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“Customer Satisfaction” is a weird and often vague phrase. What makes the most satisfying car brands so satisfying? Is it a quality product? Or is it something more subjective, like getting what you expect from a product? Or is it simply buying the thing you want and being satisfied with the fact that you have the car you set out to buy? 

Take the Jeep Wrangler, for instance. While Jeep overall doesn’t have a great satisfaction rate, the Wrangler seems to satisfy despite being uncomfortable, unreliable, and expensive. The truth is, people who buy a Jeep Wrangler want a Jeep Wrangler. Just owning one is satisfying to them. Like Ferrari, Lamborghini, or any other lifestyle brand, the satisfaction is in knowing you have it. That being said, let’s take a look at the car brands with the best overall customer satisfaction. 

Man walks through car dealership looking for the most satisfying car brand 2021
A potential customer walks around a dealership | McBurney/PA Images via Getty Images

What is the best car brand? 

American Customer Satisfaction Index: Most Satisfying Car Brands

  1. Honda (82)
  2. Subaru (81)
  3. Ram (80)
  4. Hyundai (79)
  5. Mazda (79)
  6. Toyota (79)
  7. Dodge (78)
  8. Ford (78)
  9. GMC (78)
  10. Nissan (78)
  11. Buick (77)
  12. Kia (77)
  13. Volkswagen (77)
  14. Chevrolet (76)
  15. Jeep (76)
  16. Mitsubishi (71)
  17. Chrysler (70)

This can be a tough question to answer definitely. “Best” can also be a tough word to define, but after a recent American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) study, the numbers clearly show the most satisfying car brands. 

The ACSI scores were calculated based on interviews with 4,888 customers chosen at random. According to Autoblog, the numbers show an overwhelming majority for Honda as the most satisfying car brand with a score of 82/100. This score is up by 4 points from last year, proving Honda’s continued excellence. There is little needed to defend Honda being the best car brand. While many make disagree, few could call such a result surprising. 

Subaru, BMW (up 4%), and Lexus (down 1%) all tied with a score of 81, earning them a three-way tie for the second most satisfying car brands in 2021. In third is Ram – which had the top score last year – Audi, and Tesla, scoring an 80. 

The lowest-scoring car brand in the study was Chrysler, with a score of 70, which just beat Mitsubishi’s score of 71. Unsurprisingly, the car brands that did the worst in this study sent recall notifications to customers this year. The same is true for the other side of the spectrum. The most satisfying car brands, or as some may say, the best car brands, were recall-free. 

What is the best luxury car brand? 

the front end and controversial grille of the M440i
2022 BMW M440i | BMW

“Over the last few years, luxury automakers’ satisfaction lead over mass-market manufacturers has been slowly eroding. That gap is now almost nonexistent,” David VanAmburg, managing director at ACSI, said in a statement. “In terms of style points and cool factor, luxury vehicles may still have the edge, but if you remove all the bells and whistles, the two are more similar than not.”

The ACSI study also did a separate poll to find the best luxury car brand. The poll found that BMW was the most satisfying car brand from a luxury manufacturer. Again, much like the Wrangler, BMW buyers often simply want to own a BMW. Before many BMW customers own one, they dream of owning one. 

Are luxury cars better than mass-market cars? 

A blue Tesla Model S Plaid EV, shot in motion from the front 3/4
The Tesla Model S Plaid | Tesla

American Customer Satisfaction Index: Most satisfying Luxury Car Brands

  1. BMW (81)
  2. Lexus (81)
  3. Audi (80)
  4. Tesla (80)
  5. Mercedes-Benz (78)
  6. Cadillac (77)
  7. Volvo (77)
  8. Acura (76)
  9. Lincoln (76)
  10. Infiniti (75)

Ultimately, the luxury brands struggle to compete with mass-market cars in owner satisfaction. Whether it’s the added cost to purchase or the often pricier and more frequent repairs, luxury cars just don’t seem to do as well. 

The closer you look at the ACSI study numbers, mass-market-brand owners gave the highest scores in safety, Dependability, Driving Performance, Exterior, Comfort and Interior while scoring the Warranty, Gas Mileage and Technology categories poorly. Meanwhile, the study showed luxury drivers were most satisfied with Comfort, Interior, Safety Driving Performance, and Exterior. 

Is the most satisfying car brand of 2021 also the best car brand of 2021? 

That might be hard to say. There is so much subjectivity in a term like “satisfaction.” Satisfaction has as much to do with meeting expectations as it does anything else. While Honda is a fair choice for the best car brand of 2021, that doesn’t mean it will be the most satisfying car brand for everyone. 

These sorts of studies can be really helpful tools to finding the right car for a buyer. Always remember, while these tools are helpful, nothing beats hands-on experience to determine what might be the most satisfying cars for you.