You really have to go out of your way to find a bad car in 2020. Every part of the process of creating a vehicle (including development and manufacturing) has gotten significantly better over the past decade, so the current crop of new cars, trucks, and SUVs is the most reliable yet. And, if something goes wrong, rest assured that warranties are generally longer than they’ve ever been, too.
With few exceptions, anyone can walk onto a lot, pick out a new car, and drive home in a vehicle that will be reasonably trouble-free for the first few years of ownership. Yet automakers do still define themselves by how long their new products act like new products. More commonly, we call these vehicles “reliable.” There are more than a few organizations that make it their business to weed out the reliable from the maintenance disasters, but for our purposes of choosing today’s most worry-free vehicles, we’ll refer to a mix of Consumer Reports and our own hands-on assessments.
Here are our top picks for the most reliable cars of 2020.
At a glance
|Toyota Prius||Most reliable car overall|
|Hyundai Elantra||Most reliable compact car|
|Lexus GS||Most reliable luxury car|
|Lexus NX||Most reliable crossover|
|Toyota 4Runner||Most reliable SUV|
|Honda Civic Si||Most reliable performance car|
|Toyota Sienna||Most reliable minivan|
|Ford Fusion||Most reliable family sedan|
|Toyota Tundra||Most reliable truck|
|Chevrolet Bolt||Most reliable EV|
The most reliable
Why you should buy this: Fewer fill-ups, fewer repairs.
Who’s it for? High-mileage commuters.
How much will it cost? $24,200+
Why we picked the Toyota Prius:
Despite its mildly complicated powertrain (compared to an internal combustion engine), the Toyota Prius is as basic a form of transportation as it gets. The Prius is appealing for several reasons, but its highlights include an affordable starting price, excellent gas mileage, and hybrid class-leading reliability. Its looks aren’t to everyone’s taste, but it offers a comfortable cabin that comes with all of the tech features you’d expect to find in a modern car; Toyota even added Apple CarPlay.
For a small premium over the standard hybrid, the plug-in Prius Prime provides 25 miles of pure electric range, 55 city/53 highway/54 combined mpg, and 640 total miles of driving range. The electric motor and the battery are components that will need to be replaced after several years, but the added efficiency more than justifies the Prius as a great buy for those in search of a reliable, fuel-sipping commuter companion that’s comfortable and practical. And, fear not if you live in an area regularly slammed by blizzard: The Prius is available with all-wheel drive.
The most reliable compact car
Why you should buy this: It’s cheap to buy and cheap to own.
Who’s it for: People on a budget.
How much will it cost: $17,200+
Why we picked the Hyundai Elantra:
Hyundai’s rival to the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla used to be a good value and nothing else, but over the years the Elantra evolved into a well-rounded compact car. The Elantra is still an excellent value today, but it also has other redeeming qualities, and the reliability to keep ownership costs low over the lifetime of the car.
Like most compact cars today, bargain-basement status doesn’t stop the Elantra from offering a decent array of tech features. An 8.0-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and wireless phone charging are all available, although you’ll have to upgrade from the base model to get them.
Most Elantra models get a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, which sends 147 hp and 132 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels. But Hyundai also offers Eco and Sport models that offer a bit more efficiency and performance, respectively. The Eco gets a smaller 1.4-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine rated 128 hp and 156 lb-ft of torque, and it achieves an EPA-rated 35 mpg combined. The Elantra Sport spices things up a bit with a 201-hp, 1.6-liter turbo four.
The most reliable luxury car
Why you should buy this: The Lexus GS proves more features doesn’t necessarily mean more problems.
Who’s it for? Those who like a mix of style and comfort.
How much will it cost? $51,065+
Why we picked the Lexus GS:
Lexus may be taking a risk with its current design language, but that doesn’t mean owners should have any concerns about reliability. Beneath its spindle grille and sweeping bodywork, the Lexus GS is every bit as dependable a luxury car as previous generations. While some competitors suffer from chronic electrical issues or mechanical failures, the GS offers class-leading comfort with the peace of mind that comes from a Toyota product.
The base Lexus GS won’t win any drag races if stacked against BMW’s 5 Series or Mercedes-Benz’s E-Class, but if it’s an endurance battle covering hundreds of thousands of miles, drivers can relax in their plush leather cabins while parts start failing on the competition. Additionally, if you really need to move quickly, the GS F offers a 5.0-liter V8 that puts 467 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque under the driver’s right foot.
Ride quality is more important to luxury car buyers. Here, the GS jumps to the front of the pack with one of the most compliant, well-dampened rides you can find at any price point. Inside, the GS is a mix of analog and digital, and it’s as luxurious as the badge on the steering wheel suggests. It feels as well built as it looks, and it will stay that way over time.
