By on June 13, 2017

1994 Toyota Camry coupe, Image: public domain

We’re all abuzz about Camrys here at TTAC, or so it would seem. Our website, our tweets, even our Slack conversations always manage to conjure up the specter of the Great One. No, not Gretzky – another consistent scorer.

The Camry.

Nine years on, and I’m still wracked with guilt over letting the best car I’ve ever owned — the most reliable and trustworthy car to ever find its way into my life — fade away into the automotive afterlife. It certainly didn’t deserve to be traded in at a used car lot for peanuts, and I can barely entertain the thought of what came next. No, it was wrong to let it go, but financial circumstances at the time necessitated a vehicle with no deferred backlog of minor repairs. Certainly, my job at the time didn’t jibe with an odometer reading approaching the half-million kilometer mark.

I’m of course talking about a rare beast born from a litter of lookalikes. A 1994 Toyota Camry. But not just any run-of-the-mill, plain-Jane Camry. Yes, it was beige — it was hard to find one that wasn’t — but my Camry stood out. It excelled. It impressed. It had two doors. Two doors … and a stick shift.

Truly the Greatest Generation, the North American market Camrys of model years 1992 to 1996 were big, roomy, comfortable, efficient, and — above all else — reliable. It was a better Buick, and in (admittedly conservative) coupe form, something special.

This was the generation of Camrys that cemented the model’s status as the midsize for all others to beat. Sold in Japan under the Scepter name (as the global VX10 Camry was larger than the Japanese market model), it offered the solidness of a Lexus for a perfectly reasonable amount of money. On the used market, it was a steal. For a guy in college, it was a low-maintenance, low-cost dream.

I’ll forever champion two-door non-sports cars after living three long and happy years with my Camry. The long door opening and expansive side glass was well-suited to my lanky frame, helping to push that intrusive B-pillar out of sight and out of mind. Passengers still had plenty of room to access that spacious, napworthy rear bench.

Oh, I could go on and on. And on. And on and on and on. The little 2.2-liter four-banger, though slightly underpowered, never burned a drop of oil or required a single mechanic’s touch. Outstanding fuel economy. The five-speed transmission never required a new clutch or master cylinder during its time in my driveway. Like the faithful partner you return to after an ill-considered fling, it was, in a word, dependable. A rock. It haunted my dreams for years after I let it go.

Even after hitting its second deer at about 45-55 miles per hour, about 15 minutes worth of do-it-yourself repairs brought that headlight back into alignment. The hood? Meh, just a little buckle. Applying my 210-pound body to it smoothed out that crease in a jif. People who aren’t in the know — who haven’t experienced the joy of owning a mid-’90s Camry — don’t understand my reverence for that generation of Toyota midsize. It wasn’t flashy. It wasn’t fast. Nor was it sexy by any conventional use of the term — but isn’t reliability sexy? Isn’t being confident in knowing you’ll get to your destination on time, in your own vehicle (instead of a cab or tow truck), a positive virtue?

Isn’t knowing that your car won’t pull a Giulia-on-the-auto-show-pedestal breakdown a good thing? Of course it is. Yet looks, speed and efficiency often reign supreme in buyer’s minds. This makes sense for new models with no track record with which to draw from.

So, the question today is: to what degree does reliability factor into your buying decisions? Is it a consideration, or is it the consideration? Or, assuming your budget allows it, does flash and dash rule the day, as life is too short to not enjoy the hell out of every minute?

Let’s go a bit further and make this a twofer. As I’ve traveled quite far down memory lane today, perhaps the Best and Brightest can do the same. What’s the most reliable car you’ve ever owned?

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105 Comments on “QOTD: Dependability – the Sexiest Automotive Element?...”


  • avatar
    zoomzoomfan

    Reliability is huge for me. Especially since any and all car problems pretty much put the rest of your life on hold until you solve them by either fixing them or getting a rental/service loaner car to get you where you need to go. I live in slightly rural western Kentucky and public transportation is non-existent. So, if I don’t have a functioning vehicle, I can’t get to work. Simple as that.

    I’ve owned 5 vehicles since I turned 16 in 2005. A ’92 Chevrolet Beretta, a ’99 Pontiac Grand Am, an ’08 Mazda3 hatchback, a ’95 Chevrolet S10, and a ’16 Mazda6. I still have the S10 and the 6.

    The 6 is obviously fine as it is practically new. The S10 is a 22-year-old GM product, so it has 17,000 things wrong with it but never fails to start right up.

    The most reliable out of all of those (besides the 6, of course) was my 3. I owned it for 6 years and 63,000 miles. All through college. Never a problem aside from a leaky passenger motor mount (a hydraulic unit) that my friend and I replaced in 20 minutes. The mount had leaked for a while unbeknownst to me and was just discovered during an oil change when the engine bay was coated on that side. Common problem with the 3s. Thankfully, it was an easy fix. The brake light switch became a little flaky at around 55,000 miles, but it was a $10 part that was similarly an easy fix (unplug old switch under dashboard and plug in new switch – 2 minutes tops).

    Ease of repair/workability is as big for me as reliability.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Camry Coupe > Solara?

    • 0 avatar
      Corey Lewis

      On the one hand, the Solara had a V6 as standard.
      On the other, it was horrible to look at as a convertible and spawned a more awful looking second generation.

      Yes, Coupe is better.

      • 0 avatar
        Carfan94

        @Corey
        Actually both generations of the Solara were available with 4 cylinder engines.

        • 0 avatar
          Corey Lewis

          I stand corrected then, always had in my head they were all 6.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            a clean gen 1 Solara with a v6 and cloth (or a 5spd 4cyl) is near the top of my list for the next FWD cheap commuter vehicle. Like others have mentioned, I think they are cleanly styled with very nice and comfy classically high-quality “Golden Age” interiors. A minor but not trivial note: Monroe quick struts are NOT available for the front of ES300 of that era (different strut mounts IIRC), but they are for Solaras and Camries. Makes a big difference in cost and ease of replacement for the shade tree mechanic.

          • 0 avatar
            Corey Lewis

            Clean 4-cyl auto and cloth.
            https://cincinnati.craigslist.org/cto/6129733363.html

            Manual and cloth.
            https://cincinnati.craigslist.org/ctd/6150530813.html

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            They’ll toss in the Ron Jon bumper sticker for free.

          • 0 avatar
            Corey Lewis

            Gosh those were all over Solaras. What the heck?

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Surf’s up!

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      No. The first generation Solara coupe was a good looking car with a very nice interior. It could even be had with cloth seats, the V6, and a 5 speed manual.

      The second generation was a sea creature.

    • 0 avatar
      hpycamper

      Owned a new ’01 Solara 4 cylinder, manual trans. Beautiful, comfortable car but not the most reliable even with careful maintenance.

  • avatar
    RollaRider

    My dad was kind enough to buy me my first car, and, despite wanting a Volvo 850 T5, he made sure I got something more reliable. Our family mechanic would only let me get something Japanese, so I settled on a 1995 Infiniti I30 – with a 5-speed (no VLSD though, sadly). After over a year of having it, it’s still going strong, nothing to report. It’s in better condition than a lot of my friends’ much newer cars too.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Most reliable – 1994 1st gen Altima-the one that looked like a shrunken J35. Brakes and oil changes for its first 90k miles and 5 years. Sold it because I got a 5 year old 530i, which was the least reliable I’ve owned. But that V8 sound. Mmmm.

  • avatar
    MrGrieves

    Reliability is of extreme importance. If you car’s broke, everything else has to pause until it’s fixed.

    Most reliable: 1993 Honda Civic. 183,000 miles with very basic maintenance. A few new fuses, one set of brake pads, and a repainted hood due to the clearcoat giving up were the only noteworthy activities.

    Least reliable: 2001 BMW 330i. Replaced the entire cooling system, the starter, fuel pump (twice)… the list goes on and on. Lesson learned in regards to German cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Sloomis

      My brother is a 3 Series fan. He’d buy ’em when they were a couple years old, drive it a few years and then get another used one. His were all pricey pains in the ass too, and he said they were literally impossible to keep running after 90,000 miles or so.

    • 0 avatar
      Carfan94

      Lesson learned in regards to European cars.

      Fixed it for you.

    • 0 avatar
      operagost

      One set of brake pads?

      Did you live directly off an interstate ramp, and drive only to a workplace directly off another interstate ramp?

  • avatar
    thelaine

    2009 Toyota Highlander Hybrid. 139,000 miles. Fluids, filters, tires, windshield wipers. Radiator replacement and body work after hitting a deer at 65 mph. First brake pad replacement at 100,000. It is an amazingly practical family vehicle. Reliability and quality are synonyms to me.

    Prior to that was a 1986 Buick Regal. 165k when my niece totaled it. Interior was total garbage, but it ran exactly like it did when it was brand new. Fluids, filters, and a couple of alternators. Amazing drivetrain.

  • avatar
    Ermel

    I went from the bulletproof Volkswagen Golf Mk2 to the reportedly rather fragile Citroen BX, and never looked back. The BX’s reliability is a rather mixed issue for me: my first one burned after a few weeks, my second one never worked for more than a few months in a row and has eaten two engines so far, my current one has stranded me twice already in less than a year — but my third one, a rough-looking wagon with more than 500k kilometres on the clock, worked perfectly all the time I drove it (but right now it’s too rusty for the mandatory TÜV inspection).

    I still own them all except the burned one, because I don’t expect to be switching models anytime in the foreseeable future. So, obviously, no: reliability is not my #1 priority.

  • avatar
    2drsedanman

    Reliability was the reason I bought a 2016 Sienna instead of waiting on the 2017 with new engine/trans. The 2GR-FE engine/trans in my van has been around forever and have proven very reliable. After having my last Sienna for 160,000 miles with nothing but tires, brakes, and oil change, it was hard not to buy another one. Bought the 2015 Avalon for the same reason: proven drive train.

  • avatar
    sutherland555

    One car household so reliability is extremely important.

    1999 Civic, 202 000 KM. Only regular maintenance and it never once left me stranded. I would still be driving it if I had bothered rustproofing it.

  • avatar
    brettc

    Reliability is up there with fuel economy for me. Which is a catch-22 when you’re a TDI owner. The fuel economy is good, but then there’s VW’s legendary reliability to consider. Luckily in 4 years I’ve only had to deal with a dead battery.

