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Tue, 14/02/2017
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How to Choose a Reliable Car

In January 2017 the government announced that drivers will be able to wait an extra year before getting an MOT on their new car. The proposal means that drivers will only need to get an MOT on a new vehicle after four years, as opposed to the current three year rule. The change would apply to cars and motorbikes, but vehicles that are more than four years old would still need to have an annual MOT.

The new rule could come into effect as early as next year, but although the change will result in savings for motorists, there is a concern that faults will not be picked up on as quickly as before. Your vehicle will still be legally required to be roadworthy, so it’s as important as ever to own a reliable car. But how do you choose a safe car, and what makes a car reliable?

What Makes a Car Reliable?

While modern cars are more complex than their older counterparts, and also more reliable. A reliable car will be more dependable, less likely to break down or require extensive repairs, and therefore cheaper to maintain.

How Reliable Are the UK’s Most Popular Cars?

The UK Reliability Index ranks car makes for reliability, based on all factors of a repair, the cost of parts, and frequency of failures. Japanese makes dominate the top five spots of the manufacturer rankings, with Daihatsu in first place and Honda, Suzuki, Toyota and Mazda claiming the next four positions.

But what are the most popular car models in the UK, and how do they compare in terms of reliability? More Ford Fiesta models have been sold in the UK than any other car, thanks to its good looks, comfort, and fun driving experience. It ranks at number 21, with a reliability index of 24. The average figure is 100, which means that at 24 the Ford Fiesta is much more reliable than the average car.

The Vauxhall Corsa was the second most popular car in 2016, but with a reliability index of 98, it doesn’t even feature in the top 100 most reliable models. In contrast, the Ford Focus came in third in terms of most cars sold, and has a reliability index of 20, ranking above the Fiesta in 14th place. As the table below shows, seven of the ten most popular cars in 2016 feature in the top 100 most reliable cars index, with only one featuring in the top 20:

 Most Popular Cars in 2016Position in List of Top 100 Reliable Car ModelsReliability Index
1Ford Fiesta21st24
2Vauxhall CorsaNot Listed98
3Ford Focus14th20
4Volkswagen Golf57th57
5Nissan Qashqai76th69
6Vauxhall AstraNot Listed126
7Volkswagen Polo47th48
8Mini Cooper89th81
9Mercedes C-Class84th75
10Audi A3Not Listed143

This suggests that reliability isn’t always a motorist’s top priority, and that other attributes determine how well a car will sell – such as style, comfort, driving experience, practicality, and the public perception of a manufacturer.

The most reliable car in the index is the Mitsubishi Lancer, and while over 318,000 Ford models were registered last year, there were only around 18,000 Mitsubishi models registered, despite the Lancer’s reliability.

You can find out how reliable your car – or the car you are thinking of buying – is by searching for it using the facility on the Reliability Index website.

Consider the Manufacturer’s Recall History

One way to tell the reliability of a car manufacturer is to look at their recall rates. In the last five years, cars belonging to more than six million motorists were subjected to safety recalls. However, manufacturers with the highest reputations for reliability top the list, including Toyota, Honda, Vauxhall, BMW and Nissan. The three biggest safety issues were faulty airbags (1.73 million recalls), fire risks (1.04 million), and faulty brakes (870,172). That isn’t to say that any manufacturer that has ever recalled a model should be immediately discounted when you’re considering your options for your next car. Rather, the overall track record of the manufacturer in question should be factored into your decision making.

Do Your Research

There are many ways you can research the car you have your eye on and find out how reliable it is. Review websites and magazines such as What Car?, Auto Express and many others feature a wealth of information about many manufacturers. You may also benefit from looking at owner forums – many makes and models have their own forums where owners discuss their cars, and this can give you an indication of what common faults you could experience with that particular model. It’s worth bearing in mind however, that this may give you a skewed perception of the reliability of a car – after all, how many people take to their keyboards to wax lyrical about how dependable their car is, compared to the amount of people who are having trouble and looking for solutions (or just a place to complain)?

Friends and family can also be a useful source of information if you’re looking for an opinion you can trust, however when it comes to buying your own car you may have a very different experience, as some people will encounter problems with their car while others will sail through the years happily depending on their car of the same model.

It may be helpful to consult a car mechanic who specialises in the kind of car you are looking at. They may be able to shed some light on any common problems and whether there is anything you should look out for. You may even want them to take a look at the exact car you are thinking of buying before you take the plunge.

Whether you are buying a new or a used car, there are plenty of ways to find out about the reliability of the vehicle you are considering. For used cars, it’s also important to look at the vehicle’s service history. Spend a little time finding out whether a car will serve you well for years or need regular repairs and maintenance. You’ll be saving money in the long run, and leaving less room for nasty surprises.