What is the Most Reliable Classic Car?

Mazda MX-5 California (Miata)

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Classic cars have a reputation for being unreliable and costly to maintain, but many owners manage to find cars that are not only reliable, but are far cheaper to run than their modern-day counterparts.

We’ve done some extensive research and compiled a list of the most dependable classic cars you can buy today. So what is the most reliable classic car?

The most reliable classic car is the Mazda Miata (MX-5), closely followed by the Mercedes-Benz W123 and the Porsche 944. If they’re maintained correctly, these classics can be owned and driven regularly with far less chance of a breakdown compared to other cars of a similar age.

So the Miata is the most reliable classic, but which other cars were we impressed with?

BMW 3 Series (E30)

BMW E30

On the whole, BMWs from this era are very robust and reliable, and the E30 is no exception. 

Given their age and the premium you pay for BMW parts, you’d expect this to be a no-go. But actually if you pick up a well cared for example and don’t mind doing some of the maintenance work yourself, your car will be more reliable than many modern-day options.

Owners report that with a little TLC, their E30s can easily be daily driven.

Buy on condition rather than mileage, and look out for any rust. It’s worth paying a little more to get one in good condition.

Volkswagen Beetle

VW Beetle

Before the days of onboard computers and emissions scandals, Volkswagen produced the Beetle (or ‘Type 1’ as it’s officially known). Designed for a post-war Germany in the 1930s, it came into production in the late 1940s. But the less said about its inception the better.

What’s clear is that there are still plenty of these cars up and running all over the world, which is testament to its design and manufacture all those years ago.

It’s beautifully engineered and incredibly some people are still using them as their regular cars. There is a ready supply of parts and working on them is not difficult thanks to their simplicity.

If you do want to use a Beetle as your daily driver it’s worth looking at one of the later models, and as with many of the cars on this list, rust is the biggest killer. Be sure to inspect thoroughly before you buy.

Datsun 240Z

Datsun 240Z

The first Japanese entry on the list, and what a way to start off. A proper classic sports car that not only offers an excellent driving experience, but also decent reliability.

The 1970s icon is still a popular choice for many and whilst the majority are now weekend cars, some do still use them to get to the office or to pop to the shops.

Of course, it’s not going to be in the same league as your modern-day Japanese car in terms of reliability, but with good maintenance and a solid back-up plan if it is off the road, there’s no reason you can’t use one of these regularly.

Porsche 911

Porsche 964

The 911 is widely renowned as the most reliable of all the supercars, and with good reason. In fact, 911s are considered to be one of the most reliable cars ever manufactured.

Whether it’s a classic 911 or a modern-day one, you can be assured that the refined German engineering that went into building your car is unlikely to let you down.

Cars built from 1984 onwards are your best bet in terms of reliability, and the 911 is practical enough and reliable enough to be used regularly. It may also turn a few heads, too!

Volvo P1800

P1800

Volvos have long been known for their reliability, sturdiness and safety. The P1800 produced in the 1960s and 70s was not only robust, but unusually for a Volvo it was a sight to behold.

The beautiful lines and classic 60s curves drew a lot of attention at the time, and are drawing an increasing amount of interest today. Many consider it the most beautiful Volvo of all time, and values of P1800s are now on the rise.

Mechanically the P1800 is exceptionally tough, which is proven in the Guinness Book of World Records. The car holds the record for ‘the highest certified mileage driven by the original owner’, which is a staggering 3.2 million miles. Incredible.

Saab 900 Turbo

Saab 900 Turbo

Saab may no longer be with us, but in their day their cars were considered safe, practical and reliable. It’s little wonder that the 900 has such a great reputation.

The Turbo gave the sensible Swede an edge performance-wise, and it was just as reliable as the naturally aspirated 900. 

They were built to last, and mechanically they have. It’s a shame many succumb to rust issues, though.

Toyota MR2

Toyota MR2

If we told you that you could buy a mid-engined sports car that also has excellent reliability for no more than a second-hand family car, you would bite our hands off. And that’s exactly the case with the Toyota MR2.

Toyotas are famed for their reliability, cheap maintenance and all-round sturdiness. And the MR2 fits the mould perfectly.

Whichever generation of MR2 you choose, you’ll have a great car on your hands. It’s one of the most popular daily driven sports cars in the world for a reason.

It may not be practical in the slightest or have amazing performance figures, but if you’re looking for a fun car to use on your daily commute then this one should be top of your list.

Porsche 944

There’s a reason there are still so many Porsche 944s out there with over 200,000 miles on the clock, and that is their astounding record for reliability.

Despite Porsche connoisseurs turning their noses up when the 944 was initially launched, these cars are now coming of age and have true collectable potential.

Built by an out-and-out sports car manufacturer and now over 30 years old you’d expect them to be a nightmare to run, but owners report quite the opposite.

If basic maintenance is taken care of and potential rust issues dealt with before they become a problem, these cars just keep going and going. A great choice if you want a Porsche you can drive every day.

Mercedes-Benz W123

Over 45 years on from its inception, the W123 is still the epitome of German reliability. This car is considered the most reliable sedan ever.

The fact that there are still so many on the road speaks volumes, and there are many instances where cars have reached well over half a million miles. Owners claim they can achieve this feat with basic maintenance.

To this day, the W123 is seen as the embodiment of Mercedes-Benz build quality. Everything was rigorously tested to destruction before the car was released, and even now that excellence remains unrivalled.

Mazda Miata NA (MX-5)

Mazda MX-5 (Miata) California

The NA Miata, or MX-5 if you’re in Europe, tops our list of the most reliable classic cars you can own today. A fantastic sports car in every way, it’s little wonder they were such a popular choice back in the 90s.

And we can vouch for this one personally here at The Car Investor, as we bought one back in 2017. We’ve used it on a regular basis and mechanically it’s been sound throughout our ownership. No breakdowns or unexpected costs whatsoever.

As with so many older cars, care does need to be taken with regards to rust as this is the biggest killer. The arches were showing signs of bubbling when we first bought the car, so that was the first job we had completed.

But apart from that, there have been no real costs to ownership other than basic maintenance.

If you live in a warm climate there’s no reason why these can’t be used as a daily driver. And if you live in a colder climate, just make sure you have somewhere to tuck it in at night over the dark, wet winter months!

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