The Car List, Part 1: What Car Should I Buy?



Welcome to the first installment of what is going to be a new, ongoing series of articles about The Car List, which is a list that I came up with to help friends, family members, and co-workers who asked me a question. The same question. Over and over and over again. That question being, of course: What car should I buy?

The way it works is pretty simple. You think about what kind of car you’re looking for, then refer to the list in descending order.

For example: imagine that you find yourself saying, “I want to buy a Mini Cooper S. What car should I buy?” You should buy a Mini Cooper S. Yes, it’s number 24 on the list, but no one ranked between 1 and 23 makes a Mini Cooper, do they? Life is short. Be happy. The Mini Cooper S is the car you should buy.

Next, imagine yourself saying, “I want a safe, reliable SUV with a prestige nameplate, and I have to have a V8 engine. What car should I buy?” You should look to the list. When you do, you’ll see Honda and Acura “tied” at number 1. Unfortunately, neither Honda or Acura offers a vehicle that meets your criteria, so you keep going down the list. Volvo is at number 2. Volvo makes a safe, reliable SUV with with a prestige nameplate, but there’s no V8 option. Lexus is number 3, and that’s where you’ll find the 2018 Lexus GX. It’s a safe, reliable SUV with a prestige nameplate and a V8 engine. The Lexus GX is the car you should buy.

Get it?

Now, granted, this is an opinion piece. That’s true. This is a well-thought-out opinion piece, though, and The Car List has spent several weeks “in beta” with the help of people like Charis Michelsen and Chris DeMorro. Smarter people than me, in other words.

So, with all those disclaimers and explainers in place, here it is.


The Car List

  1. Honda | Acura
  2. Volvo
  3. Lexus
  4. Mazda
  5. Toyota | Lotus
  6. Nissan | Infiniti
  7. Subaru
  8. Ford | Lincoln
  9. Audi | Lamborghini
  10. Buick | GMC
  11. Mercedes | Smart
  12. Volkswagen | Porsche | Bentley
  13. Hyundai | Kia
  14. Chevrolet | Cadillac
  15. BMW | Rolls Royce
  16. Tesla
  17. Mitsubishi
  18. McLaren
  19. Ferrari | Maserati
  20. Chrysler | Dodge | Jeep
  21. Alfa Romeo
  22. Jaguar | Land Rover
  23. Aston Martin
  24. Mini
  25. Fiat


We’ll be using The Car List in the coming months to help answer the “What car should I buy?” question as much as possible, and we welcome your questions, comments, and even challenges to the list as time goes on. You might also have noticed, at the very beginning of this article, the words, “THE CAR LIST WAS LAST UPDATED”, followed by a date. That’s because The Car List is intended to be a living document, with changes being made as car lines improve or decline, brands are bought and sold, or even disappear entirely.

In the meantime, see if you can spot your favorite car brand(s) in The Car List ranking, above, and let us know what you think of their ranking in the comments section at the bottom of the page.


Original content from Gas 2.

About the Author

I've been in the auto industry 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the IM network. You can also find me on Twitter, at my Volvo fansite, or chasing my kids around Oak Park, IL.
  • Tadeusz Piskozub

    I remember looking for my then next car two years ago. I thought I wanted something spacious which would seat 7 people.

    Then I realized that I always wanted to drive something at least partly electric, so I went and bought(leased actually) a hybrid.

    • Chris


    • A hybrid what? A hybrid Toyota Highlander with room for 7? A PHEV Mitsubishi Outlander? A Volvo XC90 T8 Hybrid? THE SUSPENSE, man!

      • Tadeusz Piskozub

        Oh, my last reply didn’t go through, sorry.

        Heh, I would love to have the money for any of those mentioned.

        I got myself an Auris hybrid /instead/ of something that could seat 7, because that was the best I could afford at the time.

        Now that that car has been stolen, my financial situation improved and the good people at Toyota didn’t bother with designing the next iteration of the Prius+, I’ll probably go with a regular Prius.

  • Marc P

    What is the basis of the “ranking” ? Reliability, overall desirability…??? Surprised to see Honda at number one, especially if it’s reliability. They’ve been loosing ground on this front in the last few years and nobody in the auto press seems to have noticed…!! Believe me, I know… I drive one…!

    • It’s subjective, but it’s based on a number of things that will become more obvious as I write example posts (the first one covers the Tesla Model S). Reliability is one consideration, but so is parts availability (Honda is typically excellent), dealership access (there are Honda stores everywhere), parts pricing (a full brake job- pads and rotors- on a Civic cost less than a single rotor on some AMG Mercedes models), availability of aftermarket parts (there are a ton of options for Honda, some of them as good or better than OEM), etc. There is also the question of resale value.

      Besides that, you’re thinking about it a bit incorrectly. For example, if someone wants an economical little city car with a the latest safety for about $15K, The Car List won’t give them a Honda, because the most basic Fit starts above $16K and isn’t available with crash avoidance tech (yet) at any price. They’ll get recommended a Yaris iA.

      As for the comment that Honda is slipping in reliability. I think no one has noticed because it’s not actually happening on a broad scale. The V6 cars with the automatic trans. had some issues, but- more often than not- that was due to improper or incomplete maintenance.

      • Marc P

        “As for the comment that Honda is slipping in reliability. I think no one has noticed because it’s not actually happening on a broad scale.”

        I beg to differ. I have a 2013 Honda CRV, currently a little over 100k km. Did all my maintenance and oil changes.

        So far, three of the four wheel bearing had to be changed as well as a very noisy bearing inside the transmission. This last issue is actually documented as a “frequent problem” in “Protegez-vous” magazine, the Québec equivalent of “Consumer reports”.

        I had the rack and pinion changed. The Honda dealer mechanic told he’s been changing a lot of them in newer Hondas in the last few years “because they make a lot of noise”. He actually told me “Honda quality has been going down, lately” (this is the Honda dealer mechanic, speaking).

        My rear brakes had to be completely redone at 39 000 km (rotors and pads). When I expressed outrage to the Honda dealer mechanic (since I’ve never needed a “complete brake job” on a new vehicle after only 39 000km), he actually burst out laughing and said he had just done the exact same complete rear brake job on a nearly new Honda Pilot with only 19 000 km !

        There is a service bulletin for a certain defective part that controls the variable valves and that makes a “clanking” sound on cold starts when it needs replacing. Again, “Protégez-vous” has documented this issue for the Honda CRV. The part was replaced in my CRV, a little over a year ago. Now, it has become defective again and, low and behold, I’m no longer under warranty and it’s a part that costs $400 to replace.

        This is not what I expected when I decided to buy a Honda CRV.

        So sorry, but I beg to differ when you say there is no proof Honda’s reliability is starting to go down. People tend to continue believing stuff even after it’s not as true as it used to be.

      • Marc P

        Why was my other comment removed ???

      • Marc P

        Since you apparently won’t let me post links to other sites, here is a quote from a Consumer Reports web page: “Most Hondas have competitive fuel economy and strong resale value. Reliability, which used to be very good, has declined lately, to the point that the Civic compact car is not recommended because of its well-below-average reliability.”

  • Epicurus

    What is this? Equal time for gasoline and diesel burners now?

  • Jonny_K

    I much more objective analysis can be had from Consumers Reports which actually buys cars, tests them rigorously, and surveys thousands of their readers to find out how well the cars are holding up and how well the buyers actually like them. They’ve been doing it for decades, know what they are doing, and aren’t just pulling opinions out of the air.

    This list, to quote the dude, well “That’s just your opinion, man,”