Whether it’s for business or pleasure, you’ll want a great set of wheels. Compare car brands to see which are rated highest by Australian motorists.
* Overall satisfaction is an individual rating and not a combined total of all ratings. Brands with equal overall satisfaction ratings are listed in alphabetical order.
Canstar Blue research finalised in October 2015, published in January 2016.
See our Ratings Methodology.
A new car is not only one of the most exciting things you can buy, but it will also be one of the most expensive. So before making any big decisions, we suggest giving serious consideration to the make and model that best suits your needs – and budget. Ask your friends and family about their experiences with the vehicles they drive, and seek the opinions of as many people as you can. Here at Canstar Blue, we’re pleased to help by sharing the car reviews of more than 2,300 Australian motorists who have all purchased a new set of wheels in the last three years.
As you can see from the ratings table above, six different car brands have all achieved five-star ratings in one category or another, but only one scored top marks in the most important of all, overall satisfaction. BMW is recognised the world over as being one of the best manufacturers of luxury vehicles, and Australian motorists are clearly impressed, praising the German brand for its point of sale service, ongoing servicing and driving experience, in addition to the overall award.
You won’t need us to tell you that BMW cars don’t come cheap. But regardless of how much you’re thinking about splashing out on your new (or first) vehicle, we hope that our customer satisfaction ratings prove helpful at the beginning of the journey. The table above features 15 of the biggest names in the automotive industry, so you’re certainly spoilt for choice. The best advice anyone can give you about buying a car, however, is to not get carried away. You must consider your options, consider what you can afford, and consider how you’re going to pay for it. Then, you can picture yourself driving off into the sunset… (Top down or otherwise).
Our customer satisfaction ratings don’t take into account how many vehicles a brand actually sells, because being the biggest doesn’t always make you the best. We’re more interested in what motorists think about their vehicles once they’ve hit the open road and gotten to know their new car. But to give you some context, we can tell you that Toyota comfortably outsells every other brand available to buy in Australia, thanks largely to the Corolla, Camry and Yaris models. Sales figures from November 2015 show that Toyota (18,402) sold almost double the number of new cars as its nearest rival, Mazda. Following close behind were Holden, Hyundai, Nissan, Ford and Mitsubishi. BMW was 13th on the list with 2,066 sales during the month, with the X5 accounting for 348 of them, the 3 Series 314 and 1 Series 224.
The type of car you’ll need will largely depend on two main factors – how many people you expect to drive around, and where you expect to drive them. To give you an even more detailed insight into the experiences of other Australian motorists, we’ve broken our motoring awards down into three categories to reflect the main types of vehicles on the road – small cars (such as hatchbacks), sedans and SUV/4WDs. So if you know what type of car you want, see which brands have been rated highest in their respective categories.
Just like buying a new TV or washing machine, the end of financial year sales represent a good time to bag a bargain on a new car. The turn of the calendar year provides another opportune moment as dealers will be looking to clear out their current-year stock. And also, be aware that sales figures are reported at the end of each month and quarter, meaning you might be able to secure a great deal at a time that suits you better.
When you buy a car, be it brand new or otherwise, you will also have to pay for the associated on-road costs that come with it. So before heading to the showroom, you should have a good idea about these extra costs to make sure you have the money to cover them. They include:
Stamp duty: This is the percentage of the purchase price of any new or used vehicle that must be paid to the relevant state or territory government. Stamp duty is determined by where you live and it can vary significantly. Read through the information provided on your government website for more details.
Compulsory Third Party Insurance: This is required by law to cover people who may be injured through the fault of the driver of your vehicle. It’s an offence to drive your car or leave it parked on a road without insurance, and will results in a penalty of up to $10,000.
New car costs: If you’re buying a brand new car, you may also be required to pay for things like number plates, registration and dealer delivery charges – unless you have been quoted a total drive away price. Ask as many questions as you can think of about any additional costs before agreeing to buy.
Ongoing costs: It’s also a good idea to think about the ongoing costs of buying a particular type of vehicle. This could include factors such as fuel-efficiency, the cost of servicing, and how much new tyres will be.
Our 2,345 new car-buying survey respondents reported an average spend of $31,215 on their latest set of wheels. But as you can tell from our ratings table above, not everyone is convinced they got their money’s worth. Motorists who own a new Kia were found to be the most pleased in the value for money stakes – scoring the South Korean manufacturer five stars in this crucial area. After driving experience, value for money was found to be the most significant ‘driver’ of overall satisfaction, so it’s hugely important for the manufacturers that their customers drive away thinking they’ve got a good deal. We discuss Kia’s value for money award further here.
Point of sale service is a hugely important part of the purchasing experience. In order to make the best decision for your needs, you’ll want a salesperson who is knowledgeable and provides straight answers to your straight questions. Visit a car dealership and you’ll almost certainly be approached by a salesperson within a couple of minutes of looking around. If you’re not, that’s a bad start. The success of that initial interaction with a salesperson will likely go a long way to determining whether or not you leave with a new car. But remember, just because someone is nice doesn’t mean you’re going to get a great deal. Have the confidence to ask lots of questions and get the answers you need to make an informed decision. BMW and Mercedes were rated highest for point of sale service. Find out more about that here.
