Australia's Most Reliable Car Brands

Buying a secondhand car can sometimes be a bit of a risky proposition. You’re gambling on the fact that one or more previous owners has maintained the car properly, serviced it on time, driven it responsibly and is disclosing all the facts to you. The ‘little old lady who only drives to church once a week’ is probably out there but well outnumbered by the irresponsible hoons.

There are ways to reduce your risk; getting a professional inspection, running a finance check, examining the service record and knowing what to look for on a test drive but perhaps one of the best way to bag a reliable secondhand bargain is to buy a car that was relatively trouble free when new.

Choice and the NRMA teamed up to survey 1505 people who had bought new cars between 2011 and 2016, and find out how many had reported faults in the first five years. Many of these cars will be finding their way to the second-hand market now.

Unfortunately it was bad news for Australia’s home grown heroes Holden and Ford which had the highest levels of complaints – 68% and 65% respectively. Premium brands Audi and Volkswagen didn’t score much better at 62% and 61%. And they may look tough but apparently 61% of Jeeps weren’t up to the job.

Unfortunately, dealers weren’t always helpful in resolving problems; a quarter of customers said they weren’t satisfied with the response they got. The same survey found that on average owners spent $858 and 31 hours of their own time getting problems fixed. Add the time in lost wages and the cost to owners soars to $1295. If a dealer is being difficult, it can be worth contacting the Australian head office of the car company directly.

But enough about the ones to avoid, which badges are the ones to look for when buying second-hand? Perhaps unsurprisingly it was Japanese brands – which have longstanding reputations for reliability and build quality - that fared the best. Top scorer was Mazda with 44% of owners reporting a problem in the first five years, followed by Honda at 49% and Toyota and 50%.

Admittedly that is hardly trouble-free but there is some good news. Only 14% of owners reported that their cars had faults serious enough to stop them being driven. And nearly three-quarters of all problems were fully covered by new car warranties – usually three years/100,000km. That’s an important point to consider when buying as well; you will only be properly covered if you buy your new or used car from a dealer. A private or auction purchase will only be partially covered by consumer protection laws.

If you’re considering a new or used car purchase soon, take a look at our other handy articles about what to look out for and find out more about our car and motorbike loans.