    However, that’s why I’m thinking C-Max for my next car. I’ll be buying one from the 5th year in production and it has a simple indirect injection 2.0 litre non-turbocharged engine along with a federal hybrid warranty of 8 years/100K miles. The stories of the NYC Escape Hybrids with 300K miles on them make me confident that it’ll last me for a while.

  • avatar
    GTL

    Reliability is very important, but let’s be honest; the vast majority of cars today are extremely reliable by the standards of the ’90s.

    However, even Toyota and Honda have had issues with certain models over the past decade.

    I’m afraid the days of driving a car 500k trouble free miles are over what with tiny hi-reving turbocharged engines, complex 6 to 10 speed transmissions, and most of all, hi-tech software driven systems throughout the vehicle.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    I generally don’t keep them long enough, but the most reliable thus far for me was a 2003 Dodge CC diesel 5 mt 4×4. I had it for 7 years with zero issues. tires and oil changes. Period. 100k miles sold it with the original brakes and batteries which were all still good.

    worst…2002 Subaru WRX 9k miles and it was a shop whore.

    honorable mention goes to a 2005 Chyrsler T&C with zero issues and 5 years ownership and a 2008 Suburban that I have had for 7 years with only a brake sensor module for cruise control and 02 sensor, both replaced in my garage. I did have the engine rebuilt under warranty for oil consumption, which is a known problem for this vintage 5.3.

  • avatar
    TheFirehawkGuy

    Most reliable car I’ve owned is my 97 Saturn SC2 with the 5spd. I bought it in 2008 from the original owner with only 36k miles. I still have it today and can probably count the issues over the years on one hand. an ignition coil, a ball joint, leaky valve cover gasket, engine mount and a window motor. For a car with 20 years on it i’d say thats pretty darn reliable. Considering it was 11 years old with every original factory part still accounted for it’s even more amazing. I’d love to keep it forever just to see how far it will go but having 3 other cars and a baby makes having this sorta impractical. It’ll make someone else real happy i’m sure.

    • 0 avatar
      Sloomis

      We had a ’95 SL2 bought new that we kept for 17 years and 200,000 miles. Still ran like a top and was dead reliable when we sold it, though it did go though oil like nobody’s business. Still, easy enough, just make sure you top it off once a week.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Camry, Corolla, Accord, Civic. Why do these vehicles keep showing up on the best selling vehicle lists? Because to the average consumer reliability is a priority.

    It is primarily only petrol/gearheads,’adolescent’ males or status seekers who purchase a vehicle without first considering reliability.

    And of course auto ‘journalists’ who prefer to reference horsepower, torque, 0 to 100 times, track times etc because as one once told me, “we cannot predict the reliability of new cars”.

    If car reviews reflected actual sales, how many reviews of Aston-Martins, Lamborghinis or McLarens would we actually see?

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Often, “reliability” comes with footnotes to qualify what you mean.

    Most reliable:
    12 Leaf – no problems in 3 years
    05 xB1 – 2 minor problems in 7 years

    Least reliable:
    05 Odyssey – lemon, kept less than 2 years
    02 Passat – constant issues over 3 years

    Different forms of reliability:
    a. Never breaks.
    b. Never leaves you stranded. A car that leaves me on the side of the road has to earn its way back into my confidence, but I might still call it reliable over the long haul if it’s otherwise ok.

  • avatar
    nels0300

    I try to strike a balance between reliability and being fun in some way.

    That’s probably why I’ve owned mostly Mazdas and Hondas, all manual transmissions, and no VWs even though I’ve always wanted a VW.

    Had a 2014.5 Camry V6 because I loved the engine, and because of the bullet proof reputation, but the automatic started to shudder at about 40K. So much for bullet proof. Wasn’t going to fight the dealer to have it fixed, didn’t want to have the car torn apart, and I was really sick of driving the auto transmission.

    Now I have an Elantra Sport. Always wanted a GLI, but still don’t trust VW. Hoping this one is OK reliability-wise, and if it’s not, at least it has a long warranty.

  • avatar
    bobmaxed

    Most reliable – Any car with a Corolla drivetrain .
    Have had a 86 Chevy Nova Hatch, 96 Geo Prizm, an 04 Pontiac Vibe and a 08 Pontiac Vibe. Sorry to hear that the factory that put these out in California changed hands. I forget the details on most of those cars but the 08 Vibe that I sold earlier this year had 170,000 trouble free miles even though I did a terrible job of maintenance. Yearly oil changes with Synthetic. Air filters, Tires and brakes. Sold it with original belts, hoses and fluids except for engine oil.

    • 0 avatar
      Peter Voyd

      The Toyota 1ZZFE engine (used in the late 90s / early 2000s US Corollas, Prizms and Celicas) actually had a known – and potentially fatal – oil consumption problem, though admittedly manifesting after 100k or even 150k miles. The issue was caused by piston rings frozen with carbon deposits. The oil loss is worsened with time to the point of using a quart of oil per 100 miles.

      Here’s a link to a thorough guide explaining the fix – complex, and expensive unless it is a DIY job.

      http://www.toyotanation.com/forum/131-corolla-8th-generation-1998-2002/402362-diy-oil-consumption-fix.html

  • avatar
    newenthusiast

    Base spec 1999 Chevy Cavalier coupe, white, charcoal and black cloth interior, manual transmission. Power nothing, no cruise. It did have A/C and a cassette deck. Acquired in 2000, with winter tires it was unkillable and unstoppable in all but the deepest amounts of snow in Erie, PA where I was living at the time.

