Executive cars are primarily aimed at posh drivers – business types who want premium quality and exceptional comfort to help them endure those long arduous journeys between meetings.
That means they tend to be beautifully-finished, supremely quiet, cosseting to drive and packed with the latest in-car gadgetry.
The downside is that all these luxuries result in fairly big prices, especially if you were to get a little too tick-box happy with the options list in the showroom.
For those who simply can’t afford a new one, the only alternative is to find something on the used market that has depreciated to an acceptable price. But which second-hand executive cars will be affordable to run as well as purchase?
Posh cars: Executive models are mainly aimed at business types who want premium quality and exceptional comfort to help them endure long arduous journeys between meetings. You too can have the same luxuries at a fraction of the price if you buy the right one second hand
Combine their luxury with worries that something expensive will go wrong and you have some good news for second-hand buyers, as big expensive cars often depreciate heavily.
Reliability is a serious issue with this type of vehicle, which can make owning one a pricey affair.
That’s because the more technology a car has, the more things there are to potentially go wrong – which tends to be the case, according to recent reports.
These second-hand examples are the ones you can trust not to cause you too many headaches or visits to the garage, according to those who are driving them currently.
More than 18,000 owners of UK cars were surveyed by What Car? magazine to determine the most – and least – dependable used executive cars you can get your hands on.
And they shouldn’t cost a small fortune either.
That’s because the data is only for vehicles that are four to 10 years old – and we’ve consulted current online listings to give a ball-park value based on examples with less than 60,000 miles on the clock.
These are the most reliable executive models, in descending order. You should also consult the list of the least dependable execs, too.
=9. Skoda Superb (2008-2015)
The Skoda Superb’s name suggests it has big ambitions, and it manages to fulfill them with a huge interior and plenty of comfort. It’s pretty dependable too
Price: from £5,600
What Car? reliability rating: 83.1%
When you think of executive cars Skoda probably isn’t the first brand that comes to mind.
That said, the Superb does feel suitably premium and has an abundance of space.
Just under a third (31 per cent) of owners with this car said theirs had a fault in the last 12 months, so they’re not bulletproof. Be wary of brake, battery, fuel system and suspension problems.
Three quarters of cars remained driveable despite their issues, though an unfortunate few were stung with repair bills of more than £1,500.
=9. Mercedes-Benz E-Class (2009-2016)
The Mercedes-Benz E-Class is the quintessential executive motor. There’s a big reason why so many chauffeur services use them
Price: from £7,500
What Car? reliability rating: 83.1%
When someone mentions executive cars, the E-Class should be one that pops into your head first.
Like the Skoda, a few (36 per cent) had faults over the course of the year, and worryingly the most common problem area was the engine.
Battery, engine electrics and fuel system issues were also reported, though most could still be driven despite these complications.
Some were new enough that they were fixed under warranty, but older models no longer covered by Mercedes cost up to £1,500 to fix.
8. Mercedes-Benz C-Class (2007-2014)
The Mercedes-Benz C-Class is proving its reliability. Choose this ageing model and you still get premium feel and the three-point badge kudos for a little over £5k
Price: from £5,200
What Car? reliability rating: 84.2%
Can’t stretch to an E-Class? Then how about the smaller and marginally more affordable C-Class that went out of production five years ago?
Fewer than a quarter of owners (24 per cent) said their C-Class’ had a fault in the last 12 months.
Most issues were fairly simple fixes, though six per cent were problems with the engine and engine electrics while five per cent reported braking system headaches.
More than three quarters of problematic cars could still be driven with their faults and only a few owners had to stump up £1,000 for repair bills.
7. Mazda 6 (2012-present)
The Mazda6 is one of the most stylish executive models on the market today. Despite still being on sale, this generation has been on the market since 2012, so used versions are available
Price: from £6,000
What Car? reliability rating: 84.6%
Mazda’s current offering in the executive range is the accomplished 6, which is arguably one of the best looking cars in the list.
A third of owners reported faults, with 13 per cent being related to the brakes or engine.
Two-thirds of drivers said they could still keep using their Mazda 6 despite the issues and more than half were new enough to be fixed for free under warranty.
Those that fell out of the Japanese firm’s three-year warranty had to pay no more than £500 in repair bills in the last year.
6. Audi A6 (2011-2018)
The A6 has recently been replaced, so this previous generation model is still pretty pricey on the used market
Price: from £10,000
What Car? reliability rating: 85.7%
When you mention executive saloons the name Audi should be on the tip of your tongue. The German marque masters premium cars like this, and the A6 is no exception when it comes to quality.
Only 22 per cent of A6 owners said their car had a problem over 12 months, with the biggest areas of concern being the bodywork.
That said, a few also reported issued with the brakes and engine.
