Cars have been an integral part of our world for the last 120 years... and in that time, we have seen models that were instant hits, ones that remained on top of the market for a long time, and ones that were commercial failures.
There is no single aspect of a car that can make it a best-seller. A number of factors determine the commercial success of a complicated product like a car. Being the most expensive consumer product most people buy in their life, cars are a huge decision, and people decide after considerable due diligence. Today, let's count down the cars consumers have declared the best, according to sales numbers.
Toyota Corolla - 47,500,000+ Sales
The best-selling car of all time, the Corolla just goes to prove the point that in order to make a commercially successful vehicle, you do not need to make it crazy fast, powerful, or feature-loaded. You just need it to be reliable and able to get the job done.
Introduced by the Japanese automaker Toyota in 1966 as an economy car, the Corolla has globally sold more units than any other car ever. To put that number into perspective, if all the Corollas ever sold were lined up bumper to bumper, they would be enough to go around the globe five times.
Ford F-Series - 40,000,000+ Sales
The next vehicle on this list is America's favorite Pick Up Truck. The F-Series is as old as the cars themselves and has been the best-selling vehicle in the US for more years than any other model. In a way, the achievement of the F-Series is even more significant than that of the Corolla.
That is because Corolla has a large market all over the world, which drives those sales numbers. While the F-Series is available all over the world, a significant portion of its sales comes from the US alone, where it is the go-to truck for most people.
Volkswagen Golf - 35,000,000+ Sales
The first German car to make this list is the Golf. Again, a no-nonsense car meant just to transport people from Point A to Point B. The Golf has been around since 1974, and averaging all-time sales over all those years gives us 1 Golf sold every 40 seconds.
The Golf shares its platforms with a number of other famous VW group models, including the Audi A3, Audi TT, VW Beetle, and SEAT Toledo. It is the only car in the world to be offered with electric, hybrid, petrol, diesel, and Liquid Petroleum Gas powertrains. One of the notable VW Golfs was Angela Merkel's unit from 1990 that sold at an auction for 10,000 euros.
Volkswagen Passat - 30,000,000+ Sales
Available since 1973, the Passat is based on the Audi 80 platform. The same car is available in the North American market under the "Dasher" nameplate. It is one of the most versatile models of VW, available in front, rear, or all-wheel drive configurations.
The reason Passat is one of the global best-sellers is that it is not only reliable but also offers a luxurious interior and a number of safety features making it a car of choice for family travel. However, with a top speed of 155mph, this thing's capable of much more than family road trips.
Honda Civic - 24,000,000+ Sales
Honda's answer to the Corolla, the Civic, comes at the fifth number in terms of all-time global sales numbers. The first Civic rolled off the assembly line in Japan in 1974, and the model hit the US market in 1975. It has been in production since without any pause.
The basic Civic comes in the form of a docile and reliable family car, but if you want, you can get the Type-R, a full-blown sports car that has a number of records to its name. Currently in its 11th generation, the Civic is established as one of the best cars for everyday commuting.
Volkswagen Beetle - 23,000,000+ Sales
The Beetle might not have a history to be proud of, but it is one of the most recognizable cars of all time. Adolf Hitler commissioned the Austrian engineer Ferdinand Porsche in 1935 to create a people's car for the German population, and the result was this; the Beetle.
Over the seven decades that the Beetle remained in production, there were only three generations of the car, with the first running from 1938 to 2003. VW finally stopped production of the Beetle in 2019 when the consumers shifted towards SUVs instead.
Ford Fiesta - 19,000,000+ Sales
The Fiesta was made by Ford Motor Corporation primarily for the European market and released in Spain, UK, and Germany in 1976. The name Fiesta was chosen by Henry Ford II to honor the fresh trade agreement between Ford and Spain.
The Fiesta was made as a result of the 70s oil crisis, as Ford recognized that buyers would turn to economical vehicles due to skyrocketing fuel prices. Even though the Fiesta was meant to be a normal family car, a variant made by M-Sports Cambria went for sale for an astonishing 350,000 Euros.
Toyota Hilux - 19,000,000+ Sales
Toyota Hilux, simply known as the Toyota Pickup in the US, is the best-selling compact pickup truck of all time. It started its life as the Hino Briska in 1968 when Toyota offered improvements to the model and ended up adopting the platform as one of its own nameplates.
