There is no concrete quantifier when it comes to ranking cars as good or bad. The process of ranking car brands becomes even more difficult when you consider the fact that the same brand can make some very good and very bad cars.
That difficult task is being done by Consumer Reports for the last 85 years. The non-profit organization, considered a highly credible source, has been ranking almost every consumer product since 1936. Here’s what these guys have to say about car brands on the market right now, based on a rating of 1-100.
Mazda – 80
Topping the list is the Japanese automaker Mazda with a score of 80 out of 100. Mazda has improved 3 points over the last year’s score to secure the first position.
The things that earn Mazda this spot are the trademark Japanese reliability and great value for money. What other manufacturer can offer a Roadster that costs under $27,000 and has huge tuning potential? That added to the fact that cars like the Miata will not have you stranded on the freeway make Mazda the topper.
BMW – 78
While reliability after 50,000 miles has never been the strongest suit of BMW, it has still managed to improve six points over the 2020 rating, securing the second position on the list with an 80/100 score.
The way BMW intertwines luxury with performance and stunning looks is the main reason why this German carmaker has made it so high on the list. However, it needs to be said again that this rating does not apply to any unit with more than 50K miles on the odometer.
Subaru – 76
It appears that if you keep the prices low, the reliability high, and add an AWD system to almost every car you make, you can get to the top three in the list of the best car brands.
Subaru, a subsidiary of Toyota, makes some really fun-to-drive cars that do not break the bank. The BRZ is the best budget sports car that you can buy right now. These cars are known to be reliable and dependable.
Porsche – 76
Porsche has come down three points from its 79/100 points the last year. This year, it has 76. However, it is doing quite well for a European automaker. Porsches are not cheap but are luxurious and reliable cars.
The best-selling models of this European brand include the iconic 911, Macan, and Cayenne. For the people who need a performance car that looks good, Porsche is one of the best options.
Honda – 75
Yes, they are boring, vanilla, and thrill-less, yet they are immensely reliable cars that you can drive to and from work indefinitely as long as you keep getting oil changes on time.
Hondas are made for a very specific niche of buyers: Humans. They have everything that you need for a reasonably comfortable journey, nothing less and nothing more. Honda has made a massive jump of 10 points from 65/100 in 2020 to get to 5th place this year.
Lexus – 75
Lexus LFA is the best car that ever was or ever will be, period. The luxury and performance cars division of Toyota, Lexus, is known for bringing radical ideas to production cars, like an engine that revs all the way up to 10,000 rpm.
Other than that, Lexuses are known to be some of the very few supercars to be reliable and practical enough to drive daily. Lexus did suffer the loss of one point over the last years ranking but still has a respectable place in the list.
Toyota – 74
According to the Director of Automotive Testing at Consumer Reports, Jake Fisher, “If someone cares most about safety and reliability, the answer is Toyota.” This Japanese automaker makes the Prius, the most fuel-efficient car in America, and the Corolla, the best-selling car of all time.
Needless to say that Toyota is the pinnacle of automotive perfection, an automaker that prefers reliability and safety over anything else. Those are the things any normal car buyer needs the most so no wonder Toyota has always been high on this list.
Chrysler – 74
One of the “Big Three” automakers in the USA, Chrysler is one of the main players in the automaking game in North America and these people know how this game is meant to be played.
They own or control a lot of brands and are in turn owned by FCA, the largest automotive conglomerate in the USA. Chryslers are known for being luxurious and dependable cars and also offer a fair deal of performance.
Buick – 72
Founded by David Dunbar Buick, Buick is one of the oldest automakers in the US and is now owned by General Motors Corporations. Buick has always been known for producing cars in low volumes but with high-quality standards.
If you want to buy a car that offers small bits and pieces of luxury while being light in your pocket, Buick might have one for you. The iconic GMC reliability comes as a bonus.
