Used executive cars are bargain buys. They are large and well equipped, so make perfect family transport, but are sophisticated and good to drive for everyday use during the week. Picking them up secondhand means you bypass the worst of their depreciation, too.
But buying secondhand also means putting yourself at the mercy of everyday reliability – or the lack of it. As cars older than three years won’t be covered by the manufacturer’s warranty, it’s thus advisable to choose carefully.
Here, then, are the most and least reliable used executive cars, based on survey results of more than 14,000 people. Each car includes an overall reliability score, so you can decide for yourself the chances of a dream turning into a nightmare.
Audi A5 Sportback: 92.9%
Audi’s stylish A5 Sportback is the most reliable secondhand executive car you can buy. Our survey showed 21% of owners suffered a fault, but in the vast majority of cases, these were minor nibbles related to the battery, air con or steering. No repair bill exceeded £150.
BMW 3 Series petrol: 92.5%
Newer petrol-engined BMW 3 Series are standing up to scrutiny well. On the rare instances that a problem did crop up, it was cheap to fix: our survey showed no repair cost topped £200. The petrol 3 Series are proving more reliable than their diesel counterparts as well.
Skoda Superb: 91.3%
Just one in ten Superb owners suffered a reliability problem and the repair bills were generally low – the average cost to fix a fault didn’t exceed £300. Most of them were back on the road in less than seven days.
Vauxhall Insignia: 90.9%
Diesel-engined Vauxhall Insignia are proving to be reliable machines. Just 12% suffered a reliability issue, and the majority of them still remained driveable. Although the troublespots are a little wide-ranging, the Vauxhall’s interior trim and switches seem robust, with no owners reporting a problem.
Mazda 6: 89.1%
This old-shape Mazda 6 is not in the first flush of youth, but its reliability record still stands up to scrutiny. Even though more than half the owners in our survey had suffered faults, they were usually minor and didn’t disable the car. Common troublespots include the brakes, gearbox and non-engine electrics.
BMW 3 Series diesel: 83.8%
The latest diesel-engined BMW 3 Series has a worse reliability ranking than its petrol-engined alternatives. The cars did generally remain drivable though, and most faults were fixed under warranty. On the rare instances than owners did have to pay out, only occasionally did the bill exceed £300.
Mercedes-Benz C-Class: 79.6%
One in three diesel C-Class suffered some sort of issue. Generally, though, these niggles were minor, and almost always related to non-engine electrics and lights. Less than 5% of owners suffered a fault related either to engine or gearbox.
BMW 3 Series petrol (pre-2012): 65.2%
Older BMW 3 Series score less well on reliability than newer models – particularly petrol models. And although the engines themselves are reliable, the most common problem area is engine electronics, something afflicting 21% of cars.
Audi A4: 65.2%
Although it’s related to the A5 Sportback, the Audi A4 isn’t proving as reliable. One in three owners reported a fault, most often with non-engine electronics, exhaust and suspension issues. And although some repair bills were free, others reached up to £1500…
Volkswagen Passat: 44.1%
The Passat has a poor reliability record. Around half of owners reported faults, and almost 45% of cars were actually left undriveable. 15% were off the road for more than a week – and another 15% of owners were hit with a repair bill in excess of £1000.