    I later drove it across the country when I moved to California, and for my entire 8 years there, all I ever did was replace tires, brakes, fluids, and filters as necessary, and one battery (which was the only day it failed to start). It lived up to its rep as basic transport, but with roach like durability. As a bonus, I averaged around 32mpg combined all those years.

    I only got rid of it when another move back east became necessary. Now with two kids and a pet, it would have cost more to ship it than the car was worth with 281,000 miles on it. The state of California was going to give me a bigger tax credit for donating it to a charity than I would have gotten for selling it, so I researched and found a legitimate organization (a religious one that deals with battered and abused women and children. Pretty much need a car to find a job in San Diego.)

    My wife took the kids on a plane, I took care of final moving details and closing sale of the house, and drove her 2003 BMW 325i (loaded with stuff) across the country by myself…which should have been awesome….but really needs to be done with a companion that isn’t a neurotic cat…..but that’s another story.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    The Golden Age mid-90s Camry. It really was the near-Lexus everyone claims it to have been. I had a 1996 with the 2.2L and 4 speed auto for 8 years. It was smooth, quiet, comfortable, well built, had nearly luxurious interior materials (I wish automakers still offered cloth that supple) and it was exceptionally easy on the wallet.

    And boring.

    Boring!

    I swapped it for a manual transmission VW wagon despite the Camry having many functional years left. The dependability wasn’t sexy enough. I wanted something I actually enjoyed getting behind the wheel of and the VW was a Maserati in comparison and it too was cheap to run during my ownership. Now I’m back in a Toyota. Go figure.

  • avatar
    FThorn

    I now own what I THINK are FIVE Camry-based vehicles. No one could have ever told me that would be the case. Pretty good reliability. But, the V6, interference design is appalling. Timing belt changes are pushed like life insurance by the dealers. I have 3 V6-es like that NOW, and one prior one, too.

    Anyone HERE ever have FIRST HAND experience with their Toyota V6 timing belt BREAKING? And, what advice do you (with first hand experience owning/driving) have to tell from the breakage?

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      the 3MZ 3.3L V6 is only interference t-belt Toyota V6 that comes to mind, 3.0L 1MZ is non interference, 3.5L 2GR is chain driven. I personally wouldn’t do it, but factory Toyota belts are generally known to go twice the recommended mileage.

      • 0 avatar
        baggins

        I have a 04 Sienna with the 3.3L and 104k. No timing belt change. I’m rolling the dice!!

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          Anecdotal evidence: I replaced the t-belt on my then 21 year old 204k mile 1MZ (3.0L non interference) that had last had the belt done at 98k miles. Belt still looked like new, idlers were all fine, and from what I could tell the original, untouched water pump looked and felt like new. The cam seals were starting to seep a bit, but not at all critically. Had I known I would have left it alone. Oh well it made the car super easy to sell for a premium in the spring (most cheap CL cars have not had t-belts done on time or at all).

  • avatar
    Stumpaster

    We bought that same exact Camry two door with stick back when, drove it quite a bit, and just got tired of the swampy ride and the blandness. It was replaced by a used stick shift Audi A4 with V6. The Audi was no less reliable than the Camry during our ownership, and it was one of the best cars I’ve ever driven with that V6 connected to the stick.

  • avatar
    hpycamper

    Still prefer 2 door cars over 4 door and would like to see more available.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    All due respect, Steph, but this question needs some context. Yes, back in the ’90s, your old Camry was dead reliable, but that was a time when you could still buy truly unreliable cars. Can you *really* buy an unreliable car now? And what does “unreliable” mean in the context of 2017, versus 1996?

    Even the most glaring contemporary mechanical issues – the Powershift automatic on Ford Focuses, for example – are usually things that annoy the hell out of the owner, but don’t force him to take a cab to work.

    The focus has changed from “does the car start and work consistently” because a non-working car has become something of a rarity. Therefore, the focus is on details like drivability, performance, etc. That makes sense. I’d say that’s progress.

    • 0 avatar
      Corey Lewis

      “Can you *really* buy an unreliable car now?”

      Most major city centers have a Land Rover dealership.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        How are Land Rovers unreliable, though – do they quit and leave their owners stranded, or is it stuff like rattles, and failing accessories? If these cars flat-out quit a lot of the time, no one would buy them at all. Affluent folks are notably ill-tempered about stuff like that.

        You’re talking to someone who grew up on a diet of cars that rusted in a few years, came from the factory with bent frames, had major component failures, and straight-up failed to start a good percentage of the time. Maybe my context of “reliability” is different.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        Corey,

        A Land Rover might have 1.98 issues per year and the most reliable Lexus might have 1. There is a gap, but having one extra problem per year isn’t nearly the gap you seem to think exists.

      • 0 avatar
        Felix Hoenikker

        Corey,
        You da man! Your comment about Land Rovers made my day!

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      Layered atop of that is the issue of which owner will be holding the title when the vehicle has high mileage. It probably won’t be the first owner–looks like Steph bought his at the 11 year mark. For the first ten years or so there probably isn’t a huge reliability difference between the majority of vehicles. At a half million klicks some bigger differences will probably surface but those are problems for the second and third owners.

