The calculation of mean time between failures is very important in reliability life data analysis. For different distributions, the values of mean time between failures are always different. The two-parameter Weibull distribution is widely used in reliability engineering. However, some distributions may offer a better fit of data. This paper aims to develop an algorithm for determining the best-fitted distribution of a liquid crystal display panel based on the field return data. The two-parameter and three-parameter Weibull distributions and other distributions such as the Burr XII distribution, the Pareto distribution and the Log-logistic distribution are compared to provide a better characterization of the life data which is based on the maximum value of all log-likelihood functions. We also provide a goodness-of-fit test for the best-fitted distribution. It is recommended that the Burr XII distribution could be used to characterize the reliability life of a liquid crystal display panel. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.