It seems like a question as old as time, who makes the better automobile, Honda or Toyota? For decades, the two Japanese auto manufacturers have been dominating the U.S. market with their ultra-reliable, high-quality, and low-cost automobiles. Among consumers, they are widely known as two of the most dependable brands on the market, and it is for very good reason. Both Honda and Toyota have built their reputations over years of hard work and development. But which is truly the better brand for reliability? Some will tell you Honda, while others swear by Toyota, and today we’re gonna figure it out. Honda vs Toyota reliability, which is truly the best?
Make sure to check out our other Toyota and Honda content. For Honda, this includes our Best Honda Engines of All Time, 5 Best Honda Accord Mods, Honda B16 vs B18 Engine Guide, and Honda K24 Turbo Upgrade Guide. For Toyota, we have the Best Toyota Engines of All Time, Toyota’s reliability history, Ultimate Toyota 3S-GTE Upgrades, Best and Worst Years for Tacoma Trucks, and our 1GZ-FE V12 guide.
Honda vs Toyota Reliability, The History
Honda and Toyota might be two of the biggest and most successful Japanese auto manufacturers today. However, they had some very different ways of getting there. Toyota got their start back in the late-19th century, when family patriarch Sakichi Toyoda started building hand looms. Later, in the 1930s, he switched to developing automobiles and engines. He soon conceived the Toyoda Motor Company, which later changed its name to Toyota. It was in the 1950s that Toyota first started selling automobiles on the U.S. market.
In contrast, Honda’s history dates back to the 1930s, when founder Soichiro Honda began making piston rings for, of all people, the Toyoda Motor Company. However, somewhat ironically now, his quality was not up to par and Toyoda stopped working with him shortly after. By the 1940s, however, Honda had recovered. In 1948, he founded the Honda Motor Company, originally making bicycles with auxiliary engines. They soon began making motorcycles, and in the 1960s they ventured into the automobile market. Honda had already come stateside in 1959, making a big name for themselves on the American market.
By the 1980s, both Honda and Toyota were among the most popular and consistent car brands among Americans. Not widely known for their performance or luxury in terms of production cars, they both made a name for themselves by producing inexpensive and fuel-efficient motors that would last forever and were cheap to operate. Behind the scenes, their racing pedigrees gave them ample time to test out new concepts, some of which would eventually make their way on major roadways.
Today, Honda and Toyota always rank at the top of dependability and trustworthiness scales, and they are practically unmatched with their brand loyalty and allegiance.
Honda vs Toyota: Reliability
Both Honda vs Toyota market their vehicles as being very capable and durable, and it’s not just talk. Hondas and Toyotas have a reputation among mechanics pretty much everywhere for being built to last. That’s not to say that they have no problems and have never had any duds, but for the most part when you buy a Honda or a Toyota you can typically depend on at least a few things, including it to last 250,000+ miles with proper maintenance, cheap operating costs, good fuel efficiency, and an economic sticker price.
But how exactly have Honda vs Toyota achieved such reputations?
Toyota’s Secret to Reliability
For Toyota, as part of Toyota’s history of reliability, they have a very important manufacturing and creation process they call the Toyota Production System or TPS. The TPS consists of 15 different pillars that all help them streamline and improve every part of the building process. These range from “Andon,” which means they can bring production to a stop to highlight potential problems. To “Poka-Yoke,” which refers to the failsafe devices they have that help mistake-proof the process.
In addition to TPS, Toyota also has three major reasons for maintaining such a high level of proficiency and dependability: Their cars and engines are underpowered but overengineered, they promote practicality over performance, and they have an absolute wealth of experience in several different automotive and technological facets.
As far as being underpowered but overengineered, it’s pretty common knowledge that Toyota builds their engines to be capable of way more performance than they give them. For example, most of their engines only make around 200-250 horsepower. However, most of these same engines can easily handle 300+ horsepower given their stout internals, they are just horribly detuned from the factory. Toyota does that so they will last forever without needing a rebuild, and it seems to work pretty well.
In the same vein, they also clearly focus on practicality over performance. Most of their models are economy or mid-tier offerings, and they really save most high-end marketing for the luxury Lexus brand. When you buy a Toyota you know what you are getting, something functional, predictable, and pragmatic.
Toyota has been building cars for nearly a century, and they definitely know what works and what doesn’t by now. They have dominated the worldwide car industry for decades and show no signs of slowing down.
Honda’s Secret to Reliability
Honda’s path to reliability was much different than Toyota’s, but it was not any less effective. While Honda does not have a fancy pillared TPS system like Toyota does, they do have their own process that actually incorporates some of the same concepts. These include “Kaizen,” which means continuous improvement or good change. Kaizen refers to the process of Honda employees always giving feedback to help make sure the system functions as efficiently as possible. They also utilize JIT, or Just-in-Time, meaning everything is built on-time and per order, reducing waste and saving money.
Additionally, Honda has a hybrid production line that has both robotic machinery and humans, which is also similar to Toyota. Humans are able to perform quality control and inspection checks to make sure the robotics are performing optimally. If a Honda employee notices something is going south, or likewise that there is room for improvement, they can stop the machine until a solution is discovered and implemented. This again helps to reduce unnecessary waste and save money.
Honda also has a very extensive motorsports history, which they have used as a proving ground of sorts for many of their products. From building early rally cars to competing in Formula 1, Honda has long been a big name in auto racing. Some of the suspension and engine components they have used to win them racing championships have later found their way into passenger cars that now haul families to and from the grocery store.
Which is More Reliable?
So, Honda vs Toyota, which is truly the more reliable manufacturer? While it’s certainly close, most people would give the edge to Toyota. Toyota has been building cars a little bit longer, and they were the first Asian car manufacturer to truly make it big stateside. As a result, they still rank the highest today among consumers for the most reliable brand.
Part of this is brand loyalty, as many buyers purchased a Toyota decades ago and have stayed with them for new cars, but it’s hard to argue with the results. In 2021, Toyota became the number one selling auto manufacturer for the U.S. market, making more than 2.3 million vehicles (according to CNBC). This was a monumental accomplishment, and really shows just how popular they are. Honda sold less than half the amount Toyota did in the U.S.
Furthermore, just looking at Car and Driver’s list of the best selling cars for 2022, it’s easy to see why Toyota rates so high. They have two cars in the top five, three in the top 10, and five in the top 20. In contrast, Honda has one in the top 10 and only two in the top 25, total. It’s very close, but we have to give Toyota the edge on this one.
Honda vs Toyota: Reliability, Summary
Overall, Honda and Toyota are two of the most reliable brands in the world. They ooze dependability and durability, and there is a reason they are two of the biggest selling brands around the world. Yet, of the two, we would have to say that Toyota is just a little bit higher on the reliability scale. They have been building cars for longer, build a lot more every year, and in general seem to rate higher for most consumers. That’s not to say that Honda is bad, but they just can’t compete with Toyota’s reputation and standing.
Honda vs Toyota: Reliability, FAQ
In terms of Honda vs Toyota, we would have to say that Toyota is just a little bit higher on the reliability scale. They have been building cars for longer, build a lot more every year, and in general seem to rate higher for most consumers. That’s not to say that Honda is bad, but they just can’t compete with Toyota’s reputation and standing.
Toyota is more reliable than Honda because they build more cars and have been doing so for longer. Toyota easily builds more than double the cars Honda does for the American market, and they are much more popular. In 2021, Toyota became the top selling auto manufacturer for the U.S. market, showing their popularity.