Japanese & Korean Cars Are Most Reliable

Want a really reliable car? Buy a Japanese or Korean car, preferably a Honda or a Toyota.

According to Warranty Direct, which provides aftermarket warranties for more than 50,000 cars aged 3-8 years, the ten most reliable brands of car sold in the UK are:

(The figure in brackets indicates % chance of a breakdown in 1 year)

  1. Honda (9%)
  2. Toyota (14%)
  3. Suzuki (15%)
  4. Lexus (15%)
  5. Mitsubishi (15%)
  6. Mazda (16%)
  7. Subaru (17%)
  8. Hyundai (20%)
  9. Kia (21%)
  10. Nissan (22%)

It doesn’t take much to notice the common factor that links all of these makes – they are all made by Japanese or Korean companies. There’s not a European or American manufacturer in sight – although Skoda and Smart managed to squeeze into positions 11 and 12, so perhaps they will make the top 10 in the future.

However, the reputation of Japanese cars for reliability is hardly a surprise. Only the most prejudiced of European drivers refuse to admit that Japanese and Korean cars are usually high quality and very reliable – even if they sometimes lack character.

With that in mind, here are the ten least reliable manufacturers – including many of those brands that European car enthusiasts get all excited about driving:

  1. Audi (33%)
  2. Vauxhall (34%)
  3. Mercedes (34%)
  4. MG (37%)
  5. Chrysler (38%)
  6. Jeep (42%)
  7. Saab (43%)
  8. Renault (45%)
  9. Alfa Romeo (46%)
  10. Land Rover (55%)

There are a fair few stereotypes in this list – there is clearly a good reason why some people use the nickname ‘Long Repair’ to describe Land Rovers. Similarly, jokes about the reliability of Renaults and Alfa Romeos are clearly not jokes at all.

On the other hand, it seems that the reputation of Mercedes-Benz and Saab for high quality and reliability is perhaps a thing of the past.

Repair Costs

Reliability is only a part of the story. While we all want a reliable car (except Alfa Romeo and Land Rover owners), the reality is that all cars go wrong sometimes. When this happens, what we all want is for repairs to be as cheap as possible.

Here, the Japanese manufacturers don’t do quite so well.

The top five cheapest car brands to repair, based on average warranty claim costs, are:

  1. Fiat (£241.63)
  2. Renault (£242.22)
  3. Ford (£253.92)
  4. Suzuki (£255.12)
  5. Peugeot (£257.33)

At the other end of the list are Mitsubishi (£427.98), Mercedes-Benz (£428.13), Jeep (£437.81), Mazda (£462.58) and Porsche (£689.99). So Mercedes and Jeep are both amongst the most expensive to repair and amongst the most unreliable makes – hardly a dazzling recommendation.

What Car Should I Buy?

Based on this data, it seems that if you want a really reliable car that is cheap to repair, you should buy a Suzuki. As luck would have it, there are some quite decent Suzuki cars to buy, if you want a smaller car – check out the Suzuki reviews on Honest John’s website.

If you want a larger car that’s reasonably reliable and cheap to repair, I’d suggest a Ford – either a Mondeo or a Focus. Ford’s are third cheapest to repair and came in at number 14 (out of 35) on Warranty Direct’s most reliable list – so they are pretty reliable, too.

Things Change

Finally, it is important to remember that things change. These statistics are for cars aged 3-8 years old, because that’s the market served by Warranty Direct, who provide aftermarket warranties to car owners after the manufacturers’ warranties expire. You can find more information about the reliability and repair costs of all the brands on the UK market on Warranty Direct’ Reliability Index website.

Mercedes has been through a bad patch but by all accounts has dramatically improved the quality of its cars over the last few years. Similarly, Alfa Romeos are reputed to be better than they used to be. When looking for a used car, it is at least as important to make sure it has a good service history and has not obviously been abused as it is to base your decision on listings like these. A car’s reliability will also be improved if it is serviced and maintained correctly, whatever make it is.

All the same, I would bet you my Ford that Far Eastern cars will still be the most reliable on the market in five years’ time!

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