There are many ways for consumers to judge cars before buying them. Until gasoline prices plunged a couple of years ago, fuel economy was a major consideration.
Reliability, however, has been a constant. Having a car that spends most of its time on the road instead of the shop is always desirable.
Automotive site CarMD.com rates cars on how often their check engine lights come on and what the resulting repairs cost. Its 2016 Vehicle Health Index lists the top 10 makes in each category, while comparing vehicles for the fewest repair incidents and the lowest repair costs.
"Based on industry and customer feedback, this year's Index dives deeper into how individual makes rank, marking the first time CarMD has scored them individually versus part of their parent manufacturer," said Ieon C. Chen, CEO of CarMD.com Corp.
Foreign nameplates dominate
On this year's list, the top 10 makes with the fewest check engine light incidents is largely made up for foreign nameplates. Japanese carmakers hold the top three slots and German automakers occupy the next three. Here's the top 10 list:
Most trouble-free model
When the data is broken down by particular models, the Honda CR-V had the fewest check engine light issues in 2016, followed by the Toyota Tundra, Toyota Camry, and Toyota Corolla. When the check engine light signaled a necessary repair, Hyundai had the lowest repair cost, followed by Mazda and Kia.
The CarMD researchers also found that some makes and models tended to have common repair requirements after a check engine light came on. For example, 24% of Lincoln repairs were to replace the ignition coil. Replacing the ignition coil and/or spark plugs accounted for nearly 19% of Mini repairs. For Subaru, nearly 18% of check engine light incidents required the replacement of the catalytic converter.
If your check engine light happens to be on, you aren't alone. CarMD says at any given time, approximately 10% of cars in the U.S. have a burning check engine light.