2009 Honda Fit Sport 5-Spd AT (© American Honda Motor Co., Inc.)

2009 Honda Fit Sport 5-Spd AT

Savvy car buyers know that the best way to get the most vehicle for their money is to buy a used car. With the average new car losing 47 percent of its value in the first three years, buying used is an affordable way to get the safety and comfort features you want at a far better price.

The Best of the best list guides you to the 2001 to 2010 models that scored well in our road tests when new and have been consistently reliable over time. Each has achieved multiple years of above-average used-car verdicts (available to subscribers), indicating that owners have had relatively few problems.

Models built by Toyota and Honda dominate the list once again, and many of the best used vehicles are from Asian manufacturers. But high-quality vehicles are available from domestic and European automakers as well.

The Worst of the worst list shows models that have had multiple years of below-average reliability in our survey. It is dominated by vehicles from domestic and European manufacturers, primarily General Motors, which had 16 of the 29 models listed.

Our reliability data are derived from our Annual Auto Survey, which generated responses from subscribers on 1.3 million vehicles.

We also list reliable cars by price range (available to subscribers), so that you can easily see what's available for your budget.

Our Used cars to avoid list (available to subscribers) highlights specific models and the years that they had below-average reliability.

Best of the Best

Here we highlight the most reliable and well-rounded vehicle in each category. We also list other contenders in order of their overall reliability scores for model years 2001 to 2010. Each model has at least three years of reliability data.

Small Cars

Click to enlarge picture2008 Honda Civic (© American Honda Motor Co., Inc.)

2008 Honda Civic

Honda Fit
The Fit has been an economical, reliable, and versatile hatchback ever since it went on sale in the U.S. in 2007. It packs a huge amount of usable space into a small package and has standard antilock braking and curtain air bags. But before 2011 electronic stability control (ESC) was available only on models with the optional navigation system.

Other good choices:

Family Cars

Click to enlarge picture2004-2009 Toyota Prius (© Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A.)

2004-2009 Toyota Prius

Toyota Prius
The Prius has had outstanding reliability and has delivered standout fuel economy. But the redesigned 2010 model has only average reliability. Look for one with optional ESC, starting with 2004 models.

Other good choices:

Upscale Cars

Click to enlarge picture2008 Toyota Avalon Limited (© Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A.)

2008 Toyota Avalon Limited

Lexus ES
The ES has long been a strong contender in this category. It has had outstanding reliability over the past 10 model years and is quiet and comfortable. ESC became standard with the redesigned 2007 model, which included a bigger engine and a six-speed automatic transmission.

Other good choices:

Luxury Cars

Acura RL
While the RL isn't the sportiest car, it has had excellent reliability wrapped in a comfortable and refined package. The 2005 redesign brought standard all-wheel drive but complicated controls. The Infiniti M35 is sportier and the much-larger Lexus LS is more luxurious.

Other good choices:

Sports and Sporty Cars

Click to enlarge picture2010 Mazda MX-5 Miata (© Mazda Motor of America, Inc.)

2010 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Mazda MX-5 Miata
The Miata is affordable and fun to drive. Look for models after 2006, when ABS became standard. The Lexus SC is a top-down cruiser with the added comfort of a folding hard-top roof. For a sportier alternative, consider the Acura RSX coupe and the Honda S2000 roadster.

Other good choices: