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If you type the phrase “cheapest cars to maintain” into Google, you’re bound to get a variety of answers from different websites. Many (if not all) of these sources build their lists from data sets, which makes you wonder: why do the lists differ from one another?

Possibly because statistics are easy to skew. So, instead of crunching numbers, I’m going to give you my personal opinion on the cheapest cars to maintain.

As an ASE Certified Master Technician with over 15 years of industry experience, I know which vehicles require minimal upkeep—and which ones are money pits.

maintenance of a car
Some cars only need regular care to keep them running for years.

Top 5 Cheapest Cars to Maintain

Some cars keep running for years with only regular care, while others drain your wallet with one repair after another. To avoid the mechanic and keep your bank account flush, you need a vehicle that’s inexpensive to maintain.

That means that:

  • The car doesn’t need many repairs
  • The car requires only limited routine service
  • The car is relatively inexpensive to fix (i.e., parts are affordable)

These are my nominees for the top 5 cheapest cars to maintain:

2018 toyota corolla
2018 Toyota Corolla

Toyota Corolla

There’s a good reason why the Toyota Corolla is the world’s best-selling car—it’s nearly indestructible. You’ll hear many stories of owners who have well over 350,000 miles on their cars.

Since the Corolla is so darn reliable, you won’t waste time and money on a bunch of repairs. Also, parts are affordable and the routine service is limited.

The only bummer is, because there are billions of these sedans everywhere, it can be easy to lose your car in a crowded parking lot. But hey, the Corolla didn’t become a worldwide bestseller because it’s stylish and stands out. It’s popular because when you turn the key, it starts.

Every. Time.

2007 toyota camry
2007 Toyota Camry

Toyota Camry

Chances are, you or someone you know has a Toyota Camry that refuses to die. Although Toyota’s midsize sedan doesn’t turn heads (especially when it’s painted beige), it’s one of the most trouble-free cars ever built.

Need proof? Since Consumer Reports started ranking the Camry in the year 2000, the car has earned a perfect reliability score 14 times. Get one of these generic-looking four-doors, and you’ll enjoy decades of low-cost ownership.

2017 honda civic
2017 Honda Civic

Honda Civic

The Honda Civic isn’t just for Fast and Furious-style street racers. Many regular drivers (including myself) choose the compact car because it requires minimal maintenance and parts are inexpensive.

Also, it can be fun to drive if you choose a manual transmission.

Models built between 1992 and 2005 are particularly reliable and cheap to maintain. Stay away from early eighth-generation cars (2006-2009), which have problems—including cracked engine blocks and peeling paint.

Any other Civic is nearly bulletproof.

2010 honda accord
2010 Honda Accord

Honda Accord

The Accord is another engineering marvel from Honda. There are a few model years (1998-2004) that suffer from automatic transmission problems, but otherwise, the Accord has been unrelentingly dependable since its introduction in 1979.

You’ll find many examples with well over 300,000 miles on the odometer.

Reliability is one reason the Accord is a popular hand-me-down for teenagers. An unwillingness to die means the durable car often survives many generations of drivers.

Even a newly-licensed sixteen-year-old can’t stop an Accord.

2015 toyota rav4
2015 Toyota RAV4

Toyota RAV4

According to Kelly Blue Book, the RAV4 was the best-selling SUV in 2019, with over 448,071 units sold. Dependability and low cost of ownership are two driving factors behind these impressive figures.

The RAV4 shares its platform with either the Corolla or the Camry (depending on the model year). And the sport ‘ute is just as dependable as its chassis-mates.

There are Certain RAV4 model years (2013 – 2015) that are known for having torque converter issues. Beyond that, it’s smooth sailing and minimal upkeep with Toyota’s compact SUV.

The Cheapest Luxury Cars to Maintain and the Cheapest Car Brands to Maintain

Okay, that’s great. But what if you’re looking for the cheapest luxury cars to maintain?

Well, since high-end cars have additional equipment that can fail, they almost always cost extra in the way of repairs. Routine upkeep is also more expensive, due to the need for synthetic oil changes and other costly services. And parts can be extremely expensive.

But if you absolutely must have a car with leather upholstery and ventilated seats—and you also want minimal upkeep—your best bet is a Lexus or an Acura. Since Lexus is a division of Toyota and Acura is a division of Honda, you’ll be getting one of those two reliable brands in a fancy package.

Overall, the cheapest car brands to maintain are Toyota and Honda. That’s my two cents.

What’s your opinion? Share your thoughts on the cheapest cars to maintain in the comment section below!

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Crewless

My 96 Camry with 340,000 miles is amazing. Every time I think it has reached end of life with a problem not worth fixing it turns out I can fix it for ten or twenty bucks. Like when the transmission started screwing up a year or two ago. I thought, what the hell, I’ll try changing the transmission fluid for the first time (I bought the car new, so I know it’s the first time). Problem disappeared.

But it’s not just long lived. Maintenance has been incredibly minimal. Biggest repair ever was an engine oil pump about 100,000 miles ago, for $1K. Other than that, nothing over $100 other than tires. Original struts and brakes other than pads. Head never off. Original ignition wires. Original stainless exhaust. Cap and rotor replaced for the first time about 300K miles. Etc. and it still only burns a quart of oil every 3000 miles!

Of course, it matters that I do all my own maintenance (other than that oil pump). So the $100 repairs are just for parts.

My family keeps telling me I should buy a new car. But why? This one won’t die!

CarParts.com

Hi,

Wow, that is impressive! Especially since it sounds like you put off a lot of routine maintenance (i.e., transmission service, tune-up) for a long time. I’m guessing you’ve already done the timing belt a handful of times. As you probably know, timing belt replacement is not something you want to defer!

-Mia, Chief Mechanic @ CarParts.com

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