By David Thome Special to ADAMM Published Feb 05, 2021 at 5:01 PM

This content is presented in partnership with ADAMM.

Cars have been getting more dependable every year for a long time now, so it’s no surprise that 11 automakers claimed top honors in the 20 classes of used vehicles listed by research firm JD Power and Associates.

The most recent rankings (done late in 2020) only consider vehicles made in 2017 and measure dependability based on the number of problems over the past 12 months reported by more than 80,000 owners. The cars with the fewest problems have the highest rankings.

Industry analysts argue over whether Power’s rankings really matter, but the company notes that since leases commonly run for three years, its three-year study offers insight into how dependable a large number of low-mileage used vehicles currently on the lots are likely to be.

Chevrolet and Toyota had three first-place finishers. For Chevy, it was the Tahoe, Equinox and Silverado 2500 HD pickup. For Toyota, it was the 4Runner, Sienna and Avalon.

Four companies had two top models – Buick Encore and Regal, Nissan Leaf and Frontier, Ford Mustang and F-150 pickup, and Lexus ES and GX. The Mercedes Benz GLA, Honda Fit, Porsche Macan, BMW 2 Series, Genesis G-80 and Mazda Miata MX-5 RF also led their classes.

Ross Thimm, general sales manager for Holz Chevrolet in Hales Corners, says that car companies and dealerships tout the JD Power rankings because they’re based on the experience of actual owners.

“Chevy has been running those ‘real people’ commercials on TV for a while,” he says. “Reliability is always a strong consideration for people who are looking to buy pre-owned.”

Other research firms, publications and websites have their own standards, so it’s a good idea to look around to see whether Power and other sources match up. For example, the 2017 Encore had the best quality rating, while the Kia Niro had the best “driver experience” score in the class and the Jeep Renegade the highest resale value. Adding up all three categories, though, gave the win to Encore.

Consumer Reports also corroborates Power’s ranking by saying, “The diminutive 2017 Buick Encore embodies many of the elements that Buick, a brand known for building large luxury sedans, has traditionally stood for, including a hushed cabin, near-luxury trim and a long list of upscale features.”

“Encores are very popular,” says John Doyle, business development rep for Mike Juneau’s Brookfield Buick GMC. “They fit a lot of people’s needs. Number one, they’re reliable, but they also get good gas mileage, put the driver up high, which lot of people like, and there’s an all-wheel drive option, which is important to a lot of people around here.”

He said young couples with no kids and empty-nesters who “don’t need a really big vehicle anymore” are among the Encore’s biggest fans.

The fact that lots of customers return leased Encores only to drive away in new ones also bolsters Power’s judgment, he says.

There’s literally a one-to-one correlation between what Power and US News has to say about the 2017 Tahoe as a used vehicle. The magazine puts it at the top of its list of “Affordable Large SUVs,” saying that “the 2017 Tahoe is a great pick. It rates highly for reliability, and its three-row seating and roomy cargo space make it a practical family hauler.”

US News says it bases its decisions on how vehicles fare in reviews. In the 2017 Tahoe’s case, 21 reviews were considered.

You can easily find JD Power’s ranking for all 2017 vehicles by searching the web. The company also provides links to previous years’ rankings. Finding reviews from other sources is easy, too, if you enter search terms such as “Is the 2017 Tahoe a good used car to buy” or “best used cars 2020.”

It’s important to do extra homework if you’re looking for a used vehicle this year because interruptions in the manufacturing of 2020 models have created some unusual conditions in the used vehicle market.

For example, Thimm says that while the number of new and used variations of all Silverados had been low for months, supplies are now approaching near-normal levels. Manufacturer incentives like rebates and low-interest and long-term financing have made it so some buyers can to get out of leases early to step up to new models, but “they sell as soon as we get them in.”

On the other hand, he says that a more spacious redesign – which has met with great enthusiasm – has brought a large number of used Tahoes onto the lots as customers trade in older models to get the new one.