre-owned vehicles with high mileage that still perform brilliantly and with a long lifespan still under the hood. It gives buyers greater choice and the ability to buy a second run-around motor for everyday use or even a premium auto at a fraction of the typical price. Read on to discover our top 10 most reliable used cars.


Unveiled at the 1998 Paris Motor Show, the Toyota Yaris is a supermini renowned for its incredibly strong reliability record. Plus, out of all the manufacturers, the Japanese company also boasts one of the best reputations for reliability as well. This all adds up to one fantastic vehicle that can easily handle long term mileage, even in older models from 20 years ago.

You can find lots of used Yaris cars that have been well cared for, with prices available from under £1k as well.

The car is easy to drive with a relaxing ride experience, it offers low running costs and is cheap to run across the range, and it still manages to provide a good amount of interior space despite sitting on the smaller side of the supermini scale.

Current models also come equipped with excellent safety equipment, whilst all Yaris cars from 2011 have scored 5 stars out of 5 in Euro NCAP safety tests.

Prior to the overall rating system, from 2000-2009, the Yaris still achieved respectable scores for its safety.

Best features:

  • Very reliable
  • Easy to drive
  • Cheap to run



Another Japanese manufacturer in second place and another supermini too, the Honda Jazz (first released in 2001) is like the Toyota Yaris in many ways. It offers excellent reliability and cheap running costs across the entire range, plus it’s very easy to drive with the added perk of light steering for nimble handling around town.

Similarly, you can find thousands of pre-owned Jazz cars on the used car market, with prices starting from under £1k. More recent models also have a high residual value too, which is great news for sellers. From 2009 onwards, the Honda Jazz has scored a consistent five stars out of five in vigorous Euro NCAP tests as well.

Furthermore, the car has strong build quality and a fantastic amount of practical space, especially for a relatively small vehicle.

Best features:

  • Excellent reliability
  • Very easy to drive
  • High residual value




Introduced in 2011, the CT is the first hatchback model from Lexus. The car is based on the third generation of the Toyota Prius, featuring the same platform and engine technology – that’s right, the Lexus CT is also a self-charging hybrid, one with premium appeal and upmarket styling.

The car has good residual values too, with an average pre-owned sale price of £16,522, although older models are available from just £5,500.

Being in third place, unsurprisingly the Lexus CT has a great reliability record as well. The compact hatchback offers an enjoyable driving experience and a comfortable interior, finished with suitably plush materials and with a good amount of practicality, including a large boot. Only available in the CT200h specification, the car has one engine, which is the hybrid petrol/electric, providing good fuel efficiency and low running costs.

Best features:

  • Good residual value
  • Premium appeal
  • Comfortable interior



Introduced in 1994, the RAV4, short for Recreational Activity Vehicle Four-Wheel Drive, is another reliable car from Japanese manufacturer, Toyota. Despite its name, the RAV4 is also available as a front-wheel drive. There are also three and five-door models on offer, although the three-door body types were dropped from the current line-up.

The crossover SUV, based on the C-segment family hatchback, is typical of the Toyota brand, boasting excellent practicality, the option of hybrid technology, and of course the company’s famed reliability record and strong build quality. Whilst the exterior styling may be a little plain and understated, the car’s interior is spacious and comfy, with plenty of room in all five seats.

Best features:

  • Strong practicality
  • Spacious interior
  • Good build quality

Pieces from £1,000


Britain’s cheapest SUV, the Dacia Duster is a surprising car that offers way more than it needs to at this very affordable starting price, from under £12k brand new. Considering its affordability, it is a well-designed vehicle, enjoying attractive boxy looks and good levels of practicality.

It ticks all the right SUV boxes too: it’s available as a 4×4 with capable off-road abilities and it can tow a tonne and half trailer further increasing its usefulness. It has a spacious cabin and a good selection of engines to choose from as well. Whilst the cabin quality and standard equipment might be something of a no-frills affair, the Duster more than makes up for it in other domains and with its incredible value for money. Another surprising point is just how reliable this SUV is too.

