The 10 Best Selling Cars of 2021

With the auto industry still in recovery, some once-top models slipped down or off the list as desperate shoppers took what they could get.

Nick Kurczewski | 
Mar 2, 2022 | 5 min read

Ford

A microchip shortage and ongoing pandemic made for a less-than-stellar year for U.S. car sales in 2021. Granted, things improved over 2020 when overall sales dipped by more than 2.5 million compared with the year prior. But the industry still has a long road to recovery. For the best selling cars of 2021, you’ll notice a few models moved up or down on the list, while others—the Toyota Tacoma (formerly 10th), GMC Sierra (ninth), and Chevrolet Equinox (seventh)—dropped off entirely. To see what took their place, read on.

Honda

10) Honda Civic

263,787 Sold | Up 1.0 Percent Compared With 2020

Though down two spots from 2020’s list, the Civic continues to impress shoppers enough to make it the best selling compact car of the year, nudging out rivals like the Toyota Corolla, Kia Forte, and Hyundai Elantra. It’s not hard to see why. Available as both a sedan and hatchback, this Honda is versatile, affordable, great on gas, and agile in city traffic.

Toyota

9) Toyota Highlander

264,128 Sold | Up 24.4 Percent

The Highlander three-row midsize SUV saw a sharp rise in sales for the 2021 model year and moved up several spots to join the top 10, despite receiving no major updates. We suspect Toyota’s stockpile of semiconductors had something to do with it. Until September, the Japanese automaker, unlike other manufacturers, had enough chips to maintain relatively stable production, which meant it had vehicles on the lot when others didn’t. The numbers bear this out, with the Highlander seeing record sales months earlier in the year. Another reason for the uptick could be that it’s simply a good vehicle: The SUV’s comfort, space, and choice of a smooth 295 hp V6 or 243 hp hybrid powertrain must have struck a chord with shoppers. A classy cabin and strong safety scores likely helped bolster the Highlander’s résumé too.

Christian Wardlaw

8) Jeep Grand Cherokee

264,444 Sold | Up 26.1 Percent

Breaking into the top ten best selling vehicles in 2021, Jeep’s Grand Cherokee gained a long-wheelbase model called the L, which likely attracted new buyers. But even without that addition, we can see why the GC appeals to the masses, as Jeep offers a model to suit pretty much every way of life. Need a family-friendly road-trip machine with a 293 hp V6? An outdoorsy, go-anywhere ute with plenty of ground clearance and a two-speed transfer case? A luxurious SUV with three rows of seats and enough towing capacity to tug the boat up north? This lineup has you covered. Even if you want a tire-smoking performance vehicle with a 707 hp Hellcat V8 nestled under the hood, there’s a Grand Cherokee for you.

Christian Wardlaw

7) Nissan Rogue

285,602 Sold | Up 25.3 Percent

Another newbie to the top 10, the Rogue is a well-rounded crossover that delivers an upscale cabin, roomy cargo bay, and fuel-efficient 181 hp four-cylinder engine. Nissan improved the crossover in just about every way for 2021, which might explain some of its surging popularity with SUV shoppers. It looks more handsome, makes more power, and offers more features than before.

Christian Wardlaw

6) Toyota Camry

313,795 Sold | Up 6.6 Percent

A regular on the best selling list, the Camry has a reputation for delivering trouble-free driving and long-term value. It also helps that Toyota fared better in the chip shortage than other automakers and could readily produce this midsize sedan for customers. What makes the Camry stand out from rivals such as the Honda Accord and Hyundai Sonata? Variety. Toyota offers customers a hybrid powertrain, a four- or six-cylinder, and front- or all-wheel drive—that’s in addition to a standard safety suite and desirable features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Honda

5) Honda CR-V

361,271 Sold | Up 8.3 Percent

The CR-V remained one of the best selling cars of 2021 thanks to its agility, roomy interior, and excellent fuel economy, returning 28 mpg in city driving and 34 mpg on the highway in front-drive form, per the EPA. Adding all-wheel drive brings those numbers down by only a point or two, and the hybrid model manages an impressive 40 mpg in the city. The CR-V also has one of the roomiest cargo holds in the compact-crossover segment, with 39 cu.-ft. of space behind the rear seat.

Toyota

4) Toyota RAV4

407,739 Sold | Down 5.3 Percent

While the RAV4 experienced a slight decline in sales, it remained the best selling SUV in America by a wide margin, likely due to its size—America loves compact crossovers—and Toyota’s solid reputation for long-lasting products. Like other models in its class, the RAV4 provides plenty of space for passengers, abundant safety features, and standard tech touches like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a Wi-Fi hotspot. For many car shoppers, these features are as important as what’s under the hood, if not more so.

Chevrolet

3) Chevrolet Silverado (Light- and Heavy-Duty)

519,774 Sold | Down 11.4 Percent

The Equinox wasn’t the only Chevy to see sales drop. The Silverado remains a rugged and dependable workhorse that appeals to many people, but the bow-tie brand struggled to produce completed trucks without enough semiconductor chips—even having to shut down the assembly line at times. With a lack of trucks on dealership lots, many buyers had to look elsewhere.

Christian Wardlaw

2) Ram Pickup (Light- and Heavy-Duty)

569,388 Sold | Up 1.0 Percent

Ram unseated Chevrolet for the number-two spot, and to its credit, the lineup is full of great trucks with numerous options to suit every need, including premium models that put some luxury-brand crossovers and SUVs to shame. As the market stabilizes and the chip shortage becomes less of an issue, though, it will be interesting to see if Ram can hold this position, particularly considering that Chevy sold about 17,000 more Silverados in 2020 than Ram sold 1500s, 2500s, and 3500s this year.

Ford

1) Ford F-Series (Light- and Heavy-Duty)

726,004 Sold | Down 7.8 Percent

The F-Series continues its four-decade reign as the best selling truck line in the U.S. despite the semiconductor shortage limiting production last year. Partially completed trucks languished in factory parking lots for months, waiting for chips to power everything from heated and ventilated seats to power windows and surround-view cameras. Supplies arrived midyear, allowing Ford to finally finish thousands of F-Series and move them to dealerships and eager customers.

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