The Most Reliable Sports Cars in the Past Five Years

More than you can afford, pal, yet not a Ferrari.

Mike Ditz

Sports cars are often aspirational vehicles. You picture the wind in your hair, the roar of the car’s engine, clipping perfect apexes, and showing up neighbor Todd who won’t shut up about his Jet Ski. Because of their superfluous nature and specified mission, these vehicles are often seen as precision-engineered machines that require a high-dollar investment and vast maintenance plans. Is that true?

Sports-car reliability is one of vast variance, as some sports cars have such tight tolerances that even simple maintenance can drain bank accounts. On the other hand, something like a Mazda Miata might be the most reliable car in a family’s garage. It varies from manufacturer to manufacturer and even within a manufacturer’s lineup. How, then, do you sift through the noise and find a great deal on a reliable sports car that you can enjoy for years to come? That’s simple: Listen to your friends at The Drive. 

2020 Toyota Supra
Jonathon Klein

The Drive and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links. Read more.

There are reams of information available to you written by every Tom, Dick, and Sally with an opinion and a keyboard, so finding the right information can seem daunting. The Drive’s editors, however, have driving experience with just about every car on the planet and the knowledge of where to look for solid consumer data. 

To aid you on your quest for a reliable sports car, we’ve put together a guide detailing what makes a car and a brand reliable. We’ve also sorted through reliability and consumer data from a host of different makes and models as well as answered a few FAQs. Let’s dive in and find your dream ride. 

What Makes a Reliable Brand?

Reliability depends on a host of variables, but the two biggest structural supports are the development and manufacturing of a vehicle. When auto manufacturers spend the time and money developing a car and its manufacturing line, a car tends to last longer. Hastily designed, poorly manufactured, and cheaply constructed materials will all reduce a car’s longevity and reliability.

There’s also a work-ethic variable that cannot be ignored. Honda’s and Toyota’s cultures of “reliability over all” embody that ethic and have kept each automaker’s legendary reliability in the minds of consumers for decades. Case in point: Lexus spent 15 years creating the perfect paint. Add longer than normal warranties and good customer service, and it’s easy to see why these Japanese companies have enjoyed their strong standings for so long.

Yet, once a car leaves the dealership lot, outside factors impact a car’s durability.

What Impacts a Car’s Reliability?

The short answer is you. The longer answer is a car’s reliability and longevity are inextricably tied to how you take care of your vehicle, your maintenance schedule (if you have one), your conservative or brash driving habits, and whether or not you live in climates where extreme weather could affect the car’s construction.

Preemptive maintenance such as regular oil changes, fluid flushes, tire rotation, and fuel-system cleaners along with keeping the exterior and underside of your car clean will all increase the life expectancy of your car. Keeping it out of the harsh desert or tropical sun and away from the rust-inducing salted roadways of winter will also extend its life.

Lastly, keeping the Mario Andretti driving antics to a minimum will keep your brakes, engine, tires, and chassis happy and less stressed far longer compared to hitting every trip to the grocery store like it’s the Indy 500. 

Reliable Sports Cars From the Past Five Years

Here’s The Drive’s list of reliable sports cars from the past five years. 

A Mazda Miata.
Mazda

Mazda's sports car beginnings and its current state. 

Mazda Miata

The answer may indeed always be Miata. The sports car is beloved by millions, adored by enthusiasts, and has been canonized by countless anime. It may not be the O.G. sports car, but its history is nigh untouchable, and part of that is because of its reliability. 

NHTSA History

As collected by the NHTSA, these are the Mazda Miata’s issues throughout the years.

2021 

Recall: 0

Complaints: 0

2020 

Recall: 0

Complaints: 0

2019 

Recall: Transmission software may cause abrupt downshift.

Complaints: 5

2018

Recall: Transmission software may cause abrupt downshift.

Complaints: 2

2017

Recall: Transmission software may cause abrupt downshift.

Complaints: 6

2021 Mazda Miata
Mazda

A Miata lurking about. 

JD Power Consumer Reliability Score

To get a better sense of what experts and consumers think about Miatas, we also tapped JD Power’s consumer reliability score to better illustrate the sports car’s reliability.

2021: NA/100

2020: NA/100

2019: 73/100

2018: NA/100

2017: 81/100

Common Problems and Repair Costs 

As with any car, not all Miata models are built to the same standards as the reliable vehicles mentioned above. Here’s a quick rundown of problematic Miata offerings, including the issues, customer complaints, and repair costs that will help you make the best decision when purchasing your next car.

Paint Issues

Customer Complaint: “A brand-new 2018 MX-5 RF, Eternal Blue Mica, with less than 2,000 miles on it. My very first Mazda, garage-kept with a cover on it, rarely sits in the sun, only used around town for pleasure, errands, appointments, etc. ... The exterior paint is so delicate that if so much as a grain of sand or insect bounces off, it chips. OEM Mazda touch-up paint will not stick to the damage. It will usually come off with the next car washing. Always wanted a nice two-seater. What a disappointment. What a beautifully designed vehicle gone to waste through poor quality control. I have no plans to keep this vehicle or ever purchase another Mazda! In fact, I'm already searching for a replacement.”

