Toyota and Honda top best used cars rankings
According to aConsumer Reports study published earlier this year, pre-owned automobiles up to three years old are more dependable than they’ve ever been and are getting better all the time. “Even the least reliable carmakers are gaining ground on the perennial reliability leaders,” say CR researchers.
Those perennial reliability leaders being, of course, Honda and Toyota, whose models have a purported 80-percent or better chance of being completely reliable. In virtually every category, a Toyota or Honda product of some kind is right in the thick of things for best reliability, resale, and so on. Subaru, Nissan, and Mazda aren’t far behind here. By way of comparison, Volkswagen products are put at just over 70 percent reliable.
That said, three-year-old used cars fare better in terms of dependability than their predecessors. For example, VW models manufactured between 2002 and 2005 are a mere 58-percent reliable, the Toyota-Honda duo, 82 percent. Interestingly, the manufacturer that has made the “most dramatic improvement” over the past decade is Volvo.
So what are the most trustworthy used cars on the market? Broken down by price, here are Consumer Reports’ “Best of the Best” for sedans and SUVs.
Less than $10,000
Hyundai Sonata four-cylinder and Scion xB wagon. “The Sonata’s standard safety gear makes this car a bargain,” noted CR researchers, while the xB has “near minivan levels of access”.
$10,000 to $15,000
Infiniti G35 and Toyota Highlander. Both of these can be had with all-wheel drive, which was a factor in CR’s decision. Of the G35, they said this: “The ride is well-controlled and the cabin is quiet.”
$15,000 to $20,000
Acura TL and Toyota RAV4. “The TL offers a near-ideal blend of comfort, convenience, and sportiness,” says CR. The RAV4, meanwhile, is “one of the top-rated small SUVs”.
$20,000 to $25,000
Infiniti M35 and Acura MDX. Again, AWD is part of the package with both of these, as is a high level of standard safety equipment. Both of these upscale contenders also rank high in terms of comfort.
For cars that exceed the three-year-old threshold, CR also has a list of five-year-old winners and losers. Planted firmly in the former category are the Toyota Prius, the Acura TSX, the Honda Fit, the Toyota Highlander, and the Honda CR-V. Not faring as well are the Mini Cooper, the GMC Acadia/Saturn Outlook, the BMW X5, the Audi Q7, and the Chrysler Town & Country/Dodge Caravan. Of this latter group, CR explains that they started out with various problems and just got worse over time. In other words, if reliability is high on your list, this group is to be avoided. BMWs, in particular, seem to be riddled with problems, and this company has the lowest reliability rate of them all.
On the same theme, CR has an extensive list of cars to be avoided. It’s far too long to reproduce here, but includes most BMWs made between 2002 and 2011, most Chevy and GMC SUVs and pickups, the Porsche Cayenne and Cayman, and a bunch of VW products.
CR also noted that comparatively new features such as navigation systems, complex communications systems, and touchscreen displays aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Ford’s MyTouch system, in particular, can be problematic.
If you’re going shopping for a used car, CR has some advice for you. To avoid grief…
Check for signs of collision repair. Mismatched body panels, doors that don’t close properly, and mismatched paint could all indicate previous repair work. Dealers are required by law to report any significant vehicle repair work and must reveal the history of the vehicle.
Beware of flood damage. Random electrical problems, discoloured carpeting, and a mouldy or musty smell are giveaways.
Check all fluids. Dirty oil, wet spots under the vehicle, and dirty and “burned”-smelling transmission fluid all point to a car that has, as they say, “been run hard and put up wet”.
Read the smoke signals. If blue smoke is belching out the back, run away. Ditto with copious amounts of white smoke, which could be indicative of major engine problems.
Step on the gas. Behind the wheel, listen for knocks or pings during acceleration and excessive engine revving while taking off. The latter could indicate major drive train issues.
Check the vehicle’s history. Organizations like Carfax, AutoCheck, and CarProof can, for a fee, find out where the car’s been and who owned it before you. Get it inspected. This is the best advice of all. If you belong to the Canadian Automobile Association or a similar organization, get one of their technicians to crawl over the car. They know what to look for, and if the seller objects, move on.