Is The McLaren 720s Reliable? (2020 Update)


Supercars have become more accessible to us, the smelly general public in the last 10 years or so. I remember when I was growing up – seeing a Ferrari or a Lambo on the road occurred about as frequently as a Saturday night when I pulled – literally never. Seeing one in public was incredibly rare and the day a Countach stopped next to me to ask directions was a day that actually set my life in a different direction.

A big reason why we saw very few expensive cars on the road was simply because of the number of supercars that their manufactures produced. Another reason is that more people these days have access to the type of money needed to actually buy one – finance options are far more accessible to the masses than they were back then.

But we, the people of today are different from the people of yesteryear. We expect a different standard from the things that we buy and that includes supercars. If your Ferrari or Lotus broke down back then, you would just put it down to that whole ‘supercar experience’ and only a certain few people would end up owning them anyway – it didn’t really matter. These days people expect these supercars to actually work – which considering many components are still put together by hand, can be a challenge.

It is considered unacceptable for supercars to be unreliable and if they don’t do what you want them to do when you want them to do it then the internet forums become awash with stories of despair as to how their supercar’s windscreen washer failed to work on that one Sunday afternoon and they were refusing to buy another car from the manufacturer ever again!

So, we come to the McLaren 720s – a car that has a technical specification of a machine that would be at home on a distant planet where it’s illegal to go slower than a photon. A really fast photon. But none of that technical specification is of importance these days if it doesn’t work how you expect.

Is the McLaren 720s reliable? In my opinion, the McLaren 720s is as reliable as the majority of high-performance supercars these days. However, the high warranty costs and interest on social media when things go wrong can easily paint a different picture.

McLaren 720s Overview

Unless you’ve been living under a rather large rock for the last few years you will be familiar with who McLaren are. If you’re aware who McLaren are then you will have probably already heard of the 720s. Often, when I’m talking to someone about this car the first thing they say is, “Oh, is that the one with the dashboard that moves up and down?”. Yes – that’s the one.

To highlight the main memorable components of the McLaren 720s:

  • Built by McLaren Automotive, a British company based in Surrey. Perhaps they are better known for their Formula 1 history that actually dates back to the 1960s.
  • Production started in 2017 and the model is available in both Coupe and Spider configurations.
  • Performance is a blistering 0-60 mph in just 2.9 seconds which is quicker than you can say ‘it has a top speed of 212 mph’. This is achieved by a 4 liter, 710 hp (720 PS) engine.
  • The chassis is made of carbon fiber and makes it somewhat lighter (18kg) than the P1!
  • Combined fuel economy of 26.4 mpg – but err, who cares?

So, anyway – back to the dashboard. When you select track mode the dashboard futuristically folds down so you can concentrate more on the road in front of you.

Is The McLaren 720s Reliable?
McLaren 720S

Of course, 99.9% of owners don’t use it for when they go on track as 99.9% owners never see a track outside of their bedroom when they’re playing sim racing on their Xbox or PS4. When do they use it? They use the magic future-dash when they are showing off to their friends. And who can blame them? I’d be doing it all the time if only I had the money. And some friends.

What do we mean by ‘reliable’?

So, back to the point of this article – which was to discuss whether the McLaren 720s should be regarded as ‘reliable’. Well, many people have many different meanings for this word so I thought it only fair that I shared what I considered to be the meaning. I wouldn’t want to upset anyone now, would I?

To be able to properly answer this, we’re going to need to define what exactly we mean by ‘unreliable’. Although there are many older cars we could label as unreliable, for instance, some of the earlier supercars – for a modern supercar to be put into this category by the masses could have a serious reputational impact on the manufacturer.

Reputation to any company these days is naturally important and bad news travels far and quickly. In this genre what can take years and years to build can be potentially lost with a single recall. As an example, Volkswagen is (arguably) still recovering from their emissions scandal – and this happened way back in 2015.

What we are looking for is:

  • Any known manufacturing defects that have required recalls and have also negatively affected the reliability of the car for its owner.
  • Any well-known problems that are (or have been) in the public domain (and can be easily found on social media) but as yet have not been acknowledged or addressed publicly by the manufacturer.
  • Problems with sourcing (what should be) easy-to-find components for the car, due to either lack of availability or the cost being adversely prohibitive for the owner.

So, in summary, what we are trying to highlight to you are issues that could possibly impact you during your ownership financially or otherwise. Let me give you an example. If we take some models of the Porsche 986 Boxster, they are well known on social media (and other car-based sites) for Intermediate Shaft Bearing failures (which is also known as IMS issues).

Is The McLaren 720s Reliable?

