Hyundai Reliability – The Ultimate Buyer’s Guide

In the market for a car and wondering how reliable Hyundai is, past a present?

We’ve got you covered with a big round-up of all of the reports and facts you need to know before making a purchase.

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For many people, buying a car, SUV, or truck ranks third behind buying a home and paying off a college loan as the largest single item they will purchase. Buying and automobile can be very expensive. Many recent investigations have shown that there has been a dramatic shift in how consumers evaluate vehicles they are considering for purchase. For the first time, reliability tops the list as the most important factor.

Vehicle reliability, or avoiding vehicles with reliability issues, is the number one concern for most Americans in the car buying market. Does that describe you?

Hyundai thinks it does.

When Hyundai introduced their first American vehicle, the 1986 Hyundai Excel, consumers couldn’t pronounce the brand’s name much less spell it. But that didn’t stop them from buying over 168,000 of the four-door compacts. The $4,995 base price probably had something to do with its popularity but so did being named “Best Product #10” by Fortune Magazine.

Thirty-five years later Hyundai has expanded from a single offering to 14 models ranging from the new 271 hp Veloster i30 N hot hatch, to the Kona Electric, the incredibly successful Santa Fe SUV, the Elantra and 10 others.

The brand’s success in the American automotive market is no accident. This comparatively new car manufacturer has consistently delivered vehicles packed with value. Yes, they are competitively priced, but the big draws are performance, styling, technology and…reliability.

Speaking of styling, have a look at the Sonata these days:

Couple all of those aesthetic, comfort, and performance attributes with a vehicle option for almost every taste, one of the lowest annual maintenance costs in the industry, and consistently high resale value, and it’s easy to understand why this car maker has established such a strong brand loyalty and experiences consistent sales growth.

How Hyundai Reliability has Changed

Hyundai was the first Korean automobile to enter the American market, but it certainly wasn’t a stranger to competing in the global automotive market. Outside the U.S. the Excel was badged as the Pony and had established itself as the most popular car in Canada before crossing the border into America. In the U.S. the Excel set a record for most cars sold in its first year.

However, subsequent years didn’t see the same kind of success. Key to Hyundai’s marketing plan was price. Their belief was price was the single most important factor in cracking the American market. After their initial offering of the Excel, they learned that reliability, or lack of it, played a bigger role in sales success than the MSRP.

Up to that point Hyundai had not been a traditional car manufacturer. They bought parts from other car makers and assembled them into a “Hyundai.” While this practice still goes on to some extent in today’s market with many brands, Hyundai had taken it to a new level. They discovered that no matter how talented an assembler is, getting designs and technologies from different manufacturers to function together is difficult at best. Excels gained a reputation for frequent breakdowns and poor quality which squashed sales.

Early in the 1990s Hyundai drastically changed its direction and emphasis. Quality and reliability became the driving force. Rather than buying parts from competitors, they bought talent. Hyundai recruited designers, engineers, manufacturing specialists, powertrain specialists, and a host of other essential talent from competitors and suppliers across the world. 

New designs using OEM parts and proprietary technology began rolling off the lines. Significantly improved quality, coupled with a 10 year,100,000 mile warranty almost immediately improved Hyundai’s reliability reputation in the United States. In 2004, Hyundai tied with Honda for second place in J.D. Power’s initial brand quality study

Today, the hard lessons learned from two decades ago are not forgotten. While Hyundai is still highly competitively priced, its first priority is quality, reliability, and a completely satisfied customer. 

Hyundai Reliability Studies & Reports

The press is loaded with articles confirming the importance of reliability as a qualifying factor for consumers. As 1987 taught Hyundai, a single bad year can tarnish a reputation. Coming back from a reliability issue and regaining consumer confidence can take an automaker years. Almost every car manufacturer now realizes the importance of perceived quality and reliability making the title “most reliable vehicle in class” an important competitive edge.

This is all good news for the consumer. 

And the good news, and the bad, is shared by a handful of trusted review organizations and car critics.

Here’s what some of them have to say about Hyundai rides:

J.D. Power and Associates

A household name, J.D. Power and Associates is one of the leading research organizations measuring customer satisfaction. Each year they evaluate all brands and models sold in the U.S. and publish two award lists for best in class. The annual Performance Award “the driving experience feedback of verified car owners who have owned their vehicle for 90 days.

This rating includes their opinions of the engine, transmission, driving dynamics, seat comfort, usability of technology, feel of safety and visibility.” The Quality Award Winner designation is a data driven evaluation that “focuses on problems experienced by verified owners and has been shown over the years to be an excellent predictor of long-term durability.

Simply put, the fewer the problems, the higher the score.

2019 was a pretty remarkable year for Hyundai. For the Quality Award, Hyundai brands ranked 1, 2, and 3 blanking all other brands.