Hyundai – 71
Hailing from Seoul, South Korea, Hyundai has recently become quite popular. In the 2021 rating, this automaker has hardly secured the 10th spot on the list after suffering a loss of three points over the previous year’s rating.
Hyundai makes everything from sedans to crossovers and is regarded as an affordable and reliable brand that delivers just what you want from a car to be functional. Its sales are also surging across the globe for all the right reasons.
Audi – 71
You might be astonished to know that Audi has been around for more than 100 years– it was founded in 1909! These people make luxury cars that start from the price of a Civic and go all the way up to $150,000 and beyond.
Audi had a score of 76 the last year which has come down to 71 for 2021 but is still a good score for a German luxury car. The main selling point of these cars is luxury and performance.
Infiniti – 70
While Nissan is busy making the new Z, Infiniti is churning out luxury cars for the fans of the Japanese automaker. Infiniti is often regarded to be an affordable luxury car brand in North America.
You do get the Japanese reliability with these cars but the ‘luxury’ is not on par with Maybach or Bentley. But then again, so is the price. You are getting what you pay for, which is not very much in the case of Infiniti.
Nissan – 68
Nissan has had a bad couple of years so we can forgive them for not performing well. Still, they have managed to go up by four points over this year.
A company can do only so much good when the CEO is the prime suspect of a class action lawsuit and tries to flee the country in a box inside a Cargo plane before being arrested. Nissan has however recovered and is on the way to improvement since Mr. Carlos Ghosn has been removed as the CEO and Makoto Uchida is running the company with Japanese standards of morality and honor.
Dodge – 67
This is unfair. If an automaker produces a car that has an 840hp engine and can do a wheelie straight out of the dealership, they should get a 100/100 rating by any agency in the world.
It appears, this whole rating thing does not follow engine power and you gotta do more than that to get noticed by the folks over at Consumer Reports. However, whatever they might tell you, Dodge makes the sickest cars on the planet.
Genesis – 66
Now we are in the score range where things get a bit ugly. Even though Hyundai has managed to secure 10th place on the list, their luxury car division Genesis has plummeted a massive 13 points.
It looks like the engineers over at Hyundai are too busy designing the AWD system of Tucson to give attention to the reliability of the Genesis series. Whatever, the reason might be, these people need to improve.
Tesla – 66
They have the most charismatic CEO of all time, they are doing something for the planet and they are making a car that does 0-60 in 1.99 seconds. But Consumer Reports seems to be unhappy with them.
No matter how radical, innovative, or futuristic Teslas might be, they are still not at par with the quality standards of Toyota and Honda. It will take time for them to compete with Japanese brands when it comes to consumer satisfaction.
Mini – 66
Started in 1966 by the British Motor Corporation, Mini is a lineup of small cars that made it possible for low-income households to have a car of their own. However, the concept of Minis has shifted to a luxury toy rather than a utilitarian family hauler.
As of now, they are immensely unreliable cars that have little practicality. No wonder they are so down below in the list since only collectors and loyal fans seem interested in them.
Volkswagen – 65
Volkswagen literally means “People’s Car” and the company is a real people’s car maker in every sense of the phrase. Even though they own the likes of Bentley and Audi, the cars sold under the Volkswagen name are the affordable ones.
When you sell so many cars, it is not possible to please every one of the buyers. That is most probably the reason VW has got such a low score from Consumer Reports.
KIA – 64
With global sales of more than 2.8 million units in 2019, Kia is South Korea’s second-largest automaker after Hyundai. However, there are a lot of things wrong with Kia. These cars have shown all kinds of problems over the last couple of years.
The 10-point drop in their ranking is probably because of the faulty water pumps in the Sportage that fail at 2,000 miles or the malfunctioning ABS units that combusted spontaneously and caused a recall of hundreds of thousands of KIA models.
Volvo – 64
This Swedish car brand is known more for making semi-trucks than cars. The passenger vehicle these people make are known for hand-made luxury touches and performance over anything else.