If you were unfortunate enough to have your Porsche Boxster develop this problem, there is a chance it could destroy the engine and you’d be looking at a rather expensive replacement (possibly around $20k). But, this particular problem doesn’t make the car unreliable. It’s a known issue with a known fix – so the Porsche Boxster isn’t an unreliable car because of this (in fact, it’s not an unreliable car at all)

To provide an example of an unreliable car could be with problems relating to it not always starting when cold or for another issue to occur so often you would never really know if you’re going to make it home after a long drive! It’s a pretty extreme example for a car these days, but you get the picture.

What are the reported McLaren 720s problems?

If you frequent the online motoring forums often, like myself, you may notice that there is a lot more ‘noise’ around McLarens that many other (if not all) supercars. I find it difficult to understand exactly why this is.

The McLaren 720s is (arguably) no less (or no more) reliable than any other McLaren. Yes, there has been a recallOpens in a new tab. but many manufactures have recalls at some point during production. Indeed, my 2013 Lamborghini Gallardo had one back in 2019.

Some examples certainly did have larger panel gaps than you would expect for such a price-point, even if they are hand-made. Others have had problems with the paint over time. There have been reports of other issues also and there’s certainly enough noise to appreciate that Quality Assurance could be improved.

McLaren is still a relatively new motorcar company and are still finding their way – but is this a good enough excuse when you’re paying several hundred thousand dollars? In the vast majority of cases, these problems have been dealt with by McLaren or the McLaren garage to the owner’s satisfaction. To me, it seems like when there is a problem with one of these cars, for whatever reason, it gets a lot of attention.

The above problems do emphasize one thing about McLaren ownership though that in my experience is different from owning an Aston Martin, Ferrari, Lambo, etc. You should absolutely have a warranty. There will be some people who will argue that with a supercar you should have one anyway but that’s really not the case – most people don’t as they feel they either don’t need to or there is such a good independent network who could repair your car relatively cheaply, they didn’t need to.

We’ll discuss this warranty situation below but it’s certainly a factor when looking at buying one of these astonishingly quick cars.

How much will the McLaren 720s cost you per year?

We’re going to put the purchase price and depreciation losses to one side here as they are too fluid and may not even be accurate by the time I finish this article and hit the publish button!

What we can talk about though is servicing. You will need to get your 720s serviced every 12 months or 10k miles, whatever comes first (so more than likely the former!).

For a service, you will need to budget between $1,500 and $3,000 typically per year. This isn’t far from the cost of most supercar servicing although perhaps it’s veering to the higher end of that.

On top of this, you will need to have the warranty – which is a sizable lump on top, let’s look at that now.

McLaren’s and warranties

Firstly, McLaren provides a 3 year, comprehensive unlimited mileage warranty so if you were considering purchasing a relatively new McLaren 720s you may not need to worry about this.

However, if you’re going to be owning an example older than this then it’s going to cost you somewhere between $5,000 and $7,000 per year – possibly more. This, you don’t need me telling you, is a lot of money.

In fact, it’s such a lot of money that it makes you question why. Does McLaren expect a lot of problems? It really is a problem for many people and I know I was looking into McLaren ownership at one point until I heard about the warranty costs.

As I mentioned earlier, there isn’t a good independent network for these cars so if you need it fixed, you’re going to probably have to go to McLaren. In my opinion, they need to show more faith in their models by offering something like what Ferrari does – a 7-year warranty.

Failing that, these warranty costs need to go down. It’s a big reason (again, in my opinion) why you see significant depreciation on these models. When they get older than three years you have to add this warranty cost to the yearly running costs – which puts new buyers off buying them!

Conclusion – is the McLaren 720s reliable?

So, reviewing my thoughts on this subject I’m not sure I’ve answered it as succinctly as I’d liked. If McLaren increased the manufacturer’s warranty from 3 years and offering cheaper yearly warranties would certainly help this perception.

But then, it’s not as straight forward as that as Lamborghini (for instance) warranties can be as high and are offered for just as long! So, what exactly is the problem? Personally, I think it could be down to the fact that they don’t have an independent network to give the owners other options for repair as yet – but that’s just my opinion.

The McLaren 720s though is a reliable car – no less reliable than anything else of this caliber, which it has to be said – doesn’t include a lot of cars.

If you are thinking whether a McLaren can be a daily driver then check out the article!

Finally, if you are wondering whether you can afford a supercar then check out my article. Many people are surprised to learn that after looking at the numbers they can actually buy one for themselves!

Matt Pettitt

Since I've been able to walk I think I've had a preference to be sitting between four wheels instead of standing on my two legs! I've owned many different cars in my life. A 1964 purple Beach Buggy, 1967 VW Baja Bug, 1973 V8 Land Rover, an S1 Lotus Elise, an S2 Lotus Elise and an S2 Lotus Elise Sport 190. A Porsche Boxster 3.5S and now a Lamborghini Gallardo. I've learned a lot in this time and this site is my outlet to share everything I know about my favorite subject...SUPERCARS!

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