Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on The Penny Hoarder.
Because cars have gotten ridiculously expensive, today’s drivers are holding on to their cars for as long as they possibly can. The average vehicle on the road is now more than a dozen years old, which is an all-time record.
Because we’re all driving our cars for longer than ever, it’s more important than ever to have a reliable vehicle. In that case, you might want to look for a Toyota, Kia or Chevy, and skip over the Fords, Audis, Lincolns and Land Rovers.
That’s what we took away from the latest report from market research company J.D. Power. It looked at how 2020 model-year cars are performing today when it comes to quality and the amount of car trouble that owners are encountering.
The annual vehicle dependability study spotlights the most reliable models in each vehicle class — like the most reliable compact car, the most reliable minivan, the most reliable large SUV, etc. J.D. Power did this for a dozen vehicle classes, including three sizes of pickups and five sizes of sport utility vehicles.
How long will these vehicles last? It’s impossible to know. A conventional car is expected to last for 200,000 miles, while some well-maintained models can reach 300,000 or more, according to Car and Driver magazine and Progressive Insurance and others who would know.
Oh, and here’s a bonus: This J.D. Power report also ranked more than 30 auto brands in order of how reliable their cars are — and we’ll list them lower in this article.
Most Reliable Vehicles by Category
Here are the most reliable choices in each vehicle class. Basically, these cars and trucks needed the fewest repairs.
(The manufacturer’s suggested retail prices listed here are for the base model of each vehicle, without any extra bells and whistles. The actual sticker prices you’ll see on the car lot will almost certainly be higher.)
1. Midsize Sedan: Kia Optima
A popular midsize sedan from this South Korean auto manufacturer, the Kia Optima is similar to the Hyundai Sonata, which is manufactured by a sister company. Kia used the Optima name for this midsize car from 2000 until 2021, then renamed it the Kia K5.
MSRP: $25,090 (for the 2023 K5 model)
Runners-up: Chevrolet Malibu and Ford Fusion
2. Compact Car: Kia Forte
Manufactured since 2008, the Kia Forte is probably best known for being affordable. Unfortunately, Kias tend to have a lower resale value compared with iconic Japanese brands like Toyota and Honda, according to Motor Trend.
Runners-up: Toyota Corolla and Hyundai Elantra
3. Compact Sporty Car: Mini Cooper
Mini Coopers now come in a variety of models — two-door or four-door, convertible or hardtop, gasoline-powered or electric.
MSRP: $25,800 for a two-door hardtop
Runners-up: None listed
4. Minivan: Toyota Sienna
Toyota makes its first appearance on this list with its Sienna minivan. Toyota Siennas have been around for a long time now — since 1997. The Sienna gets better gas mileage than its main competitor in the minivan market, the Honda Odyssey, although some reviewers say the Odyssey drives better.
Runner-up: Kia Sedona
5. Compact SUV: Kia Sportage
Here’s the first of five SUV categories, and the Kia Sportage wins. This is actually Kia’s bestselling vehicle. Today’s Sportage is a five-seater with a big curved display on the dashboard.
MSRP: $26,290, priced lower than the more popular Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4
Runners-up: Buick Envision and Jeep Cherokee
6. Small SUV: Toyota C-HR
The Toyota C-HR is reliable and has good fuel economy. “Unfortunately, it’s slow. Very slow,” the car inventory site Edmunds says. That’s the price you pay for good mileage.
MSRP: It started at $24,280 for the 2022 model. Unfortunately, the C-HR has been discontinued.
Runners-up: Buick Encore and Chevrolet Trax
7. Midsize SUV: Chevy Blazer
The Chevrolet Blazer has been around in one form or another since 1969. Today’s Chevy Blazer is a “crossover” SUV, which means it’s built on a car chassis instead of a pickup truck chassis. That means it sacrifices some off-road capability in exchange for better fuel economy.
MSRP: $35,100 for the base model, although the price for more premium models quickly climbs above $44,000.
Runners-up: Hyundai Santa Fe and Ford Edge
8. Upper Midsize SUV: Toyota Highlander
Toyota says these things can tow up to 5,000 pounds. The Highlander has three rows of seats and has been in continuous production since 2000. Like many of these vehicles, there’s a hybrid version in addition to the gasoline-powered version.