However, if the car breaks down in the middle of a highway, the leather seats and hardwood dash are no good. That is probably the reason people taking part in Consumer Reports’ surveys are not very happy with this brand.
Mercedes-Benz – 62
Let’s get this straight, Mercedes is not fooling around. They have given us some of the best cars of all time. However, that is not enough to become one of the toppers on the list of the best car brands.
The average repair cost of a Mercedes is $908 per year with an average of 0.7 trips to the mechanic every year. That added to the fact that 13% of these repairs can be severe and cost a lot more means that people are not very satisfied with this brand.
Cadillac – 62
Cadillac is not only getting low ratings from independent ranking agencies like Consumer Reports but is also failing as a brand. As far as Consumer Reports scores are concerned, the poor performance here is a result of low owner satisfaction and high unreliability.
According to Jordan Zucker, Client Strategy Analyst at Targeted Victory, Cadillac is failing because of “inconclusive branding identity, a poor brand hierarchy, and an inability to provide a unique driving experience.” Needless to say, Cadillac has to work on a lot more things than their Consumer Reports scores.
Acura – 59
When Acura was formed, they were the leaders of innovation, the biggest example of that is the NSX. The scene is different now. This subsidiary of Honda is losing popularity fast due to outdated technology, competitive alternatives such as Lexus, boring designs, limited selections, and lack of innovation.
The NSX is still an impressive car but the rest of the lineup is not up to the mark for the 21st century. As not everyone who buys an Acura goes for the NSX, the general public is not very happy with this carmaker.
Chevrolet – 58
The complaint is not about this Chevy, it is actually one of the best ones the company makes. The reason this American titan has scored so low on this list is because of the other cars by Chevy.
This company is mainly known for making mediocre cars that are not remarkable or exciting. They are also known for electrical systems problems as well as mechanical issues with engines. All that compounds to bring Chevy to the point it is at.
Ford – 57
No matter if you are the pioneer of the assembly line and are known for making the cars that made it possible for the masses to own a car, if you don’t satisfy customers, you lose your position. Consumer Reports is not the only agency to rank them at the bottom.
They have also been given a 2/5 rating by J.D. Power. The reasons behind this are general unreliability and frequent problems with various engine and mechanical components.
GMC – 57
The trouble here too is with reliability. As this brand makes a wide range of cars, the reliability ranges from average for some SUVs to below average for the likes of GMC Sierra.
The most reported problems with GMC vehicles include the 4WD transfer case malfunction, fuel level gauge inaccuracy, and the cabin heating and cooling system not working properly. When you pay the premium price for a vehicle, you don’t want those things to fail and if they do, you gonna rank the automaker the lowest possible.
Jaguar might not be at the bottom of this list but it is the least reliable car out there. The most often problem with these cars is engine issues, mainly those of the timing chain that can lead to a catastrophic engine failure.
In addition to that, when these things are off the road, they are off the road for a good long time and need a small fortune to fix. The rarety of parts and their astronomical prices add to the frustration of Jag owners, compelling them to rate these cars so down below.
Lincoln – 53
Lincoln has seen the biggest decrease in Consumer Reports’ scores, 15 points in the last year. The main reason for that is the major transmission issues in these cars that affected the 2019 and 2020 models.
Other than that, these vehicles are known for power equipment issues and in-car electronics problems. The fact that Lincoln is projected as a premium brand, means that the cars need to be impeccable and anything less than that means bad ratings.
Jeep – 48
Jeep is a brand known for making utilitarian vehicles for offroading that has now graduated to making luxury cars. The reason this brand is at the bottom of the list is not reliability as most other cars.
The reason is poor gas mileage, issues with the in-car electronics, and the general pricey maintenance of these vehicles. If you want to own a Jeep and enjoy it, be ready for hefty repair and maintenance bills.
Mitsubishi – 46
Gone are the days when Mitsubishi used to make the Dakar-Winning Pajero or the tarmac-shredding Lancer Evo. Consumers are not impressed by what this Japanese automaker has to offer now.
