Next time your Aunt Mildred asks you what kind of used car she should buy, tell her to look at a Toyota Corolla or Honda Accord if she's interested in driving an import brand.
If she asks why, tell her 200 imported-car repair specialists say so, according to a study issued this month by Easton Consultants Inc., a research and marketing firm with offices in Hopkinton, Mass., and Stamford, Conn.Easton's Professional Repairman Opinion survey asked import repair professionals across the country to rank 48 of the most popular European and Asian cars, light trucks and vans in terms of recommending them as a used vehicle.
The cars, which include "transplant" models, or those made by Asian automakers in North America, were judged on reliability and ease of maintenance, and ranked according to model, not just specific model years.
Easton said it will be releasing a dependability study ranking domestic nameplates as well within the coming weeks.
Overall, professional mechanics rated Toyota and Honda vehicles best in reliability for those who are not fond of poking around the hood, and best in terms of ease of maintenance for those who are, the study showed.
Ease of maintenance also can mean quicker and less costly repairs, which translates into higher customer satisfaction, Easton's Henry Allessio noted.
When responses from those who specialize primarily in fixing European brands were analyzed, the Mercedes 300 sedan was ranked the best, followed by the Volvo 240/244.
But when folded in with those who repair Asian brands mostly, the Mercedes ranked eighth and the Volvo placed 13th.
Allessio said the PRO survey of import cars was conducted because of the rise in sales of used and "program" cars, or nearly new cars that return from daily rental fleets.
Meanwhile, new U.S. vehicle sales remain at the weakest levels in a decade, with Asian and American automakers alike struggling to cope with a recessionary market that may not recover until 1992.
While there is no guarantee that the car one chooses received proper care or any care at all, Allessio said the PRO survey can "improve the probability" of choosing a reliable used car.
The top 10 models as ranked, in order, by Easton's PRO survey: Toyota Corolla, Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Acura Integra (Honda), Toyota Celica, Honda Prelude, Toyota Pickup, Mercedes 300, Honda Civic, Nissan Maxima.