If you’re buying a used car, it pays to do your homework to avoid an unreliable banger. Relatively new used cars might come with some protection from the dealer but, for the most part, you won’t get the same kind of peace of mind as buying new.
Help is on hand, however, because JD Power has polled the opinions of more than 13,000 UK drivers in the UK to find the most reliable car brands. Read our checklist of what to look for when buying a used car or see how this data translates to new cars in our list of the most reliable new cars.
1. Skoda Superb
Skoda topped the charts as the most reliable brand in 2016. The Superb and spacious Superb Estate are two of the best models in its range, offering simply epic amounts of space, impressive comfort and a relaxed, refined driving experience. VW group build quality and switchgear adds to the Superb’s sense of solidity.
The second generation model offers a wide range of petrol and diesel engines – from the super-frugal 1.6-litre diesel to the deceptively fast 3.6-litre V6 petrol. Prices fall as low as £12,500 for a 64-plate Superb SE fitted with a 2.0-litre diesel making it a real bargain, too… just make sure it still has the umbrella hidden in the rear door.
2. Suzuki Vitara
Suzuki’s range of cars are uncomplicated, fun to drive, great value and, crucially, very reliable – as shown by its second place finish in JD Power’s ratings. The spacious, practical Vitara is among the best models in its range and there are some great deals around on nearly new versions.
We found 15-plate examples of petrol-powered Vitaras with below average mileage for just more than £11,000. SX4 models get 16-inch alloy wheels, a DAB digital radio and Bluetooth connectivity as standard, and represent a saving of more than £3,000 over a brand new model.
3. Kia Sportage
The Kia Sportage is one of the best family crossovers on the used car market, as well as one of the best cars the Korean brand makes. Its handsome looks and smart interior are backed up by plenty of space and a generous boot. It has an industry-leading seven-year warranty that’s transferrable between owners so you can be assured of its reliability.
When paired with the 1.7-litre diesel engine – more than adequate for most buyers – it’s possible to find three-year-old Sportages that have covered less than 20,000 miles for just £11,500. For that, you’ll be getting Bluetooth connectivity, air conditioning, cruise control and an engine that returns 54.3mpg in official tests.
4. Vauxhall Corsa
The Vauxhall Corsa is popular with young and new drivers alike for very good reason. Not only is it easy to drive, but insurance groups are low, keeping all important running costs to a minimum. What’s more, Vauxhall’s reliability has been ranked highly in the JD Power survey meaning fewer headaches when you own it.
If you can stretch the budget far enough, go for the latest model, it feels better built and better to drive than the model it replaces. It’s possible to bag the insurance-friendly 1.4-litre Sting model – less than a year old and with minimal mileage for around £6,300 – more than £3,000 cheaper than a new one.
5. Peugeot 208 GTi
The Peugeot 208 GTi shows that just because reliability is a priority, that doesn’t mean fun needs to be sacrificed. Peugeot ranked as the fifth most reliable manufacturer according to JD Power’s data so you can be confident this peppy hot hatch will give you few problems.
When brand new, you’d expect to fork out at least £19,815 for a GTi, but a one-year-old model with average mileage can be snapped up for less than £13,000. That’s not much money for a car that’ll cover the 0-62mph dash in just 6.5 seconds.
6. VW Golf
As a used buy, the VW Golf is a very difficult car to fault. It’s one of the most practical cars in the class, it’s comfortable on the road, and it has the lure of that posh German badge on the nose. Plus the Golf gets that sturdy build quality VW cars are known for so should give you few problems later on.
As such a strong seller when new, there’s a huge amount of choice on the used market. Match trim is the one to have and we’ve found plenty of one-year-old examples with around 10,000 miles on the clock within the £12,000-£13,000 mark. Best of all, that’ll get you a 1.6-litre diesel that claims up to 74.3mpg.
7. Ford Fiesta
The Ford Fiesta has long been one of the best-selling cars in the UK and, with Ford ranked as the seventh most reliable brand in JD Power’s latest survey, it’ll be more trustworthy than some rivals. With such a wealth of choice on the market, almost any trim level or engine size should be easy to find.
The 82hp 1.25-litre petrol will be more than adequate for most people, offering reasonable performance up to 54.3mpg. In the most desirable Zetec trim, examples with 13,000 miles or so are available for a little more than £6,000.
8. SEAT Leon
The sharply styled SEAT Leon is one of the sportier choices available in the family car class. Under the skin, the Leon shares most of its oily bits with the VW Golf so receives similar reliability ratings and has the same sense of solidity in the cabin.
The 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol is a great choice – smooth. powerful and capable of a claimed 54.3mpg. It costs from £18,300 brand new, but a three-year-old model with below-average mileage should set you back almost £10,000 less.
9. Toyota RAV4
Toyota has earned itself a reputation for strong reliability – reflected in the brand’s strong showing in the JD Power scores. The RAV4 is one of the stronger models in its current range, offering practicality, space and the promise of low CO2 emissions thanks to a clever hybrid model.
One and two-year-old petrol-powered cars are available for less than £20,000, which represents a massive £10,000 saving over a new one. If you’re after something a touch fancier, it’s worth knowing that Toyota’s posh arm of the Toyota brand, Lexus, is also a great place to go if you’re looking for bulletproof reliability.
10. Nissan Qashqai
The Nissan Qashqai has long been one of carwow’s favourite family cars. As the JD Power results show, not only is it one of the most practical choices on the market, but it’s one of the most dependable too. It uses proven Nissan and Renault components and feels well built.
The 1.5-litre diesel is a great choice – the engine performs smoothly and claims to average 74.3mpg. Best of all, we found a one-year-old example with 12,000 miles for £13,000 – a saving of around £7,000 compared to a new model.
Save money on your next new car
Head over to carwow’s car deals page to see how much you could save on your next car. If you’re still unsure which model is right for you, take a look at our handy car chooser, or get an idea of how much your car could cost per month using our PCP calculator.