Many things in life are subjective. But a vehicle’s reliability isn’t one of them.
A car’s reliability is determined by the design of the engine and your ability to keep up with maintenance.
That’s why Toyotas and Hondas are regarded as two of the world’s most reliable brands. The engine designs tend to be basic requiring little by way of maintenance.
European engine designs (especially the ones imported into the United States where European cars are considered luxury items) tend to be more complicated.
For one thing the ones imported to America often have a larger displacement than their European counterpart.
Cruise with us we look at some reliable used European cars. A great deal of what makes a used car reliable is how well the previous owner kept up with maintenance.
Luxury cars require things like premium fuel and synthetic oil which many owners don’t always keep up with.
We’ve listed these cars in alphabetical order by make for your convenience. We also used Edmund’s consumer reports to give each car a rating based on the years we’ve suggested.
1. 2006-2008 Audi A4
Audis are Audis. And though quality is improving, they’ve never scored high on the reliability ratings.
If you’re in the market for a used Audi understand that it’s going to burn and leak oil – this isn’t a Camry.
That said, the Audi A4 is not only sporty and fun to drive.
It has a nicely finished interior that provides a comfortable ride. The 2008 A4 comes with Audi’s newer AWD system providing a more secure ride.
Edmund’s consumer reports consistently rates this car as a 4.5 out of 5.
Do yourself a favor and stay clear of all turbo and forced induction versions of any car on the list for the best used car experience.
2. 2012-2017 Audi A7
Long, wide and low, the Audi A7 is a hatchback and people love them. As such, owners take care of them.
A number of fans regard it as the most beautiful Audi.
According to Car and Driver, it’s smooth and responsive without all the forced performance of other Audi models.
There’s no arguing the fact that the A7 has the most distinct design in Audi’s sedan lineup.
And while it may have four doors, it drives more like a coupe. You can get it as either a V6 or V8. But the unique design compromise rear headroom.
The Audi A7 gets an average owner rating of 4.5 out of 5.
3. 2000-2006 Audi TT
I especially love the look of this generation. These year ranges are affordable and fairly reliable.
Like the Volkswagen Beetle, the Audi TT sits on a Volkswagen Golf chassis. Which makes it a lot of fun to drive.
Adding to that fun-to-drive quotient is the fact that you can also get the TT as a roadster.
The 1.8-liter DOHC four-cylinder is a powerful engine that takes well to modifications if you’re so inclined.
Equipped with Audi’s Quattro All Wheel Drive system, the car is arguably most fun in the six-speed manual configuration.
It gets a 4.8 out of 5 according to owner reviews.
4. 1995-1999 BMW E36 M3
If you can find a non-ragged out example, the BMW E36 M3 is a great find. BMW makes fantastic inline six engines.
And that’s the gem of this car. Although BMW began selling the BMW in 1992, we didn’t get it here in the states until 1995.
To add insult to injury, the spec we got was a detuned version of the S50 motor. The limited slip differential provides great handling.
But the real reason to get this car is because it’s relatively problem free. But only if taken care of by the previous owner.
Cumulative owner reviews give the BMW E36 M3 a fantastic 4.9 out of 5.
5. 1995-2001 BMW E38 7-Series
This is one of my all-time favorite BMWs and its definitely on my wish list. One owner called the E38 7-Series, exceptionally well built.
MotorTrend called the E38 an automotive masterpiece. And I can’t disagree.
The proportions are absolutely sublime, and the interior is dripping with Teutonic refinement.
The all-alloy 4.0-liter DOHC V8 is ultra-smooth and capable of 282 horsepower at 5800 RPM.
The quality is high, and it’s built like the Volvo 240 GL I owned back in high school. Driving dynamics are comfortable and gives you a real sense of luxury.
All Edmund’s owner’s scores for this generation 7-series tally up to a 4.6 out of 5.
6. 2007-2015 Jaguar XF
There are a variety of engine choices available for these cars. The XF was built at a time when Ford owned Jaguar, so these are Ford engines.
