Surprisingly Reliable Used Cars

1996 Jaguar XJ6

Buying an inexpensive used car doesn’t mean you are doomed to a life of breakdowns and unexpected trips to the mechanic. Well, it does if you choose the wrong used car, but choose well and you’ll motor on in fuel-powered bliss for many years to come.

But how can you know if you’re getting the kind of car that’ll constantly let you down or not?

It’s simple, really. The people who read this blog will choose well. The people who don’t, well, just be glad it’s not you.

Here are some surprisingly reliable used cars you should consider if you need some cheap wheels.

Here’s my disclaimer:

Even the best used cars can get trashed and be at the tail end of an abused life. If the cars mentioned below fall into that category, they’ll probably still continue to run until the seats fall out. You might think I’m crazy when you see the makes and models here, but time has proven that they are indeed champions of longevity.

So let’s get to it.

We’ll begin with the clones of the most legendary reliable car ever, the Toyota Corolla. Prices on used Corollas can still be relatively high, so look for one of these instead: a Geo Prizm or a Pontiac Vibe. Both were built with the collaboration of Toyota and are basically Corollas on the inside. Plus, they were manufactured in one form or another between 1984 and 2010, so inventory should be plentiful.

The Ford Escort is also an excellent choice, but with a caveat: Avoid the 1981-1990 models and get a 1991 or later, which is when Ford and Mazda partnered to create some of the longest lasting, though blandest, cars on the road. If you don’t need excitement but do require cheap reliable transportation, the Escort is the way to go.

Foreign cars are especially known for their reliability, but here’s one with a special dose of irony. The Saab 900 has lasted longer than Saab itself. This is also a special car because it’s the last that Saab produced as an independent company before being purchased by General Motors.

This next one might throw you for a loop, because Jaguars, especially older ones, are notorious for breaking down. A lot. Check out the 1995-1997 Jag XJ6, though. It’s classy, it’s elegant, and it’s surprisingly reliable. You might have some of those famous electrical gremlins, but you likely won’t run into anything that renders the car unusable.

There are many more that’ll be covered in future posts, but for now I’ll toss it to you:

What cars have you found to be surprisingly reliable?


Find Used Cars in Your Area at CarGurus

Used Toyota Corolla
Used Geo Prizm
Used Pontiac Vibe
Used Ford Escort
Used Saab 900
Used Jaguar XJ-Series


  1. Thanks for sharing this article with us! I think it’s awesome that you don’t have to compromise price with longevity. Although used cars have older parts, I think it’s important to realize that it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re bound to breakdowns—like you’ve mentioned. I’m buying a car for my daughter; I’ll look into some of the cars that you’ve listed. Great post!

  2. Consult an expert mechanic before you buy a used car. Do check/verify the documents before you take the final call. Thanks for sharing this tips.

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