      I knew I wouldn’t be owning my VW past 150K miles so I didn’t insist on it being a Toyota. My 4Runner, however, was purchased under the expectation of a 15 year service life with our family so I kind of did insist on it being a Toyota.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “Can you *really* buy an unreliable car now?”

      Nah, it’s all good these days.

      Unrelated, would you like a 2014 Charger RT?

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        I’ll pass, but I’d be curious to know what reliability issues the Charger has had, though.

        Seriously, you’re talking to a guy who grew up in the ’60s and ’70s, so my bar for “it’s an unreliable piece of crap” is pretty high.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          Here’s my largest ones:

          2x dead batteries (which did strand me)
          2x replaced alternators
          Rear speakers stopped working
          Exterior door handle fell off
          HVAC blend door failed
          TPMS failed
          HVAC controls stopped responding

          There a few other FCA-style fit and finish quality issues, but I largely expected those going into it.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            I’m guessing the alternator failures were behind the dead batteries…?

            Yeah, that stuff’s bad. But it feels more like an anomaly these days, though. The rest of the stuff seems par for the FCA course…which is why I wouldn’t buy one. But compare that to Chrysler back when I was a kid, which sold millions of cars with rustproofing inferior to what you’d find on a can of Campbell’s soup. Or my dad’s ’75 Caddy, which came from the factory with a bent frame. Or his ’80 Eldo, which had an engine computer that nuked itself, and stranded us on I-70 somewhere outside of Muncie, Indiana. Or exploding Pintos. Or Vegas with melting engines. Or GM X-cars. Or Yugos. Or early Hyundais. I’d say your list of unreliable stuff is fairly minor compared to what folks got back in the day.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            I disagree with the idea that you *can’t* buy a new unreliable vehicle in 2017 though. You certainly have better odds than in 1985 but issues bigger than nit-picking on infotainment or shifting behavior still exist.

            Just because my Charger is better than a Yugo or Excel doesn’t suddenly make it reliable.

            It’s like comparing an 800lb person to a 500lb person. The latter isn’t healthy just because the former exists.

          • 0 avatar
            Corey Lewis

            “It’s like comparing an 800lb person to a 500lb person.”

            Don’t be talkin bout my kin now.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            It’s not whether you can buy an “unreliable” car today or not – it’s how you define “unreliable.” I’d say that definition has changed from back in the day. Clearly, your Charger is unreliable by modern standards. But by the standards of, say, 1980, I’d say the car had average reliability. If that car is the worst you can do these days reliability-wise, then things have changed over the years. It doesn’t excuse what’s wrong with your car, but I think context matters here.

    • 0 avatar
      DearS

      Some cars have parts that last more than others. VW DSG and Ford’s Chinese transmissions are examples. These would cost a pretty penny to fix.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        I would say that any fault or problem that left you stranded on the side of the road, would be considered serious at the time.

        If the vehicle were ‘newer’ then it would turn me off that manufacturer.

        If it were an ‘older’ vehicle, then I would probably not trust it for use by the female members of my family for any trips at night or outside of our neighbourhood, until it had once again proven itself to be reliable.

  • avatar
    Oreguy

    My ’04 Honda Pilot has been the most rock-solid vehicle I’ve ever owned. Nearly all of the 130K miles have been from city driving, which also includes a lot of utility and trailer towing. So far it has required 3 sets of tires, belts (including timing) + plugs at 90K, along with occasional brakes, fluids and filters. It still looks great aside from some scratches and foggy headlight lenses. I would like to replace it with something newer, mainly for advancements in infotainment and connectivity, but just can’t stomach spending ~ $30-40K for fear that a new vehicle will only be marginally better. The new Pilot has morphed into a minivan, which is really disappointing (at least to me). Oh Honda, where have thee gone?

    Least reliable that I have owned is the ’81 Dodge Omni 024 I had in high school. Clutch replacements were more frequent than oil changes. Least reliable in my family is my wife’s ’07 Mini Cooper S. Not enough time or space to list all the repairs and expense required to keep that awful example of Franco-German engineering on the road.

  • avatar
    JMII

    Most reliable: my ’02 Dodge Dakota V8 Quad Cab – despite all the black circles in consumer reports that truck continues to run and perform great with minimal fuss. Next up would be back in high school and college, an ’85 Civic S1500 hatch, I couldn’t kill that thing and trust me I tried.

    Reliability is still somewhat of a crap shoot. I got a Volvo for my wife because they are bullet proof, yet that car spent as much (if not MORE) time in the shop then our VW Passat. However clearly some vehicles should just be avoided, Land Rovers and Minis come to mind.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      I had a similar experience with my 1995 Dakota. It just ran and ran and ran. If the kids had stayed the same size as they were when they were 3 and 6 I could have kept it a lot longer. ;)

  • avatar
    tonyola

    Both my 1984 Honda CRX 1.5 and my 1990 Civic LX sedan (they were 5-speed manuals) were dead reliable in 10+ years of ownership apiece. Both cars were driven hard and given occasionally spotty maintenance (though I was religious about replacing the timing belts every 60k miles – the belts were a known Honda weak point). Neither car ever left me stranded.

  • avatar
    wtaf

    2004 Corolla (auto) I had for 12 years and 275,000 miles. Only repairs required were a starter (that still eked out one last start) and a radiator (which was my fault).

