By on March 18, 2013
YouTube Preview Image

Forbes recently published an article titled “Cars That Can Last 250,000 Miles (Or More).”

Unfortunately for the author and Forbes, measuring long-term quality of any new or late model is nearly impossible.

Most defects and cost cutting compromises don’t become glaringly obvious until well after the vehicle becomes a common site at the wholesale auto auctions I frequent. That dependable car of yesterday can easily become a rolling pit of the modern day regardless of what seemed to be the reality. 

So, I won’t pretend to know the crystal ball of reliability when it comes to any new car. However older used cars are a panacea of good data from actual owners, and to me that’s the only yardstick that truly matters. 

Every week another 6,000 to 7,000 vehicles get added to our Trade In Quality Index. This week 22 out of the top 25 vehicles in overall mileage fell into one of four categories.

  • Chevy/Ford Truck Or SUV
  • Ford Panther Platform
  • Honda Car
  • Toyota Everything

The other three vehicles that made the Top 25 this week were two Nissan Maximas and 1 Sentra. I do sometimes see a small blip of high mileage Jeep Cherokees and Jeep Grand Cherokees, Ford Tauruses with the Vulcan V6, not to mention a long line of GM vehicles that came with the 3.8 Liter V6 engine. 

Everything else pretty much either makes a brief appearance or two in the list (VW TDI’s, 10+ year old Volvos that have working odometers, pre-1996 Benzes), or is simply never in the running (Jaguar, Land Rover, Audi, SAAB).

What makes a given vehicle last far longer than the norm? Or get curbed at the earliest opportunity? For most of us it comes down to three factors.

1) Ease of repair

2) Overall durability of parts

3) Brand perception

Now normally I would offer everyone here a full drill down of each one and how, let’s say, a 1994 Toyota Camry is infinitely simpler to maintain than a 1994 Mercedes S-Class. Or why a rear-wheel drive Volvo wagon is often seen as worthy of long-term investment, while an older Mitsubishi Galant is often curbed at a far earlier point in time.

But I have the flu. So please, feel free to either support or debunk those three factors. Your Uncle Floyd may have owned a full sized Dodge Van back in the day with a quintillion miles on it. That’s fair. However you may have a different conclusion as to why one model is truly better than another.

Do these three factors reflect why a given vehicle is kept over another? Or am I missing something else in the mix? As Linda Richman would say when she feels a bit tired and vehklempt, “Discuss!”

 

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

103 Comments on “Monday Mileage Champion: Same As It Ever Was… And Will Be…...”


  • avatar
    Verbal

    “Ease of repair” is somewhat synonymous to “cost of repair”. With European makes, parts are expensive, even for simple things. I am not aware of any data comparing between brands the time required to perform similar repairs. How many hours does it take to replace a starter on the ’94 Camry versus on the ’94 Benz?

    • 0 avatar
      stroker49

      American parts are not cheaper, not in Europe! GM wants 3800 USD for a complete Xenon headlamp assembly (Cadillac StS -05), costs 900bucks in the USA. Headlamp for a BMW525 is about 900usd here in Europe.

      • 0 avatar
        vaujot

        Europe/USA is a big difference for these posts. Here in Europe, a 2005 Cadillac is probably as rare as a Ferrari of the same vintage. You’re driving an exotic car and have to live with the obstacles that come with this. Which includes ordering parts from the US yourself if the official dealer network is ripping you off. Meanwhile a used BMW is a highly common vehicle where you probably can rather easily get headlamps at the junkyard if you don’t want to order a new one.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        For that, I would see if there is an American dealership or online vendor that is willing to work with you…

        • 0 avatar
          stroker49

          No problem. I’ve done it several times. I would do that also if I had an European car as the spare parts are half the price in USA also on European cars. If I bought a Panther I would understand it as they where never sold here. But GM are selling new Cadillacs here and are trying to compete with Lexus and BMW etc. The cars are not as bad as the Europeans think so they should do better. But with the attitude and support they have it’s no wonder that people prefere for example Bimmers.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        Ebay, brother. It’s a good way to get German car parts in the US, so I assume it works well the other way around too.

        When I still had my Panther, it was so old that Lincoln dealers didn’t carry certain parts any more. I had to buy a replacement blower motor from Ebay, and it was cheap too.

        Also, with the interwebs, you also have access to junkyards in other countries.

    • 0 avatar
      MR2turbo4evr

      Verbal, I can’t speak for the Mercedes, but a starter change on a ’94 Camry with the 5S-FE 4 cylinder engine should literally only take a few minutes. It’s right in the open as the engine is slightly tilted. So is the alternator and oil filter.

  • avatar
    AlphaWolf

    I cannot get enough of the long term durability articles, well done. One thing I have always wanted answered was the difference between Honda cars and Honda trucks. Is the Honda Pilot and Ridgeline really that bad or is it the minivans that tend to fail early and often?

    • 0 avatar
      Jellodyne

      Pilots and Rigelines haven’t been around long enough and aren’t sold in large enough quantities for there to be that many over 250k. Most “Honda” trucks old enough to be represented in quantity at that mileage were made by Isuzu, and thus have been long scrapped before.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        Ridgeline has been around 8 years. Put 30K miles a year on one and your kissing 250K

        • 0 avatar
          AlphaWolf

          The 2004-2008 Pilot in the smaller body style seems to be the vehicle of choice for busy moms around here. Although I am now seeing the 2013 models quite a bit too. I have to believe with 20k to 30k a year most of those vehicles have at least 100k and they are still going strong. Maybe it is the Isuzu curse that makes people discount them used with high mileage.

          • 0 avatar
            Jeff Weimer

            We have an ’06 Pilot with 90k on it and it seems to hold up pretty well. Gotta drain-and-fill that transmission fluid every 30k and you’re GTG.

          • 0 avatar
            Smorticus

            Had an ’86 Trooper with over 250,000 when I sold it. Have a ’90 on its way there and will probably hit 300,000 before I sell it or it rusts away.

