When the check engine light comes on, which brand has the lowest average repair cost? Which vehicle is least likely to need check engine-related repairs? The answers are in the CarMD Index, which ranks brands and vehicles based on in-use check engine repair incidents and costs.
CarMD.com Corp. says the 2018 CarMD Vehicle Health Index Make and Model Reliability Rankings are distinct from survey-based reliability rankings.
Published annually since 2011, the CarMD Index analyzes check engine repairs and costs to rank the 10 brands and 100 vehicles least likely to have a check engine light on; 10 makes and 100 vehicles with the lowest average repair costs; and top three vehicles by category.
CarMD says it analyzed data from over 5.6 million in-use vehicles, model year 1996 to 2018, reporting check engine health from Oct. 1, 2017 – Sept. 30, 2018.
CarMD found that Toyota was the brand least likely to need check engine repairs over the past year, edging out Acura and Hyundai, which rank no. 2 and no. 3 respectively. Mazda, which ranked second last year, is now the brand with the lowest average repair cost ($286), followed by Kia ($320), Dodge ($326) and Hyundai ($328).
Honda and Toyota are the only two brands to rank in the top 10 on both lists. The 2016 Audi Q5 is least likely to need a check engine light-related repair. The 2017 Hyundai Tucson costs the least on average ($67) to repair when the light is on, with a loose gas cap or an improperly installed intake air duct the two most common reasons the Tucson’s check engine light illuminates.
“The CarMD Vehicle Health Index Make and Model Reliability Ranking is the only report that statistically measures check engine failures and repair costs,” says David Rich, CarMD’s technical director. “Understanding which makes and models have which kinds of problems, how frequently they occur and what those repairs cost can be useful to vehicle owners, used car buyers, as well as repair professionals looking to increase their knowledge of trends within the industry.”
A summary of the report's findings follows.
10 Most Reliable Brands
At least 10% of the cars and trucks on the road in the U.S. have a check engine light on at any given time, and a pilot test of the new CarMD PRO SCAN repair shop solution found that as many as 25% of vehicles brought to the repair shop have a check engine light on. Because it is likely that every vehicle owner will eventually have to address a check engine light, CarMD studied data from more than 5.6 million vehicles from many sources to help identify the makes least likely to need check engine repairs. To rank these makes, CarMD developed a formula that accounts for those with the lowest percentage of repair incidents per percentage of vehicle population. Based on this data, an Index frequency score is assigned. The lower the score the higher the vehicle make ranking. CarMD found the following brands were least likely to need a check engine repair over the past year:
10 Brands with the Lowest Average Repair Costs
CarMD found the following 10 vehicle makes with the lowest average check engine light-related repair costs in 2018 were:
1. Mazda ($286)
2. Kia ($320)
3. Dodge ($326)
4. Hyundai ($328)
5. Chrysler ($329)
6. Jeep ($339)
7. Chevrolet ($341)
8. Volkswagen ($358)
9. Honda ($427)
10. Toyota ($462)
10 Most Reliable Vehicles
Any given brand can have a mix of reliable vehicles along with some that have more frequent issues. For this reason, the CarMD Vehicle Health Index drills down to rank vehicles by year, make and model. The following 10 vehicles had the lowest check engine light-related repair frequency, resulting in fewer trips to the repair shop, parts store or dealership this past year:
1. 2016 Audi Q5
2. 2017 Honda Civic
3. 2017 Subaru Crosstrek
4. 2017 Honda CR-V
5. 2017 Honda HR-V
6. 2017 GMC Acadia
7. 2015 Subaru Forester
8. 2016 Honda CR-V
9. 2016 Honda Civic
10. 2016 Volvo XC-90
10 Vehicles with the Lowest Average Repair Costs
When the check engine light comes on, here are the 10 vehicles that CarMD found to have the lowest average repair cost among the more than 9,030 different year, make and model vehicles on the road today:
1. 2017 Hyundai Tucson ($67)
2. 2017 Hyundai Accent ($69)
3. 2016 Kia Rio ($70)
4. 2014 Toyota Prius C ($83)
5. 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage ($84)
6. 2017 Kia Soul ($88)
7. 2016 Kia Forte ($90)
8. 2016 Hyundai Tucson ($91)
9. 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport ($92)
10. 2017 Toyota 4Runner ($107)
The most common and affordable repair on 9 out of 10 of the most affordable vehicles is to inspect or replace a loose, damage or missing gas cap. The exception is the 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage that is most frequently diagnosed with a faulty or incorrectly installed vacuum hose, which is also one of the most common and affordable repairs. Those whose vehicles have a high percentage of finicky gas caps often have lower average repair costs, but still waste time getting it diagnosed. Details on the most common repair for each of these vehicles as well as the best vehicles in each category, and vehicles with the most frequent/most expensive repairs are available in the full 2018 report.
Headquartered in Irvine, Calif., CarMD.com Corp. is a provider of automotive diagnostic business solutions, digital automotive aftermarket platform services and vehicle data licensing. CarMD specializes in automotive technology solutions that leverage and empower the capabilities of the on-board diagnostics (OBD) port. Published tri-annually, the CarMD Vehicle Health Index reports on automotive repair and maintenance trends. For more information about CarMD’s automotive aftermarket solutions, including current and archived Vehicle Health Index reports, visit www.carmd.com.
The full detailed report with year-over-year scores and top 100 vehicle rankings can be viewed here.