Reliability ratings for cars are important stats for customers to have when looking at buying a new or used car, but can vary greatly depending on the source. While Consumer Reports uses customer feedback that can be somewhat subjective but encompassing of the entire car (including elements not necessarily involved with reliability), CarMD can more objectively (in theory) measure a car's reliability with its Vehicle Health Index. The index uses data based on problems associated with check engine codes, as well as the average costs to repair these problems.

In just the second year of its study, CarMD found that Toyota (including Scion and Lexus) has once again held its ground as the most reliable automaker having the fewest issues that would set a check engine light. Likewise, Hyundai stays at the runner up spot. BMW sits in the third spot after not being named to the list at all last year. Honda and Volkswagen round out the top five. In terms of cost to repair, it isn't that surprising that BMW has the most expensive repair costs at an average of $502.48, but we were definitely surprised to see Toyota listed in the two spot with average repairs of $490.72. American automakers General Motors and Ford dropped out of the top five to the eight and nine spots, respectively.

Overall, the most reliable car on the list is the 2010 Toyota Corolla just barely ahead of the 2008 Ford Taurus and the 2008 Toyota Yaris. Of the top 100 cars, 16 of them were Toyotas with Ford following close behind with 15 cars on the list. Ford did take the top spot when it in the truck category and Subaru was named the best in the wagon and crossover SUV category. The study even breaks down the top five causes for a check engine light by automaker.

Scroll down for the official press release, and be sure to check out the full CarMD reliability study.
Show full PR text
CarMD® Releases Second Annual Vehicle Health Index™ Manufacturer & Vehicle Rankings, Unveils Year-Over-Year Comparison of Top Makes and Models on the Road Today

Offsetting surge in repair costs, data shows manufacturers continue to improve reliability


IRVINE, Calif. (Nov. 13, 2012) – CarMD.com Corporation, a leading provider of automotive information and products, today released the second annual CarMD® Vehicle Health Index™ Manufacturer & Vehicle Rankings and Lists, providing the industry and consumers with the first year-over-year comparison of makes and models with the lowest combined "check engine" repair incidents and costs. Based on more than 163,000 specific repairs performed from Sept. 1, 2011 to Sept. 1, 2012, the Index encompasses approximately 136 million model year 2002 to 2012 vehicles. The CarMD Index ranks the top 10 manufacturers, top 100 vehicles, top three vehicles by category and most prevalent repairs by make. Current and archived indices are available at http://corp.carmd.com.

"Sourced directly from CarMD's network of thousands of certified automotive technicians, this ranking of top manufacturers and vehicles provides an unbiased and unprecedented view into vehicle reliability, based on total vehicle population and real-life repairs," said Art Jacobsen, vice president, CarMD. "Unlike any other ranking or award, CarMD's Index transcends the new car 'honeymoon' period to help car shoppers get a true picture of what to expect as vehicles age."

Drivers can now see a list of common problems and repair costs by year, make, model and mileage with the free online CarMD® Vehicle Health ScoreCard™ tool, available at www.carmd.com/ScoreCard.

Top Ranked Manufacturers
According to the 2012 CarMD Vehicle Health Index, Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc., is the no. 1-ranked manufacturer in the U.S. for the second consecutive year. Toyota earns the top spot with the lowest Index rating of 0.58, which is an improvement from its 0.67 rating in 2011 (the lower the rating score, the better the overall ranking). Rounding out the top five vehicle manufacturers of 2012 are no. 2 Hyundai Motor America, no. 3 BMW USA, no. 4 Honda Motor Co., Inc. and no. 5 Volkswagen of America, Inc.

Manufacturer / Overall CarMD 2012 Index Rating / Average Repair Cost (Parts & Labor)

Toyota / 0.58 / $490.72

Hyundai
/ 0.67 / $271.86

BMW
/ 0.84 / $502.48

Honda / 0.98 / $466.77

Volkswagen / 0.99 / $392.00

Nissan / 1.00 / $366.53

Kia / 1.04 / $320.08

General Motors / 1.12 / $290.50

Ford / 1.17 / $340.96

Chrysler / 1.23 / $287.93


(Top 10 vehicle manufacturers based on model year 2002-2012 vehicles needing repairs between Sept. 1, 2011 and Sept. 1, 2012, and determined by the manufacturers whose vehicles had the fewest percentage of repair incidents combined with the lowest cost per repair, per number of registered vehicles on the road. Sources: CarMD.com Corp., with vehicle population data provided by R.L. Polk.)