This pickup truck is used more by militaries around the globe than civil customers. The Middle Eastern Military and para-military groups use it so much that the 1980s war between Chad and Libya was named the Toyota war due to the extensive and successful use of these trucks on both sides.
Lada Rive - 19,000,000+ Sales
If you are thinking why you have never seen this car that has made as many sales as the Hilux, you are not alone. The Rive was never offered for sale in the North American market. Produced by the Soviet Union, this car was mostly sold in Eastern Europe.
After the ban on sales of Lada cars in Western Europe in 2005, the sales numbers tanked, and there was no hope for recovery. Lada still remains a reputable car brand in Russia, but outside of there, you are not the only one to never have heard of them.
Vauxhall Corsa - 18,000,000+ Sales
Vauxhall is another of the brands that never made it across the Atlantic and was predominantly offered in the European markets only. The Corsa managed to get quite a high spot on this list, despite never being offered in the biggest car market in the world, and that is a big win for this European car.
It was first produced in 1982 and made available for sale in France, Italy, and Spain, and that generation was designed by American artist Richard Shaw. Former Doctor Who actor Matt Smith owned a Corsa that he sold for 6,300 GBP on eBay.
Ford Escort - 18,000,000+ Sales
The trendy and sporty Escort debuted in 1968 in the British market, and although it stopped production in 2004, the Escort is still one of the best-selling cars globally. This was such a hit model that after just six years of introduction, the two-millionth unit of the Escort rolled off the assembly line, a feat no other Ford model sold outside the US achieved.
First-generation Escorts count among some of the most sought-after collectible small cars. Ford has recently reintroduced the Escort in the Middle-Eastern market and is performing quite well in the small car segment.
Honda Accord - 17,000,000+ Sales
The Accord started its life as a 3-door affordable hatchback back in 1976 but has now grown into one of the best executive saloons in the world. Even though from Japan, the Accord gained most of its success in the US market, where it was the best-selling car in 1989, a title rarely held by any vehicle that is not a pickup truck.
Among the achievements of this car are making it to Car and Driver's 10-Best list 34 times and being the first Japanese car to be manufactured in the US. Currently, the Accord is being made at five plants across the world.
Chevrolet Impala - 16,800,000+ Sales
Some people still can't process the discontinuation of Chevy's flagship sedan, which was produced from 1958 to 1996 and 2000 to 2023. The Impala started as a muscle car and evolved into an executive family sedan over the years. There is still hope that Chevy will revive this nameplate as they did twice in the past.
The Impala was the best-selling car in the US in 1965, a title it never got back after that. The most probable reason for this car being eliminated is the propensity of customers to go with SUVs rather than sedans these days.
Ford Focus - 16,000,000+ Sales
The Focus debuted in 1998 as an improved version of the Escort, even though that model remained on sale for a few more years after that. The Focus is offered in both US and European markets, but both versions are quite different.
The EU variant is predominantly a family hatchback, while the US model offers the RS and ST variants that fall under the hot-hatch category. The Focus has also been extensively used in rally racing and other motorsports events. It is also the only car to win British Touring Car Championship with an LPG engine.
Ford Model T - 15,000,000+ Sales
The Model T can be considered the very car that made owning an automobile possible for the masses. It was the first car for which all the parts and components were developed and produced in-house by Ford. Thanks to the assembly line introduced by Ford, mass production at commercially viable rates was made possible.
At the peak of its era, the Model T made up 40% of all cars sold in the US. It was available in two, five, and seven-seat variants, but all of them were offered only in black color to keep the assembly process simpler.
Chrysler Minivan - 15,000,000+ Sales
The go-to vehicle for large families, Uber drivers, and delivery companies, Chrysler's Pacifica is sold by all FCA companies (Dodge, Ram, Plymouth) under different names. It is the best-selling MPV in the world, a place for which it competes against the likes of the Honda Odyssey and Kia Carnival.
Chrysler first released their Minivan in 1984 in the US and Canadian markets, and it is in its sixth generation now, with the same 4-door 8-seat format. Chrysler produces these minivans in Ontario, Canada; Fenton, Missouri; and Graz, Austria, to keep up with the demand.