    • 0 avatar
      Brian P

      Honda “trucks” basically means everything on the Odyssey minivan platform – i.e. Ridgeline, MDX, Pilot. I suppose you could interpret “cars” strictly and put the Element, CR-V, etc in that category, but those vehicles are pretty much Civics and Accords with a taller bodyshell.

      With regards to reliability of Honda vehicles, it’s probably more accurate to separate V6 from 4-banger regardless of “car” or “truck” or somewhere in between. Honda has had issues with automatic transmissions tied to V6 engines regardless of the vehicle that it was installed in. The Accord is saved because most people buy the 4-banger.

      • 0 avatar
        AlphaWolf

        That makes sense. I hope at some point (maybe 2006?) the automatic transmission problem with the V6 was addressed and these are now good used buys with high mileage. The cost of a brand new SUV is crazy.

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        The Honda automatic transmission design results in relatively small clutches that struggle with the combination of V6 torque and truck mass. The 4 cylinder Honda cars put much less stress on the automatic plus a significant minority of Honda cars are sold with manuals.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Although quite versatile, the platform that handles the Pilot, Ridgeline, ZDX and MDX is actually monocoque (unibody), not body-on-frame as a truck would be. And of course the CR-V, RDX and Element are more hatchback than SUV in their construction. When the author says trucks, I presume he means vehicles like the F-Series, Ranger, Expedition, Explorer, TrailBlazer, Silverado, Tahoe, Sierra, Jimmy, et cetera…which are actual body-on-frame *trucks*. Under this definition, Honda’s only real trucks were the Acura SLX and Honda Passport, both of which were rebadged Isuzu products. So you see, Honda doesn’t exactly have anything to compare to the domestics or rivals Toyota and Nissan in the way of trucks.

    • 0 avatar
      yesthatsteve

      Transmissions. Especially the 2nd gen Odyssey. Ask me how I know.

  • avatar

    Any non car-specific site that does those little flippy lists is nothing but fluff shit, anyway. It’s like Yahoo Autos (or any Yahoo News)– there’s rarely anything worth value there.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    “Your Uncle Floyd may have owned a full sized Dodge Van back in the day with a quintillion miles on it”.

    Ram vans definitely deserve an honorable mention around here. They were probably more popular around here as they were built nearby and Bell telephone bought them by the holding yard full in that awful blurple color.

    Many of them are being euthanized now simply due to age related abuse and corrosion, but their powertrains soldier on. It’s not uncommon to see them hit the auctions here with many hundreds of thousands of miles on them.

    Back when I was a mechanic, our shop serviced a fleet of natural gas powered Ram delivery vans. The nat gas vans had especially good longevity due to the clean fuel that took a long time to foul the oil and didn’t carbon anything up, and the general lack of power that they made. There were a few with over 600k miles on them that just kept on truckin. 3.9L, 5.2L or 5.9L, it didn’t matter, they were all the same engine.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      My father swore off Dodge because our Dodge Van had all kinds of transmission problems. And while my Dakota has been pretty good, one of the issues that did pop up was a tranny related one: a solenoid failed causing the torque converter to refuse to lock properly.

      In general Ford or Chevy trucks last forever because they fall into two categories:
      1) Owned by someone who thinks trucks/SUV are necessary to survive the urban jungle, so they live an easy city life (no off roading, no towing). Basically the vehicle is overkill 95% of the time just seeing an occasional couch, BBQ, plywood or mulch in the bed.
      2) Owned by someone who uses them HARD for work (tradesman, landscape, contractors, etc) and requires they be dependable, so they fix everything themselves (and quickly).

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        I see more old trucks here in California in category 2 than category 1. The category 1 guys usually trade up to something blingier and bigger and taller and more lifted at some point.

        • 0 avatar
          FuzzyPlushroom

          I’ve also observed, in New England, that Fords (and three-quarter/one-ton Chevys and GMCs) tend to be used for work, be that contracting or hauling a trailer, while Dodges seem to be more ‘lifestyle’ trucks on the whole. Dunno whether that’s a national trend, however.

  • avatar
    walleyeman57

    I can vouch for our 2003 Pilot with 280,000 and counting. Drivetrain is all orginal, as is the starter, alternator, and most everything else.

    Of course the 2004 Sienna with 330,000 has her beat by quite a bit. With both power doors shot, it would take 1/2 her value to just work as intended though.

    I enjoy these stories and while my purchases tend to be a long way apart it gives me pause about many brands I have envied-BMW for one.

    For many cars and trucks, 250,000 is the new 100,000.

  • avatar

    I got rid of my Galant at 136k, a far cry from 250k target. Got tired of persistent ATF leaks that my friendly independent shop was unable to cure. The car was only 12 years old (although it started as a rental, perhaps it was a factor).

    You know what really surprised me once though: Daihatsu Rocky. There was one in the neighbourhood still running a couple of years ago.

    • 0 avatar
      Marko

      I saw one in a Whole Foods lot a few weeks ago. I was very surprised since not only was the Rocky uncommon to start with, it was also rust free (in New England!). I don’t think Daihatsu even sold cars in this part of the country.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      I’ve had really good fortune with ex-rentals. While no doubt they are often flogged, they are always up to date with maintenance.

      • 0 avatar
        gearhead77

        I worked as a car prep for Enterprise during college in the mid to late 90′s. They do get the best ones( no accident history , good maintenance,etc. for their resale program, about 5% of the entire fleet I think.. The others go to the auctions. I remember one GMC Jimmy that managed to escape oil changes for 23k. Picked up more than a few from police impound yards. I could never buy a rental car, but to each his own.

  • avatar
    seattle4r70w

    This is an enjoyable column.

    It would be interesting to see if production volume and platform/configuration maturity hugely underpin the direction of your three factors.

    My current vehicle assortment lives at this crossroads.

