18 Most Reliable First Cars for New Drivers (Cars & SUVs)

Reliability is a crucial component of a good first car besides affordability and ease of driving.

Plus, a reliable vehicle will cost less to maintain.

Only the most reliable and consistently dependable first cars make this list.

reliable first cars

Most Reliable First Cars (Car):

Compact and, to an extent, midsize, economy sedans (and hatchbacks) are the best first cars for teenage drivers.

The initial outlay is low, and they are inexpensive to run.

#1 Toyota Corolla (Sedan & Hatchback)

As quintessential as the Honda Civic is for first car shoppers, the Toyota Corolla has been one of the most dependable affordable vehicles for decades.

With generations that run into the double digits, you can count on the compact Corolla to transport you safely, reliably, and in great comfort.

It may not be the most exciting, but it’s a car that will serve your basic commuting needs year after year without costing a fortune to operate.

The rating on JD Power attests to Corolla’s long-running, impressive reliability.

Table Guide:

  • Reliability: /100; higher = fewer problems.
Model YearReliability
2022 Toyota Corolla82/100
2021 Toyota CorollaNA
2020 Toyota Corolla80/100
2019 Toyota Corolla83/100
2018 Toyota Corolla84/100
2017 Toyota Corolla84/100
2016 Toyota Corolla86/100
2015 Toyota Corolla84/100
2014 Toyota Corolla85/100
2013 Toyota Corolla86/100
2012 Toyota Corolla85/100
2011 Toyota Corolla85/100
2010 Toyota Corolla82/100
2009 Toyota Corolla85/100
2008 Toyota Corolla82/100
2007 Toyota Corolla85/100
Toyota Corolla reliability (JD Power).

A hybrid version is available if you want an even thriftier Corolla.

#2 Honda Civic (Sedan & Hatchback)

You may pay slightly more for a Civic than a Corolla, but the former boasts praiseworthy performance for the money with sharp handling that makes it fun to drive.

First cars need not be dull, and the Civic is proof that new drivers can look forward to an enjoyable daily ride in their affordably-priced vehicle.

You will also find great value when opting for the Civic hatchback with the body style’s versatility.

The Honda Civic First Car post discusses its pros and cons for teen drivers in greater depth.

Table Guide:

  • Reliability: /100; higher = fewer problems.
Model YearReliability
2022 Honda Civic84/100
2021 Honda Civic84/100
2020 Honda CivicNA
2019 Honda Civic81/100
2018 Honda Civic80/100
2017 Honda Civic81/100
2016 Honda Civic78/100
Honda Civic reliability (JD Power).

#3 Toyota Prius (& Prius Prime)

As the driver community awaits more charging stations for electric vehicles, hybrids and plug-in-hybrids are an excellent option for first-time drivers who want to extract more miles from a gallon of fuel.

With rising fuel prices, getting a Toyota Prius or Prius Prime as a first car is a smart choice to keep costs manageable.

They cost a few thousand dollars more than a purely gas-powered economy car, but you will see a return on your investment quicker than when hybrids were less reliable.

Table Guide:

  • Reliability: /100; higher = fewer problems.
Model YearReliability
2022 Toyota Prius76/100
2021 Toyota Prius76/100
2020 Toyota Prius71/100
2019 Toyota Prius79/100
2018 Toyota Prius85/100
2017 Toyota Prius86/100
2016 Toyota Prius87/100
2015 Toyota Prius85/100
2014 Toyota Prius84/100
2013 Toyota Prius84/100
2012 Toyota Prius85/100
2011 Toyota Prius84/100
2010 Toyota Prius86/100
2009 Toyota Prius87/100
2008 Toyota Prius87/100
2007 Toyota Prius85/100
Toyota Prius reliability (JD Power).

Elsewhere, Consumer Reports rated the Prius hybrid’s reliability at 5/5 across most of its model years in the past decade.

The plug-in-hybrid Prius Prime is arguably even more impressive; all the model years obtained the maximum score since it appeared in 2017.

If you desire the added convenience of a PHEV vehicle for your first car, the Prius Prime will not disappoint.

#4 Honda Insight

The Insight is a worthy competitor to the Prius for your money with equally impressive fuel economy (around 50 mpg combined) at a similar sticker price.

However, the Honda Insight is livelier and more refined than its Toyota counterpart, its electric motor delivers more torque for a more responsive acceleration driving around town.

You get to ride comfortably in a well-utilized, roomy interior of a car with excellent crash safety.

Consumer Reports gave the third-generation, new-for-2019 Honda Insight a maximum score of 5 out of 5 since its debut and predicted that the latest model would remain reliable.

