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Drivers’ Choice: The Most Reliable Cars in 2024

High-tech cars have cool features, but it’s the old standbys that car owners rely on

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The 2024 Toyota 4Runner 4x4 Limited V6 at the Washington, DC Auto Show at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.
Jack Grimes; (Source: Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images via ZUMA/Alamy)

Neck-snapping acceleration is thrilling, and swanky interiors can be seductive, but the most important quality a car can offer is reliability. After all, zippy performance and plush seats won’t do you much good if the car won’t start in the morning. Thankfully, two firms — J.D. Power and Consumer Reports — scour thousands of owner surveys each year to find the most dependable vehicles and try to predict which new models will be the most reliable next year.

And with the average vehicle in the U.S. being 12½ years old, owners are clearly trying to squeeze more value out of their purchases, making reliability all the more critical. Here’s a look at what drivers are saying when it comes to how dependable (and not) cars are.

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Overall, drivers say reliability is declining

Unfortunately, J.D. Power’s latest survey, released in February, found that overall long-term dependability declined compared to last year, with four more problems per 100 vehicles than in 2023.

What is causing the decline in reported dependability? Frank Hanley, senior director of auto benchmarking at J.D. Power, said cars with complex technology such as EVs are experiencing the biggest growing pains because of their issues with software updates and the level of complexity they present to users.

Some tech issues are also still plaguing owners, including problems connecting Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to their in-dash car systems and inaccurate built-in voice recognition systems. Other more serious issues with tech include drivers complaining about advanced driver assistance safety systems, such as the frequency of blind spot warning alerts.

EVs are getting a particularly bad rep

The J.D. Power survey also backed up many of the findings from the earlier Consumer Reports study published in November 2023, underscoring recent trends in the industry.

Particularly noteworthy, fully electric EVs generated more complaints among owners, with hybrid models (those that use gas and a self-charging battery power component) proving to be more dependable. One reason for such a trend, analysts acknowledged, is the increase in EV sales, so there was more data on EVs this year compared to previous surveys.

“EVs certainly have less maintenance than a conventional car,” said Jon Linkov, the deputy autos editor at Consumer Reports. “But for start-ups like Rivian and Lucid, while their EV technologies are really robust, the other stuff is maybe less great.” Those companies are still finding it difficult to maintain quality control, while, conversely, established automakers are finding it difficult to build reliable all-electric power trains.

Toyota wins most reliable of them all

Another area of agreement among owners in both surveys was their assessment of the most reliable automotive brand in the mainstream market: Toyota. J.D. Power’s gave Toyota nine awards in different segments, more than any other brand, as well as placing it in the number one spot for dependability in the mass market segment (Buick ranked second). Even when price wasn’t a consideration, Toyota managed to come in first overall with its luxury Lexus brand.

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Meanwhile, in the Consumer Reports study, which ranked individual models based on its latest online survey of owners covering more than 330,000 vehicles from the 2000 to 2023 model years (including some 2024 models), Toyota captured four of the five top spots in reliability.

“Legacy automakers like Toyota don’t make massive changes to their power trains,” explained Linkov. “They build very solid and not very flashy vehicles.” Furthermore, the survey favors established models and doesn’t include completely new entries. “We look at three years of model data, in order to give it a prediction going forward. If it’s an all-new model, we won’t give it a prediction.”

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From Consumer Reports, number one for expected reliability was the 2024 Toyota 4Runner. It’s a midsize SUV that can go off-road and accommodate a third-row seat, but its combined mileage is unimpressive (17 mpg) and it’s not inexpensive, ranging from $40,705 to $55,170, depending on options.

Number two in the Consumer Reports survey was the 2024 Toyota Camry Hybrid. With a gas engine supported by an electric power pack that recharges while driving, the Camry Hybrid offers excellent fuel economy (a combined 47 mpg). Priced from $26,420 to $36,845, it features a design that’s familiar to most buyers and delivers a comfortable, if predictable, ride.

Number three in Consumer Reports’ ranking of reliability was the gas-only 2024 Toyota Camry. Somewhat surprisingly, the midsize traditional Camry sedan fell behind its hybrid brethren. “A regular hybrid is very reliable and can actually be better than an entry-level gas version in many ways,” explained Consumer Reports’ Linkov. “The electric motor fills in some of the gaps, so the gas engine doesn’t have to strain, and hybrid tech has been around longer now.”

Number four on the list was the 2024 Toyota RAV4 Prime. The Prime version of this compact SUV is a plug-in hybrid, which means you can charge it and run on electric power only up to 42 miles, and then switch to the gas-powered engine when needed. That gives it an overall mileage rating of 72 mpg. It ups the price, however, ranging from $43,690 to $47,560.

Number five on Consumer Reports’ reliability hit parade was the 2024 BMW X5. The luxury midsize SUV has smooth and balanced handling, and a whisper-quiet interior that has endeared it to owners. The BMW X5 also has reasonable gas mileage for its class (23 mpg combined), but it is also priced accordingly, from $65,200 to $122,300.

Other cars that make the grade

Dependability isn’t the exclusive domain of Toyota and BMW. In the top 10 of the most reliable vehicles for Consumer Reports was the 2024 Subaru Forester. The Forester is a compact SUV that comes standard with all-wheel-drive (making it the unofficial state car of winter-weary places like Vermont) and an overall mpg rating of 28 miles. It’s also more modestly priced, ranging from $27,095 to $37,395, depending on options.

At the other end of the scale, if you’re looking for a more luxurious ride, Consumer Reports’ reader surveys put the 2024 Acura RDX in the top 10 for reliability. The luxury compact SUV has a reputation for cosseting drivers, but you’ll pay for the privilege: $44,350 to $54,150 depending on the trim level.

And when you are looking for performance, according to the J.D. Power report, the most reliable premium brands are Porsche and then BMW.

Biggest takeaway: Don’t rush out and buy the highest tech

There’s an old adage in the computer business: Never buy version 1.0 of anything. Analysts from J.D. Power and Consumer Reports say the same goes for cars.

“The first year of a vehicle launch is when they tend to have problems before they get better,” said J.D. Power’s Hanley. “That first year is more problematic in the industry.”

Consumer Reports’ Linkov agreed: “Electronics still run the gamut, and with the newest integrations, there are problems with it.” So if you want to avoid as many complications as possible, he has one piece of advice: “If you are concerned about reliability first and foremost, sedans are still the most reliable type of vehicle out there.”

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close up of a gold car parked near the water during sunset

AARP Auto Buying Program Powered by TrueCar

Shop for a car with safety features you want. Buyers can get a free AARP Smart Driver course.

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