    I have had a 1995 E150 for 12 years that now has 230k on it. Engine and transmission have never had a major service. I have driven it 2 miles from startup with no oil in the 302 when the drain plug did not seat properly. There was a misprint in the owners manual (surprised there aren’t more of these) that resulted in me driving it 10 miles with almost zero ATF in the 4R70W until I could get to a gas station and buy fluid. It still gets 13 mpg and starts every morning. Leaks some but doesn’t burn oil. The things that have recently needed attention are long service wear items like front suspension bushings, steering parts and the differential. It is rewarding to fix and I feel decent about spending money on it despite the somewhat deteriorating interior parts like power window switches, plastic trim, hvac fan, upholstery and sliding door. I plan to drive it for a couple more years and for it to be running when it is sold. It is like an old friend that returns you more as a result of the relationship.

    I have a 1997 Subaru Outback with 175k on the shell and 240k on the DOHC EJ25. This is the 2nd motor that it on it’s 2nd major service out of the car. Despite almost everything else on the car being dead reliable, I will leave it on the roadside the next time it does not start. It stranded me with a blown head gasket at 90k ($3200) and then at 108k, it got hit in the front by a minivan at 15mph. This bent the valves which are near impossible to repair because of the shim/adjustment type. After motor was put back in twice, the insurance company caved and had to replace the motor. There were no replacement heads in the PNW in 2005, leaving me with a 175k engine from the midwest as their LKQ offer. Which meant common Subaru sense dictated that it needed head gaskets and a timing belt service ($1600) when it showed up. 40k miles later it burned an exhaust valve because of a clogged injector/catalytic problem that required another $2500 service of the RH head and injectors. It currently leaks a quart of oil every 1000 miles from a half dozen places on the motor. I will not put another cent into repairing it and get angry when I look in Quickbooks at what we have spent on it. This car is my freeloading, unreliable relative that makes me question my judgement for keeping it around.

    Now I know why Ford made my van drivetrain for a decade (?) and Subaru made the DOHC EJ25 engine for a couple years.

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    Any Dodge truck-product with a 3spd and 318. Grandfather had a 89′ Conversion van, then my dad got it, then me (briefly). 165k when I passed it on, not a single major problem at all (my grandfather usually destroys vehicles within the first 50k miles or so, so over a 100k that he put on is something special).

    Got sold to a Mexican, and up to just a few years ago, somebody would spot it driving around town now and then.

    • 0 avatar
      nikita

      3sp automatic, too. We have had three Dodge vans with LA V-8′s and 727 Torqueflites. My plumber put over 300,000 miles on his. What killed it was the frame cracked where the steering gear attached. These are miserable vehicles to drive, but they last a long time.

      On the Toyota side, I cant believe how many Previa vans are still on the road in California, considering how few were sold in the first place. My contractor has nothing but ancient Toyota trucks and vans in his fleet.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        “On the Toyota side, I cant believe how many Previa vans are still on the road in California, considering how few were sold in the first place.”

        I was thinking that the other day when I saw a Toyota Cressida Wagon. I think it was a mid-80s model — 3rd gen. Even seeing the one was shocking.

  • avatar
    7402

    I think production volume factors in as well; as vehicles get older the supply of used parts available on-line and in pull-n-pick junkyards becomes important in keeping costs down.

    I can recommend the 7th generation Honda Accord (2003-2007), just stay away from a V6 with an automatic and bias toward the 4-banger with the five speed manual if you can find one. These are reliable, economical, roomy cars. Like most Hondas, they satisfy in every way but delight in none. I had no problem sourcing and replacing a tail light myself for a total cash outlay of $19–and that’s a DIY that requires removing the bumper.

    • 0 avatar
      chrishs2000

      These are great cars. 2003 V6 6MT with 230k miles and a 2004 I4 5AT with 160k miles on our driveway. No issues worth reporting with either. Still fun to drive, very comfortable, and great gas mileage. Will be keeping the V6 for a long time, the I4 may be traded in soon on a TSX or new Accord.

  • avatar
    Verbal

    My ’96 Contour is approaching 190k miles. Unremarkable except for the fact that the car is probably the mileage record holder for all Contours ever produced.

    • 0 avatar
      tresmonos

      That is a miracle.

    • 0 avatar
      Deorew

      ’95 Mercury Mystique (Contour twin)
      Now with 343,365 miles, today. Still my commuter car, 106 miles round-trip.
      I purchased her used in 1998 with 39,000 miles.
      Original V6 engine and 5 speed manual tranny. (Clutch was replaced at 250,000 miles)

      • 0 avatar
        FuzzyPlushroom

        You didn’t have to say it was a five-speed, because a CD4E would have been toast at a third of that mileage. ;-) They can be great cars, if you get a good one… and make sure it’s a stick.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    •Chevy/Ford Truck Or SUV
    •Ford Panther Platform
    •Honda Car
    •Toyota Everything

    What do these things have in common? Well, other than the Panther, they are THE top selling vehicles in the country. Even if <1% of them make it to 200-300K miles you are talking a TON of cars. The Panther is just genuinely a tough bastard, I give them credit for that as their only redeeming quality. On a percentage of sales basis, one Hell of a lot more Swedes make it to big mileages than any of these, Saab and Volvo both. Probably BMWs and MBs too. You are comparing a set of vehicles that sold in the 3-4 MILLION a year to cars that sold a few hundred thousand total a year, maybe. If you want to put an easy 500K on a car that is actually pleasant to drive, I strongly suggest a RWD Volvo. It's like a Panther with the suck taken out.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      Good catch. Surely a high mileage F150 is common – there are a zillion of them out there to pick from.

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      That’s a great point. For example, if you have a 7-Series, it’s a pretty rare vehicle to start with. Since 2007, the US sales of the BMW 7-Series have never been much more over 12,000 in a given year. Honda sells about 2X that many Civics during some months:

      www dot goodcarbadcar dot net/2011/01/honda-civic-sales-figures dot html

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      “The Panther is just genuinely a tough bastard”

      As long as the intake manifold doesn’t blow at 100k a Panther will last a fair amount of miles, but I’ve yet to see one hit a full million.

      Volvos on the other hand have several million mile examples, while slower you won’t have to drill rivets from the door panels to fix worn window motors, and you can wear a hat inside of them.