The most reliable crossover
Why you should buy this: The NX adds a touch of utility to the entry-level luxury segment.
Who’s it for? Would-be luxury hatchback shoppers who caught crossover fever.
How much will it cost? $36,870+
Why we picked the Lexus NX:
The RX, GX, and LX occupy the top three spots in the Lexus SUV hierarchy, but their prices transcend mass-market affordability. With the introduction of the NX, Lexus delivers that same blend of refinement, styling, and tech in a smaller, more affordable package. The NX is still a luxury car, but drivers experience the meaning of the term by how the car looks and feels rather than how it’s priced. It’s also more spacious than the UX, the entry point into the range.
The base engine is a turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 235 hp. Front-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic transmission come standard, and all-wheel drive is offered at an extra cost. Alternatively, and unsurprisingly considering Lexus is owned by Toyota, buyers can select a gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain built around a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. All of these components are used in other models, so they’re proven and time-tested.
Look beyond the polarizing design, and you’ll enjoy a cabin made with top-notch materials and designed with comfort in mind. Lexus recently added Apple CarPlay compatibility, and Android Auto can’t be far behind.
The most reliable SUV
Why you should buy this: If you need versatility, dependability, and off-road capability, look no further.
Who’s it for? Adventure-hungry drivers who double as sophisticated suburbanites.
How much will it cost? $36,020+
Why we picked the Toyota 4Runner:
In truth, Toyota could fill this entire roster of reliable vehicles, but its purpose-built models are most impressive. The 4Runner has always been a dependable off-roader with incredible versatility, but these days, it’s turned into a dual-purpose machine. While the rugged potential remains and has even increased, the move upmarket also introduces the 4Runner to upper-middle-class errand runs and dinner dates.
Styling hasn’t changed much in the last three decades. The masculine, boxy design remains, but refinements to body moldings, trim, wheel designs, and fascias make the 4Runner look appropriate in any setting. Power comes exclusively from a 4.0-liter V6 that serves up 270 hp and 278 lb-ft via a five-speed automatic. Rear-wheel drive is standard on entry-level models, but all-wheel drive with advanced off-road hardware is available.
It may not be fast, and the interior may feel dated, but the 4Runner can always be counted on to get you to, up, down, and from the mountain in quiet comfort. With a durable truck platform, high resale value, and generations of 4Runners to prove its dependability, buyers won’t regret choosing it.
Honda Civic Si
The most reliable performance car
Why you should buy this: It’s a great blend of performance and practicality.
Who’s it for? People who need a fun car that still works as a daily driver.
How much will it cost? $24,300+
Why we picked the Honda Civic Si:
The Civic Si has been a staple of the sport compact scene for decades, offering buyers an affordable performance car with the same reliability as the standard Civic. The Si was redesigned for the 2017 model year, moving onto the new 10th-generation Civic platform, and it received minor updates inside and out for the 2020 model year.
Pop the hood to find the first turbocharged engine fitted to the Si in the nameplate’s long history. It’s a 1.5-liter unit rated at 205 hp and 192 lb-ft. of torque. It spins the front wheels via a six-speed manual transmission and a limited-slip differential.
The Civic Si also looks the part thanks to more expressive styling than previous generations. It stands out from other Civic models with a sportier-looking front end, 18-inch alloys, a rear spoiler, and a polygonal exhaust outlet. Inside, the Si and other current-gen Civics are remarkably roomy and offer quite an array of features when all of the option boxes are ticked.
The most reliable minivan
Why you should buy this: It’s a dependable family hauler.
Who’s it for? Parents who don’t have time for breakdowns.
How much will it cost? $31,565+
Why we picked the Toyota Sienna:
Not surprisingly for a Toyota product, the Sienna is among the most reliable minivans available. In fact, Consumer Reports named it the most reliable vehicle of its type. If a nuclear war occurs and cockroaches become the only remaining life on Earth, they’ll hop in the Sienna to take their little cockroach kids to soccer practice.
The Sienna has other good qualities besides reliability. It’s the only minivan currently offered with all-wheel drive (front-wheel drive is standard), making it the best option for buyers who live in snowy climates. The sole available engine is a 3.5-liter V6 that provides a healthy 296 hp and 263 lb-ft, which is sent to the wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission. It’s certainly not as slow as it looks; 300 horsepower was sports car territory up until recently.
While the basic design itself has been around for a few years, and a new model is due out for the 2021 model year, Toyota has continually updated the Sienna to keep it fresh and competitive with the handful of other minivans currently on sale. Safety is important to minivan buyers, so the list of standard features includes a pre-collision system, adaptive cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist, and automatic high beams. The built-in 4G LTE connection provides Wi-Fi connectivity for up to five devices, so everyone stays connected and entertained on long road trips.