Best features:

  • Incredible value for money
  • Very affordable price
  • Spacious and practical cabin



The Mazda MX-5 is a lightweight, two-seater convertible sports car with a very affordable starting price on both the new and used market. Unveiled way back in 1989, the car quickly established itself as a very fun and popular model, continuing its excellent reputation to the present day.

The MX-5 delivers an all-round sports car package: it has stylish looks, well-balanced handling, and a very engaging driving experience. Current range topping models crunch 0-62mph in 6.5 seconds and a top speed of 137mph. Whilst those figures are somewhat average for a modern sports car, the MX-5 is well-suited to British roads, plus the car’s low centre of gravity and the fact it’s a convertible result in a ride that is always thrilling and enjoyable.

In short, it’s one of the best sports cars and convertibles in its price bracket. In addition, the MX-5 has proven itself a very reliable auto throughout its long years and multiple generations – perfect for those looking to find a fantastic deal on the used car market.

Best features:

  • Very affordable
  • Stylish looks
  • Lots of fun



Effectively a fourth generation Golf under the body, the Seat Leon was developed from a partnership with Volkswagen and designed with a sportier take on the hatchback. Thanks to this focus, older Seat Leon cars still look the part today with sharp styling, whilst the current fourth generation stands out from the crowd with its dashing good looks. But it doesn’t end there. As you’d expect from a car modelled after the VW Golf, the Seat Leon is enjoyable and invigorating to drive, yet despite its underpinnings it still manages to carve out its own identity that captures the excellence of the Spanish brand.

Introduced in 1998, the Seat Leon also has a strong history of reliability, as well as thousands of models available on the used car market proving good value for money.

Best features:

  • Sharp styling
  • Enjoyable to drive
  • Good value for money


8. HYUNDAI i10

A very successful vehicle for Hyundai, the i10 is a relatively spacious and practical city car that has gone from strength to strength, with each generation improving on the last. One aspect that remains the same across the board is the fact the car has a great reliability rating. Furthermore, all models are cheap to run and easy to drive, proving agile, nimble, and simple to manoeuvre, which is ideal for city driving.

The current generation bridges the gap between a city car and a supermini, offering wider dimensions for increased cabin space and practicality.

It also comes well-equipped as standard with some impressive technology and safety kit, including autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and lane-keep assist. Used models are available in the thousands, giving buyers a lot of choice and a wealth of excellent deals.

Best features:

  • Cheap to run
  • Easy to drive
  • Agile and nimble



On sale since 1975 and now in its sixth generation, the Volkswagen Polo is one of the German manufacturer’s longest and best-selling cars, proving a popular choice with motorists throughout its many years.

The supermini has long been the class leader in its segment, providing premium build quality, a practical cabin, and excellent refinement. Typical of German manufacturing, it also has a strong reliability rating and thanks to its long history, there are thousands of pre-owned deals available on the used car market with prices as little as £400. Throw into the mix a stylish exterior design and a fun driving experience and it’s easy to see why the car is so popular.

Best features:

  • Class-leading supermini
  • Strong build and reliability
  • Fun driving experience



Another car from Honda, highlighting the excellence of Japanese manufacturing, the Honda Civic has a solid reputation for reliability. First released in 1972, initially as a small compact car before developing into a hatchback, the Civic is one of the longest running vehicles in automotive history. It spans an impressive ten generations and represents excellent value for money, with the ninth gen enjoying particularly strong residual values.

Some of the older, classic models are now becoming sought-after too, showcasing the brilliance of the car. You can find thousands of used Civics from the year 2000 onwards from as little as £500, which is a bargain for a vehicle that offers low running costs, quirky, yet loveable styling, punchy performance, and a great driving experience.

Best features:

  • Solid reliability rating
  • Strong residual values
  • Excellent value for money


Looking for a reliable used car that will get you from A – Z? Find plenty of cars to choose from at

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Back to articles March 19, 2021

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