Click below to listen to our Consumerpedia podcast episode.

The U.S. car market has nearly recovered from the pandemic’s impact. There is now an ample supply of new and used vehicles, which has flattened price hikes and increased the availability of incentives.

Here’s a snapshot of the market at the end of April, according to Kelley Blue Book:

  • Buyers of new non-luxury cars paid $48,510 on average—an increase of 2.2 percent from March, and the highest average since last December. However, most of this increase was due to higher prices for full-size and midsize trucks. This follows three straight months of price drops, so the average transaction price in April was still slightly lower (0.5 percent) than it was a year ago.
  • The average luxury car buyer paid $64,067, or 2.1 percent less than a year ago.
  • Electrical vehicle prices were “essentially flat,” at $55,252, or 8.5 percent lower than last April. “Flat prices almost look like an increase after a year of steady declines in EV prices,” the report noted.

But you “don’t have to spend an arm and a leg” to get a good car that’s “reliable, fuel efficient, and in some cases, even a lot of fun to drive,” said Mike Quincy, an auto writer and auto tester at Consumer Reports.

Seven of the vehicles on CR’s “10 Top Picks of 2024” have a starting price of under $30,000: Subaru Crosstrek (subcompact SUV), Subaru Forester (compact SUV), Toyota Prius (hybrid car), Mazda 3 (small car), Toyota Camry Hybrid (midsize car), Ford Maverick and Ford Maverick Hybrid (small pickups).

Who Makes the Most Reliable Vehicles?

Other than purchasing a home, buying and maintaining a car is the biggest expense for most Americans. A smart way to reduce the cost of owning a vehicle is to choose a brand and a model with a proven track record for reliability.

CR’s annual “Auto Reliability Report” can point you in the right direction. This year’s ratings are based on responses from 330,000 members for model years 2000 to 2023, with a few early 2024 vehicles thrown in the mix.

Asian automakers continued to make the most reliable vehicles, with an average overall reliability score of 63 out of 100. They had seven of the 10 most reliable brands.

European automakers took second place with an average reliability score of 46, with three brands filling out the rest of the top 10.

Domestic brands came in third with an average score of 39. Each domestic automaker had at least one model with an average or better reliability ranking, CR noted, and Buick’s entire lineup scored average or better.

Once again, Lexus came in first for reliability, scoring 79 out of 100 points. But five of the top 10 spots went to non-luxury brands: Toyota (76 out of 100), Honda (70), Subaru (69), Mazda (67), and Kia (61).

The brands that scored lowest in reliability include these luxury brands: Mercedes-Benz (23 out of 100), Rivian (24), Volvo (28), and Audi (43).

“These are some of the more expensive brands, so you don’t always get what you pay for,” Quincy said on Checkbook’s Consumerpedia podcast.

Buick was the top-rated domestic brand, coming in at number 12, followed by Tesla (14), Ram (15), Cadillac (16), Chevrolet (20), and Dodge (21), Ford (22), Lincoln (23), GMC (24), Jeep (26), and Chrysler (30).

“A lot of the lower-ranked brands are definitely coming from Detroit, and also coming from brands that extract a lot of money from their customers,” Quincy noted.

Domestic manufacturers, especially Buick, Lincoln, Ford, and Chevrolet, did better for expected out-of-pocket maintenance costs after the warranty expires.

Tesla, also an American brand, had the lowest cost of ownership and maintenance of any brand. This is noteworthy given that electric vehicles had 79 percent more problems than gasoline vehicles, according to CR’s owner survey.

New Designs Are Not Always Reliable

Many car buyers are attracted to vehicles with all the new bells and whistles. But Consumer Reports consistently finds that new models, including redesigned ones, often have above average repair problems.

“It’s best to wait a couple of years until the kinks are worked out,” said Steven Elek, senior automotive data analyst at Consumer Reports.

Check Consumer Reports’ “10 Most Reliable Cars List” and you’ll see models that have been around for decades, including the Toyota Camry, Toyota Corolla, Subaru Forrester, and BMW X5.

More from Checkbook:


Become a Smarter Consumer Get free, expert advice delivered to your inbox every Wednesday when you sign up for the Weekly Checklist newsletter.

Contributing editor Herb Weisbaum (“The ConsumerMan”) is an Emmy award-winning broadcaster and one of America's top consumer experts. He has been protecting consumers for more than 40 years, having covered the consumer beat for CBS News, The Today Show, and You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, and at