The 11 best-selling cars of all time

31st August 2021
Ethan Jupp

We’ve delved well into the world of subjectives with our lists recently. Some hard numbers should serve as a pallet cleanser, then. Today we’re counting down the best-selling cars of all time.


BMW 3 Series – 16 million

We open with a pair of cars that sit more or less at the same production numbers (for the moment). One is a firm fixture of the modern motoring landscape, the other was the formative machine in the advent of automotive mass production. The former is the BMW 3 Series, the core model of the beloved Bavarian marque that’s spawned coupes, cabriolets, performance variants and everything in between. In its 46-year history, as of now, it’s sold around 16 million examples… and counting.


Ford Model T – 16.5 million

Which is more or less bob on where the Ford Model T got to. Obviously, the Model T can’t put any new chassis to its numbers. The 3 Series will eventually overtake it but that won’t take away any of its incredible production accolades. It was the first car to reach one, five, 10 and 15 million units sold, in its 1908-1927 production run. And, fun fact, in 1916, 55 per cent of all car on the road in the entire world were Model Ts. Blimey…


Ford Fiesta – 16.5 million

It should come as no surprise that the Blue Oval features prominently on this list. It’s one of the great proprietors of cars for the masses, doing so for generations and across the world. The Ford Fiesta for instance, is a model that couldn’t be further removed from its family ties in the New World. A darling of the European market, in its 45 years on sale its sold well over 16 million units and counting rapidly. The Fiesta occupies a continuous spot on UK and European best-seller lists year after year.


Lada ‘Classic’ – 17.750 million

In its many guises the Fiat 126-based Lada Classic served Russia, its satellite states and indeed many areas of the western world, delivering the state-run company a spot on the best-sellers list. Around 17.75 million (some say that figure is much higher) were sold in its run of 42 years, going largely unchanged in that time. That number doesn’t include the 126 or other badge-engineered cars sold in the West, either…


Opel/Vauxhall Corsa – over 18 million

Surprising as it might be, the Corsa actually outdoes is chief rival, in spite of arriving to market six years later. In its 39 years on sale around 18,000,000 Corsas in various guises and under various badges have been sold the world over and counting too. It continues to be a core seller for the company today.


Volkswagen Beetle – over 21 million

We’re getting into the big leagues now. With over 21 million sales, the original People’s car was also the first to surpass 20 million units sold, only being overtaken as the global best-seller in the late 1990s. A relic of a fallen dictatorship the Beetle might have been but its mass appeal is clearly inarguable.


Volkswagen Passat – over 23 million

The Beetle is far from the last VW to appear on this list of big sellers too. Next up we have the Passat. Since its introduction in 1973 around 23 million of Volkswagen’s family saloon-come-repmobile have been built and sold. In spite of all that time on sale, it wasn’t really until the badge engineering of the 1990s that the Passat came on full song as a seller.


Honda Civic – over 24 million

Pre-dating even the Volkswagen Golf, the Honda Civic has time and a consistent global presence on its side. In its near 50-year stint on sale, the Civic has amassed for Honda upwards of 24 million sales worldwide. To think, that prior to its launch, Honda were very close to shutting up shop on the four-wheeled operation altogether, in order to concentrate on its bikes…


Volkswagen Golf – over 35 million

The difficult second album for the people’s car? Not a bit of it. Now into its eighth generation, the Golf is as iconic as the Mini or the Fiat 500, achieving that status with almost a two-decade deficit too. Add to that that the Golf is the third best-selling car of all time, with 35 million units shifted. Perhaps it speaks to Volkswagen’s success elsewhere that the Golf only got best-seller status for Volkswagen in 2002...


Ford F-Series – over 41 million

We’re getting a bit vague in terms of lineage here and indeed the definition of the car. But yes, the Ford F-Series pickups, beginning in 1948 and still going today with the F150, are the second most popular car sold in history. Being America’s best-selling truck for over 43 years, it’s no wonder the F Series has amassed 41 million sales in its extended life.


Toyota Corolla – over 50 million

Even the backbone of the USA couldn’t topple the Japanese industrial leviathan, though. It is of course the Toyota Corolla, in its various iterations, that’s amassed over 50 million units as of 2021. The white goods car, proving that if nothing else, most buyers just want to get from A to B. It’s this that the Corolla has done so well and so diligently for 55 years (on and off and with various versions).

  • List

  • Volkswagen

  • Beetle

  • Passat

  • Golf

  • Ford

  • Fiesta

  • Model T

  • Lada

  • Vauxhall

  • Corsa

  • BMW

  • 3 Series

  • Honda

  • Civic

  • Toyota

  • Corolla

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