    • 0 avatar
      SaulTigh

      I’ll admit I’m biased towards Ford trucks and Panthers, owning one of each. The F150 has 170,000 on the clock, the Panther 160,000 and both keep right on chugging along. I’ve had the Panther for 10.5 years, and the only time it ever broke down on me was the already mentioned “composite” (plastic) intake manifold. Otherwise, it’s been the most dead reliable car I’ve ever had.

      I think the key to automotive longevity is long production runs with evolutionary changes. The Panther, born in ’79 and died in ’11 and only got a couple major revamps during that 32 year run. The F150 has a truly massive production run each and every year, with only incremental changes between model years. Heck, even GM would turn out a long term reliable car when they’d neglect a model far beyond reason. The bugs got worked out.

      I think Honda is pretty impressive. They used to do an entirely new Civic and Accord every 4 years or so. I think that’s kind of been stretched out lately, but the fact that they’re so good out of the box most of the time is an achievement.

      I’m also a fan of mechanical watches, and while watch movement snobs sometimes turn their noses up at them, the best movements out there are those from Rolex and ETA. They’ve cranked them out by the millions over the decades and they last and last, and do their jobs fantastically. Beautiful, limited production movements tend to be the most problematic. I like reliability.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        Did you miss Mr. Baruth’s column on bespoke watch movements?

        http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/avoidable-contact-the-watery-big-bang-the-32-step-power-steering-fluid-check-disposable-faux-ury/

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      Out of 25 vehicles vehicles with the highest mileage, 22 fell into one of the four categories of vehicles named by Mr. Lang. Which means that those vehicles were 88 percent of the vehicles with the highest mileage.

      Even if we add the TOTAL market share of those four manufacturers – GM, Ford, Toyota and Honda – it doesn’t come anywhere near 88 percent of the total market. (And remember, he doesn’t name the entire line-ups of three of those four manufacturers.)

      The bottom line is that Mr. Lang has consistently named these four categories of vehicles as being over-represented among trade-ins that rack up high mileage. If “a higher percentage of “Volvos, BMWs or (insert favorite European or domestic vehicle of choice)” on the road were really racking up high mileage, then it would be reflected in the vehicles he sees on a regular basis. SOME of those vehicles would eventually hit the auction lot.

      They are not, which suggests that those vehicles simply do not last as long for a variety of reasons. Inferior reliability and mechanical complexity are probably the biggest culprits among the European marques.

      Several friends have driven European vehicles. They love the way they drive and look, but there are two ways that those vehicles stay on the road with high mileage. The first is that owner enjoys turning a wrench. The second is that the owner is friendly with a mechanic who specializes in that marque, and said owner doesn’t mind funding his mechanic’s retirement, vacations, new flat-screen television, etc.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        No, it won’t be. Volvo sold in their best year ever in the US about 100K cars. Most years were more like 50K cars. Saabs best year EVER was 50K cars, some years they only sold 25K cars. Compared to Honda and Toyota who sold MILLIONS of cars a year between them. Then another MILLION Ford and Chevy/GMC pickups. And after that, the car has to be TRADED-IN to show up on Steve’s radar. The deck is so stacked against the Europeans in this that any numbers are utterly meaningless. I fully stand by my statement, on a percentage of sales basis, you are FAR more likely to encounter a high-mileage European car than a Japanese or American car. As others have pointed out, the mere fact that they cost more, and are thus worth more for a longer period of time means that they tend to get repaired when cheaper cars get scrapped. This is even ASIDE from the fact that up here where Saabs and Volvos are literally more common than non-truck Chevys, no-one, and I mean NO-ONE would ever even CONTEMPLATE trading one in with high mileage. They get handed down to the kids, or sold privately. It is about impossible to even find a RWD Volvo in the Northeast with less than 200K on it these days, but there are tons of them around. Even the FWD cars are common with that kind of mileage, but they are pretty done at 250K, whereas the RWD cars are just hitting their stride.

        As has been said, “lies, damned lies, and statistics”.

        • 0 avatar
          Power6

          You’re right this experiment has to be prefaced with a “if cars passing through the auctions is a representative sample” which we don’t really know. Or at least each model is represented well enough, I believe Steve is keeping track of the mileage distribution within each model.

          I’m not sure the data is available to back up your assertion that all the Volvos with high mileage are held by first owners or simply handed down.

          There is clearly more to simple durability/reliability that drives owners to keep cars running to over 200k. Parts prices, good mechanics, information sharing forums, owner attitudes etc play into it.

          On the other hand there is some good analysis in here and the “waaaahh Volvos all last for millions of miles everybody just doesn’t know it” sounds a little self-serving, I bet you own a Volvo ;-)

          Not sure I understand why you think FWD is inferior to RWD plenty of good options either way. Lots of FWD Toyotas made in smaller quantities than the Volvos (notice he said “any” Toyota) that run for a long time.

          I don’t really know Volvos but it seems they have a rabid community like Subaru that keeps the myth going. From being in the community I’ve found Subarus aren’t all that great but the knowledge sharing is stellar anyone who wants to can fix one up with some tools and a web browser.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          @krhodes1

          I have a 240 with 152K :)

          Although it has that sticker (with a worn off date) which shows the odometer was replaced early in the car’s life, so add 10-20K… still under 2.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            @28 cars

            Is it for sale? If not, I rest my case.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Actually it might come up for sale, if not soon then by the summer. I’m conflicted.

            1993, white on black, a/c still works, aftermarket cd with subs in the trunk (it came that way). Whats that worth in your opinion?

          • 0 avatar
            deliverator

            @28-cars

            Are you in Canada? I think I read that before.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            If it is in nice shape and well-maintained, late 240s go for real money. Even with the mileage question mark on it. I’d think $3-4K would be easy, $5K might not be out of reach here in New England. Wagons are worth more than sedans. Genuine low-mileage (well under 100K) minters are getting to be near $10K cars. Afterall, the newest of these cars is now 20, so nice ones are not getting any more common.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            No, I’m in Pittsburgh. This one is pretty clean, I need to change out some of the internal bulbs and solve a rough idle.

