We take a deep dive into the Honda vs Toyota reliability debate and pick a winner.
Toyota and Honda are two of the most respected carmakers in the world mostly because of their reputation for building reliable cars. They perform well on dependability studies, and people usually recommend their vehicles over rivals because of their high perceived reliability.
We previously compared the reliability of both brands and crowned a winner in our Toyota vs Honda comparison guide; however, reliability is so central to their rivalry that it deserves a second, more detailed analysis.
Our Honda vs Toyota reliability comparison highlights how the two companies differ and why one is more reliable than the other.
IN THIS GUIDE
What Is Car Reliability?
What does it mean for a car to be reliable? This question is open to interpretation; however, reliability in an automotive context can be defined as the capacity of a car to be driven normally without needing anything other than normal repairs (brake jobs, oil changes, tire changes, etc.).
The longer a well-maintained car can be driven without incurring unscheduled repairs, the more reliable it is. Got it?
To that end, reliability assessments such as those conducted by Consumer Reports, JD Power, and RepairPal rate vehicles based on how well they hold up over a select period of time and the likelihood of the owner being inconvenienced by repairs and other problems.
They look at everything from mechanical and electrical problems to issues with the vehicle’s electronics.
Honda Vs Toyota Reliability Comparison
Each year, Consumer Reports surveys nearly half a million car buyers asking about the reliability of their vehicle, as well as their overall satisfaction. In the most recent study (2020), Toyota was listed as the second most dependable auto brand, while Honda placed fifth.
Little ol’ Mazda took top honors for the first time in survey’s history, though it had been hovering near the top for several years. In case you didn’t know, the company makes very good cars.
You might be surprised to know that Toyota has performed much better than Honda in Consumer Reports’ surveys over the past half-decade. In the 2019 survey, it placed second, while Honda was way down at 12th position.
Toyota was second once again in 2018, much higher than Honda’s 15th place showing.
The results are similar in JD Power’s annual vehicle dependability studies. Toyota and Honda were the fifth and 19th most dependable brands in the 2020 study, respectively, and the third and 19th in 2019.
In a longevity study conducted by online research and shopping website iSeeCars, six of the top 10 and eight of the top 16 vehicles lasting 200,000 miles (321,869 km) or more were Toyotas, while only one of the top 16 was a Honda.
Looking at these results, it’s very clear which brand is more reliable. The question now is: Why is Toyota more reliable than Honda?
The Performance-Reliability Trade-Off
A lot of Toyota’s dominance can be attributed to consistency. Unlike many of its rivals, including Honda, the company has traditionally focused on dependability over performance and flashiness to uncomplicate the design and build of its vehicles.
Put another way, Toyota refrains from making rapid radical changes to its vehicle architectures and drivetrains, preferring instead to gradually improve them to keep up with the times and account for problems found in previous model years.
This explains why Toyotas have traditionally been more boring to look at and less fun to drive than the competition despite being good cars.
Honda has a stronger focus on performance. The company stood alongside Toyota as the most reliable car brand for decades; however, a recent shift towards making its vehicles quieter, more comfortable, and more engaging to drive than the competition has done a number on its reliability rating.
According to Consumer Reports, the turbocharged engines and high-tech transmissions that new Hondas come with have proven less dependable than Honda’s previous drivetrains.
Offering Features Only When Ready
Another reason why Toyotas are more reliable than Hondas is that Toyota doesn’t rush to offer new technological amenities.
Newer, more complicated tech and convenience features are more prone to breaking down than older ones and, therefore, more likely to harm customer satisfaction, so the company doesn’t make them available until most of their flaws have been ironed out.
Take Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, for example. While Honda was quick to adopt both software, thus undermining its reliability, Toyota waited several years before offering them on its vehicles.
By the time you could finally get either feature on a Toyota, most of their major problems had been addressed.
Reliable Hondas And Toyotas
Now that you know which brand is more reliable, let’s look at how their individual models fare.
Most Reliable Toyota Models
Vehicle research outlets RepairPal and ReliabilityIndex maintain a comprehensive reliability index for hundreds of vehicles, ranking each according to factors such as the frequency and average cost of repairs.
According to RepairPal’s data, many Toyotas rank in the top five in their respective vehicle class, with the most reliable models being the Yaris, Corolla, Prius, Camry, and RAV4.
The most reliable car of any brand in ReliabilityIndex’s database is the Toyota iQ, a supermini that was offered for a single generation in Japan, Europe, and North America, where it was sold as the Scion iQ.
The Prius is a bit surprising considering it’s a hybrid vehicle that uses both an electric and gas engine, a setup that makes it far more complicated than the average car. Yet, studies have consistently shown it to be one of the cheapest vehicles to maintain.
Other durable Toyotas are the Avalon full-size sedan, 4Runner and Sequoia body-on-frame SUVs, and the Tundra pickup trucks, all of which ranked in the top 10 of iSeeCars’ vehicle longevity study.
Not all Toyotas are reliable, however. Interestingly, while the Land Cruiser was the longest-lasting vehicle in iSeeCars’ study, RepairPal puts it dead last in its class.
The rugged, Jeep-like SUV was far above average in frequency, severity, and cost of annual repairs.
Most Reliable Honda Models
Although Honda doesn’t perform as well as Toyota in reliability surveys, the company makes good cars and has many dependable and reliable models.
In North America, the Honda Accord receives similar reliability ratings as the Camry year after year, while the Civic gives the Corolla a run for its money. The Honda Fit/Jazz hatchback is also a very durable small car.
Need a utility vehicle? The popular CR-V compact crossover is more dependable than most of its competition, and RepairPal has given the Honda HR-V subcompact crossover a perfect score.
Are there Honda vehicles with middling or even abysmal reliability? Sure. The Passport and Pilot midsize crossovers fall mid-pack in their classes, while the Honda Odyssey isn’t exactly the most reliable minivan.
Toyota Vs Honda FAQs
Here are several popular questions people ask about Honda and Toyota reliability and the answers to them.
Is Honda Or Toyota More Reliable?
Both brands have a strong reputation for build quality, but Toyota has the edge in reliability.
Toyota has consistently performed better than Honda in reliability surveys, and its cars last longer.
Why Has Honda’s Reliability Dropped?
While the Honda of the 1980s to 2000s was renowned for its incredible reliability and often vied with Toyota for the top spot in reliability rankings, the Honda of the 2010s saw its reliability decline perceptibility to middling levels.
The drop in reliability in those ten years can be attributed to the company’s adoption of new, issue-ridden technologies more quickly than Toyota and some other automakers, technologies such as turbocharged engines and complex infotainment systems.
After analyzing the reliability of each company, one thing is clear: Honda is a very reliable car brand, but it’s not as reliable as Toyota.
Toyota’s practice of making steady incremental improvements to its vehicle architecture and drivetrains and aversion to adopting risky innovations that haven’t been time-tested has provided most of its vehicles with consistently solid reliability year after year.
Conversely, Honda’s greater tendency for taking risks has seen its reliability falter in recent years, though it seems to be rebounding.
On a model-by-model basis, several Hondas match or even exceed the reliability of the Toyota model they compete with despite having a stronger focus on performance. The Fit, Civic, and Accord are good examples.
Rivalry aside, Toyota and Honda have been and still are among the most reliable car brands in the world, and it’s hard to go wrong with either one.
If you found our Honda vs Toyota reliability comparison illuminating, you might also be interested in our Nissan vs Toyota comparison guide.