Buying a vehicle is a major investment — often the second biggest expense in most people’s lives after you account for what you pay for housing.
If you’re going to pay all that money for wheels, you want to be sure you’re getting a ride with a proven track record of vehicle reliability.
That’s where Consumer Reports comes in with its annual vehicle reliability survey.
Here’s who does a great job at vehicle reliability
Each year, the magazine collects real-world road data on nearly half a million vehicles — 470,000 to be exact — and examines 17 common problem areas to assess their reliability:
- Engine major
- Engine minor
- Engine cooling
- Transmission major
- Transmission minor
- Drive system
- Fuel system/emissions
- Electrical system
- Climate system
- Body hardware
- Power equipment and accessories
- In-car electronics
Here are the nameplates that have proven the most reliable, according to Consumer Reports:
Toyota Prius C
- Price as tested: $20,850
- Overall miles per gallon (MPG) both city and highway: 43
“Its 37 mpg in city driving makes the Prius C one of the most frugal vehicles we’ve tested, and its 43 mpg overall is just 1 mpg less than the previous-generation Prius hatchback,” the magazine says.
- Price as tested: $55,590
- Mpg: 20
“Handling is responsive, yet the Continental is also a very comfortable and relaxed cruiser,” Consumer Reports writes.
Toyota Prius Prime
- Price as tested: $29,889
- Mpg: 50
“With styling that’s slightly different from that of the regular Prius, the Prime can hold only four passengers, and it loses the rear wiper,” the magazine says.
- Price as tested: $27,323
- Mpg: 52
“The sensible Prius has always been about efficiency and low running costs,” the magazine says.
- Price as tested: $26,590
- Mpg: 28
“The ride is pliant and controlled, effectively absorbing bumps,” Consumer Reports says.
For further research
As respected as Consumer Reports is, it’s just one of the authorities out there on vehicle reliability.
Another seasoned voice that can help guide you when checking vehicle reliability is J.D. Power. The marketing research company publishes two unique flavors of vehicle reliability reporting on a yearly basis.
The J.D. Power U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study typically comes out every February. It examines how three-year-old cars perform and the number of reported problems, making it a good metric of longer-term reliability.
Meanwhile, the J.D. Power U.S. Initial Quality Study comes measures the problems new vehicle owners experience during the first 90 days of ownership.
That particular study comes out each June.
With such a short-term focus, the Initial Quality Study is a little less valuable if you plan to keep your car for the long haul.