Which Car Brands Make the Best Vehicles?

Our rankings reveal the automakers that produce reliable, high-performing models and those that don't

Car Brand Report Cards
2019 AUTOS SPOTLIGHT

A car brand's reputation can be heavily influenced by marketing and word of mouth. To know how it truly measures up takes extensive testing, reliability data, and owner satisfaction insights—exactly what Consumer Reports collects and analyzes each year to create its car brand report card.

The brands that rise to the top of the rankings are typically those that not only perform well by all these factors but they also do so consistently. Many brands have models that perform across a broad spectrum, with a clear difference between their best and worst models. This highlights the importance of checking the specific ratings on a model before buying, rather than shop based on reputation alone. However, at each end of the report card chart below, there are clear trends than identify brands that shine and those that should be avoided, or at least approached with caution. 

How We Rank the Car Brands

We averaged the Overall Scores for all of the vehicles we tested from each major automotive brand, and ranked them accordingly. A brand must have had two or more CR-tested models to be included in the rankings, which is why Maserati, Ram, and Smart have been left out. 

The Overall Score is a composite of four elements. First is a vehicle’s road-test score, which assesses performance in more than 50 CR evaluations. Next, we include the latest predicted reliability and owner satisfaction ratings from CR's exclusive Auto Survey. And last, we consider the presence of key safety features and crash-test performance (when completed).

The chart below indicates the average road-test score, predicted reliability, and owner satisfaction scores by brand, as well as show the percent of their models mean the standard to be recommended.

Learn more about how Consumer Reports tests cars.

 

Subaru tops our brand rankings chart this year for the first time, jumping up six spots and knocking last year's No. 1—Genesis—off its perch. This impressive performance was boosted by the Ascent (an all-new model), Crosstrek, and Forester SUVs sitting atop their respective categories. While BMW and Porsche have higher average road-test scores, Subaru’s strong predicted reliability and owner satisfaction marks drove it to the head of the pack. The brand’s lone blemish is the much-below-average predicted reliability for the sporty WRX sedan.

Mini was the most upwardly mobile brand this year, gaining 10 spots thanks to improved reliability. Lincoln rose nine places in part because of the brand’s stronger reliability, especially for the Continental sedan.

Chrysler and Tesla sank the most, each falling 11 spots. (The brand score of automakers with limited lineups can be hit hard by even a small change with one model.) Chrysler was hurt by reports from owners about problems with the in-car electronics and transmissions in both the 300 sedan and Pacifica minivan.

Reliability was also an issue for Tesla, which was dragged down as the Model 3 dropped from average to below-average reliability. Model 3 owners told us that problem areas included loose body trim and glass defects.