J.D. Power & Associates 8 most dependable cars, minivan

While there are plenty of superficial factors that go into a car-buying decision—how it looks, how fast it drives, what materials cover its interior—but perhaps the most important variable is dependability.

Will this car last a decade if I take care of it properly? Can I be confident I won’t be at the dealership buying new parts every six months? Can I trust this vehicle with my life?

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If this answer is anything close to “no” for any of the above questions, it’s going to make the car a tough sell.

However, knowing which vehicles are reliable and which vehicles aren’t can be tough. That’s why J.D. Power & Associates conducts its an annual dependability survey, in which it questions owners of vehicles that are three years old about problems they’ve had with the car during the past 12 months.

For its yearly Vehicle Dependability Study, J.D. Power asks owners about 177 common issues then ranks the vehicles based on problems per 100 vehicles to come up with a list of the most reliable automobiles.

Below is a list of the most dependable cars from 2014 by category as well as the most dependable minivan. Just a heads up: Toyota, as usual, scored really, really well.

Small Car: 2014 Chevrolet Sonic

The Chevrolet Sonic is an overlooked car in an overlooked segment, but that doesn't mean it's not a high-value vehicle, especially with a starting MSRP below $15,000. Offered as a hatchback or a small sedan, this subcompact is a worthy option for young drivers on a budget and urban dwellers looking for a grocery-getter they can easily park on the street.

Like many small cars, the Sonic began its life overseas, first known as the Daewoo Kalos. It arrived in the U.S. in 2012 to replace the Chevrolet’s previous subcompact car, the Aveo. It seems to have improved its dependability quite as it jumped from a fourth place finish last year, behind the Honda Fit, Nissan Versa and Hyundai Accent in the 2016 study.

Compact Car: 2014 Toyota Prius

Here’s the first of many Toyota entries on this list. Fittingly, the Japanese automaker marks its entry into this year’s list with the Prius, a car that, with it’s wonky design and undeniable dependability, somewhat encapsulates Toyota’s reputation in the U.S.

While it's no stretch of the imagination to say that most Prius buyers are wooed by its impressive 50+ mpg fuel efficiency, the fact that it provides relatively few issues to deal with certainly doesn't hurt. Last year, the Prius was a close third in J.D. Power's report behind the Buick Verano and its sibling, the Camry, having lost points in the Body and Interior and Feature and Accessibility categories, scoring four out of five in both.

Compact Multi-purpose Vehicle: 2014 Toyota Prius V

Another win for Toyota and the versatile Prius lineup. This is somewhat of a niche category, with only the Kia Soul and Ford C-Max competiting against the Prius V, so, unsurprisingly, this is a repeat victory for Toyota.

This station wagon version of the Prius sacrifices a little fuel economy to add a sizeable amount of rear cargo room, making it a little more suitable for use as a family vehicle.

Midsize Car: 2014 Toyota Camry

Here we go again, another win for Toyota. This is probably the lease surprising Toyota victory of the bunch since the Camry has long been its best-selling vehicle as well as one of the few sedans that can actually compete with the SUVs and trucks of the world that have so dominated U.S. sales charts. It provides a comfortable ride, solid fuel economy and enough space to make daily commuting tolerable.

With a 5/5 overall score last year, the Camry lost out on the title of most dependable in what could amount to a split decision, as the Buick Regal, Hyundai Sonata and eventual winner Chevrolet Malibu posted perfect overall scores as well despite slight shortcoming in individual categories.

Midsize Sporty Car: 2014 Chevrolet Camaro

Chevy's second and final appearance on this list. This is a repeat victory for the Camaro, which beat out a small lineup of predictable competitors in the Ford Mustang, Dodge Challenger and Hyundai Genesis Coupe.

While dependability is important in each one of these categories, it might be valued least in the sports car division, with style and performance taking precedent. That being said, no one wants to spend their weekends waiting for their sports car to be fixed up when they could be driving it instead.

Large Car: 2014 Toyota Avalon

This is another overlooked vehicle in a segment that is increasingly less popular with the car-buying public. While the Avalon is less ubiquitous than Toyota's other sedans and it trails flashier competitors such as the Chevrolet Impala, Dodge Charger, Nissan Maxima and Chrysler 300 in terms of sales, that doesn't mean it's not a sturdy automobile.

Last year, despite posting the best drivetrain dependability, arguably the most important segment evaluated in the study, the Avalon lost out on the title of most dependable to the Buick LaCrosse, part of an overall banner year for Buick reliability.

Compact Premium Car: 2014 Lexus ES

While this vehicle doesn't sport a Toyota badge, it's not what's outside that matters in this study, it's what's on the inside. And at the heart of the Lexus ES is quality Toyota engineering. This is a repeat performance for the ES sedan, which beat out the BMW 1 Series for the top spot in last year's survey thanks to a superior powertrain score.

Stylish and always popular, dependability is certainly one of the defining characteristics for all Lexus vehicles. Also, when something does go awry, Lexus is known for provide good, reliable service that helps take the pain away from having a vehicle serviced.

Midsize Premium Car: 2014 Lexus GS

Though not a huge volume seller, the GS maintains a solid following thanks to the versatility in its lineup, which ranges from luxuriously comfortable to sleek and sporty. It also, like the ES and every other vehicle that wears the slanted L badge, provides a heaping helping of reliability.

The Lexus GS also is a repeated winner in J.D. Power's study, besting higher-volume sellers in the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Lincoln MKS and BMW 5 Series for the past two years.

Minivan: 2014 Toyota Sienna

Fittingly, we close out this list with one last Toyota, the Sienna minivan. This is once again proof that sometimes actual dependability can be trumped by other factors when it comes time to buy a car, as the Sienna trailed both the Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan in sales in 2014.

This will be an interesting segment to follow in the coming years, as both Chrysler and Toyota have released redesigned minivans within the past year, both of which are looking to revitalize the segment.

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