Renault Clio - 15,000,000+ Sales
Renault is the most popular automaker in France, and most of that is because of the Clio. Launched in 1990 to replace the Renault 5, the supermini hatchback Clio became an instant hit and has been in that spot since. That is thanks to its budget-friendly pricing and economical engines.
In 1994, the Clio accounted for 49% of all the sales of Renault. Though mainly meant as an economy car, the Clio does offer a mid-engine V6 variant which is one of the most famous European hot hatches right now. If you are in the US, you can only especially import the Clio, as it was never officially offered here.
Volkswagen Polo - 14,000,000+ Sales
The Polo is one of the most reliable and affordable cars to be made by the VW group. It was introduced in 1975 as a response to the oil crisis as a car with minimum fuel consumption. To this date, it is considered one of the best hatches of all time.
The Polo shares its platform with Audi A1, SEAT Ibiza, and Skoda Fabia. Thanks to the mere 800kg weight and nimble handling of the Polo, it was also used to develop some impressive sports hatchbacks. Talking of performance features, it is the only hatchback in the world to offer a dual-clutch transmission.
BMW 3-Series - 14,000,000+ Sales
With the current popularity of the 3-series, it is safe to assume that it will climb the global best-seller list in the years to come. Designed by Paul Bacq and first made available for sale in 1975, the first-generation 3-series was only offered as a two-door saloon... and it remains one of the most desired vintage BMWs ever.
BMW later expanded the model to include a station wagon, the first station wagon to come from BMW. Currently, the 3-series is offered as a sedan, coupe, wagon, and even a convertible... and accounts for 30% of BMWs total sales globally.
Oldsmobile Cutlass - 11,900,000+ Sales
Another of the relics of a bygone era, the Cutlass was introduced in 1961 as the smallest unibody compact car from GM under the Oldsmobile brand. However, it got most of its success as a body-on-frame-intermediate as the 1977 model which saw the highest sales numbers of 632,742 units sold.
The Cutlass finally fell out of public favor in 1999 and was replaced by Oldsmobile Alero. The Oldsmobile brand is defunct now, but the Cutlass still remains one of the models from them that are regarded as collectibles, and people are willing to pay top-dollar prices for them.
Vauxhall Astra - 11,000,000+ Sales
Previously known as the Opel Kaddett, the Vauxhall Astra is one of the all-time favorite family cars in the UK, following the Ford Escort. The roots of this family car can be traced back to 1936 when the Kaddett was developed to rival the VW Beetle.
Introduced in 1979, the Mark I Astra got instant popularity, and the model has remained a favorite across Britain ever since. It was also the first Vauxhall model to have a front-wheel drive system and has been used in motorsports, including rally and endurance racing.
Mazda Familia - 10,000,000+ Sold
The Familia, as the name suggests, was developed to meet the needs of small families. Initially available as a two-door station wagon called the Familia Van, the Mazda Familia soon changed into a small family sedan and remained that way for the next 40 years before being replaced by the famous Mazda 3.
The Familia started production in Hiroshima, Japan, in 1963 and was released for the 1964 model year, first in the Japanese market and then in the North American and EU markets. Its successor, the Mazda 3, still remains one of the most popular small Mazda models the world over.
Mercedes C-Class - 10,000,000+ Sales
When the C-Class debuted in 1993, it was the entry-level Merc at the time and was referred to as the "Baby-Benz." It replaced the 1982 Mercedes 190 (W201), the first mid-size saloon produced by the German automaker.
The Mercedes C-Class was first released only for the German market, but it soon made its way to the rest of the World and is now offered in four body types; Sedan (W205), Wagon (S205), Coupe (C205), and Cabriolet (A205). Even though the initial models were plagued by rust issues, the C-Class is a successful Mercedes model now.
Toyota Camry - 10,000,000+ Sales
It's not widely known, but when Toyota was in the initial phases of starting the Camry, they tried to make a deal with Ford to manufacture the car at one of their facilities in the US. Ford, however, backed out of the deal, thinking the Camry might be a direct competitor to a model that they had in the pipeline.
Since its release in 1983, the Camry has been used as everything from executive company cars to taxis and family cars... and it has proved to be an excellent choice for every one of those roles.