    It met its end when the kid I lent it to ignored a CEL and killed the transmission.

    I just know it would have made to 300k. Engine was still running strong.

    It never left me stranded.

  • avatar
    JohnB

    Reliability is the sexiest of all automotive qualities. Yes, a car will get you the freedom of the road and that exciting driving experience, yada, yada, yada. But at the end of the day, it’s an appliance. It’s a depreciating asset. It does terrible things to your financial well-being. It’s money that sits in your garage instead of being invested and making you more money. All that being said – Toyota! Oh what a feeling!

  • avatar
    Garrett

    Safety > Reliability.

    Or put another way, safety is the most important form of reliability: can I rely on this vehicle to keep me alive and minimize my injuries?

    FCA products score low on both fronts.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    I bought a 15 year old Euro-brand car with 150,000 miles and no service history from a teen street-racer, and it was the most unreliable piece of crap I ever owned – NEVER buy German/Italian/French/English/Yugoslavian.

    I leased a new Toyota Camry for 3 years and never had a problem – ALWAYS buy Toyota.

    Last year I inherited a 5 year old Buick with 10,000 miles of trips to church from my sainted Grandma (full-dealer service every year), and haven’t had any problem – ALWAYS buy an American car.

  • avatar
    threeer

    That generation of the Camry got it “just right.” Right size, right blend of comfort and needed performance and most assuredly the right level of reliability. My mom and dad bought a new one in 1993 and my mother still misses that car to this day. It was dead-nuts reliable and the only reason she sold it is that she normally runs on 10-year vehicle cycles. She bought a 2003 Corolla right after. And in 2013, the new Camry just didn’t appeal to her at all, so she wound up with a new Buick Verano, which so far (50,000 miles in) seems to be holding up well enough.

    Now my son still owns and drives his 1997 Toyota Tercel that we bought for him back in 2007 (at the time with 125,000 on the odometer). It now has somewhere approaching 250k on it with the original engine, clutch and trans and he steadfastly refuses to part with it. And for that, the interior of the ’97 is a higher quality than many new cars today (actual padding and cloth on the door cards. Imagine!).

    Not to say that *most* cars today aren’t reliable…they are. But certain models just seem to get it right, even more remarkable given some of the rather horrid vehicles you could buy back in the mid 90s.

    For me, while I’m a diehard gearhead (and have a very, very soft spot for things sporting the Blau mit Weiss Roundel, but mostly ones made prior to the turn of the century), I appreciate being able to get into either one of the cars we own right now and generally not having to worry about them. If I was in the financial position to own a garage queen/weekend toy, then the expectations would be much different and I’d likely have a nice Z3 parked there. But yeah, for day to day driving, I can see why vehicles such as the Camry/Accord/etc…sell so well. Folks don’t have the desire to put up with shenanigans, and these vehicles tend to be ones you can own in relative comfort that they won’t let you down or that they won’t start falling apart two years after you buy them.

  • avatar
    TW5

    Reliability is the true luxury feature in car ownership, and it’s a shame many buyers will never experience the satisfaction derived from owning a vehicle for many years, and seeing it start in all weather conditions, in all geographical locations, and in all seasons, throughout the decades. It’s easy to take for granted, but every once in a while, you are suddenly aware of how little your vehicle demands, and it makes you happy.

    No payments. No unscheduled maintenance. No more emissions (in many counties and states). Ad valorem taxes plummet in many states.

    Good cars are like wine. They get better with age………..but they can also spoil suddenly.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    Too bad the newer 07 on up generation isn’t nearly as good. In the past month I have worked on 3 2009-12 generation Camry’s two of which were neighbors cars. The 2009 had a very leaky power steering line, a growling water pump and the 2.4 is using exactly one quart of oil every thousand miles. I wasn’t even aware this was an issue with these engines but apparently some do it. When he starts it up a big cloud of blue oil smoke erupts from the back explaining the oil loss some. It just turned 100K miles. The other neighbors 2010 needed both front wheel bearings replaced with less than 80K miles and the 2012 is having issues with bluetooth connectivity and dropped phone calls, a rear end rattle that is driving her nuts and the V6 is gas pinging on 87 octane fuel which indicates a larger issue that she will need to address with Toyota. None of these items are life threatening but do indicate that this car is much more in line with most competitors as far as reliability goes. It will be interesting to see how these 3 examples fare in the coming years

  • avatar
    Chan

    For most, a car is a tool.

    A tool needs to be reliable. The Toyota Camry is a good tool, just like a GE washing machine.

    For others, a car is also a toy.

    A toy does not need to be reliable, but it needs to entertain. The Toyota Camry is not a good toy.

    Yes, a Camry is an excellent car. It represents the pinnacle of engineering for functionality, safety and reliability. But that does not make it sexy.

