Seek out these prizes

1. Subcompact car: Honda Fit

2015 Honda Fit blue/grey
Honda.com

The Fit ranks high among affordable hatchbacks.

Kelley Blue Book gives the 2015 model top marks among subcompact cars under $10,000, applauding Honda for delivering products with high quality, reliability and durability. Consumer Reports, meanwhile, says the 2015 Fit is quicker, safer and even more fuel-efficient than previous models.

It’s also a bit of a workhorse. The Fit may have a small footprint, but you can rely on it hauling just like a compact SUV.

While it shares many similarities with the Nissan Versa Note, the 2015 Fit came out on top in a Cars.com head-to-head hatchback test.

2. Compact car: Honda Civic

2020 Honda Civic Sedan Touring in red
Honda.com

This one needs no introduction.

The Honda Civic is a Kelley Blue Book Best Buy, an award that helps shoppers purchase with confidence, emphasizing maximum value-per-dollar. The Civic is touted as an inexpensive, efficient and reliable ride.

It comes in a variety of body styles, including coupe, hatchback and sedan, and provides comfortable handling and an array of safety features.

3. Midsize car: Kia Optima

Kia Optima 2018 white
Kia.com

Consumer Reports calls the Optima the single most reliable model among midsize vehicles.

In its description of the 2018 model, Consumer Reports says the Optima proves Kia can provide “refinement” and “substance,” not just competence at a competitive price.

The 2018 Optima offers a handful of upgrades over the 2016 model, which won the Kelley Blue Book award for midsize sedans. You’ll get plenty of useful tech, including a seven-inch touchscreen display, standard blind-spot detection and rear parking assist.

4. Compact SUV: Toyota RAV4

2017 Toyota RAV4 in white
Toyota.com

A pioneer of the compact SUV class, the Toyota RAV4 has consistently been ranked one of the best, according to Consumer Reports.

Kelley Blue Book agrees, saying that despite the “sea of competitors swimming in the compact-SUV pool, the 2017 Toyota RAV4 remains the gold medal champ.”

It offers capable all-wheel-drive, though if you want to go off-road, you may want to look into other vehicles.

5. Midsize SUV: Toyota 4Runner

2008 Toyota 4Runner
Toyota.com

The 4Runner, on the other hand, is suited for serious off-roading.

Kelley Blue Book praises the 2008 model as one of the best midsize SUVs under $10,000, saying it should be near the top of your used-car shopping list.

The vehicle fits up to seven people in a pinch and has a reputation for reliability, landing Consumer Reports’ top reliability spot for midsize SUVs.

After a later redesign that cheapened the car (at least according to Consumer Reports), this generation became highly sought after. If you want a traditional truck-based SUV, the 2008 model is for you.

6. Eco car: Toyota Prius

2015 Toyota Prius in red
Toyota.com

A common complaint about the Prius is that it’s not much fun to drive. In its review of the 2015 model, Kelley Blue Book describes its handling as “safe,” “fine” and “leisurely.”

That said, this car reigns supreme if you want the hybrid that saves the most gas, has the best reputation and top resale value.

The five-door hatchback is praised by Consumer Reports as the most reliable among compact cars — with an impressive 44 miles per gallon in its testing.

Be wary of these wheels

1. Volkswagen Jetta

Volkswagen Jetta in blue
Volkswagen.com

Consumer Reports lists the 2008, 2011 and 2015 Jetta models as having a record of “much-worse-than-average” reliability. That includes issues with the audio system, interior finish and power equipment like the cruise control and windows.

Motortrend calls the 2018 model a stiff ride for its class with a “cheap-feeling interior”.

This one might be a model to buy new. Consumer Reports acknowledges that recent updates have made a significant difference in its testing.

2. Ram 2500

RAM 2500 in white
Roberto Machado Noa/Shutterstock

These trucks are built for heavy-duty jobs yet rated poorly in the reliability department for several years.

Consumer Reports identified the 2013 to 2015 models as the years to avoid, citing brake systems and power components as the trouble areas.

It calls the Ram 2500 the least reliable in the used pickup truck market; the 2015 model suffered no fewer than 14 recalls. And if you value fuel economy, you’re better off looking elsewhere.

3. Ford Fiesta

Ford Fiesta in red
Ford.com

Consumer Reports suggests a number of Ford models make for poor second-hand rides, but the Fiesta stands out.

Buyers are told to beware all Fiestas from 2011 through 2016.

Like many other cars this size, the Fiesta does boast impressive fuel economy. But drivers complain of problems in everything from the transmission to the audio system, and Consumer Reports calls the Fiesta in general the least reliable subcompact car.

4. Jeep Grand Cherokee

Jeep Grand Cherokee in silver, off-roading through puddle
Michael Szonyi/imageBROKER/Shutterstock

Like Ford, a number of Jeep models didn’t fare well in the Consumer Reports reliability rankings. It calls the Grand Cherokee the least reliable option among all midsize SUVs.

Models from 2011 through 2015 were listed as years to avoid, with the 2011 version taking plenty of heat on CarComplaints.com.

Motortrend also points out that the 2018 model has subpar crash-safety scores.

5. Chevrolet Suburban

2016 Chevrolet Suburban in off-white color
Chevrolet.com

Consumer Reports says the 2008 and 2014 to 2016 models make for unreliable rides. Problems include poor fit and finish as well as glitches with the power windows and audio systems.

The Suburban has the dishonor of being Consumer Reports’ least reliable large SUV.

If you need hefty towing capacity, or you have a big family, the Suburban may still serve you well. Some varieties let you carry up to nine people, setting it apart from other SUVs.

6. Mini Cooper and Countryman

MINI Cooper SE
bmwgroup.com

Don’t fall for style over substance.

The Mini has a devoted fan club, and both models do offer extremely sharp handling and a sporty ride. It’s also a highly customizable car — but not if you’re buying used, of course.

Yet both Mini models are well represented in Consumer Reports’ list of used vehicles to ignore. Transmission issues are common. Try to avoid Cooper models from 2008 to 2013 and 2015, as well as Countryman models from 2012 to 2013 and 2016.

About the Author

Ethan Rotberg

Ethan Rotberg

Reporter

Ethan Rotberg is a staff reporter at MoneyWise. His background includes nearly 15 years as a writer, editor, designer and communications professional. He loves storytelling, from feature writing to narrative podcasts. His work has appeared in the Toronto Star, CPA Canada and Metro, among others.

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