The top 10 most reliable and unreliable 4x4s


January 5, 2010

The winner - congratulations to Honda for having the most reliable 4x4 on the road, as measured by an independent source.

The winner - congratulations to Honda for having the most reliable 4x4 on the road, as measured by an independent source.

Image Gallery (3 images)

If you’re planning on choosing a roadgoing car based on racetrack results, maybe you’d better think again. With the world’s greatest off-road race, the Dakar Rally, currently powering its way through Chile, it’s interesting to note that the leaders of the event (BMW and Volkswagen) are among the least reliable 4x4 vehicles on the road, where it really counts. Newly released and highly credible information from the U.K. has revealed the most and least reliable pre-owned 4x4 and SUV cars on the market (see the top 10 lists here). Honda’s CR-V won the crown of the most reliable 4x4 by a fair margin while Audi’s A6 Allroad is the most unreliable 4x4 on the road, with Volkswagen’s Touareg and BMW’s X5 placing second and third most unreliable. That’s right folks, despite performing spectacularly in race events such as the Dakar, the VW Touareg is the second most unreliable 4x4 on the market, according to Warranty Direct.

Warranty Direct’s study used its unique Reliability Index, which takes into account how often vehicles break down, average repair cost and time spent in the garage to calculate its overall reliability. The lower the Reliability Index number, the more reliable the car.

Audi’s A6 Allroad fared worst, with more than half recording a fault in a typical year. A third of those problems reported were suspension-related.

At the other end of the scale, Honda’s CR-V was revealed as the off-roader least likely to let you down, followed by the Suzuki Grand Vitara and Toyota’s RAV4. Mitsubishi and Kia make it a clean sweep for Far Eastern manufacturers in the top five.

The Volkswagen Touareg, despite winning the 2009 running of the famously tough Dakar at the hands of South African Giniel de Villiers, didn’t transfer its success to Warranty Direct’s study, with a quarter of faults down to electrical gremlins.

The highest-placed European car is the newer incarnation of perennial 4x4 favourite, Land Rover’s Freelander, which has traditionally fared badly in Warranty Direct’s studies.

Warranty Direct’s Duncan McClure Fisher said: “It’s promising to see improvement from Land Rover’s flagship model, but it’s telling that the bottom 10 is dominated by European cars, and the top of the list populated largely by Japanese vehicles, which still hold sway overall. The biggest surprise must surely be the poor performance of the XC90. It’s not what you’d expect from a manufacturer with Volvo’s reputation, but I’m signing cheques every day on XC90 repairs.”

With an average repair cost of GBP 595.58, the Mitsubishi Shogun (00-07) is the most expensive to fix but thankfully has a low incidence rate, with just under 8% per year suffering a glitch.

Meanwhile, a third of Nissan’s X-Trail problems are down to cooling and heating issues while almost 60% of enforced garage visits for Volvo XC-70 owners are due to suspension breakages.


Useful. On the basis of many positive press reviews I was about to buy a used Nissan X-trail. On further investigation after reading this item it became clear that many owners have been hit by expensive engine and intercooler problems. Time to look at a Honda!


Jeep Wrangler not even mentioned?


Do you think that the warranty claims may be due to how the vehicle is being used? Perhaps the VW has more warranty claims than the CRV because it is being used more aggressively than the CRV! Everybody KNOWS that the CRV is the least capable 4X4 on the market and that it barely can make it down a gravel road without slipping all over the place! For this reason, the majority of the CRVs on the road today rarely leave the road and as such, never see the kind of abuse that most other 4X4s enjoy! And since it is obvious that the VW is a highly capable, perhaps these people use the VW in a more aggressive manner which causes more issues to surface. Case in point. The VW has a 7,716 pound towing capacity. This is MORE than the Toyota 4Runner, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Ford Explorer and even the Chevy TrailBlazer! By comparison, the CRV can only tow 1,500 pounds. (older CRVs could only tow 1,000 lbs). This alone tells you the market being targeted by the vehicle manufacturers. Ed


I Understand that the Honda CRV has the best reliability. From Experience however I would not choose to drive it anywhere more Offroad than a Grassy kerb. I will stick to my \"Always reliable\" landrover Disco 3 which will get me where I need to go.

