Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls
  1. Home
  2. Articles
  3. What Does it Mean for a Car to be Reliable?

What Does it Mean for a Car to be Reliable?

Reliable Car

We live in really stressful times. Domestically, there is uncertainty about our political future, and overseas can be a dangerous place to travel. In times like these, it’s natural for people to gravitate toward things that are reliable and familiar. People take comfort when they’re surrounded by things that they know they can count on.

In the fourth quarter, 2015 US consumers bought $11.3 trillion worth of gadgets, household goods, attire, and big ticket items like vehicles. For most purchases, for example a toaster oven or alarm clock, the risk of buying the “wrong” thing isn’t a big deal. If you don’t like it or if it’s not reliable, take it back to the store and get a new one or switch it for something else. No harm, no foul.

But if you buy a big ticket item, like a car, and it doesn’t meet your expectations or it doesn't turn out to be as reliable as you’d hoped, there are no do-overs. You’re stuck with it.

So it makes sense to spend some time analyzing what you want out of a car before you buy it. Most of us are pretty happy if our car works. Above all, we want it to be reliable and consistent with no surprises.

Of course there’s the basic maintenance that needs to take place - oil changes, brakes, tires, and regularly scheduled tune-ups - but beyond that, we want to put gas in the car and go. The last thing we want is to be stuck lingering on is the question: is this going to be the time my car won’t start?

Marketing influences our expectations of reliability

When you’re in the market for a car, how do you determine the most reliable vehicles? For years you have been bombarded with marketing catchphrases such as “The Relentless Pursuit of Perfection” or “The Ultimate Driving Machine.” These taglines imply that Lexus and BMW are at the top of the list of reliable cars, right?

That may not be true, but to some degree we’ve been conditioned to believe it.

How to choose a reliable car

For new cars, especially Toyotas and Hondas, if you change the oil every 3,000-5,000 miles, have the car tuned up every 10,000-15,000 miles, and maintain the brakes and tires, there is a good chance your car will last more than 100,000 miles.

But let’s say that you’ve had your car for more than five years. You may begin to ask: "How many additional trips to the dealer do I need to make for rattles, squeaks, or an engine failure that didn’t exist before?" Or "Will the electronic features begin to fail on me?"

If the number of trips to the dealer have increased over the years, maybe your car isn’t as reliable as it once was, and it is starting to become a money sinkhole.

Maybe it’s time to get rid of your car and invest in a new one so you can feel like you’re driving a reliable vehicle again.

What’s the definition of reliable?

What are the criteria of car reliability? Of course, this question is open to interpretation. It depends on how well the owner took care of the car in its early years, and the conditions under which it’s been driven.

Owners of cars that primarily drive around town might define reliable as a car that doesn’t need anything more than normal repairs (oil changes, brake jobs, tires). An unreliable car could be defined as a consistent number of unplanned breakdowns.

Toyota Camry’s and Corolla’s as well as Honda Accord’s and Civic’s are known for their reliability and it’s not unheard of for them to last for 10-15 years with only the occasional out-of-the-ordinary repairs to keep them chugging along.

Best cars ranked by Consumer Reports

Consumer Reports named these cars among the most reliable on the market. They earned the ranking by offering consumers high miles per gallon, a smooth ride, steady handling, a suspension system that handles winding roads and corners well, and a comfortable cabin. If you take care of these cars, they’ll take care of you for years.

Consumer Reports named these cars as the most unreliable. They have the following characteristics in common: transmission issues, sluggish steering, bad fuel economy, a bumpy ride, cabin noise, and performance shortcomings.

Vehicles take us near and far. We use them around town and on long road trips. It’s probably safe to say we don’t give cars as much thought as they deserve. But in the end, it’s important to do basic maintenance on your car to help them remain reliable. Choosing a car that is reliable and doing your best to take care of your car today will mean less car trouble and headaches for you in the future.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details
Icon-warranty_badge-02

Skip the repair shop, our top-rated mechanics come to you.

At your home or office

Choose from 600+ repair, maintenance & diagnostic services. Our top-rated mechanics bring all parts & tools to your location.

Fair & transparent pricing

See labor & parts costs upfront, so you can book with confidence.

12-month, 12,000-mile warranty

Our services are backed by a 12-month, 12,000-mile warranty for your peace of mind.

Get A Quote

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.

GET A QUOTE

More related articles

P0121 OBD-II Trouble Code: TPS "A" Circuit Range Performance Problem
P0121 code definition Throttle Pedal Position Sensor/Switch (TPS) A Circuit Range Performance Problem...
P0052 OBD-II Trouble Code: HO2S Heater Control Circuit High (Bank 2 Sensor 1)
P0052 code definition HO2S Heater Control Circuit High (Bank 2 Sensor 1) What the...
How to Transfer a Car Title in Idaho
In order to prove ownership of a car, you must have the title. However, when a car is sold, given away or inherited, the title needs...

Related questions

Q: Is the CRV better than Hyundai i10 2009

For me, the Honda is a better quality vehicle. But you are comparing vehicles that are 10 years apart. If the price is the same, then I would get the newer vehicle if it is in better shape. If you...

Q: How do I check and top off the windshield washer fluid?

Your windshield washer fluid serves a couple of purposes. Obviously, it helps keep your windshield clean and free of dirt and grime, but it also helps with deicing in the winter (as long as you’re using a winter formulation). Keeping...

Q: the car is loud when I test drived it. When I accelerate it almost choked but overall runs fine, may just be muffler?

Hello. It could be possible that the symptoms the vehicle is showing are due to an exhaust leak. An exhaust leak will usually cause increased exhaust noise, and if large enough or if the engine load is heavy enough, can...