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I’m a Mechanic: What I Drive and 3 Cars I Steer Clear Of

AnnaStills / Getty Images/iStockphoto
AnnaStills / Getty Images/iStockphoto

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 most likely to go hundreds of thousands of miles without major issues.

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GOBankingRates spoke to an automotive professional who revealed what he currently drives, why, and a few models he knows to avoid at all costs. Another mechanic offered valuable insight not on a specific model but on an entire class of cars to steer clear of 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 who specializes in engine maintenance, diagnostics and repair. A lifelong car enthusiast who has repaired and test-driven muscle cars, classic cars and everything in between, he created Engine Rev Up as a community for fellow gearheads to learn, educate and engage.

So, in his personal life, an automotive obsessive like Carter is sure to drive something exotic, impressive, and powerful, right? “I currently have a 2015 Toyota Camry in my driveway,” he said. “I chose this car because it is reliable, fuel-efficient, and easy to maintain.”

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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 U.S. for 21 years straight. The smaller Corolla is the best-selling car of all time.

The country loves the Camry for all the same reasons that a seasoned professional like Carter trusts it in his personal life. “It has a great 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 operating costs and reliable long-term operation are hallmarks of the mid-size Toyota Camry.”

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

A Camry costs just $160 to own in the first year, rising to $766 by year 10. Its overall 10-year ownership cost of just $4,203 and it boasts 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 to still offer a V6 engine as an alternative to the base four-cylinder.”

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

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

In 2024, the Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+ suite of features comes standard on all Camry trims.

Three Cars You Won’t Find in Carter’s Driveway

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

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

Dodge Dart

The Dodge Dart originally had a 16-year, five-generation run from 1960-76. A little more than 35 years later, Dodge resurrected the Dart as a compact sedan in 2013, but not everyone was happy with the results.

“This car has a reputation for being unreliable and requiring frequent repairs,” said Carter. “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 vehicles ever to hit the road — but a bug’s life is not for everyone.

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

Like the Dart, the Beetle had an original run (1950-79) and then a rebirth (1998-2019). Carter steers clear of both.

Ford Focus

Ford has been cranking out the Focus for 25 years across four generations, from 1998 to the present. The automaker recently announced it would discontinue the model in 2025 as it moves toward a fully electric future.

Carter won’t lose any sleep.

“The Focus has had a history of transmission issues, which can be costly to repair,” he said. “It also has a lower safety rating compared to other cars in its class.”

A Word on Design Refreshes and New Model Generations

Peter Zavarelli, automotive 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.

“Not ‘brand new’ as in it is a brand new vehicle,” he said. “But a brand new design for that make and model vehicle — a design change. What tends to happen when you purchase a new brand model design in the first year of production is you end up with all of the quirks and failures — things that the manufacturer did not catch or know of when they built the vehicle. The repairs are generally covered under warranty for these quirks and failures, but it’s the headache of having to take it in every time something fails.”

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

“This model design change went from 1999 to 2003 or early 2004,” said Zavarelli. “I would not purchase a 1999 model, but I would purchase the 2003 or 2004 model, as all of the quirks have been corrected before the vehicle was built. The 1999 model was the first design change in that year range and did and could have many issues. This applies to all years and make/model vehicles. The first year of the design change is common to have many unforeseen problems.”

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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: I’m a Mechanic: What I Drive and 3 Cars I Steer Clear Of