A car that is easy to maintain is often near the top of many car buyers' wishlists.
Laypeople can no longer fix modern cars with just a wrench and a screwdriver like in the good old days.
The advent of new technology and the evolution of the automobile has made working on modern cars extremely difficult to work on.
Even relatively simple jobs such as spark plug changes can be made difficult because the automakers have to jam complex modern components under the hood.
For a novice interested in cars or a DIY guy/gal who likes to do things themselves, it's unlikely to have the resources (shop/tools/expertise) to fix or work on a modern vehicle properly.
On the other hand, as a daily driver, most people want some modern conveniences such as fuel injection and modern comforts and safety.
The truth is that cars get easier to work on yourself the further back you go in time.
The caveat is if you go too far back, you end up with another problem... compromised structural components and seized bolts due to rust.
Therefore, you should thoroughly inspect any vehicle, either by yourself or by a competent mechanic, before you buy it.
With this in mind, we created a list of vehicles that, although well enough advanced for their time, are pretty simple by today's standards, and laypeople can do everything from spark plug changes to complete engine rebuilds at home in the garage.
Here is a list of the most accessible cars to work on that balance modernity and ease. We have tried to include a variety of vehicle types and classes.
Jeep Wrangler YJ (1987-1995) - Easiest SUV To Work On Yourself
The Jeep Wrangler takes home our recommendation as the easiest SUV to work on yourself.
It is arguably the most well-known off-road vehicle on the market and one of the easiest to work on.
Being a 4x4 adds some complexity and extra parts, but there are many resources online, and the relatively high lift can make things easier when crawling underneath the vehicle.
All Wrangler models have a separate body and frame, rigid live axles (both front and rear), flared fenders, a fold-flat windshield, and can be driven without doors.
With very few exceptions, they also all have part-time four-wheel drive, with high and low heating and removable hard and soft tops.
Parts for the Jeep YJ are cheap and plentiful. As well, there is a massive aftermarket supply chain for off-road enthusiasts.
Jeep added Fuel Injection in 1991, and Jeep added anti-lock brakes in 1993.
In 1994 Jeep moved the slave cylinder on the manual transmissions outside of the transmission's bell housing to allow easier replacement.
Jeep Wranglers have a well-earned reputation of having a low depreciation rate and lasting a long time due to their ruggedness.
Ford F-Series (1992-1997) F-150 - Easiest Truck To Work On Yourself
The Ford F-150, model years 1992 -1997, gets our vote as the easiest truck to work on yourself.
The Ford F-Series is the second all-time in sales behind the Toyota Corolla.
For the ninth generation of the venerable F-Series styling, changes to the lines of the hood, front fenders, and grill were rounded off in the interest of aerodynamics. However, it still retains that classic look compared to more modern pickup trucks.
The F-150s were available in many configurations, from basic single cab models to the XLT extended cabs with chrome and plush seating.
The ninth-generation F-150 was available with three engine options: 4.9L (300 ci) I6, 5.0L (302 ci) V8, or 5.8L (351 ci) V8.
Like other vehicles of its time, the truck still retains simplicity while also having the benefits of fuel injection.
Many are still in relatively good shape, and parts are readily available - both OEM and After-Market.
The great thing about working on an older F-150 such as this model is the amount of space.
The engine compartment has loads of room to change starters, alternators, belts, etc.
You may not even need a jack to work if you have to crawl underneath!
Chevrolet Camaro Third Generation (1982 - 1992) - Easiest Sports Car To Work On Yourself
The Chevy Camaro, model years 1982 - 1992, gets the nod as the easiest sports car to work on yourself.
Even with the V-8 engine, there is still plenty of room under the hood to move around.
The third-generation Camaro's design was nothing like previous generations. New features included:
- factory fuel injection
- four-speed automatic transmissions
- five-speed manual transmissions
- four-cylinder engines
- hatchback bodies
- the rear window was much larger and more complex thanks to recent advances in car glass design
- the front windshield had a 62-degree angle... the steepest at GM at the time
- rear seat folded to expand the luggage compartment
- improved emissions and catalytic converter added
The '82 Camaro was released in December '81 with a 2.5 L 4-cylinder motor, 2.8 L V6, and a 5.0 L V8. The V8 was available with optional Throttle Body Fuel Injection.