  • Genesis – Hyundai’s luxury brand ranked number 1
  • Kia – Hyundai holds a 30% ownership position in this competitor who came in number 2
  • Hyundai – Ranked third overall and remarkedly, 8 out of the 10 trims evaluated ranked in the top three of their class.


This respected automotive diagnostic firm surveyed data from 80,000 vehicles for repair frequency and cost and declared Hyundai the “Most Reliable Car Brand.” CarMD reports Hyundai topped the competition by having a significantly lower repair frequency and the second lowest average repair cost. CarMD CEO Leon Chen commented “We commend Hyundai for its commitment to quality and to its efforts to minimize vehicle operating costs.”

Kelly Blue Book & Edmunds

While neither KBB or Edmunds choose to rate an entire brand, a review of individual ratings for Hyundai trims average around 4.5 out of 5.0. 

Quality, Reliability, & Performance. Measured by the Repair Dollars that Remain in Your Wallet

After a multi-year trend of improving maintenance and repair costs, J.D. Power has seen an increase in both repair frequency and severity across all brands for 2019. Specifically, they saw an increase in the number complaints regarding check engine, engine not starting, brake issues, and noise from suspension.

What it costs to keep a ride on the road is a very real indicator of how reliable a vehicle is. So, let’s take a look at what the repair shops are experiencing with the Hyundai lineup.

We already mentioned that CarMD declared Hyundai the most reliable car brand. However, that rank is based on a limited survey of 80,000 new vehicles. If you look at CarMD’s massive “cars-in-use” survey that collected data on “check engine warnings” from a baseline of 5.6 million vehicles, you’ll get a feel for how Hyundai cars have performed over the long run.

  • Brands least likely to need a check engine repair over the past year. A review of all Hyundai models placed 5th behind Toyota, Subaru, Acura, and Buick.
  • Brands with the lowest check engine repair costs. Hyundai slips to 7th behind the a surprising group of competitors consisting of Mazda, Jeep, Kia, Chevrolet, Dodge and VW.
  • Models with the lowest repair costs for check engine repairs. Every brand has models that perform better than others. This list drills down to specific trims. Out of the top ten, Hyundai models hold 4 slots including numbers 1, 3, 6, and 9. The list leading Hyundai Tucson had an average repair cost of $67., another authority on vehicle repair costs, ranks Hyundai 4th as a brand out of 32 manufacturers rated. Hyundai merited the ranking based on total ownership costs, frequency of repairs, and severity of repairs.

  • Annual repair costs. Hyundai averaged a yearly repair cost of $468 compared to $652 for all other models reviewed.
  • Frequency. Hyundai owners spent less time in the repair shop with an an average of 0.3 trips for other than scheduled maintenance compared to an overall average of 0.4.
  • Severity. Obviously, not all repairs cost the same to make. Replacing a vacuum hose doesn’t cost anything compared to a clutch. Vehicles with a history of severe repairs are less reliable than those with minor repairs even if they have a higher frequency of occurrences. Hyundai’s repair history predicted that 10% of all repairs would be severe compared to 12% for all vehicles on average.

Having confidence that your ride is going to start in the morning, safely accelerate going up an  onramp, brake without issues, and reliably get you from point A to point B are basic considerations for the car buying public.

Avoiding the drip, drip, drip of minor repairs or worrying about a major component failure are universal objectives for buyers everywhere. And then there’s the cost. Keeping the cost of ownership under control, both in terms of time and money, is an exceptionally important factor when considering a change in vehicles.

Hyundai has always had a reputation for being aggressively priced. Toss in the demonstrated reliability of the brand, low maintenance cost, and you have a vehicle that meets or exceeds two of the most important buying considerations.

The repair free car or SUV hasn’t been built yet. All brands, from Bentley to Kia, will have repair issues. Hyundai is no exception. Listed below are the five most popular Hyundai models as determined by U.S. News and World Report along with the most frequent repair complaints for each model as assembled by Repair Pal.

  • 2019 Hyundai Kona. Rated 1st among 17 subcompact SUVs. Repair Pal has only received 24 complaints on the Kona and they were all for no sound coming out of the speakers.
  • 2019 Hyundai Accent. Rated 3rd of 17 subcompact SUVs. Another well built Hyundai subcompact SUV, the Accent only had 2 repair issues totaling 27 complaints. The number one issue is road salt causing rust in the lower suspension/coil spring. The Accent also had a no sound from the speakers complaint as well.
  • 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe. Rated 5th out of 23 midsize SUVs. A bigger SUV with bigger repair problems. The Santa Fe racked up 8 issues and 540 complaints. The issues focused around outdated software, failure of crankshaft angle sensor, faulty EGR switching valve, recall on airbag computer, and, you guessed it, no sound from speakers.
  • 2019 Hyundai Veloster. Rated 6th of 21 compact cars. This one had a serious software problem that could cause the engine to catch fire. Over 20,000 2019 Veloster models were recalled. Other than that, this model had 1 issue generating 28 complaints about no sound from speakers.
  • 2019 Hyundai Sonata. Rated 7th out of 19 midsize cars. This model recorded 14 repair issues generating over 1200 complaints. The most frequent of those complaints were about parking lights not turning off, check engine alerts due to faulty accelerator pedal position switch, a recall of motorized seat belts, and of course, no sound from speakers.