It’s also when Jaguar switched to rotary gear selectors to give their cars a more upscale look. And while some of these had issues, the engines are strong.
In fact, a Jaguar XF is one of the most affordable cars you can get in Texas selling for $1,946 below the national average.
But it’s a Jag, so electronic gremlins persist. There is a supercharged version, but I would stay away from it for reliability’s sake.
Combined owner reviews rate the Jaguar XF almost 4.5 out of 5.
7. 2006-2008 Jaguar XK
Now this is the car I’m looking at getting some time in the near future.
I wanted so much to suggest the XK8 instead because of what you get at the current prices.
But this generation offers more amenities that makes it hard to overlook.
I have been researching this car for a few months now and the engine in this car is probably the most reliable you’re going to find in a Jaguar.
And the people in the forums are amazing. What makes the engine in the XK so reliable is that it’s been getting refined since it was first introduced in the XK8.
Owner ratings is a sterling 4.9 out of 5.
8. 2003-2006 Mercedes-Benz E500
Where we live, I see these cars around all the time.
And it’s no wonder – the engines and transmissions are bullet proof. Like the Jaguar XK, you are getting a lot for your money.
My love for the E-Class began with the W210. While they have a look that’s stately and composed, this generation has a welcomed sporty character that doesn’t look out of place for an E-Class.
It incorporates a drive-by-wire system which means rudimentary controls like the gas and brake pedal aren’t actually connected to anything.
Owners give the Mercedes-Benz E500 a 4.6 out of 5.
9. 2008-2011 Mercedes-Benz SL550
The SL-Class has always been my favorite Mercedes offering. And when the R230 generation was first introduced in 2003, my jaw dropped.
The one I saw was black. And it was stealthy. And it was beautiful.
And I didn’t know what it was at first. It was only after some research that I came to find that it’s a Mercedes and I was impressed.
What makes these year models so reliable is that by this point Mercedes has worked out a lot of the mechanical and electronic bugs plaguing earlier examples.
As much as I like it, owners only rate this car at almost 4.4 out 5.
10. 2009-2013 Mercedes-Benz S550
As much as I liked the previous generation even with all its issues. When the W22 rolled out, it was an absolute game-changer for me.
And wow, ten years later this car still looks modern. Introduced in 2007, by 2009 a lot of issues had been worked out of these cars.
This generation S550 is one of those fantastic European luxury cars you can get at an affordable price.
And sadly, they’re passed up because of the misconception that owning a Mercedes is a lot to handle.
But the reality is that for the price of a new Camry you get a top-of-the-line luxury car with an incredibly reliable 5.5-liter V8.
Owners rate it at a 4.6 out of 5.
11. 1999 Porsche Boxster S
What makes this car such an incredible bargain is that you’re pretty much getting a 911 at half the price.
The Boxster of this generation shares 90% of its parts with the 911 of the same vintage. They’re decently fast with a 0 to 60 time of 5.6 seconds.
And because the engine sits ahead of the rear wheels, the handling is amazing. The biggest issue with these cars is the IMS bearing and RMS.
However, in the second-hand market these issues should already be sorted out. All though these engines are quite reliable.
Understand that should anything go wrong; you’ll be paying 911 money to fix it.
And still owners give the 1999 Porsche Boxster S a very good 4.8 out of 5.
12. 2009 Porsche Cayman
I’ve been on the hunt for my very first Porsche and I’ve been eyeing the Cayman since it was introduced in 2006.
Due to the structural rigidity provided by the hard top, the Cayman is a much better performer than the Boxster and prices reflect that.
2009 is the refreshed model with the base model offering a larger flat-six and Porsche’s famed seven speed PDK transmission.
Cast from an aluminum block with aluminum head, the new 2.9-liter (up 0.2-liters) flat six is reliable and capable of 265 HP.
But if you got that long money, go for the Cayman S which provides more lower end grunt thanks to its beefier 3.4-liter direct injected flat six.
Owners of the 2009 Porsche Cayman give this car a 4.7 out of 5.