Purchasing a used vehicle always comes with some risk. Did the original owner trade in their vehicle because it was constantly causing headaches? Will owning a used vehicle mean more trips to the auto mechanic than owning a new vehicle will? Thankfully, there are several makes and models of compacts, trucks, SUVs, and other vehicles that are known for being more reliable (fewer breakdowns) while others offer lower-than-average repair costs.
The numbers are provided by CarMD, which examined 14.4 million used vehicles in December 2019. The average repair costs are based on issues resolved after customers experienced “check engine light” (CEL) issues. The study looked at vehicles from 1996 through the 2019 model year.
2017 Subaru Outback – $59.92
On average, customers who own a 2017 Subaru Outback pay just $59.92 to fix issues associated with their check-engine light warnings.
Not only is this vehicle cheap to repair, but reviewers have also rated its off-road capabilities at “above average” thanks to its all-wheel-drive which comes standard. The Outback also features plenty of cargo space for road trips and short hauls. It’s a great option if you want plenty of cargo roof space that’s easy to access, thanks to a shorter height profile than you’ll find on similarly designed SUVs.
2016 Toyota Prius – $67.71
The 2016 Toyota Prius is not just economical due to its hybrid-design that offers 58 mpg city driving and 53 mpg on the highway. The 2017 Prius is also cheap to repair when the check-engine light inevitably makes an appearance.
At just $67.71 on average, you’re more likely to need a quick sensor repair or other small fixes that won’t make your pocketbook cry. It’s also a well-respected vehicle that offers a smooth driving experience.
2017 Hyundai Tucson – $79.12
The 2017 Hyundai Tucson is an SUV that won’t put a big dent in your spending if the check-engine light comes on. With an average CEL repair cost of $79.12, it’s the cheapest SUV to repair on the list.
This smart buy is not only cheap to repair, it also has excellent reviews that typically range from 4.5 to 5 stars across many of the top vehicle sales and review sites including Carvana and Kelly Blue Book.
2017 Kia Soul – $82.05
When the check-engine light comes on in the 2017 Kia Soul you might not end up with a huge repair bill. The average cost to fix this reliable vehicle? Just $82.05, on average.
The Kia Soul is a compact vehicle that gets 31 mpg on the highway. It also comes with a generous warranty that includes 5 years or 60,000 miles basic coverage and 10 years with 100,000 miles on its powertrain.
2016 Mercedes-Benz C – $84.15
The 2016 Mercedes-Benz C is a small entry-level luxury automobile that offers a decent fuel economy with highly-rated safety features.
The lower cost of this Mercedes in comparison to other models from the brand is matched by an average repair cost of just $84.15. We only wish that the vehicle’s frustrating infotainment system was improved before its release. Overall, though, we’re impressed for a luxury automobile to feature such a low average repair cost.
2017 Toyota Prius – $85.02
Much like the 2016 model, the 2017 Toyota Prius has a repair cost under three figures. At just $85.02, you won’t be stuck with huge bills for many check-engine light repairs.
Much like the last model to make the list, this one also features nearly 60 mpg during city driving and 53 mpg on the highway. It might not be the cheapest car to buy new but picking one up used could save you a ton of money in the long run, at least on average.
2017 Subaru Legacy – $85.73
The 2017 Subaru Legacy once again proves that the manufacturer understands how to create reliable vehicles that require fewer maintenance dollars. On average, a check-engine light warning comes with a repair cost of just $85.73.
This mid-size car has also been deemed “fun to drive” in reviews and comes with two engine options, the 2.5i, and 3.6R. Both models also come with all-wheel drive and a continuously variable automatic transmission.
2016 Hyundai Tucson – $96.69
Just like the 2017 model on our list, the 2016 Hyundai Tucson has also proven to be a very affordable model from the manufacturer. When the check engine light comes on, the average cost of a repair is just $96.69.
If you’re looking for a used compact SUV with some decent performance, a spacious interior, and straight-up reliability, this might be the perfect used model for you to choose as your next vehicle.
2015 Mercedes-Benz SL – $99.93
The 2015 Mercedes-Benz SL is a 2-door roadster that offers plenty of upgrades including keyless entry, fog lights, driver assistance, and many other luxury automobile options.
This is also a great option if you don’t want to pay hundreds of dollars, on average, for vehicle repairs. At just $99.93 per check-engine light fix, you can pick this vehicle up used and then save on repairs when something inevitably goes wrong in the future.
2016 Kia Forte – $106.94
The 2016 Kia Forte features an average check-engine light repair cost of just $106.94. The five-seat compact car is not only cheap to repair, but it’s also highly rated.
With relatively strong EPA fuel mileage numbers and some pretty decent reviews, the Kia Forte proves once again that the company is focused on developing reliable vehicles that deliver on their already low cost. The Forte is also well-reviewed for its general driveability.
Top 3 Compact Cars With The Lowest Average Repair Costs
The 2017 Kia Soul is the fourth cheapest used vehicle to repair and it earns the top distinction in the compact cars sector. The Soul has an average check-engine repair cost of just $82.