The Kona is also pretty easy on the eyes compared to its competition:

While these stats are interesting, they can’t be considered as authoritative by themselves. All the rankings are data driven but ignore one of the most important elements that determines a brand’s reliability reputation.

Namely, you and other owners.

Your driving style, attention to scheduled maintenance, and willingness to schedule a trip to the shop when an issue first arises, determines how well, or how bad, your ride will perform. 

How Does Hyundai Stack Up Against the Competition?

When it comes to predicted reliability of late model vehicles, few will argue that there is a better source than Consumer Reports. Their extensive survey base (over 400,000 owners) and their experience and technology have allowed them to accurately predict the reliability of new or redesigned models.

For nearly 20 years Consumer Reports have been nailing the reliability issue and have broken the results down into general categories then getting downright granular.

What follows is a comparison of popular Hyundai models and how their “predicted reliability” compares to the closest competitors in their class. CR gives an overall grade based on predicted reliability, owner satisfaction and road test.

2019 Hyundai Kona $19,999. Overall Rating 78. Owner reported trouble spots include malfunctioning of CD or DVD players, radio, speakers, GPS, communication system (e.g., OnStar), display screen freezes or goes blank, and transmission fluid leaks.

  • 2019 Subaru Crosstrek $21,895. Overall Rating 85. This Subaru has a slightly higher MSRP than the Kona and suffers from the same in-car electronic issues. It has also had 3 recalls this year.
  • 2019 Mazda CX-3 $20,390. Overall Rating 71. The two areas that drove the rating down were more comfort and owner satisfaction issues. Tight cabin space and poor cargo space.

2019 Hyundai Veloster $18,500. Overall Rating 80. While this sporty, 4 passenger Hyundai has had 1 recall, there are no reliable trouble spots reported by the owners.

  • 2019 Subaru BRZ $25,750. Overall Rating 82. The Subaru BRZ was co-developed with Toyota and is essentially the old Scion FR-S. It’s sporty, handles well and the principal complaint is the rear seat is just a token.
  • 2019 Toyota 86 $26,665. Overall Rating 81. Interestingly, the Toyota 86 is almost identical to the Subaru BRZ which is to say it also is a twin to the discontinued Scion FR-S. It handles and rides almost identically to the BRZ. There are no trouble spots reported from 2019 model owners.

2019 Hyundai Sonata $22,650. Overall Rating 70. Consumer Reports’ overall average does not reflect the Sonata’s strong points that make it a formidable competitor for the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. Its spacious cabin, generous back seats, easy in and out, adequate power, and easy handling makes it a consistent favorite in this class.

  • 2019 Toyota Camry $24,095. Overall Rating 84. A perennial favorite, the 2019 Camry had 3 recalls. The Camry earned an 84 thanks to its performance in the road test. Reliability and owner satisfaction were rated as just average.
  • 2019 Honda Accord $23,720. Overall Rating 82. The 2019 Accord is a new design. Like many Hyundai models, in-car electronics is a trouble spot. The low profile makes getting in and out difficult and the CVT transmission, like all CVTs, creates excessive engine noise when accelerating.

Final Thoughts

Hyundai started out with a great price but questionable quality. In other words, it started out like most Korean autos. Times are different now and most industry experts believe that Korean brands, including Hyundai, are no different in reliability, technology, and manufacturing process than Japanese vehicles. 

Even after boiling it all down and accepting that Hyundai makes a pretty good vehicle for the modern era, the question always of what reliability means from driver to driver always remains.

A Honda or a Volvo that has been religiously maintained, will last 200,000 miles easily. That’s a lot of miles and you might think that’s a sign of extreme reliability. But if the engine sounds like a washing machine each time you start it, the brakes work but not like you’d like them to work, or the handling doesn’t match your driving style, you lose confidence in the vehicle. And when you lose confidence, your perception of reliability changes.

What Hyundai has going for it is an uncanny ability to match driving characteristics to their targeted market. They build good vehicles, but more importantly they build vehicles that owners like.

Hyundai pricing gets a prospective buyer to take a look, but then the fit, styling, and performance get’s them to bite. The Veloster for example, is a fun, sporty, ride that is outselling more established brands even though it has had some past brushes with reliability issues.

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