            I’m conflicted because my winter beater (Saturn) needs a transmission (which I’m not sure is worth doing) and with the large hills in these parts I’m hesitant on making the 240 the new one (plus I’d like it to not destroy it in winter or see it wrecked). My brother is trying to convince me to dump them both and get a cheap lease as the winter beater/second car (primary car is a paid off 2008 Grand Prix I don’t want in the salt and snow)

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        Toyota’s total passenger cars sales were 1,066,143 for 2012, with another 132,741 Lexus sales added to the mix.

        The two top-selling Honda passenger cars are the Civic and the Accord, with sales of 317,909 and 331,872, respectively. Add the Fit at 49,346, and you still aren’t near 1 million sales in a year for Honda. (Since Mr. Lang didn’t mention Acuras, I’m not including them in the totals, but even if we do add Acuras to the mix, it would barely equal 1 million annual sales.)

        Either way, the four categories of vehicles named do not come close to 88 percent of the total market in any one year, or even over several years.

        I would also like to see the proof to back up your assertion that no one “ever” contemplates trading in a high-mileage Volvo and Saab. Your proof – not anecdotal proof, but actual data to back up your assertion – is found where?

        Is there proof that people who buy Volvos and Saabs hold on to them for a longer period of time than other makes?

        My anecdotal experience is that brand-new Volvos are likely to be leased, just like other European luxury and near-luxury cars, and thus traded after 2-3 years. (Same with Saabs, when the company was still selling cars in the United States.) Volvos are no longer being bought largely by quirky college professors and tightwads and being driven into the ground (those people are now buying…Toyota Corollas, from what I see).

        If we are all “far more likely to encounter a high-mileage European car” than a Japanese or domestic counterpart, then this would show up in Steven Lang’s results, as he encounters more high-mileage cars than anyone else on this site. Eventually, ALL vehicles get traded in when their mileage hits a certain point.

        If these Volvos and Saabs are so fabulously durable, then they would eventually show up at this type of auction.

        What type of vehicle doesn’t get traded in? The vehicles with LOW mileage, because the owner doesn’t drive all that much. I see this quite often with Cadillacs, Buicks and Lincolns from the late 1980s and 1990s. Mint, low-mileage originals will show up for sale at various collector car events I attend. The seller bought the car at an estate auction and brought it to the car show, hoping to flip it for a profit.

        The days of the rugged old Volvo 240 are long gone. Volvos and Saabs haven’t been superior in reliability for well over a decade now. I understand why owners like them, but the bottom line is that the European companies have been slow to adapt the more advanced production techniques and quality control processes that were successfully used by the Japanese. They still sell based on driving experience, style and prestige. They are not selling based on superior reliability or even durability. Those days ended decades ago.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          We are not talking about new cars – I do not disagree with you about the recent production of Volvos, those cars are unlikely to see much past 200K. We are talking about cars that are now 15-20 years old, which is how long it takes for an average car not in commercial service to reach 2-300K miles. Unless of course Steve’s idea of “high mileage” is 80K miles. I never said that the first owners of Volvos of that era held on to them longer, though they probably did, I am saying simply that as a percentage of sales of the cars, more of them make it to extremely high mileage than American or Japanese cars. I have no hard data on paper to prove this, but neither do you to say they don’t. Certainly Steve’s auction statistics are all but meaningless. His stats unsurprisingly mirror the best selling vehicles in the country, with the Panther as a legit aberration.

          However, I have been involved in the national Volvo club for more than 20 years, and have owned over a dozen of them. The lowest mileage of which was over 100K miles, up to a high of 415K. This is the NORM in Volvo circles, not any sort of unusual occurrence. Volvo for many, many years gave out nice “high mileage club” badges to owners at 100K intervals. How many other makes do that? Actually, they still do, but they are stickers now, not badges. Despite the Internet meme that these cars are somehow exotic and expensive to repair, the reality is that they are about as complicated as an anvil, and keep going pretty much forever until either an accident or terminal neglect takes them out. These are cars that manage to routinely make 2-300K miles in New England’s annual salt bath extravaganza.

          Saabs are a slightly different kettle of fish. They were never anything like as cheap to run as the Volvos, but I think they tended to inspire more love and so people spent the money to keep them going. Still lasted a very, very long time, just took more to get them there.

          • 0 avatar
            Power6

            I bought an old Lexus this past year, a crappy Camry based one at that(yay cheap parts!) The communities are full of multi-100k car owners, way more than the Subaru circles. And Lexus doesn’t sell nearly the volume of Toyota…

            So there is my anecdote.

      • 0 avatar
        Felix Hoenikker

        +10

        I have an old Mercedes 450SL, and if I paid the dealer for the work I did on it so far, his wife/girlfriends would have trouble spending the money at the spa, country club, mall, etc.

    • 0 avatar
      GiddyHitch

      The other thing to note is that the first two categories are most often employed as service vehicles subject to higher average annual mileage and different ownership considerations (less likely to be traded in on a whim, for instance).

    • 0 avatar
      andyinatl

      I can definitely agree to the Volvo part. I’ve had 5 Volvos to this point; none of them gave me any trouble. Of course with Volvos, you can’t be indiscriminate in what you buy, but I used ver few guidelines based on much time spent on research; no V-,S- anything from 2000-2002 years as their transmissions sucked (strangely enough it was same transmission used in Toyotas from same vintage but those were fine), and no less important – service records. All my Volvos only needed age-related wear/tear items replaced (rubber bushings here and there, motor mounts, all after 100K miles and 10 or so years of Atlanta heat). The only other vehicle that i have my eye on as possible replacement for my wife’s V70 is 100 series LandCruiser. Now if i could get that with under 150K miles and for under $10K i’d be a happy man

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      “If you want to put an easy 500K on a car that is actually pleasant to drive, I strongly suggest a RWD Volvo. It’s like a Panther with the suck taken out.”

      I’m not so sure about this. I had a 740 Turbo for a time (a short time) and hated everything about it. That’s why I had it for only a short time. I much prefer the BOF ride of the Panther. With Town Car seats they’re more comfortable than any Volvo I’ve ever ridden in.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      I recently tried selling my 240 sedan in that range, the two customers I had WERE going to look at it on the weekend but never got back to me, but then again I used craigslist.