Rob Greener

Well that\'s disappointing. Every vehicle on this list is a car-based all-wheel drive grocery getter. There\'s not one real 4x4 here.


not true, my crv blasts through anything the harsh Norweigen winter throws at it, runs to the cabins twice a month (uncleared road, often 40cm of fresh snow), dirt roads, everything. its not an \"offroad\" king like a LC or Disco, but certainly able to keep up with everything else in the snow and dirt tracks. if your looking for a rock crawler, buy a defender. the CRV\'s are certainly more than shopping carts if you drive them correctly and get a feel for them! they are the most sold car in Norway (in their class), this should tell you something..

Dimitrios James

Bogus results as Warranty Direct only collects data on the cars for which it has issued an extended warranty and this is not going to be representative of the car population as a whole. Much more accurate and reliable information is available from Consumer Reports which actually surveys all the owners of vehicles and then reports on the repairs by car make, year, and system.

A particular car may have had a high rate of electrical problems in 2004, 2005, and 2006, and then the manufacturer addressed the problem and the car is fine with the 2007 and later production. When buying a new or used car this is a much more accurate way to access the likelihood of having a vehicle break down or need expensive repairs.

As for \"real 4x4\" what you mean is a vehicle that is suited for off road use and that means a vehicle with limited slip or locking differentials and a lot of ground clearance. Few 4x4 vehicles have this and in many cases as with locking differentials it is not even available as a factory option for most models sold today. Then it becomes a case of choosing between a make and model with the locking differential and the overall reliability of the vehicle. A locking differential and great ground clearance do not mean much if you have a dead vehicle 25 miles up a bad road and have to walk out and then get a tow truck to go back for it. After driving 4x4\'s off road for the past 40 years and owning ones from Willys, Dodge, Chevy, Ford, Honda, Nissan, Suzuki, and Toyota, the only vehicles I would trust to always get me home are the ones made by Toyota.


There is one full frame 4X4 on the \"Best\" list and its the only vehicle you see in places where there are no repair facilities like: the Lybian war zone, the Serengetti, Namibia, Afganistan, Pakistan, Columbia, Brazil\'s rainforest, the South African Bush velt.


Greg Riemer

Amen Greg and Calson. I have had many many cars and trucks and if you are looking for off road capability and reliability its TOYOTA LAND CRUISER all the way. My old FJ would go almost anywhere, as well as my land cruisers and lexus LX470. Never have done anything but scheduled maintenance to any of them after hundreds of thousands of miles. That said, I would probably rather feed the CRV at the gas pump! ha ha.


I doubt very much that VW Touareg owners ever go off road unless they end up on the front lawn after having had to much to drink. The Land Rovers are in the same category and I see people at the car washes with these vehicles pointing out every spec of dirt to the people doing the final detailing as heaven forbid their 4x4 is not spotless. No way are these 4x4 users going to take their spotless cars where they might get dirty or have the paint scratched.

GM when it owned Hummer had special rallies around the USA to get owners out on offroad recreastion areas so that the owners of these vehicles would have one off road experience to brag about. Could not believe how many of the owners were grandparents who wanted to look hip to their grand kids. Most of the owners did not know how to shift into 4WD much less how to lock the differentials.

With a 4WD vehicle there is a lot more to break and few manufacturers take the trouble of a company like Toyota to sweat all the details to keep their vehicles running even when taken off road. Go underneath a Toyota and you will see shielding that is absent on every Ford, GM, and Dodge 4x4, and no doubt the VW and BMW 4WD autos as well.

The Land Cruiser is the ultimate off road machine and used ones are still the most expensive used 4WD vehicles to buy in Central and South America. The sellers don\'t even bother to list the odometer reading and no one cares. But having had multiple solid front axle 4x4 trucks and Willys wagons over the past 30 years I much prefer IFS which unless you really are crossing rivers in the way out back is just as reliable and performs every bit as well and provides a much smoother ride for me and my passenger.