Unlike previous generation hatchbacks, the newest Insight is a sedan.

#5 Subaru Impreza

Most mainstream cars at the sub-$25k price point are front-wheel drives, but the Impreza is one of a growing list of economy vehicles with all wheels propulsion.

Besides dependability, it’s relatively inexpensive to maintain, costing marginally more than a Corolla or a Civic.

According to Consumer Reports’ 2021 industry-wide reliability survey, the Impreza is one of Subaru’s most reliable models, behind only the Crosstrek (listed later in the post) and Forester SUVs.

The Impreza is one of the better first cars, and the linked post has more details.

#6 Hyundai Elantra

In a market led by Japanese models, Hyundai vehicles are the underdogs but excellent first cars; they provide good value for money with feature-rich offerings and industry-leading warranty.

The Hyundai Elantra is cheaper than the equivalent from Honda, Toyota, or Mazda, but it is no less reliable – JD Power rates it above 80 out of 100 on average, a substantial indication of strong reliability.

While many compact cars are fuel-efficient, the Elantra consistently returns the highest mileage.

Table Guide:

  • Reliability: /100; higher = fewer problems.
Model YearReliability
2022 Hyundai Elantra80/100
2021 Hyundai Elantra80/100
2020 Hyundai Elantra81/100
2019 Hyundai Elantra83/100
2018 Hyundai Elantra82/100
2017 Hyundai Elantra80/100
2016 Hyundai Elantra81/100
2015 Hyundai Elantra81/100
2014 Hyundai ElantraNA
2013 Hyundai ElantraNA
2012 Hyundai Elantra77/100
2011 Hyundai Elantra77/100
2010 Hyundai ElantraNA
2009 Hyundai Elantra82/100
2008 Hyundai Elantra84/100
2007 Hyundai Elantra84/100
Hyundai Elantra reliability (JD Power).

#7 Mazda 3

From a first car perspective, this compact car isn’t the thriftiest; however, it has a segment-leading premium interior and is abundantly fun to drive with its sharp and communicative handling.

It also isn’t the most reliable, but it’s close.

Except for relatively mediocre reliability in the 2019 and 2020 models, the Mazda 3 sedan and hatchback generally score 5/5 across most model years on Consumer Reports’ reliability ratings.

For the price, the Mazda 3 – sedan or hatchback – is a premium car at a bargain. Few economy first cars can stake that claim.

#8 Mazda MX-5 Miata

For more than three decades and four generations, the Miata two-seat roadster continues to offer car enthusiasts and its legion of fans a refreshingly pure, unadulterated driving experience.

In an automotive world of ever-complex performance engineering pursuing increasing speed, the MX-5 is engaging to drive even at low speeds.

Besides, it’s one of the most fuel-efficient and surprisingly reliable sports car.

Consumer Reports rated the Mazda Miata models of 2022, 2019, 2016, 2013, 2012, 2010, 2008, 2007, and 2006 (covering the third and fourth-gen MX-5) with a score of 5/5 in reliability.

It is currently one of Mazda’s most reliable vehicles, and the MX-5 Miata is a solid choice for a first car for enthusiasts and those desiring slightly more speed.

#9 Honda Accord

Even though the Honda Accord is one of the older vehicles in the midsize segment, it has ranked among the best first cars for decades; and is a solid economy sedan, period.

Its enduring qualities include rock-solid reliability, tight build quality, and a smooth ride in a high-quality cabin.

The predictably consistent reliability the Accord exhibits is truly outstanding – its score on JD Power never dipped below the 80/100 mark ever since the organization began assessments in 2007.

The Honda Accord also ranked as one of the safest first cars, with plenty of safety awards to its name.

Table Guide:

  • Reliability: /100; higher = fewer problems.
Model YearReliability
2022 Honda Accord83/100
2021 Honda Accord83/100
2020 Honda Accord82/100
2019 Honda Accord82/100
2018 Honda Accord82/100
2017 Honda Accord83/100
2016 Honda Accord84/100
2015 Honda Accord82/100
2014 Honda Accord82/100
2013 Honda Accord83/100
2012 Honda Accord82/100
2011 Honda Accord83/100
2010 Honda Accord83/100
2009 Honda Accord82/100
2008 Honda Accord81/100
2007 Honda Accord84/100
Honda Accord reliability (JD Power).

#10 Toyota Camry

Opting for a Camry for your first car is an easy decision.

Like the Accord, the Camry is one of the most reliable midsize sedans of all time; new or used, it is an all-around intelligent choice for young drivers.

