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Cheapest Cars to Maintain: A Professional’s Opinion

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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:

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

2018 toyota corolla
2018 Toyota Corolla

1. 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

2. 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

3. 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

4. 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

5. 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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Author

Mia Bevacqua

Chief Mechanic at CarParts.com

Mia Bevacqua is an automotive expert with over 15 years of industry experience. She holds ASE Master, L1, L2, and L3 Advanced Level Specialist certification, as well as a bachelor's degree in Advanced Automotive Systems.

Throughout her career, Mia has applied her skills toward automotive failure analysis inspections, consulting, diagnostic software development, and of course, freelance writing. Today, she writes for companies around the world, with many well-known clients showcasing her work.

Mia has a passion for math, science, and technology that motivates her to stay on top of the latest industry trends, such as electric vehicles and autonomous systems. At the same time, she has a weakness for fixer-upper oddballs, such as her 1987 Chevy Cavalier Z-24 and 1998 Chevy Astro Van AWD.

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