One of the most popular questions we get is, “what kind of car should I buy?”. Here are a few rules of thumb when it comes to buying a new or used car.
Always get a pre-buy inspection on ANY used car. A pre-buy inspection is generally about $60 and is well worth every penny. Also note, if the person or business selling the car is unwilling to let you have the car inspected, move on to the next car.
Secondly, maintenance is the key to longevity with any car. Read and follow the recommended maintenance schedules that the manufacturer has outlined for you vehicle. The only exception to this would be oil changes. Change your oil every 3,000 miles. Many manufacturers claim you can go longer between oil changes, but I highly recommend you change your oil every 3,000. By far the most common engine failure is due to poor maintenance of the engine oil. For more detailed information on properly maintaining your vehicle, please visit here.
That being said, here is my list of the cars I would recommend, in regards to least amount of mechanical trouble. Of course personal taste comes into play, but if you are simply looking for a dependable car that will maintain it’s value, this list goes from best to worst.
Japanese imports remain the most dependable cars. The Toyota family is the best and includes Toyota, Scion and Lexus. They hold their value, and rarely have problems. By far the cars we see the least of for repairs would be any type of Toyota.
The Nissan Family, Nissan and Infinity, are also very good cars. One important note, Nissan does not release their parts to aftermarket manufactures, which in turn means many parts for Nissan vehicles must be bought from the dealer which results in higher repair costs.
The Honda Family, Honda and Acura, is an excellent choice for a lower cost vehicle which will have little to no problems. They are very well engineered, they are easy to work on, and hold their value better than almost any other car.
Subaru, my personal favorite, is a fantastic line of cars. One word of caution, they are very susceptible to bad head gaskets. If a Subaru is over heated at all, the will very quickly warp the heads which will in turn lead to a fairly costly repair bill. They do however have one of the very best all wheel drive system of any make.
Mazda is another Japanese import. The rotory engine in the RX7 and RX8 is an amazing animal, but simply has problems with longevity. Also consider that many Mazdas are re-branded Fords. They often have problems with their automatic transmissions.
The Kia and Hyundai car family have come a long long way over the years. Although they used to be on the cheep side, they are now very good cars.
Mitsubishi’s are generally good cars, but would be lower on my list of Japanese imports. Mitsubishi makes many of the engines that Dodge and Chrysler use in their cars. Many Mitsubishi are also re-branded as Chryslers, and have been since the early eighties.
Any European import, Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, BMW, Mercedes Benz, Volvo, Land Rover, are all about the same. These are what we refer to as a “driver’s car”. They have great power, they’re comfortable to drive, they have all the gadgets. The biggest problem with a European import, is that they tend to fall apart after 60,000 miles. On top of that, everything for a European import is more expensive, when you can find a shop willing to work on them. The parts cost more, and so does the labor. Just about European car I would recommend selling before the factory warranty is up. Even the Bugatti Veron is rumored to be riddled with problems.
Domestics are just behind the times. They generally use older technology. Their interiors are generally not as nice, and they just break down more often. Their trucks are far superior to their passenger cars, and if you want a diesel truck, you basically have no choice but to buy a domestic.
The Ford Family, Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury (and some Jaguar), is most likely the best of the domestic big three. They have a terrible time keeping an automatic transmission from dieing an early death.
Their power steering pumps puke fluid out if you steer the vehicle with out the engine running. Also, the power steering will whine, and there is nothing you can do to fix it. Their air ride equipped vehicles have problems with leaks, leading to a rather comical squatting in the rear look.
The General Motors family, Chevrolet, GMC, Cadillac, Pontiac, Buick, Hummer, despite my hatred, is still better than Dodge, Chrysler, or Jeep. The fuel pumps go out on General Motors vehicles at the drop of a hat (60,000 miles). The intake manifold design is horrific and leaks coolant about the same time the fuel pump shuts down. They are rickity, and they use the same technology over and over and over, even if it doesn’t work. If you buy a Cadillac, expect to have to replace thousands of dollars worth of control modules over the life of the vehicle.
Dodge, Chrysler, and Jeep. Just don’t do it. They are by far the vehicles we see the most for repair. Fuel pumps, engine control units, transmissions, bad motors, just about any major component that could go bad, does.