    As an analogy, do you marry someone because he or she ticks all the boxes for your various everyday functional needs while causing little trouble? That’s not a good spouse, that’s a good cleaning maid.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I am going to shock some but the 2 most reliable vehicles I ever had were Chevys. One was a 73 Chevelle Deluxe with a 350 V-8 2 barrel that I replaced with a new 77 Monte Carlos–the 73 Chevelle was one of the best running vehicles I ever had and was among the most reliable and I regret selling it. The other most reliable vehicle I ever had I still own is a 99 Chevy S-10 extend cab with a 2.2 I-4 5 speed manual. For the reasons stated in the article above I would regret getting rid of the S-10 and it has been the most usable and reliable vehicle I have owned. All the vehicles I owned have been very reliable except a 85 Mercury Lynx my brother gave me so I feel very fortunate but then I am a stickler for maintenance.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    My most reliable car was my 1997 Chevy Cavalier. I bought the Cavy when it was 7 years old after my BIL had owned it since new. He worked as a salesman for a home improvement company at that time, and racked up an impressive 192,000 miles in five years. Then, he got another job and a company car. The Cavy sat for two years until his condo association forced him to remove it. I bought it for $1000, thinking my kid(s) would be able to drive it to school and jobs. I had no idea…

    I drove it for a few years until my oldest went off to college. She drove it for three years and then my younger drove it for another four years. It came back home to me and was a seldom used third car. In fact, I lent for nine months it to a friend of ours who was going through a rough patch.

    Finally, in December 2015, I gave it to a charity for the tax deduction. It had 265,000 miles on it, and still ran well. However, 18 years of midwestern winters had nearly destroyed the body. I was becoming afraid to touch it as the whole bottom quarter of the car was rust.

    But it always turned over on the first try, never burned oil (leaked it, tho) and drove just fine. Had I been living in a drier/less salty area, I’d still probably be driving the car. It was fairly loaded for a non Z24, had all of the toys except a sunroof. It was just a good, basic car. A real “Cockroach of the Road”.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Cars in general are very reliable if you do all appropriate preventive maintenance.

    The necessary preventive maintenance to achieve reliability may vary wildly, though, from “oil, T-belt change on recommended interval, and replace any rubber that looks rotten” to “replace the entire cooling system every five years.”

    For the last few years (unlike earlier in life) my financial situation has been good enough to do the maintenance. As a result I have a lot of confidence in my two older cars. The 2008 LS460 has been perfect except for a dead battery (my fault). The 1995 Acura Legend had a radiator crack that caused a brief overheating incident (at 190,000 miles on the original radiator) but has been perfect otherwise.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    When I see Camrys of this vintage I only think of old appliances, yea your old toaster still works but it’s still just an old toaster​, even if the knobs are well shaped.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      The fact that there are still so many on the road, and in fairly decent non-rusty condition speaks volumes to me. Yes many (most) are now in “total-beater” phase of their life with body damage, sun-burned paint, covered in dirt. But they still catch my eye, and the ones that were shown at least some car still look fantastic in terms of condition. I was pulling the rims off a ’95 in the yard to mount snow tires on for my ES, an older guy and his grandson were pulling the door pull mechanism off the driver door. I got to talking with him, he’s had a few now that he bought used and passed along to children/grand children, one was up to 350k and still ticking. The fact that this generation of Camry is now showing up in the yards in larger amounts (20 odd years after the start of sales) means a lot. I really don’t care much for the newer ones (respect them for being good appliances I guess), but the ’92-’96 is definitely worthy of admiration IMO.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        Where I reside the fourth gens more common, once in a while I’ll catch a rusty third-gen Camry wagon but that’s it. Couldn’t tell you if rust killed them or just age.

        Not that it makes the fourth gen better, Initially I thought the decontenting stuff was silly, but then I heard they removed the hood struts to use a dinky metal twig!

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          To be fair, on my last two beaters I’ve had to replace hood struts (Maxima and ES300), but never had any repairs related to a hood prop setup.

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            I’ve had to replace similar hatch struts on several cars, but I’d still take that over a twig I need to dig for and work around.

            The only twig issue I ever had was with my 94 Accord, but it having been wrecked at least once in it’s life I can’t blame the assembly.

            On the flip side, later fourth gen Camrys gained struts again and earlier examples can be upgrades with a few tweaks.

  • avatar
    caconwayus

    I have been very fortunate in purchasing reliable cars over the years…Reliability is absolutely the biggest reason in what I buy.

    First was my 1999 Nissan Altima…first new car purchase…went 185,000 miles, never needed any work other than routine maintenance other than a new valve gasket…I would still own it but the wife was convinced it wasn’t safe anymore because of its miles…so I donated it…I am sure it is putt-putting around somewhere.

    Next is my 2006 Camry…also purchaased new, has 141,000 miles on it, still runs as good as the day I bought it. Water pump failed at about 55,000 miles…covered under the power train warrenty…so far that has been it, other than routine maintenance.

    Bought a 2013 Camby used for my wife…was doing fine at 71,000 miles until she was in an accident and hit broad side…she was fine, car was totaled. With a son starting college next year, we decided to not replace the ’13…wife went back driving the 06 Camry, and I suddenly needed a car.

    Luckily, wife’s coworker was selling her father in laws 1993 Honda Accord EX. A typical little old man’s car..it had 82,000 miles when I bought it two months ago…I’ve put a couple of thousand miles on it…interior looks like it’s never been sat in, and I got the exterior professionally detailed. The Bordeaux Red Pearl paint came up beautifully and I’m looking forward to many years of boring, reliable transportation…if only I could find some old cassette tapes!