      Surprisingly I managed to avoid the initial haggle-mania.

    • 0 avatar
      86er

      I think you talk about Panthers more than I do, and I own one.

      Are you and psarhjinian related?

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    Missing is the correlation between depreciation, perception, and reality. As I’ve posted here before, that Taurus Vulcan will likely not see that replacement transmission at 130K because depreciation factors make it likely that a $2K trans repair won’t happen. However, an Accord that needs a trans at that mileage will almost certainly get the repair because the Accord is worth much more than the Taurus. So the Ford never gets the chance to go the distance. However, those that have had long lasting transmissions (or those that get the rebuild) are not really uncommon so the car is certainly capable of going the distance. It’s just that most don’t ever get the chance…

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      …Which is why it’s extra important for manufacturers to make sure that their interfaces and bodywork can keep up with the durability of the drivetrain and allow the vehicles to still be desirable to their owners when major repairs crop up. I’ll admit that if I have an early-aughts Taurus in which the interior paint is wearing away, the leather is cracked to high hell and half of the interior electronics don’t work, I’m not going to replace the transmission should it become necessary; I’m going to hock it for whatever I can get and move to something else…

      Sadly, the engine and transmission of a car can be great, but if those things that people see (like the interior trim or instrument cluster functions) start to go, the whole model–and its respective brand–are going to be written off as trouble-prone or unreliable.

      • 0 avatar
        wagonsonly

        That’s true…to a point. Saab and Volvo interiors are quite nice, provided the prior owner took care of the leather and didn’t let the family pooch eat the seats. But depreciation is still stunningly steep, even on Saabs before the bankruptcy. To a point it also depends on the owners’ perceptions of the car – an enthusiast car like a Saab 900 will end up with a million miles on it because it’s cheap to run and commonly owned by an enthusiast. But a Ford Escort hatchback – similar in size, weight, style, layout, and even (if you kind of squint at night) appearance, will make it ’til the transmission dies or the timing belt blows, because the owners aren’t enthusiasts.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        point well taken, but are you implying that the vast majority of Taurus/Sables fall apart that way? My old Sable is 21 years old, spent its entire life outside and none of what is described is true. The trans is even original, but it only has 126K on it. I sure have seen cars like you describe – Taurus and plenty of other brands – and always wondered how the hell they got that way. I have never had any car crumble like that, and some of them were certainly crappy cars…

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          Sort of. The first and second-generation Taurus/Sable such as the one you have are excellent examples of what happen when car companies get things right. The ones afterward were quite the opposite, and did not rebound until the sixth-generation in 2010.

          • 0 avatar
            Felix Hoenikker

            This is the end result of “value engineering” that saves a few bucks but severly tarnishes the perception of quality. In it’s worst incarnation, a few cents shaved off the price of a head gasket results in a premature, expensive repair that sends the car to the crusher because the associated steep depreciation curve resulting from the whole moronic exercise.

        • 0 avatar
          corntrollio

          “I have never had any car crumble like that, and some of them were certainly crappy cars…”

          Agree, some portion of this is owner-neglect. When I had a first-gen Taurus that was over 15 years old, until I gave it to my sister, the interior was in damn good shape and still didn’t look very worn and wasn’t at all torn up. After she started driving it, well, let’s not talk about that.

          I have looked at cars like Kyree is describing, and most of them appeared to have been neglected. For example, I’ve seen more than one Yukon Denali that was more torn up inside at 50-60K miles than my Panther was at 210K. There were rips in the leather, rips in the headliner, rips in the carpet, the carpet looked worn, at least one knob was missing, scratches on the seats, scratches on all kinds of surfaces for that matter, the list goes on.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    What I want to know is whether the class of unibody SUVs that act sort of like trucks (Acura MDX, BMW X5, L322/L405 Range Rover, Mercedes-Benz ML and GL, Porsche Cayenne) actually last. Unfortunately, they are usually victims of their respective luxury brands, which means that they become riddled with pricey electronic malfunctions and saddled with proprietary, outdated technology that can’t be upgraded or replaced. But is the basic architecture of such a car any good?

    • 0 avatar
      wagonsonly

      Yes, they are – look no further than the Highlander or RX300. That platform, borrowed from the Camry, has been out fifteen plus years and many examples have racked on truly impressive mileage. A woman I work with has a Highlander in anonymous-suburbanite beige with almost 300K on it, and I have seen several others advertised on our local craigslist with 200K+.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        or look at Jeep Grand Cherokee. Plenty of high mileage examples and many have been pounded on off road…I see no inherent weakness in the long term survival of unit construction.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Well I didn’t so much mean the Lexus RX series or Toyota Highlander, which are really more like tall cars. I was talking more about the SUVs that try to do more, the ones with advanced all-wheel-drive and commendable towing capabilities and air suspension, yet are unibody vehicles…the ones that do their best to create the best on-road experience possible.

        • 0 avatar
          Power6

          Well then you have the Land Cruiser/Lexus LX duo, they are known to go several hundreds of thousands of miles under varied conditions without issue. So you see the theme in the answer to what you are asking…

          I ask you…Is a truck/SUV/whatever that is “riddled with pricey electronic malfunctions” worth considering whether the basic architecture is any good?

          It is interesting to me Toyota/Lexus shows you can make some of the technology stuff work, generally even their fancy equipment goes the distance though they are conservative with the gadgets. Except air suspension, no one can make an air suspension that will not eventually die in a massively expensive way long before 200k, even Toyota.

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            The Lexus LX and Toyota Land Cruiser are body-on-frame, not unibody…lol

          • 0 avatar
            wagonsonly

            As Power6 noted, no one can make an air suspension setup go the distance without ruinously expensive repairs – on an SUV or on a car. Ask anyone who’s owned a Town Car or an air-suspension Subaru.

          • 0 avatar
            corntrollio

            “Except air suspension, no one can make an air suspension that will not eventually die in a massively expensive way long before 200k, even Toyota.”

            We had this discussion in another thread recently — the one about Range Rovers. In it, someone mentioned a Town Car that was on its original air suspension at 190K. It’s definitely doable.