The Soul is followed by the 2016 Kia Forte which costs just $107 on average. And rounding out the list is the 2015 Kia Forte at just $128 per repair. If you’re looking for a used compact car, it seems pretty clear that a Kia is a great way to go.
Top 3 Minivans With The Lowest Average Repair Costs
The minivan segment offers some reliable vehicles that are not necessarily cheap to fix. Unlike compacts and midsize sedans, these vehicles typically cost hundreds of dollars when repairs are needed.
The best of the sector is the 2016 Honda Odyssey with an average check-engine light repair cost of just $178. The Odyssey is followed by the 2018 Chrysler Town & Country at $266 and the 2009 Toyota Sienna which features an average repair cost of $355.
Top 3 Midsize Vehicles With The Lowest Average Repair Costs
Midsize vehicles don’t cost much more than a compact car to fix, at least in terms of check-engine light issues that might arise with a used vehicle. Topping off the list is the 2017 Subaru Legacy which is also one of the top 10 cheapest used cars to repair.
Joining the Subaru Legacy is the 2011 Kia Optima with an average repair cost of $129. The Kia is followed by the 2016 Toyota Camry which costs $134 to repair, on average.
Top 3 Full-Sized SUVs With The Lowest Average Repair Costs
The 2017 Dodge Durango is the cheapest used full-sized SUV to repair on our list. If you own this sports utility vehicle you can expect to pay $126 per repair. That’s not a bad price considering the higher average buy price for SUVs.
The other SUVs on our list are also American-made vehicles. The 2017 Chevrolet Traverse features an average repair cost of just $132 while the 2016 GMC Acadia is around $140 to repair.
Top 3 Wagon / Crossover SUVs With The Lowest Average Repair Costs
If you’re looking for an SUV crossover or wagon you might want to check out the 2017 Subaru Outback. For this used vehicle, you can expect to pay an incredibly low $59.92 per repair.
The Subaru is the only non-Hyundai to make this category. The other two vehicles include the 2017 Hyundai Tucson with a repair cost of $79 and 2016 Hyundai Tucson which runs just $97 per repair, on average.
Top 3 Trucks With The Lowest Average Repair Costs
The truck category has some pretty tight competition and it’s not a cheap category to own a vehicle in. The cheapest used truck to repair, according to CarMD, is the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado. The cost? $187.
That option is followed by the 2015 Chevy Colorado with an average repair cost of $194. Rounding out the top three cheapest used trucks to repair is the 2017 Nissan Frontier at a cost of $196.
Top 3 Most Reliable Compact Cars
The 2017 Honda Civic is currently the most reliable vehicle, based on the fewest repair incidents and/or lowest average repair costs. If you want to save some extra cash you can move back one year and purchase a 2016 Honda Civic, the runner-up on the list.
A surprising hit on the list is the 2017 Mazda 3. This vehicle ranked third for the most reliable among used compact cars from 1995 through 2019.
Top 3 Most Reliable Minivans
A fan favorite, the 2017 Honda Odyssey is also the most reliable minivan from 1996 through 2019. The Odyssey isn’t cheap but given the wear and tear often placed on minivans used as family vehicles, the extra cost may come back to you in the form of fewer repairs.
The Odyssey is followed by the 2017 Toyota Sienna and 2016 Toyota Sienna models. Not only have foreign manufacturers beat out Dodge’s popular minivan lines for reliability but you may recall that the 2016 Honda Odyssey also ranked as the cheapest to repair.
Top 3 Most Reliable Full-Sized SUVs
The SUV market has a reliability winner in the 2015 Acura MDX. This isn’t a huge surprise as Edmunds listed this year, make, and model as a top pick for a three-row luxury crossover. The vehicle is noted for decent performance along with a ton of comfort.
Also on top of the reliability list is the similarly reviewed 2014 Acura MDX, followed by the 2017 GMC Acadia which has stellar ratings that typically range between 4.8 and 5 stars.
Top 3 Most Reliable Wagon / Crossover SUVs
If you’re looking for a smaller wagon crossover SUV, the most reliable used vehicle option is the 2017 Honda CR-V. It’s one of the most well-reviewed SUVs from its model year, making it a top choice among many consumers.
The Honda CR-V is followed by the 2017 Subaru Outback. As previously mentioned, the Outback is also the cheapest vehicle to repair with an average CEL repair cost of just $59.92. Rounding out the list is the 2016 Subaru Forester.
Top 3 Most Reliable Trucks
The 2016 Toyota Tacoma beat out Ford, Dodge, and others to claim the top spot on the CarMD reliability list. It’s a well-reviewed truck that offers plenty of performance.
The 2017 Ford F-150 made the list. Let’s be honest, it would be a travesty if Ford’s flagship truck didn’t live up to its reputation. Rounding out the most reliable truck list is the 2017 Honda Ridgeline which is also well-reviewed.