Frugal car shoppers know that buying a "new-to-me" car rather than a brand new car can lead to substantial savings. However, drivers still have to consider the ongoing cost of owning a vehicle, including repairs and maintenance. Comparing 40 of the most popular 2010 model cars and SUVs, the RepairPal Institute, used data from across the U.S. to calculate the average cost of four common auto repairs: replacing a water pump, an alternator, and brake pads, and changing the oil. Here are the least expensive cars to repair, ranked by the total cost of those services.
Buying Used? Here Are the 20 Least Expensive Cars to Repair
The only luxury model to grace the list of the least expensive 2010 cars to repair, the Cadillac CTS features a high-quality interior and one of two powerful V6 engines: a 3-liter with 270 horsepower and 3.6-liter with 304 horsepower. The 2010 CTS has also received good safety ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Legendary for its off-road capabilities, the 2010 Grand Cherokee is also a decent family hauler, although it lacks the third-row backseat offered by larger SUVs in its class. A standard 3.7-liter V6 provides merely adequate performance, but two optional Hemi V8s provide much more oomph. Fuel economy, as might be expected, isn't a strong point, with V6 rear-wheel-drive models averaging 21 miles per gallon on the highway and 16 in the city.
A best-seller from Toyota, the compact Corolla got standard electronic stability control starting with the 2010 model. Although there may be more exciting alternatives, the Corolla is a solid all-around choice with decent trunk space, a comfortable interior, and very good gas mileage.
The Camry is the best-selling midsize car in the U.S. The 2010 model featured an all-new four-cylinder engine, updated styling, and standard electronic stability control. Reviewers note that the Camry's smooth, quiet ride comes at the expense of handling, which is hardly sporty. Safety features were also upgraded in 2010, with the Camry receiving "good" ratings (the highest possible) for front and side impact tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The midsize Legacy was new from the ground up in 2010, featuring better fuel economy, a larger interior and bigger trunk, and crisper handling. All-wheel drive, a boon in areas with considerable winter snowfall, is standard on this Subaru vehicle. Six airbags, anti-lock brakes, traction control, and electronic stability control were also standard on the 2010 Legacy.
The Impreza was the only compact car that came standard with all-wheel drive in 2010. Drivers enjoy the handling, but the tradeoff is slightly lower fuel economy (19 to 20 mpg in the city and 24 to 27 on the highway) than comparable models with front-wheel drive.
The Kia Forte was introduced in 2010 and made a splash as an affordable and high-tech alternative to the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. Bluetooth, USB ports, and satellite radio were standard on even the most basic model, although power windows and air conditioning required higher trim packages.
2010 marked the last year of this generation of the midsize Sonata. High safety scores and an impressive, roomy interior (the Environmental Protection Agency considers it a large car) make it an attractive choice. Other highlights include above average fuel economy, a smooth, compliant ride, and lots of safety features.
The 2010 Santa Fe features decent gas mileage for an SUV, an EPA-estimated 19 to 21 in the city and 26 to 28 on the highway when new. Some reviewers have found the styling and performance lacking but praised the affordable price for an SUV.
The Honda Civic is a perennial favorite among compact car buyers. Available as either a coupe or a sedan in 2010, the Civic scores well for safety, gas mileage, and ride and handling.
Ford's midsize Fusion got an interior and exterior makeover for the 2010 model year. A larger trunk and more spacious cabin make it a good choice for families, as do excellent safety scores. All-wheel drive is an option with higher trim packages.
The Hyundai Elantra is notably spacious for a compact car. Although the 2010 base model was truly bare-bones -- even air conditioning was optional -- higher trim levels were more generously equipped. The Elantra also topped the safety rankings among compact cars.
The compact Mazda 3 is one of the Japanese manufacturer's best-selling cars. Mazda remodeled the 2010, although the resulting "smiley face" front got a mixed reaction. The Mazda 3 is available as either a sedan or a versatile hatchback. Known for its agile handling, it offers upscale interior features and goes the distance on a gallon of gas.
The 2010 Ford Focus is a compact car, available as either a coupe or a sedan, with good cargo space but perhaps not enough room to comfortably fit five adults. Although some reviewers consider the car underpowered, it handles well and gets good gas mileage.
Honda's midsize Accord included power windows, locks, cruise control, keyless entry, and an auxiliary audio input on even the base model. The 2010 Accord is notable for its large interior, although the trunk is smaller than many other 2010 midsize cars.
Designed for the outdoors, the Ford Explorer was one of the few 2010 SUVs to offer a mix of off-roading and strong towing capabilities. However, it drives a bit more like a truck than some of the other, sportier SUVs.
The 2010 Mazda 6 features a large interior and sporty handling for a midsize family sedan. The base model was equipped with a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine, while higher trim levels featured a 3.7-liter V6. A blind-spot monitoring system lights up in a side mirror when a vehicle is in that side's blind spot and beeps if the turn signal is on.
The Mazda CX-7 offers a sporty ride, particularly for an SUV, reviewers say. However, owners may be dismayed by limited cargo space, and adults may feel cramped in the back seat. The 2010 CX-7 also has below-average safety ratings compared with other SUVs.
The midsize Nissan Altima gets solid reviews for its handling, styling, and ability to get up to 32 mpg on the highway. It also represents a good used-car value, priced on average thousands less than comparable Honda Accord and Toyota Camry models.
The compact Nissan Sentra tops RepairPal's list with the lowest average repair cost. The 2010 model also scores well on Edmunds, earning 4.5 stars, and Kelly Blue Book, where readers award it 8.3 out of 10. The base model featured a six-speed manual transmission as standard equipment, but most Sentras came with the optional continuously variable transmission, or CVT, which helped the Sentra get 34 mpg on highway in EPA tests -- 3 mpg better than manual versions.