" For me, cost is the #1 factor after interior dimensions. And I figure for cost, reliability is the biggest factor. Am I wrong? "
Well . . .
Who cares whether Car A gets 2mpg better than Car B and Car A costs $30 less per month, if Car A is a much bigger risk to cost me $4,000 in repairs? "
Kind of . . .
Reliability surveys like the ones found in consumer magazines are designed to “magnify” any perceived differences in reliability. Actually, the manufacturers have all become quite close in across the make reliability. The domestic badged cars continue to close the very small (insignificant ? ) gap each year.
I’d say that each manufacturer has models that are more reliable than other models by that manufacturer and a make that rates lower averall could have models that have proven reliability over some cars by a manufacturer that rates higher overall.
" I know very little about cars . . . "
I like to think that I know a thing or two. I have 7 cars in my driveway and basically repair and maintain them all. The wouldn’t all be domestic cars (GM and Chrysler) if I thought they were not reliable and expensive to own. I’ve worked at Asian and European car dealers and have owned both products.
That brings up another point - maintenance. Reliability and maintenance both have costs attached to them and they are not the same thing. Many Asian and European cars can require more expensive maintenance than many domestic cars.
Then there’s dealer service and parts support and aftermarket parts and independent mechanic support. You need to see if you have good support in your location in these departments.
Bottom line - If I was 6’5" and large, I’d shop for a car that fit and was safe to drive first and then check reliability problem areas and compare maintenance costs.
Find a car and then post your choice or two here and we’ll let you know what to expect.
Really, if you lease then the car will probably be covered by warranty and reliability differences, for the most part, won’t won’t make a hill of beans worth significance. You may be only paying for little or no maintenance and no repairs. Be sure to compare warranty information.
Go shopping. Post candidates here. Consider renting a car for a day or two when you find a likely candidate. Check insurance costs with your insurance agent prior to lease/purchase and compare fuel economy.
How many miles will you drive per year ?