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Reliability: Breaking Down Consumer Reports List of Cars Not Likely to Break Down


Present-day life is relatively easy when you think about it. Every aspect of our day to day process can now be automated. We brew coffee in a Keurig, Roomba the floors, Tinder our dates, and Google our questions. Yet, in some ways, new doesn’t necessarily equate to better. Most notably, this can be seen in the growing trend of ‘scheduled obsolescence’.

For example, there are many well-known computer brands that create batteries that are essentially set to self-destruct after a designated amount of use. At least that’s what I like to tell myself, as the alternative would be that my laptop killed itself while I was writing my novel because the dialogue was that bad.

The automotive industry is no exception to this concept, most notably with Tesla’s January announcement that the company plans to release major hardware changes on an almost annual basis. This model strays from the typical auto manufacturer, where core hardware is updated every three to six years. Some consumers worry that this model will turn the auto industry into something more similar to that of smartphones and are beginning the process of finding a car that has been built to last.

The Reality of Reliability

Determining which vehicles are truly going to take you the furthest can be difficult to discern in modern times. There exists an endless torrent of advertisements for every auto brand, touting catchphrases of dominance and power. Luxury brands like to use taglines involving words like ‘perfection’ and ‘total package’, which could easily lead a consumer to identify these brands as inherently reliable. Is this always the case? No, but it is a good point of reference when considering how effective modern marketing has become in subconsciously guiding our purchasing decisions.

What Makes a Car Reliable?

There is no set answer in defining what makes a car reliable. Several variables relate more to how well the owner took care of the car from the onset and the conditions in which the vehicle was driven. For those that simply use their car to get around town, the basis of a reliability can be determined by looking at whether or not the vehicle has required anything beyond normal repairs, or has had a consistent number of unplanned breakdowns. With the right amount of care, and prompt attention towards any concerns, it is not unreasonable to think you could squeeze 10-15 years of life out of the most reliable models and brands.

It is easy to forget that modern technological innovations are often a luxury afforded by a select few, with price points that only seem to increase as time moves forward. Wise shoppers know that their main concern should be the reliability of a product, choosing to reward companies that understand the relative weight of the current economic landscape. With all of this in mind, let’s take a look at Consumer Reports latest list of most reliable vehicles, and analyze a few of the options.

The Full List

Here is the official list of Consumer Reports top 10 most reliable cars for 2016-2017:

  1. Toyota Prius
  2. Lexus CT 200h
  3. Infiniti Q70
  4. Audi Q3
  5. Lexus GX
  6. Lexus GS
  7. Mercedes-Benz GLC
  8. Chevrolet Cruze
  9. Audi Q7
  10. Toyota 4Runner


Why the Prius Tops the List

Some may be surprised to find the Toyota Prius claiming the title of most reliable vehicle. What exactly is it about this model that makes it stand the test of time? It starts with multi-engine power. The Prius comes with two engines; a small gasoline engine complemented by a powerful electric engine. All the torque is produced by the electric side, allowing for less use of the gasoline engine. With less need for the gasoline engine, Prius owners have seen more infrequent requirements for standard maintenance. As where a Subaru could require an oil change every 3,000 miles, a Prius can get by for up to 5,000 miles. In leaning less on a standard vehicle engine, the Prius also provides the luxury of longer lasting brakes. Unless you are slamming on your brakes, hybrid vehicles regenerate electricity with regenerative brake systems. Beyond minute details, the Prius simply provides more pertinent information to the current status of the vehicle than other models, with data presented in the vehicle’s display showing present mileage as well as average miles per gallon. In doing so, consumers can more quickly and easily detect when a problem is or is about to occur.

Toyota Prius Hybrid Engine

Toyota Prius Hybrid Engine

Shopping for a hybrid? Check out our top 10 list of best used hybrids.

Pacific Market Dominates

The largest trend that can be seen in the current automotive industry landscape is that Asian cars dominate the market in terms of reliability.  Toyota, Lexus, Infiniti take the top three spots in the list and six placements in the top 10 at the make and model level.  In July, we took a look at 10 Reliable Car Brands that Run Forever (Almost) with the Pacific Market making top showings there, as well.

European Ebb & Flow

As could be predicted by the multitude of news stories regarding emissions scandals and beyond, European auto manufacturers are seeing the future through more bleak lenses. These brands have typically ranked quite poorly in long-term reliability surveys, but automakers argue that the more complex a car gets, the more maintenance it will inherently need. However, when you consider that both Toyota and Lexus’ hybrid models (which also require additional complexity) were voted as the top two most reliable vehicles, Volkswagen starts looking like that kid in grade school who swore he could throw a football over 100 yards and he could prove it right now if only he hadn’t hurt his arm last night while winning a boxing match. In fairness, the challenges faced by Volkswagen, and the time it will take for their brand to reestablish trust with consumers, doesn’t apply to every European automaker. Audi (which is one of Volkswagen’s luxury brands), for instance, once described by Consumer Reports as “a sinkhole of service problems,” now holds two of the top 10 most reliable rides in the latest survey with their Q3 and Q7 offerings. Let’s not ignore that the Mercedes-Benz GLC makes the list as well.

Mercedes-Benz GLC

Mercedes-Benz GLC

While it is hard to determine a broad sweeping set of criteria in determining vehicle reliability, Consumer Reports has done a good job of providing an introduction into understanding what really makes a vehicle last. Consider your own situation, where you live, what kind of roads the car will be operated on most, and how you intend to use your vehicle. No matter what any marketing campaign may tell you, there is no accounting for the human variable in how a vehicle is treated. The appeal of always having the latest model is certainly understandable, but ultimately incomparable to the feeling, and the savings, of a car that has been made for the long haul.

Caroline Rex

She's a graphic designer by trade, but loves writing blog posts on the side. As a closet car fanatic, Caroline enjoy sprinkling knowledge about the unique ins and outs of the underdogs of the auto world. #neonsruletheworld

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