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CarMD Vehicle Health Index Released

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Dec. 19, 2019—CarMD.com released its vehicle health index and reliability rankings. The company says that its index analyzes check engine repair and cost data to rank the 10 brands and makes and 100 vehicles least likely to have a check engine light on; 10 brands/makes and 100 vehicles with the lowest average repair costs; and top three vehicles by category. To compile this index CarMD analyzed data from over 14.4 million model year 1996 to 2019 vehicles reporting check engine health from Oct. 1, 2018 to Sept.  30, 2019, a press release said.

CarMD data finds that Mercedes was the brand least likely to need check engine repairs over the past year, edging out Mitsubishi and Buick, which rank no. 2 and no. 3 respectively. Kia, which ranked second last year, is now the brand with the lowest average repair cost ($321), followed by Mazda ($332) which ranked first last year and Hyundai ($333). Buick, Ford and Kia are the only brands to rank in the top 10 on both lists. Kia also swept the list of three most affordable compact vehicles to repair. The 2017 Honda CR-V is the vehicle least likely to need a check engine light-related repair. The 2017 Subaru Outback costs the least on average ($60) to repair, with a loose gas cap or faulty leak detection pump the two most common reasons the Outback's check engine light illuminates.

"For nearly a decade, CarMD has published this report to help vehicle owners and used car buyers make better informed buying and service decisions, and help repair professionals  monitor industry trends," said David Rich, CarMD's technical director. "Many drivers ignore the check engine light in fear of pricey repairs, but this year's CarMD Vehicle Health Index is a good reminder that repairs can cost under $100 and shouldn't be avoided for fear of the unknown."  

10 Most Reliable Brands

CarMD studied data from more than 14.4 million unique vehicles reporting check engine health to identify the makes/brands least likely to need check engine repairs. To rank these brands, CarMD developed an Index frequency score formulated by the lowest percentage of repair incidents per percentage of vehicle population. From this data, CarMD found the following brands were least likely to need a check engine repair over the past year:

  1. Mercedes
  2. Mitsubishi
  3. Buick
  4. RAM
  5. Ford
  6. Acura
  7. Kia
  8. Honda
  9. Volvo
  10. Subaru

10 Brands with the Lowest Average Repair Costs

When factoring in all of the repairs needed on the various models and years under each automaker, CarMD found the 10 vehicle brands with the lowest average check engine light-related repair costs in 2019 were:    

  1. Kia  ($321)
  2. Mazda ($332)
  3. Hyundai ($333)
  4. Chrysler ($337)
  5. Dodge ($349)
  6. Chevrolet  ($366)
  7. GMC ($375)
  8. Volkswagen ($379)
  9. Ford ($385)
  10. Buick ($420)

10 Most Reliable Vehicles

Any given brand can have a mix of reliable vehicles along with some that have more frequent issues. And vehicle reliability can vary by model year, particularly when a substantial model change has occurred. 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. 2017 Honda CR-V
  2. 2017 Subaru Outback
  3. 2016 Lexus NX
  4. 2017 Subaru Legacy
  5. 2017 Honda Civic
  6. 2017 Honda HR-V
  7. 2015 Lexus NX
  8. 2016 Subaru Forester
  9. 2015 Acura MDX
  10. 2015 Acura RDX

10 Vehicles with the Lowest Average Repair Costs

When the check engine light comes on, the following are the 10 vehicles that CarMD found to have the lowest average repair cost among the more than 8,440 different model year, make and model vehicles on the road today:

  1. 2017 Subaru Outback ($60)
  2. 2016 Toyota Prius ($67)
  3. 2017 Hyundai Tucson ($79)
  4. 2017 Kia Soul ($82)
  5. 2016 Mercedes-Benz C ($85)
  6.  2017 Toyota Prius ($85)
  7. 2017 Subaru Legacy ($86)
  8. 2016 Hyundai Tucson ($97)
  9. 2015 Mercedes-Benz ML ($100)
  10. 2016 Kia Forte ($107)

One of the most common repairs on the most affordable vehicles to fix is to inspect or replace a loose, damage or missing gas cap. Other frequent fixes include to reprogram the powertrain control module; replace ignition coil(s), spark plug(s) and oxygen sensor. Many common repairs can be avoided by following a proper maintenance program.

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