CarMD.com determined that the 2017 Honda CR-V required the fewest check engine light-related repairs … [+]
Nearly 70 percent of U.S. consumers say they’ll consider a used car, truck, or SUV as their next vehicle, according to study conducted by The Harris Poll for Ally Financial. For many cash-strapped buyers, there is no alternative, especially with Kelley Blue Book reporting that the average transaction price of a new vehicle now stands at a steep $38.393. Fortunately, with the market being flooded by a wave of late-model rides coming off lease, prices in the used-car market remain reasonable, and the selection is plentiful.
Unfortunately, even if a given model is covered by what remains of the original warranty, buying a used auto is fraught with peril. It’s always prudent for a buyer to obtain a title report, examine the previous owner’s service records, and have a car under consideration examined by a mechanic before signing a bill of sale, but there’s still no telling what the future may bring in terms of needed repairs. And as most motorists have figured out, some models are more or less inherently prone to suffer mechanical issues, and are more or less costly to fix.
To help used-vehicle shoppers make more informed choices in this regard, the experts at the auto-repair data website CarMD.com just released their annual Vehicle Health Index that highlights the cars and SUVs by year, make, and model that are the least likely to suffer “check engine” light-related problems, and are the cheapest to fix should they occur. The results are based upon repair data culled from over 14.4 million vehicles from the 1996 through 2019 model years, reported from Oct. 1, 2018 – Sept. 30, 2019. We’re featuring the top 10 vehicles in both categories below. Of note, two models – the Subaru Legacy sedan and Outback crossover SUV – appear on both lists.
Among brands, the site’s statisticians determined that Mercedes-Benz vehicles are the least likely, on average, to develop check engine problems, followed by Mitsubishi, Buick, Ram, and Ford. The brands with the lowest average check engine-related repair costs are Kia at $311 per fix, followed by Mazda ($332), Hyundai ($333), Chrysler ($337), and Dodge ($349).
Check engine-related problems are typically related to a vehicle’s emissions system. Sometimes the problem can be as minor as a loose or defective fuel-filler cap, which costs nothing to tighten and only around $26 to have replaced. Other common maladies include replacing an ignition coil and spark plugs (average $390), the oxygen sensor ($244), and the catalytic converter ($1,371)
Unfortunately, too many motorists tend to ignore the alert if the car still seems to be operating normally. The prudent course of action if the light stays on is, of course, to make an appointment to take the vehicle to a technician to have the problem evaluated before it turns into something that’s far costlier to fix.
The most expensive check engine-related repair in CarMD’s database is a complete engine replacement at a whopping $7,150. Other budget-busting fixes include replacing the electronic power steering control unit ($5,201), the transmission and torque converter ($5,051), the audio and visual control unit ($4,293) and a hybrid-vehicle’s battery pack ($4,149). On the plus side, these repairs combined only account for less than one half of one percent of all repairs reported by CarMD’s network of technicians.
Here are the 10 most reliable used vehicles that required the fewest check engine light-related trips to the repair shop, auto-parts store, or a new-car dealer’s service department over a 12-month period:
- 2017 Honda CR-V
- 2017 Subaru Outback
- 2016 Lexus NX
- 2017 Subaru Legacy
- 2017 Honda Civic
- 2017 Honda HR-V
- 2015 Lexus NX
- 2016 Subaru Forester
- 2015 Acura MDX
- 2015 Acura RDX
And these are the 10 models found to have the lowest average repair costs when the check engine light: stays on:
- 2017 Subaru Outback ($60)
- 2016 Toyota Prius ($67)
- 2017 Hyundai Tucson ($79)
- 2017 Kia Soul ($82)
- 2016 Mercedes-Benz C-Class ($85)
- 2017 Toyota Prius ($85)
- 2017 Subaru Legacy ($86)
- 2015 Mercedes-Benz ML-Class ($100)
- 2016 Kia Forte ($107)
You can read CarMD.com’s full 2019 Vehicle Health Index, which further cites top models by category here. The website also provides free maintenance reports for specific years, makes and models that can reveal upcoming maintenance required, common check engine light problems, open recalls, and other relevant information.