Repair Costs: NA

Premature Flywheel Failure

Customer Complaint: “The car only cracked 9,000 miles and 14 months old before having issues with the clutch and flywheel. The clutch engages very jerkily, almost as if you completely popped the clutch even when you let it out very slowly. Mazda service center acknowledges that there is a major problem with the flywheel (they don't even know exactly what it is) and says the warranty on the flywheel is only 12 months and that I will have to fix it on my own dime. Could be many thousands of dollars.”

Repair Costs: NA

2021 Audi TT
Audi

Vroom!

Audi TT

Audi’s TT sports car is often maligned for no reason other than an old “Top Gear” clip calling it a hairdresser’s car. (Be gone, sexism!) In reality, the TT is a great sports car that features all-wheel drive, an available convertible, the option of manual or double-clutch automatic transmissions, and an available five-cylinder turbo! 

NHTSA History

2021 

Recall: 0

Complaints: 0

2020 

Recall: 0

Complaints: 0

2019 

Recall: Damaged fuel tank may cause fuel leak.

Complaints: 0

2018

Recall: Damaged fuel tank may cause fuel leak, improperly secured fuel line may cause fuel leak.

Complaints: 2

2017

Recall: Damaged fuel tank may cause fuel leak, driver's frontal airbag inflator may rupture, side marker lights may not Illuminate.

Complaints: 0

2021 Audi TT
Audi

Where shall you take your TT?

JD Power Consumer Reliability Score

To get a better sense of what experts and consumers think about the TT, we tapped JD Power’s consumer reliability score to better illustrate the sports car’s reliability.

2021: NA/100

2020: NA/100

2019: NA/100

2018: NA/100

2017: 81/100

Common Problems and Repair Costs 

According to the site Car Complaints, there were exactly zero complaints in the past five years of the TT. Compare that to a handful of complaints about the 2008 model year. 

2021 BMW Z4
BMW

To the sea!

BMW Z4

Ah, the Z4, BMW’s newish take on the two-seater. The car burst onto the scene in its action debut with the company’s “The Hire” series featuring Clive Owen and has since gained a small cult-like following. The current model is a joint effort produced with Toyota that also spawned the new-age Supra. Let’s take a look at its impressive reliability, which is very unlike BMW. 

NHTSA History

2021 

Recall: Fuel-tank weld may fail.

Complaints: 0

2020 

Recall: Fuel-tank weld may fail, horizontal headlamp adjustment possible, loss of headlight function, no backup camera display image.

Complaints: 3

2019 

Recall: Horizontal headlamp adjustment possible, steering-gear tie-rods may become damaged, counterbalance shaft may loosen, no backup camera display image.

Complaints: 1

2018

Recall: NA

Complaints: NA

2017

Recall: NA

Complaints: NA

2021 BMW Z4
BMW

Faster and faster!

JD Power Consumer Reliability Score

To get a better sense of what experts and consumers think about the Z4, we tapped JD Power’s consumer reliability score to better illustrate the sports car’s reliability.

2021: 77/100

2020: 77/100

2019: NA/100

2018: NA/100

2017: NA/100

Common Problems and Repair Costs 

According to the website Car Complaints, not a single complaint was logged about the Z4 since the 2008 model year, which consisted of body-panel and steering-gear issues. 

2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1.
Ford

Mustangs a'plenty.

Ford Mustang

Can you have a list of reliable sports cars and not feature the sports car that kicked off a United States arms race? No, you can’t, and that’s thanks to the Blue Oval’s overall reliability in the Mustang, the brand’s only car currently offered for sale.

NHTSA History

2021 

Recall: 0

Complaints: 0

2020 

Recall: Distorted or inoperative rearview camera, brake pedal bracket may fracture, front-facing camera improperly calibrated, out-of-park warning message and chime too short.

Complaints: 17

2019 

Recall: Out-of-park warning message and chime too short, instrument cluster may go blank on startup.

Complaints: 27

2018

Recall: Hose-barb fittings may damage fuel lines, missing roll pin causing loss of park function, vehicle may roll away.

Complaints: 63

2017

Recall: Passenger frontal airbag inflator may rupture, driver's door may unlatch in a crash, oil leak from engine cooler hose.

Complaints: 90

2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1.
Ford

One good looking horse.

JD Power Consumer Reliability Score

To get a better sense of what experts and consumers think about the Mustang, we tapped JD Power’s consumer reliability score to better illustrate the sports car’s reliability.

2021: 86/100

2020: 86/100

2019: 80/100

2018: 84/100

2017: 83/100

Common Problems and Repair Costs 

Even if they were built one after another on the assembly line, each Mustang is different. Check out these issues, customer complaints, and repair costs and consider the natural risks involved in your next vehicle purchase. 

Transmission Issues

Customer Complaint: “This has happened several times, which makes no sense. Sometimes when you put it into reverse, it shifts really hard. It is like a jerking feeling. I have had this same issue with a Jeep I used to own. I am not sure why a brand-new 2020 Mustang should be having this issue at all. Other times, it is a smooth shift, and you can't even feel it. There is definitely something wrong with the transmission on this car.”