The most reliable family sedan
Why you should buy this: It’s a solid sedan that will stand the test of time.
Who’s it for: Anyone who wants a stylish sedan.
How much will it cost: $23,170+
Why we picked the Ford Fusion:
The current-generation Ford Fusion is quite old by industry standards, and it’s getting close to the end of its life cycle without a replacement in sight. Ford has lost interest in passenger cars as it continues to focus on trucks and SUVs, but the Fusion remains a solid midsize sedan with a good track record for reliability and all-around usability.
It starts with the styling. The Fusion remains a cut above most other mainstream cars when it comes to design, with a distinctive look that transcends its family-sedan status. Ford also offers tech features like Amazon Alexa and Waze connectivity, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot that connects up to 10 devices.
Buyers can choose from several powertrain options, including a fuel-sipping plug-in hybrid model. Most trim levels come relatively well equipped, so the Fusion is a great value in spite of its age.
The most reliable truck
Why you should buy this: It can survive anything.
Who’s it for: Survivalists.
How much will it cost: $33,425+
Why we picked the Toyota Tundra:
Toyota has a strong reputation for reliability, but the Japanese automaker’s pickup trucks, in particular, are known to be virtually indestructible. Whether it’s logging more than a million miles or surviving California wildfires, the current-generation Tundra full-size pickup proudly upholds that reputation.
The trade-off of a truck that stands the test of time like the Great Pyramids is that it feels almost as old. The current Tundra launched more than a decade ago, although it has been updated several times in the intervening years. The Tundra now touts Toyota’s Safety Sense-P suite of safety equipment, for example, which includes features like adaptive cruise control and autonomous emergency braking. Still, if you want the latest and greatest tech, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
Nonetheless, the Tundra still has the fundamentals covered. The Toyota’s maximum towing capacity of 10,200 pounds is far from class-leading, but it is respectable. The Tundra TRD Pro model also offers genuine off-road capability. If you want a no-nonsense truck, it’s hard to beat a Tundra.
The most reliable EV
Why you should buy this: It’s a Chevrolet that happens to be electric.
Who’s it for: Motorists who hate pumping fuel.
How much will it cost: $36,620+
Why we picked the Chevrolet Bolt:
Many electric car manufacturers emphasize straight-line speed and smooth, quiet rides to convince motorists that giving up gasoline is the right thing to do. Chevrolet took a much more low-key approach to designing and marketing the Bolt. It’s a Chevy that just happens to be electric, meaning it’s a solid, straight-forward car that will get you from A to B. The Silverado can do that, too, but the Bolt will shuttle you and yours around town without burning a drop of fuel.
Bolt production started in late 2016, and we’d suggest avoiding early examples because problems weren’t unheard of during the first few months of production. And, keep in mind a battery pack ages differently depending on how (and how often) it’s charged, and the environment it operates in, so battery degradation is difficult to accurately predict, but a majority of motorists who own a Bolt with six-digit mileage say it still holds a charge. The hatchback entered the 2020 model year with up to 259 miles of range, an increase over the 238-mile range in early models.
How we test
The Digital Trends automotive team scrutinizes vehicles on the road through a comprehensive testing process. We examine the qualities of the exterior and interior and judge them based on our expertise and experience in the context of the vehicle’s category and price range. Entertainment technology is thoroughly tested, as well as most safety features that can be tested in controlled environments.
Test drivers spend extensive time behind the wheel of the vehicles, conducting real-world testing, driving them on highways, back roads, as well as off-road and race tracks when applicable.
It’s always a bit of a reliability gamble when it comes to newly introduced models. First-generation cars are likely pioneering technology and manufacturing practices for an automaker, and the results could be great or woeful. Fortunately, auto brands don’t build new vehicles on a whim — the average development cycle for a new model is three to five years.
In that time, automakers research the competition, secure partners, develop internals, choose construction materials, assemble prototypes, and put hundreds of thousands of miles on pre-production test mules. If a modern car is discovered to have a fault after it goes on sale, chances are, it’s a quick fix that is facilitated through a recall at your local dealer. Additionally, as the automotive industry relies more heavily on vehicle software, updates will be made via the cloud, while your car sits in the garage.
New car tech, of course, introduces the potential for new reliability issues, but diagnosing problems and testing scenarios for potential failures will be easier than ever. In short, cars have never been more reliable, so choosing your next vehicle can be more about aesthetic preference, driving dynamics, fuel economy, and safety and less about maintenance concerns.
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