Skip to main content

There’s plenty of reasons to love classic cars. For many, complicated maintenance and expensive parts isn’t one of them. But if you never have to worry about fixing the car, other than performing routine car maintenance, you shouldn’t have that issue. Here are 5 of the most reliable classic cars that could very well outlast your regular car.

  1. Volvo P1800
  2. Mercedes-Benz W123
  3. Volkswagen Beetle
  4. Toyota AE86 Corolla
  5. Plymouth Valiant
Irv Gordon's 1966 Volvo P1800, the world's most reliable classic car
Irv Gordon’s 1966 Volvo P1800, the world’s most reliable classic car | Brian Vander Brug/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

1. The Volvo P1800 is proven to be an unkillable, iconic roadster

The term “reliable” can be vague, and when new cars claim to be reliable it’s tricky to know if they’re just saying that to make the car sound better. After all, how can you know something is reliable if it’s brand new? The Volvo P1800, on the other hand, proved that it’s one of the most reliable classic cars ever made.

Irv Gordon managed to get his reliable 1966 Volvo P1800 past three million miles. That’s like driving around the earth 120 times. And the car managed to outlive the owner, with Gordon passing away in 2018. But according to the Wyatt Group, he left a few nuggets of wisdom on how to care for your car: follow the factory service manual, replace worn or broken parts immediately, don’t let anyone else drive your car and always use the turn signal.

2. The Mercedes-Benz W123 were reliable in an uncertain time

A red W123 Mercedes 300CD Turbodiesel coupe on a mountaintop
W123 Mercedes 300CD Turbodiesel | Mercedes-Benz

The history of the Mercedes-Benz W123 is just as remarkable as the car’s build quality. During the Second World War, Daimler was supported Socialist efforts, which ended up getting their factories bombed by the allies. By the end of the war, the company was in no position to produce a super luxurious car. Instead, all engineering and manufacturing efforts were shifted to produce a reliable, unkillable machine.

And the result speaks for itself. The Mercedes-Benz W123 is a popular car option in places with few or no paved roads, such as Africa. It can handle harsh environments and rarely needs any maintenance. This is especially true for the diesel engine, which is known to burn oil but will keep running regardless. That unmatchable build quality, especially at the time, is the only thing that kept Daimler alive.

3. The Volkswagen Beetle is ridiculously simple, and parts are readily available

Classic Volkswagen Beetle
Classic Volkswagen Beetle | Jorge Fernández/LightRocket via Getty Images

If you’re looking for a reliable classic car, you really can’t go wrong with an early Volkswagen product. That’s not to say these cheap cars don’t break, but when they do they’re remarkably easy to fix. And parts are readily available since they were so easy to manufacture.

In terms of cheap starter project cars, the Volkswagen Beetle is a wonderful choice. The air-cooled engine has fewer parts and no coolant, which eliminates one of the most unreliable aspects of older cars. And they’re ridiculously cute, despite their somewhat controversial origins.

5. Toyota AE86 Corollas were well-built even before they were drift icons

It’s an odd addition to the list, because the Toyota AE86 name is notorious for drifting. And if you know anything about drifting, it’s that it’s a taxing sport on cars and tires. Though, perhaps that’s a testament to how durable these Toyotas are, capable of withstanding the abuse of drifting with minor tweaks.

If you can manage to find one that still has the 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine it came with, the Toyota AE86 Corolla is sure to last even if you put it through the wringer every now and then. It’s no wonder then that the Corolla name is the best-selling car in the world.

5. The Plymouth Valiant’s engine layout is unconventional, and ironically reliable

Classic Plymouth Valiant
Classic Plymouth Valiant | Getty Images

Maybe you know a thing or two about engine layouts: inline engines, V engines, and boxer engines are the most popular options. But the Plymouth Valiant had a strange slant-six engine. This was just a regular inline six-cylinder engine tilted 30 degrees. But that strange orientation created an iconic engine.

The Valiant was fairly fuel-efficient as well, especially for the era. For an American classic car to be both reliable and fuel-efficient is special in and of itself. So if you’re looking for the most reliable classic cars, then these five won’t let you down. Whether they were built simple by design or manufactured to be as reliable as possible, these cars have proven that mileage is just a number.


Classic Luxury Cars That Don’t Cost an Arm and a Leg to Run