It is ultra-reliable and always dependable to go the distance economically, both in fuel economy and running costs.

Plus, it is roomy with good outward visibility – a crucial attribute of an excellent first car.

Table Guide:

  • Reliability: /100; higher = fewer problems.
Model YearReliability
2022 Toyota Camry82/100
2021 Toyota Camry82/100
2020 Toyota Camry81/100
2019 Toyota Camry83/100
2018 Toyota Camry83/100
2017 Toyota Camry83/100
2016 Toyota Camry86/100
2015 Toyota Camry87/100
2014 Toyota Camry89/100
2013 Toyota Camry84/100
2012 Toyota Camry86/100
2011 Toyota Camry85/100
2010 Toyota Camry84/100
2009 Toyota Camry84/100
2008 Toyota Camry85/100
2007 Toyota Camry83/100
Toyota Camry reliability (JD Power).

#11 Hyundai Sonata

In a segment dominated by Accord and Camry, the Sonata manages to punch above its weight with a ton of tech and advanced safety features, plus a spacious cabin and cargo area.

The Sonata is a worthy adversary to its Japanese rivals in the reliability stake; their JD Power scores are on par with one another.

The Sonata is worth serious consideration if you want a midsize sedan with good value for money.

Table Guide:

  • Reliability: /100; higher = fewer problems.
Model YearReliability
2022 Hyundai Sonata82/100
2021 Hyundai Sonata82/100
2020 Hyundai Sonata81/100
2019 Hyundai Sonata81/100
2018 Hyundai Sonata81/100
2017 Hyundai Sonata81/100
2016 Hyundai Sonata83/100
2015 Hyundai Sonata84/100
2014 Hyundai Sonata84/100
2013 Hyundai Sonata82/100
2012 Hyundai Sonata77/100
2011 Hyundai Sonata78/100
2010 Hyundai Sonata83/100
2009 Hyundai Sonata79/100
2008 Hyundai Sonata81/100
2007 Hyundai Sonata84/100
Hyundai Sonata reliability (JD Pwer).

Most Reliable First Cars (SUV):

#12 Buick Envision

The Buick Envision is a small SUV and an average performer in a sea of formidable rivals from Japan and Korea.

Still, what it does decently in terms of speed, interior room and quality, and fuel economy, it makes up with sturdy construction and excellent crash safety that few can match.

Although relatively new when it debuted in 2016, the first and second-generation Envision scored flawlessly on JD Power’s reliability assessment.

Table Guide:

  • Reliability: /100; higher = fewer problems.
Model YearReliability
2022 Buick Envision85/100
2021 Buick Envision85/100
2020 Buick Envision85/100
2019 Buick Envision85/100
2018 Buick Envision87/100
2017 Buick Envision86/100
2016 Buick EnvisionNA
Buick Envision reliability (JD Power).

Additionally, both generations of Buick Envision (2nd-gen introduced for 2021) are supremely reliable, according to Consumer Reports, with a consistently impressive score of 5/5.

If you want a dependable small SUV that’s non-Japanese or non-Korean, the Envision warrants attention.

#13 Honda CR-V

The CR-V is one of the best-selling SUVs with plenty of pluses and competency across all practical metrics.

Exceptional qualities this popular Japanese SUV offers include:

  • Strong yet thrifty engine,
  • Ride comfort,
  • Roomy cabin and storage area, and crucially
  • One of the most reliable models from an always dependable automaker.

Leading or staying near the top of any reliability ranking isn’t a surprising feat for the CR-V.

Table Guide:

  • Reliability: /100; higher = fewer problems.
Model YearReliability
2022 Honda CR-V83/100
2021 Honda CR-V83/100
2020 Honda CR-V81/100
2019 Honda CR-V83/100
2018 Honda CR-V82/100
2017 Honda CR-V81/100
2016 Honda CR-V81/100
2015 Honda CR-V80/100
2014 Honda CR-V82/100
2013 Honda CR-V83/100
2012 Honda CR-V82/100
2011 Honda CR-V85/100
2010 Honda CR-V83/100
2009 Honda CR-V83/100
2008 Honda CR-V84/100
2007 Honda CR-V84/100
Honda CR-V reliability (JD Power).

#14 Mazda CX-5

The Mazda CX-5 has sharp handling and a premium interior; like all Mazdas, this small SUV is massively fun to drive.

With a consistent reliability score of 4/5 and 5/5 on Consumer Reports for CX-5 models of the past decade, this small SUV is the Japanese automaker’s most dependable vehicle.