Runners-up: Kia Sorento and Toyota 4Runner
9. Large SUV: Chevy Tahoe
The Chevrolet Tahoe wins this category, and you can tell we’re getting into the more “rugged” SUVs because they’re all named something like Tahoe or Tacoma or Yukon — someplace that symbolizes the vast, untamed West or the cold, inhospitable North. With three rows of seats, the Tahoe can seat up to nine people.
MSRP: $52,000, by far the highest base price on this list
Runner-up: GMC Yukon
10. Midsize Pickup: Toyota Tacoma
One of the most popular choices in its class, the Toyota Tacoma is also Kelley Blue Book’s “best midsize truck of 2023.” With the Tacoma, you choose from a whopping 34 different model configurations in seven trim levels.
Runner-up: Chevrolet Colorado
11. Large Light-Duty Pickup: GMC Sierra
A tough-looking pickup truck, the GMC Sierra is similar to the winner of the “heavy duty” pickup category, the Chevy Silverado.
MSRP: $37,200 (At the top end of the price range, the Sierra Denali Ultimate sells for $82,200.)
Runner-up: Toyota Tundra
12. Large Heavy-Duty Pickup: Chevy Silverado HD
The Chevrolet Silverado always gets advertised during sporting events. You’ll be sitting there watching football, and during the commercial break you’ll inevitably see a macho-looking Chevy Silverado hauling a heavy load up a rugged, rocky mountain or something.
Runners-up: None listed
4 Ways To Extend the Life of Your Vehicle
How you treat your vehicle will make a lot of difference in how long it lasts. If you want to drive it for a long time — 200,000 miles or more — you’ve got to give it some TLC.
1. The Obvious One — Change the Oil Regularly
How often should you get the oil changed? Check the owner’s manual of your car. (If you no longer have it, you can find it online.) With lots of vehicles, you should change it at least every 5,000 miles or every six months. If you put it off, it’s not good for your engine.
2. Wash That Thing!
Washing your car isn’t just about making it look shiny. Over the long haul, having a dirty car isn’t good for the paint job, and that can lead to rusting and corrosion of the vehicle itself.
3. Don’t Drive Like a Maniac
Stay cool behind the wheel. Braking hard wears down your brake pads. Taking sharp turns wears down the tires. Flooring it when the engine is cold hurts the engine. And all that jostling around wears down every part of your car, period.
4. Don’t Forget Your Tires or Your Air Filter
Change your air filter as often as your owner’s manual says — typically every 20,000 miles or so. Rotate your tires as often as your owner’s manual recommends. Both of these things are important. A clean air filter keeps dirt out of your engine and improves your gas mileage.
The ‘Premium’ Car Brands
The survey also ranked the reliability of vehicles in five “premium” categories, meaning that you’ll pay more for these options. We skipped over them because we’re looking for deals.
Either BMW or Lexus won each premium category, with Volvo, Cadillac and Mercedes-Benz following close behind.
- Compact premium car: BMW 4 Series
- Compact premium SUV: Lexus NX
- Small premium SUV: BMW X2
- Midsize premium SUV: Lexus RX
- Upper midsize premium SUV: BMW X5
The Most and Least Reliable Auto Brands
The survey didn’t just rank vehicles by type. It also ranked more than 30 auto brands in order of how reliable their cars are.
The survey’s findings are based on answers from more than 30,000 vehicle owners in late 2022.
Here are the rankings, based on the number of problems per 100 vehicles that appear after a few years. (The industry average is 186.)
- Lexus: 133
- Kia: 152
- Buick: 159
- Chevrolet: 162
- Mitsubishi: 167
- Toyota: 168
- Hyundai: 170
- Mini: 170
- Nissan: 170
- Dodge: 172
- Cadillac: 173
- Mazda: 174
- GMC: 175
- BMW: 184
- Ram: 189
- Jeep: 196
- Honda: 205
- Infiniti: 205
- Porsche: 208
- Acura: 211
- Subaru: 214
- Volvo: 215
- Volkswagen: 216
- Chrysler: 226
- Jaguar: 229
- Mercedes-Benz: 240
- Tesla: 242
- Ford: 249
- Audi: 252
- Lincoln: 259
- Land Rover: 273
Problem-Plagued Infotainment Systems
The most troublesome part of a modern car is the infotainment system, the survey found.
Drivers are often having issues with voice recognition, internet connectivity, built-in Bluetooth systems and touch screens. The infotainment category had twice as many problems as the next-highest category, which was the vehicle’s exterior.
Just one more thing to keep in mind the next time you’re car shopping.