CarMD Ranks Top Manufacturers and Vehicles

This year's Index shows that by and large today's manufacturers continue to improve their overall vehicle reliability demonstrated by improvements in rating scores, with GM and Ford as exceptions. Toyota and Hyundai each held their spots as the top two-ranked manufacturers, with Toyota's Index score improving, helped by lower repair incidents. With the lowest average repair cost among the top 10 manufacturers, Hyundai improved its score over last year from 0.85 to 0.67 – achieving the exact score that earned Toyota the no. 1 spot in 2011. Since last year, domestic manufacturers dropped out of the top five, with Ford moving from no. 4 to no. 9 and GM dropping from no. 5 to no. 8. Both GM and Ford experienced a slight drop in repair incidents, but an increase in average repair costs. GM's average cost for "check engine"-related repairs rose 18 percent from $245.27 in 2011 to $290.50 in 2012. Ford's average repair costs increased 42 percent from $240.68 to $340.96.

Top Ranked Vehicles
Sourcing the nation's largest database of "check engine"-related problems and repairs, the CarMD Index ranks and rates the reliability of a decade span of makes and models, offering a unique resource for consumers when making new and pre-owned car and truck purchases. The top 100 most reliable vehicles represent the best 5 percent of vehicles from nearly 3,000 different registered vehicle types on the road today, with the complete list available at http://corp.carmd.com.

"Thanks to on-board diagnostic technology that optimize vehicle performance, cars are getting more and more reliable with every succeeding generation," said Jacobsen, "This technology and related data mean manufacturers are more adept at building reliable vehicles, and with diagnosing and repairing things that do go wrong. The days of avoiding a vehicle or brand because of lesser reliability or stigma are past. The worst car on the list today is still more reliable than virtually any vehicle made 20 years ago."

No. 1-ranked manufacturer Toyota accounts for two of the top 10 and 18 of the top 100 vehicles (16 Toyota and two Lexus vehicles). The no. 1- ranked 2010 Toyota Corolla has the lowest combined repair incidents and lowest average repair costs per number of registered vehicles with the best CarMD Index rating of 0.080. Ford has a personal best 15 vehicles in the top 100, led by the no. 2-ranked 2008 Ford Taurus. Subaru has 11 vehicles in the top 100, including the no. 6-ranked 2010 Subaru Forester and the no. 10-ranked 2010 Outback. Chevrolet ranks fourth among manufacturers with the most vehicles in the top 100, with nine, led by the 2011 Chevy Impala (no. 9). Rounding out the brands with the most vehicles in the top 100 is Honda with six overall, including two in the top 10: the 2009 Honda Pilot (no. 4) and 2009 Accord (no. 5).

This Index also ranks the top three vehicles by category: Compact, Minivan, Sedan, Full-Sized SUV, Wagon/Crossover SUV, Truck and Luxury. This year marks the first time that a manufacturer earned all three of the top spots in their respective category, and it happened not once – but twice. Subaru swept the Wagon/Crossover SUV category with its 2010 Forester, 2010 Outback and 2011 Forester. Ford earned all three top spots in the Truck category with its 2008 Ranger, 2009 F150 and 2008 F150.

Common Repairs by Brand/Make
Different vehicle makes often have a unique set of problems and repairs. The CarMD Index points out common issues and associated repair costs by manufacturer, providing a helpful resource for vehicle owners as they budget to maintain and repair their vehicles. For instance "Replace Oxygen Sensor" accounted for 28 percent of Mini repairs in 2012. Earlier this year, the CarMD Vehicle Health Index revealed that the no. 1 most common repair on vehicles in the U.S. is "replace oxygen sensor." O2 sensors measure the amount of unburned oxygen in the exhaust and tell a car's computer when there is either too much, or not enough fuel as compared with oxygen for ideal operation. If a faulty O2 sensor is not repaired, the car's fuel economy can drop by as much as 40 percent. Other examples: Loose or damaged gas caps account for 21 percent of Scion repairs; "replace Ignition Control Module" accounted for 26 percent of Saab repairs; and Subaru vehicles tended to require the replacement of their catalytic converter(s) (22 percent).

About The CarMD Vehicle Health Index
The data for the 2012 CarMD® Vehicle Health Index™ Manufacturer & Vehicle Reliability Rankings was procured from CarMD's network of thousands of certified automotive technicians and database of more than 3 million verified repairs. The November 2012 Index statistically analyzes repairs that apply to roughly 136 million model year 2002 to 2012 vehicles, taking place in the U.S. from Sept. 1, 2011 through Sept. 1, 2012. In determining the top 10 manufacturers, CarMD included those whose makes and models account for at least 1% of the U.S. vehicle population according to R.L. Polk data, and 1% of CarMD's data. Brands were grouped under their parent manufacturer (i.e. Lexus and Scion under Toyota; Acura under Honda; Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Hummer, Oldsmobile, Pontiac and Saturn under GM; Infiniti with Nissan, etc.) For more information, including the complete Index, methodology and archived data, visit http://corp.carmd.com.


