If your mechanic dials his travel agent every time you pull up, it could be time to get a new ride. Car maintenance and repairs can be costly, so we asked three experts to help us zero in on the best vehicles for steering clear of unexpected breakdowns and pricey servicing.
To keep your repair costs low, start by staying away from any cars made in Europe, advises Mohamed Bouchama, director of the consumer group Car Help Canada. “Some of them charge up to $100 for a simple oil change and parts are very expensive.” North American-made cars are a safer bet, but all of our experts agreed that Japanese brands are still the cheapest when it come to maintenance expenses in most categories. Below are their top five picks for predictability.
Worldwide, a Corolla is sold every 40 seconds—with good reason. The humble Corolla may not be much of a looker, but it’s a favourite among students and budget-minded buyers. Eli Melnick, owner of Start Auto Electric in Toronto, says he sees very few of them roll through his garage for repairs.
The Civic is also highly regarded, but adds a little more style with swooping lines and a space-age, digital dashboard. Its fuel-sipping ways and a reputation for bulletproof reliability also help keep its resale value high. Unfortunately, insurance can also be a little higher than for a similarly-priced Corolla, especially for younger drivers. Kirk Robinson, owner of Robinson Automotive in Mississauga, also notes that 2006 to 2008 models ares under scrutiny over reports of engine blocks cracking.
The priciest of our small cars, but the extra money gets you a more powerful engine and Subaru’s highly-praised all-wheel-drive (AWD) system. Of course, AWD may not be needed in your part of the country and there is a fuel penalty to be paid for the bigger engine. As well, independent garages can’t service some AWD components, forcing owners to pay more for repairs at the dealer. Still, transmission experts report these cars hold up well.
If compact cars don’t fit your style, the Accord is the top mid-size on our list. It offers good fuel economy combined with powerful cruising and roominess that’s hard to find in a smaller car—it even nudges ahead of its main rival, Toyota Corolla, in build quality and driver comfort. Parts can be expensive at the dealership, but Robinson says quality, non-factory replacement parts are easy to come by and affordable.
Dodge Grand Caravan
Once regarded as a problem-plagued lemon, the Grand Caravan has overcome past mechanical troubles and remains the bestselling people mover in Canada. “The Caravan doesn’t have the problems it once did with transmissions and the parts are very cheap. It’s a very good deal,” says Bouchama.
|VEHICLE||SUGGESTED RETAIL PRICE||COST OF MAINTENANCE & REPAIRS IN 1ST YEAR||COST OF MAINTENANCE & REPAIRS OVER 5 YEARS|
|Toyota Corolla CE||$16,460||$30||$3,782|
|Honda Civic DX-G sedan||$18,580||$76||$3,366|
|Subaru Impreza 2.5 i||$21,895||$226||$4,635|
|Honda Accord SE||$24,790||$80||$3,839|
|Dodge Grand Caravan SE (Canada Value Package)||$19,445||$208||$2,841|
Note: All calculations based on a five-year estimate with 24,000 km driven per year.