I’m a mechanic: that’s what I drive and 3 cars I’ve never owned

The best cars are the ones that stay out of the shop — and the men and women who work in those shops know better than anyone which vehicles are likely to go hundreds of thousands of miles without major problems.

GOBankingRates spoke to one car pro who revealed what he currently drives, why, and some models he knows to avoid at all costs. Another mechanic provided valuable information not on a specific model but on an entire class of cars to walk away from if you’re in the market for a new set of wheels.

A mechanic chooses function over form

Jacob Carter is an experienced mechanic with a background in mechanical engineering and specializes in engine maintenance, diagnosis and repair. A lifelong car enthusiast who has repaired and tested muscle cars, classic cars, and everything in between, he created Engine Rev Up as a community for fellow experienced enthusiasts to learn, educate, and share.

So, in his personal life, someone as obsessed with cars as Carter would surely be driving something exotic, impressive, and powerful, right? “I currently have a 2015 Toyota Camry in my driveway,” he said. “I chose this vehicle because it is reliable, fuel efficient, and easy to maintain.”

Affordability + reliability = popularity

In promoting the arrival of the 2024 Camry, Toyota reminded the world that it has been the best-selling midsize sedan in the United States for 21 years in a row. The smaller Corolla is the best-selling car of all time.

The country loves the Camry for the same reasons that a seasoned professional like Carter trusts it with his personal life. “It has a proven track record for longevity and requires minimal repairs,” he said.

In naming it the No. 5 cheapest car to own in 2023, Motor1 wrote: “Low running costs and reliable long-term operation are the hallmarks of the midsize Toyota Camry.”

The four models rounding out the top five are — notice the pattern — the Toyota Prius Prime, the Toyota Corolla, the Toyota Prius, and the Tesla Model 3.

The cost of owning a Camry is just $160 in the first year, rising to $766 by year 10. The 10-year total cost of ownership is just $4,203, and it has an impressive 11.9% chance of needing a major repair.

Safety – and something for everyone

The Camry is also versatile, with Motor1 writing, “It’s one of the few models in its class that still offers a V6 as an alternative to the base four-cylinder engine.”

It also has a hybrid option, which debuted nearly a decade ago before Carter’s current Camry rolled off the assembly line in 2015, and is available with front- or all-wheel drive.

“I also appreciate the safety features that come with the Camry, like the backup camera and lane departure warning system,” Carter said.

In 2024, the Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+ feature suite will be standard on all Camry models.

Three cars you won’t find on Carter Road

Even the most reliable car on Earth has a limited lifespan, including Carter’s trusty Camry — and when it dies, he knows which models won’t replace it.

“When it comes to vehicles I would avoid, there are a few models that come to mind,” he said.

Dodge Dart

The Dodge Dart originally had a lifespan of 16 years, and five generations from 1960 to 1976. After a little more than 35 years, Dodge revived the Dart as a compact sedan in 2013, but not everyone was happy with the results.

“This vehicle has a reputation for being unreliable and requiring frequent repairs,” Carter said. “It also has a poor safety rating and lacks the features that many drivers look for in a modern car.”

Volkswagen Beetle

The VW Beetle is one of the most beloved and instantly recognizable cars to ever hit the road – but the bug life isn’t for everyone.

“Although the Beetle has a unique and iconic design, it is not the most practical car for everyday use,” Carter said. “It has limited cargo space and can be difficult to work on due to its small size.”

Like the Dart, the Beetle had an original career (1950-1979) and then a rebirth (1998-2019). Carter turns away from both of them.

Ford Focus

Ford has been producing the Focus for 25 years across four generations, from 1998 to the present. The automaker recently announced that it will discontinue this model in 2025 as it moves toward an all-electric future.

Carter won’t lose any sleep.

“Fox has had a history of transmission problems, which can be expensive to fix,” he said. “It also has a lower safety rating compared to other cars in its class.”

A word about the design updates and new model generations

Peter Zaffarelli, an auto repair expert at JustAnswer Cars, currently drives a 2007 GMC Sierra. He’s not sure what he will or won’t buy when it’s time to upgrade — but he knows it won’t be brand new.

“It’s not ‘brand new’ because it’s a brand new car,” he said. “But a completely new design and model for that car — a change in design. What happens when you buy a new design for a brand model in the first year of production is that you end up with all the quirks and failures — things that the manufacturer didn’t discover or know about when they built the car.” Repairs are generally covered under warranty for these quirks and failures, but the problem is having to bear them every time something fails.

Zaffarelli used the 1999 GMC Sierra and 1999 Chevrolet Silverado — both of which had major styling changes — as examples.

“This model design was changed from 1999 to 2003 or early 2004,” Zafarelli said. “I will not buy a 1999 model, but I will buy a 2003 or 2004 model, as all errors were corrected before the car was manufactured. The 1999 model was the first design change in that year’s range and it had and could have many problems. This applies to all years and vehicles manufactured /Model It is common to have many unexpected problems in the first year of a design change.

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