I will tell you now my Land cruiser pulls twenty/twentyfour foot boats up the slip way no problem punches above its weigt regular when towing goes where I need to over any terrain is totally abused generally and last week pulled a RangeRover sport off Cart Gap Beach (Norfolk) whilst it still had a jet ski coupled to it, and its only got semi tarmac tyres!!!!I mean a 14 year old Land cruiser with 234 thousand miles on the clock. I rest my case or in the words of the late Steve Urwin If ya wanna go outback go in a "Landrover", if ya wanna go out back and "get back" go in a "TOYOTA" In my bussines I cant afford to have anything else


Toyota Land Cruiser all the way. Whether it's highway or no way, the TLC has proven time and time again the standard.

The rest can grudgingly admire Toyota's vision and commitment.

Derwin Villanueva

Well, its the usual so-called reliability survey which lists the vehicles from the simplest to most complex. If you chose to list the vehicles with the most features that didn't fail, you'd get the reverse results, because an All-road's suspension has nearly the complexity of a CRV itself. And though I'm not a fan of Toyota's relentless cost and corner-cutting on their mainstream road appliances, my diesel land-cruiser was one of the best vehicles I've ever owned, even though it had over 400,000 kms when I bought it.

Brian Empey

My 1999 CR-V has been awesomely reliable. Because it's a manual transmission, I've had to replace the clutch every 75,000 miles, but beyond that, the only problem I've had was replacing the battery once, replacing the radio, and the dashboard clock has stopped working.

It was more reliable at 100,000 miles than my previous car was when it was brand new.

Jon A.

My father gave me his 2000 CRV when I turned 16 four years ago. So far I have racked 112,000 miles and have yet to replace a thing on it. We have used it around my grandfathers farm, it handles snow and ice exceptionally well, and i have never been afraid taking it out on a trail. Obviously, I am not taking it through mud bogs but who honestly takes a stock vehicle through bogs or other extreme things. Like any other teen boy I have beat the piss out of this car and it keeps chugging. The article is most RELIABLE. not was can tow the most or can rock crawl. It is a stock comparison on reliability...

Doug Huffman

I have a 2007 (1st of the new shape) CRV and it has been a cracking vehicle in the snow as well as towing a 2.5 ton excavator and trailer rig over a good many miles (i think the limit is supposed to be 2 ton). The car has now done over 130,000 miles and the only parts replaced have been the clutch at 115,000, the crank shaft pulley at 105,000 and the break pads (not the discs yet. I can only assume that the landcruiser crowd have never driven one of the vehicles because as far as luxury goes the leave the landcruiser looking very sad indeed. I might consider using a landcruiser as a trailer once all of the nasty interior had been removed along with the engine :-)

Robert Fabry

The crucial thing about these statistics is: What exactly are you asking for? There is a huge difference between "This car brings me home under any given condition" and "I am claiming warranty issues, because the window frames are not properly tight and cause some wind noise." It is easy to imagine that a buyer of a 70.000$ car is less tolerant on such issues than somebody who paid 20.000$. German automobilists club ADAC pubishes every year a list of road reliability: How many cars of one make did they have to give roadside assistance? They put that into relation with the number of cars of that type sold. These figures also tell less than half of the truth: How high is the average driven mileage per year with a certain model? Does the manufacturer offer road assistance on its own (so that most of the roadside incidents never make it to the ADAC statstistics)? I once drove a Renault, by means of repair cost and frequency the worst car I ever had. But actually it needed roadside assistance only once.

Frank Kemper

First and foremost, they are not talking about getting groceries with these machines mentioned here, although that's what most owners do with them. They are talking about the Dakar rally and how they performed in it, so those of you who think that the VW's cop more abuse than the Honda's, think again. I am the owner of a few 4WDs including a VW V10, Landrover V8, Honda CR-V and Toyota Prado. The service cost and reliability of the VW is appalling and the Land rover isn't too far behind. Have never had any probs with the Toyota or the Honda. Best interior is the Land-rover, hands down. Comfort wise, the Prado (airbag suspension) and the Rover are on par. They iron any bumps off the road... Will I buy another VW or Land-rover? Not with my own money ;)

Harshan Wickramasinghe

Do you know how the suspension works on these 4x4 vehicles? I know that 4wd is a useful amenity on cars and trucks, sometimes though this is something that gets overlooked. My old truck ran really well, except it kept having issues with the suspension. It's unfortunate but I'm looking for a vehicle that has a better rating.

Post a Comment

Login with your Gizmag account:

Related Articles
Looking for something? Search our articles