I have newer cars but my daily driver is an extremely reliable '88 Grand Caravan. For basic transportation and very good reliability, and especially if you want to survive a crash, look at a Dodge Shadow / Plymouth Sundance with the 2.5L four cylinder engine. For comfort I have a '93 Dynasty but it only has 4,200 miles as I don't drive it much.
For bigger or newer cars, Chrysler's 3.3L is tops, I have two minivans with the 3.0L. They aren't too bad either but stay away from the '96 and newer Caravans. On those, everything is hard to work on. By the time you get to '96 models, everything has way too many unreliable computers to do simple things.
I won't go into all the details here, but definitely stay away from anything to do with General Motors. I've written five-page articles on why they are the worst company to get involved with. I'm not a fan of Ford either but at least their business practices aren't quite as customer-unfriendly as GM's.
As for the imports, there is nothing worse than a Volkswagen or BMW. Toyotas are pretty reliable, and Hyundai, as a company, is very customer-friendly. Don't know about the reliability or serviceability of their cars. My preference is for Chrysler's Shadow / Sundance, Acclaim / Spirit, Dynasty / New Yorker, but I look at it from a mechanic's point of view as well as a consumer's. I too have to work on the ground.
Sorry to say Chrysler has built a whole pile of really good engines over the years, but the notable exception is the 2.7L. The Intrepid / Concorde is one of their hardest body styles to work on. Only the Stratus / Cirrus / Breeze is much worse. I haven't worked on many 2000 and newer models. I left the dealership after 1999 and went into teaching for nine years so I just watched my kids work on them.
As a general rule, the older the car, especially if you can find an early '90s or older, the easier they are to work on, the easier they are to diagnose, and the less problems they have. Once you hit the mid '90s they added way too many unreliable computers and electrical problems became real common and expensive.
Monday, July 4th, 2011 AT 7:12 PM