Mike Timmermann, Clark.com
If you’re shopping for a used car, you want to find a vehicle that won’t cost you an arm and a leg in repairs.
To come up with the rankings, it analyzed the check engine health of 4.2 million model year 1996 to 2017 vehicles.
Here are the headlines from CarMD’s 2017 Vehicle Health Index:
- Acura was the brand least likely to need check engine repairs over the past year, edging out Honda (#2) and Toyota (#3)
- Hyundai is the brand with the lowest average repair cost ($306), followed by Mazda ($310) and Kia ($317)
- Volkswagen is the only brand to rank in the top 10 on both lists
- The 2013 Honda Civic is least likely to need check engine-related repairs, followed by the 2015 Toyota Camry and 2015 Toyota Corolla
- The 2012 Mazda 5 had the lowest average check engine light repair cost ($109)
At least 10% of the cars and trucks on the road in the U.S. have a check engine light on at any given time, the study found.
One important note: CarMD says a loose, damaged or missing gas cap is one of the most common check engine light triggers, which is the case with the 2012 Mazda 5.
That’s why vehicles with a high percentage of finicky gas caps often have lower average repair costs.
CarMD: These cars are the most reliable, cheapest to repair
10 most reliable brands
CarMD found the following brands were least likely to need a check engine repair over the past year:
10 brands with the lowest average repair costs
CarMD found that the 10 brands with the lowest average check engine light-related repair costs in 2017 were as follows:
- Hyundai ($306)
- Mazda ($310)
- Kia ($317)
- Chrysler ($336)
- Dodge ($341)
- Infiniti ($352)
- Jeep ($352)
- Chevrolet ($353)
- Volkswagen ($361)
- GMC ($363)
10 most reliable vehicles
CarMD found these 10 vehicles were least likely to need check engine repairs over the past year:
- 2013 Honda Civic
- 2015 Toyota Camry
- 2015 Toyota Corolla
- 2014 Toyota Camry
- 2013 Honda Accord
- 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee
- 2015 Ford Escape
- 2015 Ford F150
- 2016 RAM 1500
- 2015 Nissan Altima
10 vehicles with the lowest average repair costs
When the check engine light comes on, here’s the list of the 10 vehicles with the lowest average repair costs among those analyzed by CarMD over the past year:
- 2012 Mazda 5 ($109)
- 2014 Kia Forte ($150)
- 2015 Chevrolet Traverse ($152)
- 2011 Kia Optima ($155)
- 2015 GMC Acadia ($156)
- 2014 Hyundai Elantra ($164)
- 2015 Chevrolet Impala ($166)
- 2014 Hyundai Sonata ($167)
- 2011 Kia Sportage ($171)
- 2015 Chevrolet Camaro ($172)
The full detailed report with year-over-year scores and top 100 vehicle rankings is available at CarMD.com.
Clark’s used car buying tips
Money expert Clark Howard recommends that you buy a car that’s two or three years old because brand new cars begin to lose value the second they’re driven off the dealer’s lot.
With a used vehicle, you don’t eat that depreciation — a key benefit to buying a pre-owned car.
Once you find a used car, follow these steps:
- Check the vehicle history report. Run the VIN through CARFAX.com to find out if it’s a flood vehicle or if it has been in a horrible accident.
- Have the used vehicle inspected by an independent mechanic. One of the key things to know about buying a used car is that you buy “as is.” CarFax alone is not enough of a check; you need to take this additional step.
Finally, arrange auto financing in advance! Look at credit unions, online banks or even traditional banks. Only take dealer financing if it beats any other offer you have.