Virtually all keepers said their A6 could still be driven with the issues they had and some were new enough to be fixed for free by Audi. Just a small percentage of owners had to shell out up to £1,500 to get their cars repaired.
Least reliable used executive cars you might want to avoid
10. BMW 3 Series (2006-2013) – 78.4%
=8. BMW 5 Series (2010-2017) – 78.3%
=8. Jaguar XF (2007-2015) – 78.3%
7. Ford Mondeo (2007-2014) – 77.0%
6. Audi A4 (2008-2015) – 76.6%
5. Audi A6 (2004-2011) – 73.1%
4. Volvo V60 (2010-2018) – 72.5%
3. Volkswagen Passat (2005-2015) – 59.1%
2. Vauxhall Insignia (2008-2017) – 58.3%
1. BMW 5 Series (2003-2010) – 56.4%
Source: What Car? reliability survey
5. Mazda 6 (2007-2012)
The older Mazda 6 is actually more reliable than the one that’s replaced it, according to readers of What Car? magazine
Price: from £2,500
What Car? reliability rating: 85.8%
While it might not be at number one in this reliability chart, value for money doesn’t get much better than the previous-generation Mazda 6.
You can pick one up for a little over £2,000, which looks like a bargain considering the dependability rating given by owners.
Although 31 per cent of owners said theirs suffered a fault in the last 12 months, the most common problem areas were the brakes, non-engine electrics, battery, bodywork and fuel system.
Most cars could still be driven and were fixed the same day, and – incredibly – not a single repair bill topped £500.
4. Volvo V70 (2007-2016)
If you want a reliable executive estate, you’ll struggle to do better than the Volvo V70
Price: from £7,000
What Car? reliability rating: 85.9%
Volvos tend to hold their value well, mostly because they’re synonymous for being durable and supremely safe. The V70 is a very practical estate, hence why values are still high.
Owners of this previous-generation car said they were pretty dependable, with just 19 per cent having a fault in the previous 12 months.
Exhaust and non-engine electric problems were the most common areas of concern, though there were also a smaller number of complaints about engine and wheel niggles.
Most cars could still be driven and were fixed in less than a week. Only a few had to pay over £1,500 to have theirs repaired.
3. Toyota Avensis (2009-2018)
The Avensis has since been removed from Toyota’s range of new cars. The last model it sold is proving to be very dependable
Price: from £5,000
What Car? reliability rating: 87.8%
The Avensis’ credentials as an ‘executive’ car can be debated. While it’s a similar size to other saloons here, it doesn’t quite have the same premium kudos or luxurious cabin.
That said, they’re hugely reliable. Just one in five owners of this model – the last before Toyota discontinued it in the UK – reported a problem.
The two most frequently cited problem areas were the bodywork and gearbox, followed by the air conditioning, battery, brakes and exhaust – so nothing catastrophic.
Three-quarters of cars with faults were still driveable, and repair bills ranged from £51 to a few £1,000 invoices.
2. BMW 3 Series (2012-2019)
BMW’s 3 Series is the executive saloon most people will think of first. If you’re buying used, the just-replaced car is proving to robust – so owners have said
Price: from £6,300
What Car? Reliability Rating: 88.9%
The 3 Series is the small executive saloon most think of first, and for good reason. It’s usually the best to drive of the bunch, offers the latest advancements in tech and are wonderfully comfortable to boot.
The just-replaced F30 model is no different, and examples over four years of age are proving to be pretty strong.
Just over one in five owners (22 per cent) reported a fault in 12 months, usually related to the air conditioning, non-engine electrics and steering as the three main problem areas.
Three-quarters of these cars remained drivable and were fixed the same day. Many were still within warranty though a handful had repair bills exceeding £1,500, which is why What Car? marked it down slightly.
1. Toyota Avensis (2003-2009)
Value for money doesn’t get much better than this. The Avensis is 16 years old, but models aged 4 to 10 years are the most reliable of all second-hand exec cars
Price: from £2,000
What Car? Reliability Rating: 90.2%
If you think a newer Toyota Avensis is not an executive car then you definitely won’t think this older generation one is either. Nonetheless, What Car? included it on its list.
Most would understandably expect a newer car to top a list of most reliable executive saloons, but it’s actually the oldest model that features at the top of the rankings.
The second-generation Toyota Avensis – according to owners – is the most dependable older executive model out there.
Only a small number had reported problems, split evenly between the air conditioning, engine, engine electrics, exterior lights, fuel system, non-engine electrics and suspension.
Three-quarters of these slightly problematic examples were still driveable and half were fixed the same day.
Repair bills ranged from free to £1,000. Not bad for a large family motor you can pick up for less than £2,000 with no more than 60,000 miles on the clock.