  • avatar
    Mr.A

    long time reader first time poster
    most reliable 1986 toyota supra straight 6 500km ran like a dream rust killed it though
    1987 toyota mr2 could not kill that engine kept overhrating would stop let it cool off add some water go on 500km rust killed it
    car i kept lonest out of 30+ cars i have had 2003 saab 93 arc 6speed manual
    bought it with 70km traded it in 7 years later with 230km considered it a good car broke my heart to get rid of it
    cost roughly 2000$ a year to keep it on the road
    fixed:
    clutch and pressure plate 160km
    4 coil packs each 225$
    4 struts
    4 coils
    4 control arms (each front one 2x)
    refilled ac 4x
    seat heaters died never fixed
    headlight assembly caught fire but put it out and still worked never fixed it
    cd player ate cd never fixed it
    4 power windows 250$ each
    4 tie rods
    5 sets of tires
    alternator
    brakes pads and disks 2x
    sunroof mechanism broke not the motor the rod holding it
    im sure im forgetting stuff

    despite all this i loved that car and would have bought a new one if i could have
    traded it in for a 2013 buick lacrosse needed more space and i could not afford a lincoln mks that i wanted but the buick is surprisingly very nice and matches any car i have sat in for interior quality including several 2015+ aston martins that i just could not believe how cheaply made and uncomfortable they were at least interior parts i can’t speak on engines etc
    least reliable 1995 acura legend was fixing something major every week from blown head gaskets to radiator but its saving grace was that it was very easy to sell

  • avatar
    Mr.A

    long time reader first time poster
    most reliable 1986 toyota supra straight 6 500km ran like a dream rust killed it though
    1987 toyota mr2 could not kill that engine kept overhrating would stop let it cool off add some water go on 500km rust killed it
    car i kept lonest out of 30+ cars i have had 2003 saab 93 arc 6speed manual
    bought it with 70km traded it in 7 years later with 230km considered it a good car broke my heart to get rid of it
    cost roughly 2000$ a year to keep it on the road
    fixed:
    clutch and pressure plate 160km
    4 coil packs each 225$
    4 struts
    4 coils
    4 control arms (each front one 2x)
    refilled ac 4x
    seat heaters died never fixed
    headlight assembly caught fire but put it out and still worked never fixed it
    cd player ate cd never fixed it
    4 power windows 250$ each
    4 tie rods
    5 sets of tires
    alternator
    brakes pads and disks 2x
    sunroof mechanism broke not the motor the rod holding it
    im sure im forgetting stuff

    despite all this i loved that car and would have bought a new one if i could have
    traded it in for a 2013 buick lacrosse needed more space and i could not afford a lincoln mks that i wanted but the buick is surprisingly very nice and matches any car i have sat in for interior quality including several 2015+ aston martins that i just could not believe how cheaply made and uncomfortable they were at least interior parts i can’t speak on engines etc

  • avatar
    PentastarPride

    I’ve been happy with all three of my cars I’ve had in my life, all of which are Chrysler products. What a concept.

    My 1997 Concorde that I had in high school and college never skipped a beat. Unfortunately it had been sideswiped on a busy street. Up to that point, nothing but consumables. Purchased with 44,000 miles, put 35,000 miles on it (totaled with less than 80k…what a shame…).

    My next car, a 2004 Intrepid, had the 3.5. Again, nothing much except for a new window motor. Purchased with 52,000 miles, put about 80,000 miles on it.

    Both are LH-platform vehicles, which have had transmission issues (and engine issues with the second generation, if you had the 2.7. The second-generation 3.5 only ran into problems if you used cheap oil or didn’t change the oil on schedule). If you maintain these cars, they shouldn’t have problems for a long while, and that’s what I did. Most were beat to hell by their third owner, but these were Chrysler’s first “post LA V8/Slant 6/Torqueflite” large cars.

    My 2013 200 is what replaced the Intrepid, simply because I wanted a 200, purchased with less than 25,000 miles. It has the 2.4 4-cylinder engine, which is a sturdy engine. There are a lot of Patriots, Avengers and Sebrings that are beat to hell yet the “sewing machine” keeps on ticking. The 62TE transmission is a good transmission that sees use in heavier vehicles like the minivans and that eyesore called the Promaster and has few issues.

    My wife has been pretty lucky too, considering she had a 2009 Jetta I wasn’t too confident in and a 2004 320i before that, which isn’t exactly a drama-free vehicle. Her 2016 Outback seems OK, though I’d rather her have the Grand Cherokee.

  • avatar
    Peter Voyd

    My 2003 Accord required some suspension work, both front axles, and an A/C condenser after 160k miles, but has been flawless before and since (currently at 180k.) Just oil, filters, brakes, tires (winter/all season), batteries, and a couple of radiator and transmission drain/fills.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      I recently helped a friend avoid a 264k mile ’03 Accord with the odometer turned back to 100k. To the car’s credit, it still drove incredibly well/tight and the interior held up well aside from screwed up HVAC control/vents (someone messed with them for some reason).

      • 0 avatar
        Peter Voyd

        The Accord drives as tight as when it was new (wife bought it new.) Sound insulation is not great, but with the thousands of library audio books available on the OverDrive app, I am not too concerned about it.

        Now my dilemma is whether to keep driving it – I put 16-18k on my commuter car every year, and get my 16 yo something used but newer; or pass him the Accord and get a commuter vehicle, new or used.

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