Toyota Leads Latest Reliability Study, But Mazda Models Are The Most Affordable To Fix

Having your check engine light come on can be a bit disconcerting as it could mean anything from major problems to something as simple as a gas cap not being tightly screwed on.

While the issues can vary widely, CarMD has released its annual Vehicle Health Index Make and Model Reliability Rankings which analyze check engine repairs and their related costs. This year’s study looked at over 5.6 million vehicles from the 1996 to 2018 model years which reported a check engine light coming on between October 1st, 2017 and September 30th, 2018.

According to the results of the study, Toyota vehicles were the least likely to have the check engine light come on. The automaker was followed by Acura, Hyundai, Honda and Mitsubishi.

While it’s good to have a reliable vehicle, some repairs are unavoidable. When this occurs, you’ll probably want one of the cheapest vehicles to fix. Mazda lead the study with an average check engine light repair cost of $286. It was followed by Kia ($320), Dodge ($326), Hyundai ($328) and Chrysler ($329).

The cheapest vehicles to fix were the 2017 Hyundai Tucson and Accent which had an average repair cost of $67 and $69, respectively. Other models with affordable repair costs include the 2016 Kia Rio ($70), 2014 Toyota Prius C ($83) and 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage ($84).

Unsurprisingly, the study says the “most common and affordable repair on 9 out of 10 of the most affordable vehicles is to inspect or replace a loose, damaged or missing gas cap.” This is pretty common sense stuff and owners should always double check the gas cap before heading to the dealership and paying around $70 to have them tell you you’re an idiot.

As for the most reliable vehicles, the winner is a bit of a surprise as it’s the 2016 Audi Q5. It was followed by the Subaru Crosstrek and three Honda models (CR-V, HR-V and Civic).

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  • Dude

    This is most interesting to be because CR just blasted Honda’s new models. They fell something like 5 places in the latest report and CR pointed to the new turbo engines and electronics. This doesn’t say anything about the electronics issue but the 2016 Civic especially topping a reliability list (brand new redesigned models often introduces lots of new issues) makes me think that Honda’s still got it.

    • PhilMcGraw

      CR and CarMD use different methodologies to obtain their respective reliability lists. CR asks people what problems they’ve had with their vehicles, including electrical, climate system, brakes, interior quality, etc. CarMD is basing their information on how many vehicles have experienced a check engine light and then separately the average cost of repair per vehicle. The problem with CR’s list is that it can be very subjective because you’re asking people what they consider to be a problem with their vehicle or their experience with it, while the problem with CarMD is that you’re just looking at engine problems and nothing else.

      In your case, a 2016 Civic may not have any engine problems that would show up on CarMD’s list but they may still experience a lot of infotainment or climate control issues that might show up on CR’s list.

      So, you kind of have to take each list with some perspective and maybe even combine the two to get a fuller picture. CR’s is arguably more subjective while CarMD’s is more objective but both don’t paint the full picture.

      • salamOOn

        as long as i can drive it and brake, i “dont” care about windows/climate/entertainment problems…..

        • PhilMcGraw

          You may say that now, but I had a friend who drove an Infiniti sedan that had the climate controls messed up and they were driving in the middle of winter with the A/C blasting and couldn’t do anything about it. That would definitely be a problem I’d like to know about before purchasing said vehicle.

          • salamOOn

            1. i “dont” care – i care, but not that much.
            2. of course i wouldnt keep the problem unsolved for longer period. it was more like backing the CarMDs methods.

      • ksegg


        CR’s biggest problem is asking people, which I always found idiotic.

        Because you’re always going to have that one angry BMW guy who doesn’t know how to use iDrive correctly, and says BMW SUCKS! Which brings their ranking down.

        IMO, reliability rankings should rely 100% of raw data, period. Not a single owner should be asked about anything, and only look at data that relates to maintenance, costs, etc.

    • True, however their embrace of CVTs will come back to haunt them in the future, just like Nissan.

  • N13MS

    2013 Model S
    $37.47 in maintenance costs so far

    • Matteo Tommasi

      It means you’re not taking care of your car

    • Ben

      When’s the last time you replaced your timing belt? Its supposed to be every 100k miles.

  • Craig

    My dad’s 1975 Mercury Marquis Brougham’s ‘Check Engine’ light NEVER came on. The fact that he had me remove the bulb might have been a contributing factor. But I don’t think so. I mean… I always knew where the bulb was.

    • Socarboy

      My Great Uncle Oscar has a 1975 Marquis as his last car. He got it brand new, got dementia a couple of years later, and the Marquis ride ended then with a collision with an ambulance

      • Craig

        A sad story all around.

    • Loquacious Borborygmus

      Did you check it occasionally (wherever you placed it) to see if it was on?

      • Craig

        lol – I wrapped it several times in electricians tape just in case. If it ever came on – I never noticed!

  • I wonder who Mercedes paid off? Didn’t think they would make the Top 10. If you speak to any mechanic, they will tell you that Nissans and Mazdas are the least reliable Japanese cars.

    • HaltestelleLuitpolthafen

      Mercedes’ less complex models have actually been incredibly reliable lately. The A/CLA/GLA, C/GLC, and E/GLE are all very very good. The big boys have too many electronic gadgets to be considered reliable.

      • True, however the most reliable and solid Benzes were made in the 1990s.

  • dumblikeyou2

    Funny, but most cars today rarely leave their owners stranded like they commonly did years ago. There’s a generation out there that doesn’t realize what people had to contend with; cars not starting in the morning, overheating regularly, or engine flooding, etc. This was apart of people’s daily life and stresses that has been virtually eliminated with modern automobile technology. The car industry has come a long, long way for better or worse. The “unreliable” aspect of car ownership today is truly nitpicking. First-world people problems.

    • Craig

      The TRUTH you speak! The occasional engine FIRE wasn’t all that uncommon either when I was growing up. Usually just a lot of smoke – but you know what they say…..

      • Loquacious Borborygmus

        Peugeots of 15-20 years ago used to have a tendency for this.

        • Kevin Cagle

          ….and Dodge Intrepids.

    • Ben

      You’re right man. I just recently bought a Toyota 4Runner due to the body on frame construction and the reliability. However, I had to check myself when beating my chest about “unstoppable reliability”. Yes, Toyota is incredibly reliable, but its not like every other car is falling to pieces at 20,000mi. Sure, the Toyota may last to 300,000mi+, but is that REALLY the minimum people need before they call a vehicle reliable? ANY vehicle (except Fiat) will get you over 100,000mi and likely to 150,000mi which is reasonable.

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