I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 52 Comments
      Toronto St. Pats
      • 2 Years Ago
      The whole notion of basing an entire car's reliability on one utterly useless sensor (CEL sensor) is completely ludicrous. This shouldn't even be called a reliability rating, this is a CEL rating, which has actually very little to do with reliability. I had a Ford Tempo whose CEL was on for over 5 years without any engine problems. It's probably still running today with that stupid light on. More than likely the CEL was malfunctioning. In fact I bet that the CEL is malfunctioning 95% of the time. Most engines are actually the most reliable part of a car. It's everything around the engine that fails before the engine. That includes transmissions, suspension, steering, electronics etc. And the CEL is what? Yep electronics. I have never seen a more useless rating in my whole life.
      Ricardo
      • 2 Years Ago
      Chrysler in the top 10? This is the most unreliable reliability list I have ever seen.
      LBFTPSEC
      • 2 Years Ago
      So if you fail to tighten your gas cap enough, and the check engine light comes on, does this take part in this data? If so, this is a highly flawed sample of data. There should be a weighting given to the severity of a CEL condition. i.e. a fuel cap not being tight is much less severe than the motor going into limp mode.
      Mike
      • 2 Years Ago
      I'd rather they not lump everything together. I want to know how Cadillac fairs against BMW.
        Paul
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Mike
        Note they lump GM together but Kia and Hyundai are separate.
      Kumar
      • 2 Years Ago
      Oh no. So because you're car had an issue that doesn't automatically mean the whole brand sucks? What will people do if their own personal reliability ratings don't match with real world stats? I'm sure it won't matter much. We see how fact checking sites have helped curb acceptance as fact of all of the not-quite-true (or not even close) statements during election seasons.
      TBN27
      • 2 Years Ago
      I roll my eyes at reliability studies. What they say is reliable l had trouble with. 03 Accord, faulty transmission right after the warranty was up, 09 Corolla wouldn't start a year later, and an 01 Civic had a defective engine which died at 150 miles. I had my issues with domestic cars also. Because of these issues of many makes, i now look at warranty coverage and just save money for after it is over.
        DeathKnoT
        • 2 Years Ago
        @TBN27
        Smart man. Someone who realizes everything breaks at some point. I wish people would understand. I do the same thing. I have a car repair fund and i don't sweat it when i have to repair it, or figure out how i'm gonna come up with the cost. I just pay it, and fix it. Well if fix it myself but, there is still good logic to that.
      al4g_00
      • 2 Years Ago
      After reading the article its all problems related to the "check engine light" or throwing out a diagnostic code to signal a problem. It does not take into account other mechanical problems that are not monitored by the on board computers. Really a different way of rating the top 10 as I know that Hyundai Sonata has steering problems that will never show up in any on board computer code so now I know why some manufacturers get rated so highly !!
      Wm
      • 2 Years Ago
      I don't understand this % Red Light Reports / Problems Seen. Are they saying 30% of GM cars have Check engine problems? That is 50% more than the nearest competitor on this list and yet they are 8th. They do have a relatively low cost of repair, but Chrysler "% Problem Seen" is about half of GM's, they have a lower cost of repair, yet is rated below GM. Having owned numerous GMs, Fords, and Chryslers, my experience with problems would be, Ford has the least, GM the most, and Chrysler being in the middle, but closer to GM than Ford.
      Mr. Sled
      • 2 Years Ago
      So... Least likely cars to have a code thrown for whatever reason. There are MANY problems that occur that do not throw a CEL. This is a "piece of the pie" type of a study. Incomplete.
      pickupmiami
      • 2 Years Ago
      Well it looks like we now know what Toyotas next recall is going to be, sensors the trip check engine lights.
      F1
      • 2 Years Ago
      I'm sorry but the fact that BMW is 3rd on the list, doesn't allow me to take the ranking seriously.
        Ak74
        • 2 Years Ago
        @F1
        Have you owned a BMW? I guess no. So please put your opinion somewhere else.
        carnut0913
        • 2 Years Ago
        @F1
        Everyone I know who has bought one in the past 10 years has had probems. Im not buying it either. There really isnt a good way to get reliability ratings without revamping the whole service industry.
      AngeloD
      • 2 Years Ago
      The only possible way for Volkswagon to rank so highly on a list of "problems causing a check engine light" would be that the sensors and check engine lights on most VW's are usually nonfunctional, right along with the rest of their crappy electronics.
    • Load More Comments