You’ll meet lots of nice salespeople when you’re looking to buy a car, but when it’s when you return to the dealership with a problem that you’ll get a real idea about a company’s customer service. Buying a car is just the start of the ownership journey and it’s right to assume that you can expect professional, helpful service whenever you deal with the manufacturer. Our survey of drivers found Mercedes was rated highest for after sale service, in addition to point of sale service. Read more about that here.
If you pay tens of thousands of dollars for a vehicle, the least you should expect is reliability. But what do people mean when they talk about vehicle reliability? Well, all vehicles require routine, regular maintenance for things like oil changes, brake jobs, tyre changes and so on. Every car owner can expect the occasional trip to their local mechanic, but it’s the unplanned breakdowns that really frustrate motorists. A car that is considered reliable is one that doesn’t break down very often, while an unreliable car is one that experiences more than its fair share of unscheduled stops by the side of the road and trips to the garage. Our survey respondents gave five different manufacturers top marks for reliability. We discuss this more here.
Numerous factors are important in determining your overall satisfaction with a vehicle – such as price, reliability and ongoing costs – but when all is said and done you will want a car that is simply comfortable and fun to drive. We found driving experience is the most significant driver of customer satisfaction (27%), followed by:
Only BMW scored a five-star rating for driving experience in our overall ratings. Read more about BMW’s success here.
Regular servicing is a hugely important part of car ownership. As motorists, you have to accept that your vehicle regularly needs to have its vital fluids checked or changed, and electronic and mechanical functions reviewed or adjusted to ensure it’s running in a safe, legal condition. Yes, servicing can be expensive, but it really does pay to do it. A correctly serviced and tuned engine will have a longer and more economical life than one that is run into the ground with minimal attention. But servicing conditions and costs vary between manufactures – with some offering ‘capped price servicing’ – so it’s a good idea to know what you’re getting yourself in for before buying a car. Only BMW achieved a five-star rating for servicing. Read more about that here.
Founded almost 100 years ago in 1916, BMW is a German luxury car, motorcycle and engine manufacturer based in Munich. It owns and produces Mini cars and is the parent company of Rolls-Royce. BMW is also a leading manufacturer of plug-in electric cars.
Hyundai is a South Korean automotive manufacturer founded in 1967. Based in Seoul, it is part of the Hyundai Motor Group, which also includes Kia Motors. Hyundai won our overall new car customer satisfaction award in 2010 and 2012.
Behind Hyundai, Kia is the second largest automotive manufacturer in South Korea, behind Hyundai. It was founded in 1944 and around one-third of the company is now owned by the Hyundai Motor Group.
One of three German automotive manufacturers in these ratings, Mercedes-Benz is a luxury car brand which is part of the Daimler AG group. Mercedes-Benz was founded in 1926 and is based in Stuttgart.
Founded in 1970, Mitsubishi is a Japanese automotive manufacturer based in Tokyo, Japan. The brand was born from the automotive division of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. It was a winner of our overall new car customer satisfaction award in 2013.
Subaru is the automotive manufacturing division of Japanese transportation conglomerate Fuji Heavy Industries. Subaru was founded in 1953 and is based in Tokyo.
Founded more than 100 years ago in 1909, Suzuki is Japanese automotive manufacturer based in Hamamatsu. It is well known for producing cars and a wide range of motorcycles.
Toyota is Japanese automotive manufacturer born out of Toyota, Aichi in 1937. It is one of the largest companies in the world and is the biggest selling car brand in Australia.
One of the largest automotive manufactures in the world, Volkswagen is based in the German city of Wolfsburg. It was founded in 1946 and is the biggest selling brand in the Volkswagen Group, which also includes Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Audi and Porsche.
The Ford Motor Company is an American automotive manufacturer based in Detroit. Founded in 1903, it is one of the oldest car companies in the world. Ford was the winner of our overall new car customer satisfaction awards in 2014.
Holden is an Australian automotive manufacturer based in Port Melbourne. It was founded as a saddler manufacturer in 1856 and in 1908, moved into the automotive field, before becoming a subsidiary of US-based General Motors in 1931.
Synonymous with motorsports and power equipment, Honda is a Japanese manufacturer based in Tokyo. It was founded in 1948 and is one of the world’s biggest selling brands of motorcycles.
A subsidiary of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Jeep is a brand of American sports utility and off-road vehicles. It was founded in 1941.
A winner of our overall new car customer satisfaction award in 2011, Mazda is a Japanese automotive manufacturer. It was founded in 1920 and is based in Fuchu, Aki District.
Nissan is Japanese automotive manufacturer based in Nishi-ku, Yokohama. It was founded in 1933 and is part of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, a partnership between Nissan and the French automaker Renault.
Canstar Blue commissioned Colmar Brunton to survey 9,000 Australian consumers across a range of categories to measure and track customer satisfaction. The outcomes reported are the results from customers within the survey group who have bought a brand new car from a dealership in the last three years – in this case, 2,354 people.
Brands must have received at least 30 responses to be included. Results are comparative and it should be noted that brands receiving three stars have still achieved a satisfaction measure of at least six out of 10. Not all brands available in the market have been compared in this survey. The ratings table is first sorted by star ratings and then alphabetically. A rated brand may receive a ‘N/A’ (Not Applicable) rating if it does not receive the minimum number of responses for that criteria.