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Consumer Alert: Reliable Used Cars

J.D. Power & Associates says these are the most dependable vehicles

Christian Wardlaw
by Christian Wardlaw
September 21, 2006
6 min. Reading Time

Reliable Used Cars – News: Independent market research firm J.D. Power & Associates recently released the findings of its latest Vehicle Dependability Study, which measures problems experienced by 47,620 original owners of three-year-old vehicles. The top five brands in the 2006 study were, in order: Lexus, Mercury, Buick, Cadillac, and Toyota. Mini and Kia posted the most improvement in this year’s study, though both still rank below the industry average. The least dependable brands in the study were, in order: Land Rover, Saab, Suzuki, Kia, and Hummer. See the top picks in 19 categories on the following pages.

Toyota Echo: Sub-compact Car

The Toyota ECHO might not be pretty, but it sure satisfies its owners when it comes to dependability. If a reliable, inexpensive used car that gets great gas mileage is what you need, perhaps this funky Toyota can fill the bill. It was sold in coupe and sedan body styles. Runners-up: Hyundai Accent Kia Rio Cinco


Honda Civic: Compact Car

Honda built its reputation for reliability on the strengths of the Honda Civic, so it’s no surprise that it tops the compact car category. In 2003, the popular Civic was offered as a coupe, sedan, or sporty Si hatchback, in several levels of trim. Avoid Civics that have been modified (usually poorly) with aftermarket performance parts. Runners-up: Toyota Corolla Toyota Prius


Buick Century: Midsize Car

Contrary to popular belief, it looks like General Motors and Ford build the most dependable midsize cars on the market. Buick’s staid Century tops the list, followed by the nearly identical Buick Regal and the Mercury Sable. The Buicks are comfortable up front, a little tight in back, and nicely styled. Try to buy from an original owner – many Centurys are former rental cars. Runners-up: Buick Regal Mercury Sable


Mercury Grand Marquis: Large Car

The Mercury Grand Marquis, beloved by many a retiree, is big inside, comfortable, and has a huge trunk. The engine and transmission are the same as those found in countless police cars and taxi cabs, and over the years this powertrain has stood the test of time. Many used examples have seen pampered lives in sunny, warm regions of the country. This Mercury makes for a good used car buy. Runners-up: Ford Crown Victoria Buick Park Avenue


Mazda Miata: Compact Sporty Car

One of the purest expressions of a sports car on today’s market, the Mazda Miata is terrific fun to drive, inexpensive to buy, and extremely dependable. It’s a two-seater with a small trunk, but there’s enough room for two on a weekend road trip. The top is easy to use, and Miatas get about 25 mpg combined. We highly recommend this car. Runners-up: Toyota MR2 Spyder Toyota Celica


Chevrolet Monte Carlo: Midsize Sporty Car

We think J.D. Power & Associates stretches by calling the Chevrolet Monte Carlo a sporty car, since it drives more like a big coupe from the 1970s. The real surprise, however, is that the MC beat out the Toyota Solara and Honda Accord Coupe to win this category. When buying a Monte Carlo, try to find an original owner because many of these passed through rental fleets on their way to the used car marketplace. Runners-up: Toyota Solara Ford Mustang


Honda S2000: Compact Premium Sporty Car

A world-class sports car in every way, the Honda S2000 is an acquired taste. To extract maximum performance, you’ve gotta be willing to rev the engine to maximum rpm, and that means many used S2000’s have been wrung out on more than one occasion. Choose a low-mileage example from a mature owner or a certified-used S2000 that carries some protection from Honda. Avoid modified S2000s owned by people under 25 years of age. Runners-up: BMW Z4 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class


Lexus SC 430: Premium Sporty Car

Despite its complex retractable hardtop, the Lexus SC 430 tops the consumer satisfaction rankings for sporty, high-end cars. Sensually shaped and exquisitely detailed, the Lexus SC 430 oozes sophistication and class, though it’s not particularly fun to drive. If performance is your thing, try the runner-up in the category: the Chevrolet Corvette. Runners-up: Chevrolet Corvette Ford Thunderbird


Acura CL: Entry Premium Car

Acura’s entry-luxury CL coupe wins this category, but most people want a sedan. However, don’t assume the nearly identical Acura TL four-door is the logical alternative. According to the J.D. Power data, the runners-up are the Infiniti I35 and the Lexus IS 300. If you prefer the sporty look of a coupe, the Acura CL satisfies, especially in performance-tuned Type-S trim. Runners-up: Infiniti I35 Lexus IS 300 and Lexus IS 300 SportCross


Lexus GS: Midsize Premium Car

Like any Lexus, the GS provides a sublime driving experience, top-notch interior materials, and comfortable seats. Each time you slide into the Lexus GS after a hard day at the office, you’ll marvel at how simplicity, elegance, and luxury create a sanctuary from life’s daily grind. It might not deliver the driving thrills of a BMW, but it almost makes the evening commute something to look forward to. Runners-up: Acura RL Lexus ES 300



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