A 2013 Toyota Prius plug-in Hybrid at the 2013 New York International Auto Show. The model's higher average repair costs contributed to Toyota being toppled by Hyundai at the top of the lowest cost car repair rankings.
One maker has traditionally ranked at the top of the quality, reliability and dependability charts, the other has spent years struggling to reverse its early image of building low-quality econoboxes.
So, it may come as a shock to see Hyundai toppling Toyota from the top rank in the latest Vehicle Health Index, a survey of repair costs plotted by website CarMD. But after spending two consecutive years in second place, behind the Japanese giant, Hyundai has landed in the top spot – which means the annual cost of maintaining and repairing a Hyundai is now the lowest of any brand.
General Motors, which has been rapidly gaining ground in other recent quality and reliability studies, landed in third place in the Vehicle Health Index followed by what might come as another surprise, Chrysler -- ahead of Honda, another Japanese maker traditionally linked to high quality.
Now in its third year, "the Vehicle Health Index Manufacturer & Vehicle Ranking provides car shoppers with insight on what to expect in terms of frequency, type and cost of repairs for the majority of new and used vehicles on the road today,” explains Doug Sobieski, CarMD’s chief marketing officer.
Both GM and Chrysler posted dramatic improvements in this year's survey. GM jumping from the eighth spot to third, while Chrysler leaped from the 10th spot in the previous surveys to fourth. Ford also moved up to sixth just behind Honda. The second-largest of the domestic makers was the ninth-ranked maker last year.
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Hyundai’s improved ranking was fueled by its low frequency of repairs. While the survey found that products from both Hyundai and Toyota vehicles actually had more trips to the repair shop and higher year-over-year average repair bills than during the previous survey, Hyundai owners felt less of an impact.
Hyundai and Toyota weren’t alone. Half of the top 10 manufacturers – also including Nissan, Kia and Volkswagen -- experienced a drop in reliability ratings, with more frequent visits to the repair shop and increased average repair costs. The other five -- GM, Chrysler, Honda, Ford and Mitsubishi -- saw improved ratings with GM experiencing the largest boost – moving from No. 8 to No. 3 in terms of fewer repairs and lower costs. Coming in at No. 10, Mitsubishi made the top ten for the first time this year.
GM had the lowest average repair cost among the top 10-ranked manufacturers ($304.99). Toyota had the highest overall repair cost ($540.53).
Among vehicles with the highest average repair costs were the various Toyota Prius hybrids, which contributed to Toyota’s overall increase in repair costs. Bright spots for Toyota were the 2012 Toyota Camry and 2010 Toyota 4 Runner, each with average repair costs under $100.
In fact, for the third consecutive year, the top-ranked vehicle – meaning the lowest repair costs -- is a Toyota, with the 2012 Camry ranked as the most reliable vehicle for 2013.
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Previously, Toyota also ranked first with the 2009 Corolla and 2010 Corolla earning top spots in the past two CarMD rankings.
Four sedans, four compacts and two SUVs make up 2013’s top 10 list, with Nissan leading the pack with five vehicles, including the 2012 Altima at No.2, the 2011 Rogue at No. 5, the 2012 Rogue at No. 6, 2012 Sentra at No. 7 and 2011 Sentra at No. 9.
Toyota has three cars in the top 10, including the 2012 Camry at the top of the list, 2011 Corolla at No. 3 and 2011 Camry at No. 4.
Hyundai has one vehicle on the list – the 2010 Elantra at No. 8. Rounding out the list is the 2012 Mazda 3 at No. 10. It was the first time Mazda has had a vehicle in the top 10.
The Index also ranks the top three vehicles by category: Compact, Minivan, Sedan, Full-Sized SUV, Wagon/Crossover, Truck and Luxury. The 2012 GMC Sierra, ranked No. 1 in the truck category, unseating Ford from its sweep of the category last year. In the Luxury category, Buick and Lincoln toppled Lexus and Infiniti with the 2011 Buick Lacrosse, and 2010 and 2007 Lincoln MKZ vehicles.
First published December 4 2013, 7:23 AM