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Used Toyota Camry Reliability vs. Altima, Malibu, and Sonata - The Surprise Contender

We use the benchmark Toyota Camry as a comparison to three other popular used sedans, the Nissan Altima, the Chevy Malibu, and the Hyundai Sonata. We find one car did much better than expected.

The Toyota Camry recently edged out the Honda Accord in a used car reliability comparison we did between these two iconic models. Call us biased if you wish, but this writer's family owns used Accords and we love them.

Related Story: Used Honda Accord vs. Used Toyota Camry - Which Is More Reliable In These Model Years?

The analysis we did got us thinking about whether there may be a surprise lurking in the data if we looked at some of the lower-selling models in the Camry and Accord segment. To find out, we looked at the 2015-2010 model years for three of the Camry's peers in the class. What we discover is that the data does not necessarily jive with our preconceived assumptions.

2015-2010 Nissan Altima
First, we looked at the Nissan Altima. The new Nissan Altima is one of our favorites in this class of car. It offers AWD, an up-powered engine option, and easy-to-use technology that we love. But how reliable are the ones from 2015 to 2010? We started - and ended - our research at CarComplaints. This site compiles owner trouble reports. From the data, the site will either be neutral, offer a stamp of approval, or offer a warning.

The Nissan Altima is stamped with CarComplaints' "Beware of the Clunker" or "Avoid Like the Plague" warning in each of the years we looked at. Ouch! The 2013 model year had the most complaints, all surrounding the vehicles' CVT transmission. Buyer beware.

2015-2010 Hyundai Sonata
The Sonata is also a favorite of ours. We love the long warranty Hyundai offers, and new Hyundais also have three years of included maintenance. They can be a tremendous value. However, Hyundai Sonatas manufactured in 2011 and 2012 had an engine defect that caused many owners to suffer a seized engine. What is interesting is that in 2010, the Sonata earns the CarComplaints "Seal of Awesome." Our advice to Hyundai Sonata shoppers is to buy new, or buy a 2010. For the record, Hyundai didn't hang customers out to dry. There was a recall campaign. If you really want a used Sonata, do your homework and ensure you have some sort of warranty coverage on the engine.

2015-2010 Chevy Malibu
My family owned two Malibius when I was a kid and I still love the Chevelle and Malibu cars from the late '60s and early '70s. When we looked at the data for the Malibus from 2015 to 2010 we were happy to see that the car had no major issues reported at CarComplaints in any of those model years. In fact, the 2010 Malibu earns the "Seal of Pretty Good" stamp from the site.

Consumer Reports has reliability data from owners that give the Malibu a 4/5 rating in years 2015 and 2012. Other years have some lower ratings. What is clear from our research, is that the Chevy Malibu is one of the most reliable cars in this comparison. Should you choose it over a Toyota Camry based on this analysis? That is up to you.

Related Story: Shopping For a Used Toyota Camry - Here's The Year and Color To Avoid At All Costs

The Toyota Camry is a very reliable car in a segment defined by value for the dollar. We are not offering this short overview as a "buy this not that" guide. Rather, take it as a start in your research. Always ensure any vehicle you buy is cleared of any open recalls, and have your trusted mechanic take a look before you commit. If at all possible, buy one with a Certified Pre-Owned warranty from the manufacturer.

John Goreham is a life-long car nut and recovering engineer. John's focus areas are technology, safety, and green vehicles. In the 1990s, he was part of a team that built a solar-electric vehicle from scratch. His was the role of battery thermal control designer. For 20 years he applied his engineering and sales talents in the high tech world and published numerous articles in technical journals such as Chemical Processing Magazine. In 2008 he retired from that career and dedicated himself to chasing his dream of being an auto writer. In addition to Torque News, John's work has appeared in print in dozens of American newspapers and he provides reviews to many vehicle shopping sites. You can follow John on Twitter, and view his credentials at Linkedin.