Some cars are so unreliable that they won’t just give drivers a scare on Halloween, they’ll keep playing nasty tricks on them throughout the year.
That’s why it’s important for drivers to research how reliable cars are likely to be before they’re caught out paying a small fortune for a motor that will leave them facing big repair bills.
Happily, motorists can do much better than simply asking a friend or neighbour how reliable their car has proved. A wealth of information about the most and least dependable cars is available online. Here’s where to start any search for a car that will run like clockwork.
Reliability Index: Britain’s most reliable used cars
Anyone wanting to find out how reliable their car might be should start their search with the Reliability Index.
Compiled by Warranty Direct, which provides warranty coverage for more than 50,000 cars each year, it records failures for every car it covers. However, it goes further still, weighing up the frequency of breakdowns, cost of repair, time spent off the road and the average age and mileage of makes and models.
This information produces a statistically useful Reliability Index. And car buyers can search by make and model, or by type of car if they’re not yet sure what they want.
Top 5 most reliable used cars
For proof that money can’t buy you happiness, consider that some of Britain’s cheapest cars are also the most reliable.
The Reliability Index rates the little Toyota iQ city car as Britain’s most dependable used car. In second place is the Mitsubishi Lancer, a family car. In third place is another small car, the Vauxhall Agila. Meanwhile, fourth and fifth places are held by the Korean car maker, Hyundai, with the i10 in fourth and the Getz in fifth position. See here for the Top 100 most reliable cars.
Bottom 5 least reliable used cars
Few drivers find the thought of spending time on the hard shoulder or paying expensive repair bills appealing. Yet amazingly, it’s some of Britain’s most expensive cars that will let down owners.
Taking top spot on the repair ramp of shame is the BMW M5 sports saloon. The next most unreliable car is the Aston Martin DB9 sports car. And in third place comes the complex Nissan GT-R. Rounding off the bottom 5 least reliable cars are the Maserati GranTurismo luxury coupe followed by the Mercedes GL 4×4.
Driver Power: Owners rate used cars for reliability
Each year, Auto Express asks tens of thousands of drivers to rate the cars they own. Because of this, it has been able to compile a list of the most reliable used cars, aged between three and six years.
Taking top spot is a modern hybrid car, the Lexus CT (Mk1), which suggests high-tech models don’t have to be plagued by bugs and glitches. In second place is the Jaguar XF (Mk1), the luxury saloon that has earned critical acclaim. Third place was awarded to the Skoda Yeti, the quirky SUV that has something of a cult following. The Lexus IS (Mk3) took fourth place, and in fifth comes a family SUV, the Honda CR-V (Mk4).
Lemons: unreliable cars that leave drivers with a bitter taste
What Car? asked more than 14,000 drivers to rate their car for reliability. The results should act as a warning to anyone about to buy a new or used car.
The Japanese Toyota Aygo is the most reliable city car. The best supermini is the Honda Jazz and the top family car is the Lexus CT200h. Mitsubishi was praised for making the most dependable large SUV, in the shape of the Outlander.
Whereas Volkswagen, Mercedes, Land Rover and Jaguar all had models that fared badly in the 2017 reliability survey.
James is a motoring journalist and former magazine editor at BBC Top Gear and Auto Express. He has scooped, reported on and reviewed most new cars of the past 20 years, and currently contributes to the Driving section of The Sunday Times.