In 1983 the transmissions were upgraded. A Borg-Warner 5-speed manual transmission replaced the 4-speed. A 4-speed automatic with overdrive replaced the 3-speed automatic.
In '85, Chevrolet introduced an IROC-Z model that featured:
- Upgraded suspension
- Lowered ride height
- Upgraded shocks
- Larger diameter sway bars
- Special decal package
- Tuned port injection (from the Corvette)
Over the ensuing years, Jeep made changes to the drivetrain and interior until the 3rd generation Camaro was discontinued in '92.
Like all the vehicles in this list of easy vehicles to work on, parts are readily available - both aftermarket and OEM.
When it comes to reliability and power, you want to choose a TPI version if at all possible.
American RWD sports cars of this era generally have fewer electronics and more power than their Japanese and European counterparts making the Chevy Camaro a good choice if you are looking for an easy car to work on.
Toyota Corolla E110 Eighth Generation (1998 - 2002) Easiest Reliable Car To Work On
Not only is the Corolla easy to work on, but it is arguably the most reliable car on our list.
The Corolla E110 was the eighth generation of cars sold by Toyota under the Corolla nameplate.
In North America, only a 4-door sedan was offered.
A few fundamental changes to the engine increased reliability from the already reliable Corolla engine of the previous generation. These include:
Aluminum engine block and cylinder heads make this generation lighter than its predecessor.
It uses a timing chain instead of a timing belt.
Laser-etched valve guides rather than the old shrink-to-fit valve guides in the predecessor Corolla motor. This prevents oil burning and premature valve guide failure.
- 1998 - 1999 - 1.8 L I4, 16-valve DOHC Fuel Injected, 120 hp
- 2000 - 2002 - 1.8 L I4, 16-valve DOHC Fuel Injected, 125 hp
Transmissions available were 3 and 4-speed automatics or 5-speed manual transmissions.
Toyota Corollas are the all-time most popular vehicle, with 44.1 million units sold since 1966.
Toyota Corollas, in general, are widely thought of by mechanics as the most reliable car available.
There are still many 8th gen Corollas on the road, and parts are cheap and plentiful.
We decided to recommend the 8th generation Corolla because it was the first Corolla with a timing chain rather than a timing belt which saves the owner the headache and costs of timing belt changes.
Note: The Chevrolet Prizm (1998 - 2002), exclusively sold in the USA, is a compact car derived from the Toyota Corolla.
Apart from minor cosmetic details, the Prizm is virtually the same car as the Corolla. Therefore, the Prizm can make a great option if you can't find a used Corolla and can often be bought cheaper.
2000 Chevrolet Prizm - commons.wikimedia.org
Mercury Grand Marquis Third generation (1998-2002)
The Mercury Grand Marquis is an automobile sold by the Mercury division of Ford Motor Company from 1975 to 2011.
From 1979 to its 2011 discontinuation, the Grand Marquis shared the rear-wheel-drive Panther platform with the Lincoln Town Car and the Ford (LTD) Crown Victoria.
A larger sedan with a V-8, the Mercury Grand Marquis may be the most accessible car to work on our list.
The Mercury Grand Marquis shared the same platform as the Ford Crown Victoria and Lincoln Town Car. All three, but the Ford Crown Victoria, were sold in huge numbers as taxis and police cruisers fleet vehicles.
Some of the reasons were their reliability, low cost of maintenance, and ease of repair.
They are known to easily put on half a million miles in the taxi business.
The Mercury Grand Marquis came with a 4.6 L V-8 under the hood but is rear-wheel drive, and due to the size of the car, there is still lots of room under the hood to work.
Finding parts is easy, and they are very inexpensive.
One of the features that every practical car buyer looks for when car shopping is the ease of servicing and maintenance.
Take the time to research before making your purchase, and you will save time, money, and headaches.
You don't need to make your life harder than it needs to be by picking a vehicle that is hard to work on and that drains your money and patience.