            Also, not all air suspension parts are “ruinously” expensive, as was discussed in that thread. They aren’t cheap though.

          • 0 avatar
            Power6

            @Kyree Doh! right I am thinking same class but not the unibody.

            Unibody is hardly the defining quality here though, the reliability of everything else is and in general the complex German autos are nightmares and the Land Rovers are atrocious.

            @Corntrollio that is totally the only Town Car that has ever gone that far on the air suspension…the rest of them are sagging badly, jacked up in snow mode, or have already been swapped to steel springs.

      • 0 avatar
        GeneralMalaise

        We own an ’01 Highlander (bought new) w/216K miles now… Uses no oil, exterior and interior look like a well-cared for 3 year old car would look. Also own an’81 X1/9 w/198k miles… But warmed that one up at around 128K… Only 2nd clutch and original trannie on that… Except for taller Strada 5th gear.

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      There’s no real reason to think they won’t last if taken care of. One thing I’d point out is that when I read ih8mud, the people keeping those 300K Land Cruisers are dedicated to keeping their cars on the road. It works both ways — the serious people do proactive maintenance in order to make sure they don’t get stranded on a trail.

      Same thing with the Volvo guys. Those 240s aren’t necessarily cheap to keep on the road either, but they will stay on the road if you keep up with them.

      A W124/W126 isn’t necessarily cheap to keep on the road, but if you’re dedicated, they will last.

      As we discussed before, the stereotypical (American) owner of the cars you’ve mentioned isn’t necessarily this dedicated and is more slack about maintenance. For example, it’s hard for me to take seriously the people who say they only put gas, oil, and brake pads on their Toyonda for 200K miles — unless Toyota has managed to produce rubber parts made out of magical unicorn leather and other things out of dragon bone that don’t wear out. Same thing when someone said changing oil every 5K, changing transmission fluid every 60K, changing timing belt every 75K, and changing batteries every 4-5 years was “OCD” — hard to take them seriously.

      I have seen European owners mention that their vehicles on the Touareg platform (which is what the Cayenne is one, and the Q7 is on an extended version) have gone 150K-200K, although admittedly none of those were Cayennes — all VW or Audi. I’m pretty sure I’ve read about MLs that have done the same, and I assume that translates to the GL, since that’s an extended ML. I haven’t necessarily heard stories like this about the X5, but that could just be sample size — I read BMW forums much less frequently.

      • 0 avatar
        GeneralMalaise

        “It works both ways — the serious people do proactive maintenance in order to make sure they don’t get stranded on a trail.”

        yes… every 30K for auto trans service, 40K for coolant, oil changes every 5K… cheap insurance to ensure longevity.

  • avatar

    Hey Steven! Hope you get better soon. One of the things that make me quit on a car is if it develops some problem that it must be taken to the mechanic several times to get right (of course if bigger the problem the worse). Problems with acceleration, idle, electric. If these things happen more than once in about a year, or you have to take it to the mechanic for the same thing 3 or 4 times in a row. I think this applies to a lot of people out there. Guess you lose patience and confidence in the car when something like that happens.

  • avatar
    driveabeater

    I’ve been lurking around the site for quite some time and really enjoy the columns especially this one. I noticed that there are quite a few comments in regards to Honda Auto Tranny woes. As a Mopar fan (queue the goodnatured ribbing) I always ask my self “how is it that Honda, Toyota, Ford (especially the AX4S) and others manage to avoid the bad press surrounding their rotten trannies and ChryCo doesn’t?” Thoughts?

    I currently have 3 Mopars (’99 Breeze 2.4 Auto, ’04 Ram 5.7, ’07 Cherokee 3.7) sitting in the drive and none have ever been in the shop for anything more than scheduled maintenance. The Breeze (a former rental car, says so on the build sheet) has 130K on the clock with no leaks of any sort and does not burn a drop of the 10W30 Conventional that it gets at regular intervals. It’s my daily driver and is no hot rod to be sure. I’ll be the first to tell you that waiting on the UltraDrive to down shift when making a turn on a hill is a bit different but my experience has been that with tranny Services at every 30k the 41TE just soldiers on.The wife and I hop in it all the time for rode trips. I hope that folks keep ragging on them so when this one gets to 250k I can pick up a newer Stratus or Cirrus for dirt cheap! ;0)

    • 0 avatar
      cowpens

      I do not think that Honda AT or AX4S have avoided bad reputations.
      “I noticed that there are quite a few comments in regards to Honda Auto Tranny woes. “how is it that Honda, Toyota, Ford (especially the AX4S) and others manage to avoid the bad press surrounding their rotten trannies and ChryCo doesn’t?” Thoughts?”
      I have had old Chryslers too. Mostly A904 transmissions which never broke on me. Ax4s does have a not good reputation. But the Ax4N became much more common in the 2000′s and transmission reliability improved. Honda V6 truck transmissions? They have bad press. Such as this article.

      http://www.google.com/url?q=http://wheels.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/08/honda-transmission-problems-seem-to-persist/&sa=U&ei=qrJIUb3NN4mQiQLivYDIDg&ved=0CB8QFjAA&usg=AFQjCNEP43SOr95iOMyNRNzGdparGLD3WQ
      or
      http://townhall-talk.edmunds.com/direct/view/.f0fa11e

      Many owners have their own bad experiences. Even some Accords. More in V6 AT models. My Honda AT broke young and it had been maintained better than severe service guidelines. Old Acura TL and CL were the worst. I often see a broken Honda truck on a lift at at local transmission shop.

      And a 10 year old Acura TL or Honda truck with a blown transmission has very low nearly zero resale value.
      A dealer will try to charge $5000 for the rebuild. Maybe the way to keep that truck going economically is to become a transmission rebuilder yourself.

    • 0 avatar
      Yeah_right

      I can give you a personal answer. Minivans. They sold so many, two of them to me, that turned out to be possessed. It’s been 20 years ago, but I haven’t forgotten getting stranded with my kids on the Interstate and the fake sincere look the Service Mgr gave when he expressed his sorrow that my vehicle was 3K out of warranty.

