When you depend on your car for work, to get the kids to school or to shop, reliability is vital.
To reduce the risk of ending up with a car that spends more time off the road than on it, we've put together a list (in no particular order) of twenty vehicles that have either won awards for their reliability or are spoken of highly by drivers. This list includes some of Australia's most reliable car brands that you can rely on when buying used.
1. Mazda CX-5
Mazda consistently scores highly in reliability surveys, so it's little surprise that the iconic CX-5 is widely rated as a car that just keeps on going. A spacious, stylish SUV, the CX-5 is well-equipped and relatively economical to run. Parts are easy to source, although they can be pricey if you use the manufacturer's recommended options.
No reliability selection would be complete without a Holden. The Equinox is a medium-sized SUV that was specifically designed and developed for use in our challenging climate and road conditions.
The result is a vehicle that will go almost anywhere and offers an exceptional level of tech, comfort and space.
3. Honda Civic
There is a reason the Civic has been around since 1972 - it lasts! A compact car, it's fuel-efficient, easy to drive and has an excellent reputation for reliability.
The Civic also has a good safety record. A great choice for urban driving, due to its relatively compact size, the Civic is widely perceived as one of the most dependable cars on the market.
4. Hyundai i30
Hyundai has come a long way in terms of its reliability in recent years. A recent What Car survey (2020) places the Hyundai in the tenth position for reliability, at 95.7%. The i30 is a good, all-around family car.
Whilst not particularly flashy and perhaps not the most exciting to drive, it is safe, well-built, fuel-efficient and well-equipped.
5. Mazda 3
Mazda's answer to the VW Golf, the Mazda 3 has been a popular choice with Australian motorists for many years. It's been the nation's best-selling car on more than one occasion.
This is a compact car that's easy on the eye, a joy to drive, comfortable, well-equipped and, importantly, isn't likely to leave you stranded at the side of the road. If you're looking for a car that offers a great appearance as well as reliability, newer models of the Mazda 3 could be the perfect choice for you.
6. Suzuki Swift
The Swift is a compact, sporty little car that is at its best nipping around town. Small enough for easy parking and manoeuvering in traffic, the Swift is cheap to run and won several awards in the Canstar Blue Small Car Reviews and Ratings. Suzuki may not have the same popularity as other brands on this list but don't let that stop you from considering the Swift!
7. Toyota Yaris
Toyota is widely recognised as one of the world's most reliable car brands. The Yaris was rated as one of Australia's most reliable cars in a 2020 survey from Canstar Blue Research.
And the Yaris is a popular choice with budget-minded drivers who like its fuel efficiency, low maintenance bills and conservative engine performance. What this means for used Yaris drivers is they're likely to get a vehicle that's been carefully driven and well cared for.
Corollas have been driving the roads of Australia for more than fifty years. On the Australian best-selling list on an almost permanent basis, Corollas are subcompact cars that are a great choice for families.
Enthusiasts recommend buying Corollas built between 2004 and 2009 if you want the most for your money.
9. Kia Optima
As with Hyundai, Kia has not always had a strong reputation for reliability. But it recent years, this South Korean manufacturer has been producing some great reliable cars.
A mid-size car that's got a surprisingly high level of tech, Optimas can often be picked up cheaply, as the myth of poor build quality persists. Kia significantly upped their game from around 2011; if you can pick up one that was made between 2011 and the upgrade in 2015, you're likely to end up with a dependable vehicle at a bargain price.
10. Holden Astra
The Astra is an adaptable small car that's great for commuting, town driving and the occasional longer trip. It's not the most exciting car to drive, which is a good thing from a used car perspective, as previous owners will likely have driven cautiously and cared for their vehicle.
11. BMW3 Series
A prestige brand, the used car market is a great place to pick up a luxury vehicle with an affordable price tag. The 3 series benefits from world-class German engineering and has a reputation as a sporty, high-end vehicle that's popular with business drivers.
12. Subaru Outback
Never underestimate the Subaru! This manufacturer has a relatively small presence here, which is perhaps why the Outback gets overlooked as a secondhand choice. If you see one, snap it up! The Outback is tough, well-equipped and great to drive. Subaru car owners regularly praise the reliability of their vehicles. The Outback is a great choice for those seeking a reliable station wagon (although it's promoted as a SUV).
13. Kia Cerato
One of Australia's best-selling cars last year, the Cerato is a small car that's great to drive. Look for models made after 2011, as that's recognised as the year Kia significantly improved its build quality.
14. Toyota Camry
A solid little car that has a lot to offer, the Camry is dependable, cheap to drive and delightfully stylish. Look for a model that's got some of the trim upgrades, such as leather detailing and woodgrain accents.
15. Honda Jazz
The Jazz is a little powerhouse! Fun to drive, safe and well-equipped, it's a great option for reliable urban driving.
16. Toyota Avalon
If you crave space and road presence, the Avalon is perfect. Avalon enthusiasts suggest 2015 as the best year for Avalons.
17. Mazda MX5
This award-winning sports car is a reliable choice that offers an engaging driving experience and exceptional good looks. As a performance vehicle, it can be pricey to maintain and the engine may have seen hard use, due to the enthusiasm of previous owners to put it through its paces.
18. Mazda 6
Comfort and quality define the Mazda 6. Packed with tech, safety features and infotainment, it's also beautiful to look at and enjoyable to drive.
A reliable and adaptable hatchback, a Mirage is usually a great used car to purchase. The relative lack of recognition that Mitsubishi has here means you can often grab a bargain when you pick up a secondhand Mirage.
20. Toyota Hilux
Toyota is well known for reliable cars and when it comes to reliability, the Hilux is hard to beat. Known as the vehicle that Top Gear couldn't destroy, Toyota's best-selling utes can be a challenge to find on the secondhand market, mainly because drivers don't see any need to sell them!
Buying used over a new car doesn't mean you have to sacrifice safety and reliability. Stick with the models above if reliability is a priority for you.
Although the above vehicles can all be dependable choices, it's worth remembering that a used vehicle's previous history is also key in determining how reliable it will be. In general, low-powered, fuel-efficient vehicles that aren't likely to be driven into the ground may offer the best value used car investment. And don't forget to take a test drive on any used car before you buy!
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