Most Reliable Cars in History
11. Subaru Wagons
Model years: 1990Present,The toughness of Subarus (with their standard allwheeldrive) sometimes gets conflated with reliability, but theyre not the same thing: Just ask the many owners who had cylinderheadgasket failures. Nonetheless, many keep on trucking, particularly for owners involved in higher education. Have a look in the parking lots of colleges and universities in the Northeast and Pacific Northwest, where they serve as the transportation of both professors and students. The only way to tell whose is whose is by the bumper and window stickers. While Consumer Reports lists the 2005 Impreza wagon as a best buy for under $10,000, it also notes some model years of the Outback and Legacy as cars to avoid. Caveat emptor.
12. Saab 900
Model years: 19791993,Lets just get this out of the way: The Saab 900 is no Swedish cousin to the Volvo 240, at least not in terms of inherent reliability or simplicity of design. Weak transmissions are among their problems, says import expert Bredesen. That said, this other Scandinavian has its own cultlike following that keeps a good number on the road, particularly in New England and Colorado, where the frontwheeldrive Saabs were popular for their great handling in snow, back before allwheeldrive became a common option. We do see a lot of them through the shop, says Chris Campbell, a technician at Swedish Solution, in Westbrook, Maine. Their owners are pretty fanatical about their cars. We have one who drives her 1983 900 Turbo across the country twice each year, and the last time we did service on her car, a routine brake job, her car had over 435,000 miles and was still running like a top. The Wisconsin Automotive Museum near Milwaukee features a 1989 Saab 900 SPG that was driven more than a million miles before being donated. The irony, of course, is that some of these cars have outlived Saab itself. These 900s were the last models designed by the car manufacturer before it was bought by GM, which in turn unloaded the brand in 2010 as part of its bankruptcy recovery. Saab as we knew it died shortly thereafter, though efforts continue in Sweden to revive the brand.
13. Volkwagen Van
Model years: 19501992,The VW van, which creates instant counterculture nostalgia for baby boomers, keeps finding new generations of fans. Just look at the comic strip Zits, whose 16yearold protagonist drives one. A combination of sheer devotion from its fans and a deep reserve of used parts (thanks in part to its sharing many components with VW Beetles) keeps many of these going and going. Many are sunfaded and seem to rely on bumper stickers for structural integrity, but some VW Vans actually attract serious collector money: The 23window models of the 1950s can fetch more than $50,000. Another pricey niche: the handful of latermodel Vans that were equipped with allwheeldrive. There is perhaps no vehicle more worshipped in the ski towns of Colorado. But teenagers (or their parents) looking to grab one of these on the cheap can still do so with a little hunting. A lot of people kept them around, even when they moved on to something else, says Everett Barnes, creator of the Web site The Samba, a key resource for owners of older VWs. Very often, a backyard find just needs a fresh battery to start up, Barnes says, and getting it roadworthy may cost a relatively modest $500 to $2,000.
14. Geo Prizm
Model years: 19842010,The Geo Prizm is one of a number of vehicles that have at their core one of the most reliable cars ever: the Toyota Corolla. The Corollas longevity generally goes unremarked, however. This Corolla clone (marketed as a Chevrolet at one point) also appeared as the Chevy Nova (19841988) and the Pontiac Vibe (20022010). Many of these cars are still out there on the open road, sometimes causing headscratching as they soldier on into their second or even third decade. What is that thing? How? Why? All of these cars were the product of a ToyotaGM joint venture called NUMMI, a Fremont, Calif. factory that built nearly 8 million vehicles of Toyotas basic design before it closed down in 2010. These were the first Toyotas assembled in the U.S., and the story of how this locations jaded United Auto Workers workforce learned the Toyota Way and turned out cars just as good as the ones built in Japan is a fascinating one (you can listen to it in an episode of the public radio show This American Life). These cars get highway mileage in the 35 mpg range, which has made them Old Gold during eras of high gas prices. A shrewd shopper looking for a used Corolla might consider one of these instead. The seller might not realize what hes letting go.
15. Buick Roadmaster Estate
Model years: 1991?1996,Behold the last of the big American station wagons. This General Motors behemoth offers an appealing combination of reliable, modern(ish) technology and retro looks. In the later years of its production, the Roadmaster was armed with a honking 5.7liter V8 closely related to the Chevy Corvettes to help it move all that mass. Rearfacing thirdrow seats, wood paneling on the sides, shifter on the steering columnits all there. You can even fit a third passenger up front when the ruckus in back gets too loud. Cheap to insure, says Kevin Cullinane of Bethesda, Md., who has owned two of these big boys as well as a lot of other older American iron, and parts are cheap and plentiful. With a gentle foot on the gas, Cullinane gets 17 miles per gallon in town, and 23 to 24 mpg on the highway. Quite a feat for a car this weight and size, he says. The wagons seem to have outlasted their mechanically identical sedan brethren, such as the bulbous Chevy Caprice that was a fixture of police and taxi fleets in the 1990s. Lowerstress suburban living may be the reason. Closely related but scarcer: the Chevy Impala Wagon and Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser.
16. Honda Accord
Model years: 1976Present,Heres a wager: Next time youre out for a spin, watch for a nondescript, tan or silver fourdoor. Betcha its a Honda Accord. Combine reliability and bestselling statusa true virtuous cycleand you get ubiquity. Exactly what it is about Honda that provides such durability is the subject of much debate (and much corporate envy/espionage involving Hondas design and manufacturing processes). But surely some of it has to do with the fact that Honda Motor Company puts its engines and engineering first. Look up Honda Accord in Consumer Reports and you will see a sea of red dots that indicate owners have darn few problems with these cars. The smaller Honda Civic shares much of the quality but is more likely to be modified by its owners to look flashier and run louder, with maintenance simultaneously neglected. So the Accord gets our nod.
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