      And that uncontrollable sneer for Chrysler products remains, even 20 years later and even though I owned a Honda Pilot with a dying tranny that my daughter turned shiny side down.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    feel better Steve, with a good number of Saabs what kills them is a fender bender, their resale is very low and most ins co just total them. I agree that it depends on the total sales Saabs and volvo last a long time and can run up many miles but in the overall numbers there just are not a lot of them. VW TDI’s roll up a ton of mileage but compared to their gas cousin they are out sold, also I think TDI’s do not show up at to many auctions bc they have high resale no matter what their mileage vs the gas ones. Also I think it depends on what you drive, very few people drive many miles of a miata for instance but for those of us who drive alot give us an accord and you have few worry’s of it blowing up before the note is paid, after that you run it into the ground dispose of and repeat.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    What also hurts 2000-07 Taurus value is just plain dullness. I you see one i great shape, it’s driven by an elder. So many biege/grey/light blue ones from rental firms got dumped on the used car market.

    Its low residual value continues into the low end of the market. 12 year old former Hertz queen is now worth more as parts car if the trans is slipping. While a dusty and door-dinged ’99 Accord will get bidding wars.

  • avatar
    d002

    @”Ford Panther Platform”

    I take it then that the Ford Windstar wasn’t on this platform…..

  • avatar
    Mr Imperial

    I kept my 1992 Chrysler Imperial running up to 267,000 miles until a fender bender forced it into retirement.

    I’ll easily admit that keeping it going was a little beyond logical-not knowing the total amount of $ I sunk into it, but I loved that car.

    The local Pick-A-Part staff started recogizing me, which probably means that I MAY have been there a little too much….but I was thankful for the ease of part availablity for the car.

    If memory serves me correctly, six Imperials, three New Yorkers (Fifth Avenues, Salons, and Landaus), two Dodge Dynasty (Dynasti?) and a couple of Mopar Vans (T&C, Voyagers) contributed parts to it. Each vehicle also provided a “training” opportunity, as I disassembled each donor vehicle, I learned how to (or how not to) take the part off.

    I still miss that car sometimes, but the best lesson I learned in owning that car was to be self-reliant, and that I did save some money in labor costs by doing the work myself. Plus, the satisfaction of doing the job right and personally seeing the results.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I just heard something interesting last night from a grizzly old tow truck driver/mechanic and I quote “Cars are like women, they all will take your money and they all end up in the junkyard”.

  • avatar
    RatherhaveaBuick

    This article is a just a pile of bullshit. How can anyone predict the reliability of a 2012-2013 vehicle?

    I’d venture to say that a 2013 Toyota will outlast a 2013 Land Rover…but other than obvious generalizations like that there’s no way anyone could know specific things…

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      If you read what Steve wrote, he specifically states that it’s not intended to predict new car reliability.

      If you want crystal ball predictions for new models, consult Consumer Reports.

  • avatar
    MAGICGTI

    There is a 2001 Volvo V70 NA/automatic with 440k miles on eBay right now, that’s a testament to longevity. It’s a MA/RI car too, show me a decade-old Japanese car that wouldn’t be in pieces in that environment.

    No doubt it took some money to get there, but you can get a modern Volvo to the moon knowing a trusted Volvo specialist, they’re out there.

    • 0 avatar
      wsn

      You can get a Lexus to the moon, even without knowing a trusted specialist.

    • 0 avatar
      Marko

      Hmm, there are plenty of decade-old (and older) Japanese cars in MA/RI. Granted, Volvo rust resistance is second to none – I have never, ever seen a rusty 850 or S/V/XC anything – but the 1992 Camry or any Toyota introduced afterwards will hold up quite well. (With a few major exceptions, see below.) It took Honda a few more years, perhaps, but they hold their value enough to be worth fixing. Subaru is a more extreme case of this – they can rust dangerously from the subframe up (TTAC ran an article), but their resale value is ridiculously good, so they get fixed and back on the road.

      Bad rust resistance?

      - Nissan Pathfinders
      - Toyota Tacoma/Tundra (I saw a mid-’90s Tacoma’s wheel fall off a few days ago. Luckily it was at parking lot speeds.)
      - Mazda anything (especially the small ones).
      - Lots of Mercedes made from circa 1994-2002. This includes all W202 C-Classes, all W210 E-Classes, earlier W163 M-Classes, early W220 S-Classes, and early W203 C-Classes. It seems like they fixed the issue on the W211 E and all subsequent models.

  • avatar
    wsn

    @ Geeber “Out of 25 vehicles vehicles with the highest mileage, 22 fell into one of the four categories of vehicles named by Mr. Lang. Which means that those vehicles were 88 percent of the vehicles with the highest mileage.

    Even if we add the TOTAL market share of those four manufacturers – GM, Ford, Toyota and Honda – it doesn’t come anywhere near 88 percent of the total market.”

    ————

    Your logic fails where you assumed that the observed result (by the author) is the real distribution. There are two major issues:

    1) Raw data bias: certain makes/models may just never enter Steven Lang’s 2nd hand car network. Toyota/Honda/GM/Ford may not account for 88% of national sales, but they may actually account for 88% of all the cars that went through this particular network. To have good samples, you would need to find data from DMV, not from a sales network.

    2) The choice of “top 25″ is random and without explanation. Why 25? Why not top 133? Why not top 54? They all produce different results. Would there be a big gap between No. 7 and No. 8? Would it be more scientific if we use a weighted average for all the cars in that network? If you like it being simple as in “top 25″, then please also accept that it will have a margin of error like 30%. Coupled with a margin of error of 40% with the 1st point, you don’t really have any useful information here.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      Mr. Lang regularly compiles these lists (I’ve seen previous articles by him on this topic).

      After a few articles, you begin to believe that he is on to something. The same four categories of vehicles inevitably rise to the top of the mileage heap. And then his findings are confirmed by independent mechanics and others in the business, and you realize that he really is on to something.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Authors

  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • Tycho de Feyter, China
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Faisal Ali Khan, India