Repair Costs: NA

Interior Infotainment Issues

Customer Complaint: “When the Sync is paired with a phone, or when the radio is turned on, the display will fail to show any usable information other than the current time and temperature. No radio or music data is sent to the radio unit. Audio still plays.”

Repair Costs: N/A

2020 Subaru BRZ
Subaru

See, it's smiling at just the thought of you buying it!

Subaru BRZ

The Toyobaru, otherwise known as the Subaru BRZ and Toyota 86 twins, consists of a shared sports-car platform with a Toyota-designed chassis and Subaru power. The affordable sports car took hold of the enthusiast community for its entry-level price, good-enough power, and slick handling and has just recently seen a second-generation drop for the 2022 model year. 

NHTSA History

2021 

Recall: NA

Complaints: NA

2020 

Recall: 0

Complaints: 0

2019 

Recall: 0

Complaints: 0

2018

Recall: Camera image may not display.

Complaints: 0

2017

Recall: 0

Complaints: 4

2020 Subaru BRZ
Subaru

Twins!

JD Power Consumer Reliability Score

To get a better sense of what experts and consumers think about the Subaru, we tapped JD Power’s consumer reliability score to better illustrate the sports car’s reliability.

2021: NA/100

2020: NA/100

2019: NA/100

2018: NA/100

2017: 82/100

Common Problems and Repair Costs 

In the past five years, only two complaints have been dropped to Car Complaints, an aggregate automotive issue website. Here’s what they said.

Bluetooth Issues

Customer Complaint: “Starlink continually loses connection with my phone. When this happens I lose my music/audiobooks/phone through the audio system. I have to actually take my phone away from my car for a few minutes in order for it to begin working again. I'm not sure if that is actually what makes it start working again, I just notice that after I have been away from my car — such as going into work  — and upon returning it begins working ... until it drops off again and again in the same day! This is so frustrating for me as I travel for work and have had to carry earbuds now. I have looked up online and have tried everything that has been suggested to try but with no success. This happens every day, and it's driving me crazy!”

Repair Costs: N/A

Brake Failure

Customer Complaint: “First time at the dealership, they could not find the problem. This week is the second time to the Subaru dealer. Of course, it is intermittent. When it happens, there’s a brake-pedal thumping noise and brake-pedal travel excess to the floor about a half inch. … I suspect an inside brake-hose check valve possibly sticky?”

Repair Costs: N/A

What You Need to Look For When Buying a Reliable Sports Car?

As with any transaction, there are a few key points that every customer should know and ask for before slapping your John Hancock on the dotted line. These helpful tips prevent you from purchasing a car that forces you to ask yourself, “What have I done? What in God’s name have I done? How much is it to replace a hybrid system?” (Sob screaming included.)

Never fear, The Drive’s editors put together exactly what you’ll want to look for when you shop for a new or used sports car. Ready? 

Check Service Records

A car’s service records are its history. They should have everything from fluid flushes to significant repairs. This is the car’s life on paper and is really seen as how the last owner took care of it.

When your car comes with a stack of papers shoved neatly into its service book, you’re likely not getting a lemon. But if all you have is one receipt from McDonald’s, we’d look elsewhere.

Obtain a CarFax

A CarFax report is a great tool. This little sheet of paper can tell you whether that car has undergone any major operations prompted by big-time accidents and tiny little fender benders or if it was recovered from the Atlantic Ocean after the ship that was carrying it capsized off the coast of Georgia

Look for Rust

Whether you’re buying from a cold-weather locale or the car has crisscrossed the country throughout its life, you’re going to want to get down on the ground and start looking for oxidation, otherwise known as rust. Do a thorough inspection, because if you miss a patch of rust in the wheel well, you’ll likely have a front-row seat to your car slowly disappearing as if Thanos snapped it out of existence.

Look for Extreme Wear

There are drivers out there, definitely not us, who think they’re Dominic Torreto. They drive their cars hard and put them away wet, both of which are not great for the car’s overall health. You’ll want to check the car’s tires, work your way through its transmission, hit small speed bumps to check its suspension, and ask for an inspection by a trusted mechanic. 

Video

This video is a few years old from our friends at Kelly Blue Book, but it shows a solid depth of sports cars available to you both new and used. 

FAQs About Reliable Sports Cars

You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers.

Q: Why isn’t the Honda S2000 on this list?

A: Honda stopped making the S2000 in 2009, which was 12 years ago. The list we made was restricted to the past five years. Come on, son.

Q: Then what about the Civic Si and Type R?

A: The Type R is one of our favorite cars on sale today, but is it a sports car? Seems more like a sports hatch.

Q: How much is a used Miata?

A: That’ll depend on its service history, mileage, generation, and general state of being as many have been modified. The Miata is a great car and you can pick up older generations for a song, while the newer ND Miatas are starting to come down in price on the used market. What that means is you can spend anywhere between $2,000 and $25,000 for a Miata.

Q: Is the Porsche 911 reliable?

A: That’s going to depend on the year. Some have some serious issues, such as the infamous IMS-bearing debacle.