Considering Mazda’s continued presence at the top of reliability charts for auto brands, opting for the CX-5 is wise if you do not find the other first-car capable Mazdas to your liking.

Model YearReliability
2022 Mazda CX-54/5
2021 Mazda CX-55/5
2020 Mazda CX-54/5
2019 Mazda CX-55/5
2018 Mazda CX-55/5
2017 Mazda CX-55/5
2016 Mazda CX-54/5
2015 Mazda CX-55/5
2014 Mazda CX-55/5
2013 Mazda CX-55/5
Mazda CX-5 reliability (Consumer Reports)

#15 Hyundai Tucson

Acceleration in Tucson’s base engine won’t get your heart racing, but if you prioritize value for money and reliability in your first SUV, the Tucson delivers.

Young and first-time drivers will find many helpful technologies and advanced safety features in this SUV with proven reliability credentials.

Tucson leads Hyundai’s rank in Consumer Reports’ reliability standing, and its scores on JD Power are respectably good too.

Table Guide:

  • Reliability: /100; higher = fewer problems.
Model YearReliability
2022 Hyundai Tucson82/100
2021 Hyundai Tucson82/100
2020 Hyundai Tucson82/100
2019 Hyundai Tucson84/100
2018 Hyundai Tucson81/100
2017 Hyundai Tucson77/100
2016 Hyundai Tucson79/100
2015 Hyundai Tucson84/100
2014 Hyundai Tucson82/100
2013 Hyundai Tucson80/100
2012 Hyundai Tucson80/100
2011 Hyundai Tucson78/100
2010 Hyundai Tucson80/100
2009 Hyundai Tucson76/100
2008 Hyundai Tucson82/100
2007 Hyundai Tucson84/100
Hyundai Tucson reliability (JD Power).

#16 Toyota Venza

First cars need not be the smallest, so a midsize SUV is ideal for new drivers who need a larger vehicle with more interior room or those who simply prefer one.

Still, the Toyota Venza classes as a midsize SUV but remains one of the smallest in the segment.

Reappearing with the second generation in 2021 as a gas/electric hybrid rather than purely gas-powered, the Venza returns an impressive 40-mpg combined, rides quietly and comfortably, and has a solid reliability record that includes its predecessor.

Table Guide:

  • Reliability: /100; higher = fewer problems.
Model YearReliability
2022 Toyota VenzaNA
2021 Toyota Venza82/100
2016 – 2020(hiatus)
2015 Toyota Prius84/100
2014 Toyota Prius86/100
2013 Toyota Prius85/100
2012 Toyota Prius84/100
2011 Toyota Prius84/100
2010 Toyota Prius85/100
2009 Toyota Prius86/100
Toyota Venza reliability (JD Power).

This midsize hybrid’s reliability score on Consumer Reports supports Venza’s status as one of the most reliable SUVs on the market, with most models of the past decade getting a maximum score of 5/5.

If the price fits, the Venza hybrid SUV has the right qualities you’d want in your first car.

#17 Subaru Crosstrek

The extra-small Subaru Crosstrek SUV is one of the safest first cars for teenage drivers, with excellent reliability to boot.

The high ground clearance for enhanced off-road capability and improved visibility, and a spacious interior for its class are among the other reasons to choose the Crosstrek as your first car.

Table Guide:

  • Reliability: /100; higher = fewer problems.
Model YearReliability
2022 Subaru Crosstrek82/100
2021 Subaru Crosstrek82/100
2020 Subaru Crosstrek80/100
2019 Subaru Crosstrek80/100
2018 Subaru Crosstrek81/100
2017 Subaru Crosstrek79/100
2016 Subaru Crosstrek86/100
Subaru Crosstrek reliability (JD Power).

Opt for the second-generation Crosstrek if you’re considering this compact SUV for your first car, as it has kept a clean sheet of 5/5 reliability on Consumer Reports since its 2018 debut.

Subaru separates itself from the competition by providing all-wheel-drive as standard across all its models, except for the rear-wheel-powered Subaru BRZ.

Getting an SUV with an AWD drivetrain for added traction is wise for an inexperienced teenage driver living in a region that experiences adverse weather.

#18 Kia Niro EV

A gas/electric hybrid model sells alongside the all-electric Niro.

Despite the Korean manufacturer ranking lowly in reliability among automakers, Niro electric SUV is the brand’s most reliable vehicle – according to the latest Consumer Reports survey.

With a comfortable ride and practical layout in a feature-packed vehicle, the Niro EV is an excellent first car that gets you plenty of range (240 miles) on a full charge.