Ford Mustang - 10,000,000+ Sales
2,200 Mustangs were sold on the very first day Ford released this car in 1964. This car is literally in a class of its own, being the ONLY Pony Car from the 1960s that has remained in continuous production ever since it came out. Ford has released six generations of the Mustang, each being more successful than the last.
Recently, Ford has also released an electric SUV variant of the Mustang, called the Mach-E, which might feel like a departure from the Mustang's fire-breathing roots, but it is a step in the right direction that will keep the model relevant in the years to come.
Ford Ranger - 9,500,000+ Sales
The Ranger nameplate is an umbrella that covers a range of mid-size and compact Ford trucks. The model sold in North America is purely Ford's production, while the international model is co-developed with Mazda. The Ranger first started as the entry-level compact truck produced by Ford that grew to encompass mid-size models as well.
The Ranger might not be very popular in the North American market because it is sandwiched between the entry-level Maverick and the top-of-the-line F-Series, but in many markets across the world, it is the only pickup truck offered by Ford, and that is where it gets most of the sales from.
Toyota Land Cruiser - 9,500,000+ Sales
The Land Cruiser first came out in 1951 as a bare-bones utilitarian off-road vehicle mainly meant for farmers to roam around in the fields. Over the last 70+ years, the Land Cruiser has developed into a premium off-road machine that can tackle any terrain and be immensely comfortable for the occupants while it's at it.
The Land Cruiser is used by private individuals, militaries, mining companies, safari parks, and anyone who needs to go somewhere there is not a paved road. However, Toyota is going to kill the nameplate with this generation to channel the sales toward the Lexus LX.
Ford Explorer - 9,200,000+ Sales
One of the most successful Ford Models, the Explorer, was released in 1990 to replace the 2-door Ford Bronco. Currently slotted between the Edge and the Expedition, this mid-size SUV is the vehicle of choice for people shopping for a family SUV that can also go off-road if need be.
The Explorer, thanks to its sturdy design, powerful engine options, and capable off-road driving, has been used for everything from ambulances to delivery vehicles in areas where roads are not available, and it has stood the test of time while doing so. Currently, in its sixth generation, the Explorer is available in a choice of different chassis and drivetrain options.
Nissan Sentra - 9,000,000+ Sales
Nissan Sentra, also known as Nissan Sunny, Tsuru, Sylphy, and Pulsar, started off as a sub-compact sedan in 1982 but has grown into a compact one now. It is offered under all of those different names in different markets all over the world and is one of Nissan's best-selling models.
The majority of the Sentra's sales come from the US market, where it is considered one of the best options as an entry-level car. The Sentra could have been higher up on the list if not for the Versa, which has replaced it as the entry-level offering from Nissan.
Volkswagen Jetta - 9,000,000+ Sales
The Jetta was developed in 1979 as a sedan offering for the North American market. Even though the Golf was a successful model, it lacked the appeal of a sedan, and many of the customers seemed to favor the traditional 'three-box' configuration, and the answer to that was the Jetta.
Currently, in its seventh generation, the Jetta has been sold under a bunch of different names, including Atlantic, Vento, Bora, City Jetta, Jetta City, GLI, Jetta, Clasico, and Sagitar. The Jetta is VW's most popular model in this segment after the Golf and is available in all major markets.
Chevrolet Equinox - 9,000,000+ Sales
The Equinox is the newest vehicle on this list. Released only in 2004 for the 2005 model year, the Equinox hit the market as a mid-size crossover SUV but morphed into a compact one by 2018. It replaced the Chevy Blazer and then the Chevy Captiva and is currently a fan-favorite in the North American and Middle Eastern markets.
Chevy also released an all-electric model of the Equinox called the Equinox EV in 2022 that went on sale in 2023 for the 2024 model year. Chevy is also working on a fuel cell version that will have better performance than the battery-electric one in sub-freezing temperatures.
Toyota Highlander - 8,000,000+ Sales
The Highlander was the first mid-size SUV to be based on a car platform instead of a truck, making it much more comfortable than the 4Runner. Released in 2000, it quickly became Toyota's best-selling SUV, only to be surpassed by the RAV4 in 2006.
