How often will you see the dreaded check engine light?
An illuminated check engine light can mean a lot of things, many of them relatively minor and inexpensive to repair. Of course, the dreaded CEL could also be the first indication of a major problem. In either case, it’s certainly true that owners would prefer that the dashboard lights stay unlit as much as possible.
The team from CarMD calculated the number of times check engine lights illuminate using data from more than 14.4 million vehicles produced between 1996 and 2019, and helpfully charted out the automakers least likely to flash the CEL. We’ve gathered up the top 10 brands here. In a separate slideshow, we outlined the automobile brands with the least expensive average repair cost to fix whatever is causing an illuminated check engine light.
Remember, this data only applies to check engine lights, and isn’t meant to be used as a guide to total reliability. There are many systems that can fail in an automobile, and the engine is just one part of the overall reliability puzzle. That said, click on the image above to get started, beginning with the automaker in 10th spot on the list.
Number 10: Subaru
In 10th place on the list of automotive manufacturers that are least likely to have check engine lights illuminated is Subaru, with a score of 0.957.
Subaru’s top-rated mode, the 2017 Outback, is in second place overall on CarMD’s repair frequency list with a score of 0.011.
Number 9: Volvo
Ninth place on the list is held by Volvo with a score of 0.954. The Swedish automaker’s top model on the repair frequency list is the 2016 XC90 SUV, which lands in 51st place with a score of 0.041.
Number 8: Honda
Honda, a brand long associated with reliability, lands in the eighth spot on the list of brands with vehicles displaying a check engine light with a score of 0.947.
The 2017 Honda CR-V is CarMD’s top-ranked model overall with an Index Frequency Score of just 0.007. In total, 12 of the top 100 vehicles on the overall model list are from the Japanese automaker.
Number 7: Kia
Kia, which earned top marks from CarMD as the brand with the lowest average cost to repair an issue that caused a check engine light, comes in seventh place with a score of 0.942.
Number 6: Acura
It’s not surprising to see Acura land in sixth place, considering Honda, the Japanese luxury brand’s parent company, earned the eighth spot. Acura’s score of 0.937 is solid, though down four rungs from the 2018 edition of this report.
Number 5: Ford
With a score of 0.900, Ford lands in the fifth position on this list of automakers with cars least likely to have their check engine lights illuminated. The Ford Explorer and F-150 both earn spots in the top 100 vehicles on CarMD’s Repair Frequency chart.
Number 4: Ram
Fiat Chrysler’s Ram truck brand lands in fourth place with a rating of 0.849. Interestingly, though, its bread-and-butter 1500-series pickup doesn’t actually appear on the list of top 100 vehicles least likely to flash a check engine light.
Number 3: Buick
Buick is the top-ranked American brand in CarMD’s list of automakers that are least likely to flash check engine lights with a score of 0.828. That’s good enough to land in third place, behind one Japanese brand and one German marque.
Number 2: Mitsubishi
Mitsubishi slots into second place on CarMD’s list with a score of 0.755. Interestingly, as was the case with the Ram truck brand, none of Mitsubishi’s individual models are to be found on the top 100 list.
Number 1: Mercedes-Benz
In first place on the CarMD’s list of automakers least likely to flash check engine lights is Mercedes-Benz. As the only German brand on the list, Mercedes has several models in the top 100, led by the 2015 S-Class in 12th spot.