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Certain manufacturers have established a reputation for reliability. Toyota and Honda cars are often touted as some of the most reliable models you can buy. Their sedans can go 200,000 miles and beyond thanks to few, if any, recalls and a focus on longevity. In fact, some drivers have reported Honda Civic models going past 500,000 miles. 

Consumer Reports has named sedans, hatchbacks, and coupes as the most reliable type of vehicles. SUVs came in second ahead of minivans and pickups. By contrast, J.D. Power’s Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS) found the most reliable models are the Toyota C-HR and the Lexus RX SUV. Additionally, though they may not be the first segment that comes to mind for reliability, used sports cars can also be a reliable option.

Reliable, cheap, used sports cars can be an affordable option

A white 2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata convertible coupe sports car model parked near a large body of water
Mazda MX-5 Miata | Mazda North American Operations

Car and Driver notes that the likes of Toyota are the first that come to mind for reliability. However, some fantastic, reliable options can be more fun behind the wheel. The Long-Term Quality Index (LTQI) studies more than 1.4 million used cars to determine the most reliable options.

Data from the LTQI shows that sports cars have shifted in the last 25 years. Improvement in quality and reaching economies of scale are determined as the primary reasons. Jaguar is used as an example; the Jaguar XJS had a reputation for terrible reliability, but decades later, the Jaguar XK has better, more reliable engines.

In addition to the modern upgrades, sports cars are built for different demands from drivers. Radu Theyyunni, director of engine analysis at GM Global Propulsion Systems, told Car and Driver that a full-size SUV has a different duty cycle than a sports car. Sports cars are designed to be more robust to handle more performance driving in addition to daily use. Data from the LTQI shows nearly 80% of sports cars, roadsters, and grand tourers sold in the last 20 years have above-average reliability. That’s more than any other segment.

Sports cars also often include another factor for long-term reliability: care-conscious owners. Sports car owners more often invest in regular, high-quality maintenance. This creates a potent combination of more considerate prior owners and powerful, robust powertrains made to perform well. 

Which cheap used models are the most reliable?

The LTQI’s numbers set the Mazda MX-5 Miata, Chevrolet Corvette, BMW Z3 and Z4, and the Mercedes SL-class as some of the most reliable used cheap sports cars on the market. Many of these models include potent engines that can drive vehicles much larger than they are. The latest Corvette gives you a 6.2-liter V8 generating 490 horsepower and 465 lb-ft of torque. The Miata may be lower on power, with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine generating 181 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque, but it’s in a lightweight package made for solid handling.

Car and Driver named the MX-5 Miata one of the most reliable compact sports cars on the market. Fellow sports cars in the Ford Mustang (with at least 310 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque) and BMW 2 Series made it to the list of most reliable used cars.

Other affordable sports car options 

Car and Driver’s LTQI data shows that some cars with a reputation for reliability, like the Toyota Camry, are more middle-of-the-pack than others. Often unpopular cars or badge-engineered siblings are reliable and affordable options. That includes the likes of the Suzuki Equator (a rebadged Nissan Frontier) and the Pontiac Vibe (based on the Toyota Matrix).  

However, overall, data shows that choosing a reliable used car doesn’t have to exclude sports cars. If anything, they may be a more reliable choice.

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