Most Reliable Automatic Transmissions

Updated November 21, 2016

The most popular transmission in the United States for over half a century, automatic transmissions are increasingly standard on all vehicles. General Motors was the first manufacturer to produce fully automatic transmissions, but many others have followed, making for a broader selection of transmission types. Among the many manufacturers out there, General Motors, Ford and Nissan have the reputation for some of the best automatic transmissions available.

General Motors

General Motors produces several types of transmission models which have proven both popular and reliable. Their most widely used automatic transmission is the Turbo-Hydramatic, which comes in several model numbers and is used in a variety of GM vehicles. The TH-350 automatic transmission was first seen in the 1968 Camaro and has a torque rating of 350ft.-lbs. The TH-400, a heavier version of the TH-350, has a torque rating of 400ft.-lbs. Both of these transmissions have proven reliable in Buick, Oldsmobile, Pontiac and Chevrolet vehicles produced by GM. The 4L60 transmission models were first seen in early 1980s Corvettes but have since grown to include the 4L60E model when a new electronic version was produced in the early 1990s. These transmissions are compatible with a variety of GM model vehicles, including different trucks and cars, including its original host, the Corvette.


Ford Motor Company produces two major types of automatic transmissions that have received rave reviews from car experts. The C4 automatic transmission was the automaker's first three-speed automatic transmission and was used in cars, trucks and vans. Seen in vehicles from all divisions of the Ford Motor Company, it was used with four- and six-cylinder engines as well as smaller V-8 engines. While Ford stopped installing them as standard transmissions in 1986, they have continued to be popular due to their efficiency and lightweight construction. Still currently used in Ford vehicles is the automatic overdrive electric (AODE) automatic transmission. This transmission boasts programmed gear transitioning and seamless shifting. Used in vehicles with small block engines, the AODE is a good choice for safety and longevity.


Nissan's automatic transmissions are included in a wide variety of its vehicles and are manufactured by JATCO Ltd. The Japanese automaker's transmissions have effectively kept pace with changing ideas on performance, fuel efficiency and safety. In 1989, Nissan introduced the JR502E automatic transmission, the first five-speed automatic transmission with electronic control. This new model allowed Nissan to be at the cutting edge of performance capabilities, including acceleration, running speed volume and increased fuel efficiency. Nissan was also one of the first leaders in car manufacturing to begin producing a Continuously Variable Transmission, a hybrid of the automatic transmission, when it launched its first in 1992, later adapting it to 2- and 3-liter engines.

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