Currently, in its 4th generation, the Highlander is offered with gas and hybrid engines. The main selling points of the Highlander are the interior space and all-terrain abilities of an SUV with the comfort level of a sedan. The Highlander is a great option for buyers who need something bigger than the best-selling RAV4 but just as comfortable.
Chevrolet Camaro - 7,800,000+ Sales
The Camaro was introduced by GM as a competitor to Ford's Mustang in 1966 and is the second Pony Car that is available for sale today. However, unlike the Mustang, there was a 7-year hiatus in the production of the Camaro between 2002 and 2009.
Currently, the Camaro is Chevy's entry-level sports car that comes below the Corvette. While it started with the good old V8 under the hood, the new Camaros are available with 4-cylinder and V6 options, which some think are not true to the roots of the American sports car, but were the need of the current times.
Ford Crown Victoria - 7,000,000+ Sales
The Crown Vic gained a lot of popularity for a car that only remained in production for 20 years. While the popularity might have come from the catchy name and the killer of a car that it was, the sales numbers came from one very specific source, the Police department across states of the US.
The Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor was a special body-on-frame version of the Crown Vic developed for the police. This came after the discontinuation of the Chevy Caprice in 1996, and for the following 15 years, Ford Motor Company maintained a near monopoly on the Police car market in the US.
BMC/BMW Mini - 6,700,000+ Sales
When the Mini was first released in 1959, it had a revolutionary new concept; it offered 80% of the car's floor space to the passenger by placing the engine in a transverse orientation and opting for an FWD configuration.
The first generation of the Mini remained in production until 2000, when the model was finally killed. The brand is now owned by Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, known colloquially as BMW. Even though other models are being produced under the brand, the original Mini, which was an icon of British culture through the 1960s and 1970s, is no more around.
Vauxhall/Opel Vectra - 6,500,000+ Sales
The Vectra was co-developed by Chevy and Opel and marketed by Opel and Vauxhall in the North American and European markets, respectively. This mid-size car was available in saloon, hatchback, and station wagon body styles between 1988 and 2010.
If you are wondering, you have not seen that car, that is because following 2010, Chevy sold the car under the Chevrolet Vectra name in US and Australia. The Chevy Vectra remained on sale until 2017, before the model was finally killed in order to free up manufacturing resources for SUVs which became more famous among customers.
Chevrolet Cavalier - 6,000,000+ Sales
The Cavalier is a compact sedan that was introduced in 1981 by Chevy to replace the Monza. It was discontinued in the US market in 2005 but remained in production in the Chinese market till 2021 and is still available in the Mexican market, where it is one of the best sellers in the compact car segment to this date.
The latest Cavalier, currently available for sale in the Mexican market, is the fourth generation of the car and is available with a 1.2-liter turbo engine and has the same platform as the Chinese Chevy Monza, which was discontinued in 2021.
Peugeot 206 - 6,000,000+ Sales
The French manufacturer Peugeot introduced the 206 as a replacement for the 205 in 1998 for the European market. Made for the B-Segment of supermini cars, the 206 remained on sale in the EU market until 2008. In the early 2000s, it was also offered in the South American and Chinese markets.
Currently, the 206 is only available for sale in Iran, where due to the lack of availability of many options, it is one of the most popular subcompact cars in the country. It's a reliable hauler that can meet most needs of an average family.
Buick Le Sabre - 5,500,000+ Sales
Buick might be irrelevant today, but back in the day, the brand was one of the major players in the automotive market... and produced some very successful models. The Le Sabre was at the forefront of that and remained in production from 1959 to 2005 across eight generations.
When the last Le Sabre rolled off the assembly line at the Lake Orion Assembly plant in 2005, it was America's best-selling full-size sedan. Buick replaced it with the Lucerne, the new flagship sedan from the company. The same assembly plants were retooled to make Pontiac G6 after the Le Sabre was discontinued.
Mitsubishi Galant - 5,000,000+ Sales
The Galant was produced by the Mitsubishi Motor Corporation from 1969 to 2007. It first came out as a compact car and then developed into a mid-size car after 1983. The production run, spanning over nine distinct generations, saw the car sold in all major automotive markets in the world.
In a way, the Galant production did not end in 2007 and was rather merged with the Lancer, which remained in production for another couple of years. Also, there are rumors that Mitsubishi is going to revive the Galant as their new flagship sedan for the 2025 model year.