The issues faced by Mitsubishi owners range all the way from faulty clutch and transmissions to peeling clear coats on the bodywork. Die-hard fans are still importing used Lancers from Japan but that is a hectic procedure. Many JDM fans, however, are shifting from this brand to Honda, Toyota, or Subaru.
Land Rover – 46
Everyone was waiting for this one and the blokes over at Land Rover never fail to disappoint us. No doubt the new Defender is one of the most capable off-road cars in the entire world and the Range Rover is among some of the most luxurious SUVs, but reliability is where this brand falls behind.
The problems with these SUVs range all the way from air suspension malfunction and electronic parking brake failure to crankshaft seizures and more.
Alfa Romeo – 44
As the old saying goes, if you are quiet enough, you can hear your Alfa Romeo rusting in the garage. What needs to be added to that saying is that the ‘rust’ is quite costly to fix.
The fact that Alfa Romeo is an established luxury brand, translates to the fact that its parts and maintenance are costly. If you pay so much for a car and then more for repairs and it is still not reliable, why would you give it a good score?
When Smart came to the US in 2008, people were skeptical about its success but the company managed to sell 25,000 units of the Fortwo in the first year. Now the company is owned by Daimler, the parent of Mercedes.
According to J.D. Power, Smart has an average score in driver experience and above average in ownership experience. People tend to like this car due to the fact that it offers all the bits and pieces of Mercedes luxury for a discounted price.
They are comfortable and luxurious and project an image of grandeur but they are not reliable at all. What makes these cars unreliable is not clear but WarrantyDirect ranked this luxury brand as the least reliable of the 35 they surveyed.
It was also pointed out by WarantyDirect that the average mileage of a Bentley is just 38,000 miles which pale in comparison to the list-topping Honda with an average mileage of 50,000 miles.
RAM used to be a subsidiary of Dodge in the past but now, they are a stand-alone brand of FCA. These trucks are not doing good in the consumers’ view.
The main reason behind their low performance is the four recalls on the RAM 1500 2020 model. These NHTSA recalls were because of airbags, backup cameras, and windshields. That added to the general unreliability associated with the RAM name gets them this score.
Fiats are boring but they are reliable cars, by all means. According to a recent survey by Telegraph, the brand has 12th place in reliability. ReliabilityIndex also gave the brand a score of 99 which is above the industry average.
That added to the fact that these cars are inexpensive when it comes to repairing and maintenance, translates to a lot of happy customers and high rankings.
The Italian luxury carmaker is also losing its consumers’ confidence. Though the Ghibli was a big hit (despite being a bit too overpriced), Maserati is lagging behind on many user polls.
The two main reasons for Maserati not scoring well are that its cars are not reliable and do not hold their value. No doubt, they are luxurious, but that alone cannot satisfy all users. Maserati has repeatedly earned a rating of ‘Poor’ in ReliabilityIndex rankings.
Aston Martin is another of the top-end luxury automakers, known for everything but reliability. The reason these cars are not reliable is that they are hand-built. While that adds to the brand appeal and the quality of the car, it also decreases the dependability of the car.
Though the people who can afford to buy and operate an Aston are not exactly the ones who care about maintenance costs, a failed clutch on the highway makes no one happy.
The French automaker Peugeot is not exactly known to be a luxury car but is in the ballpark of luxury cars when it comes to reliability and cost of repair. Some models, like the 107 appear at the top of reliability indexes but, overall, reliability is not the strongest suit of this automaker.
That makes the owners quite displeased with Peugeots and earns it quite a low score on many indexes.
With a reliability ranking of 14 out of 20 and a score of 93.72, this automaker falls at the industry average. These cars are also made to be easy and cheap to maintain even if they do break.
All that combined means that these cars get quite good scores when it comes to customer satisfaction. Consumer Reports did not rank them but if they did, this brand would have been quite high on the list.