By on November 22, 2013

impala2

At what point are you willing to accept a low-ball offer for your old beater?

Is it when the tranny blows out? Or does it eventually come through the scourge of rust, and the constant breaking of electric doo-dads that no longer work all through your doo-dah-day?

Some folks simply get bored of their ride. While others just try to drive their cars until their bodies become the rolling representation of swiss cheese.

Everyone has a reason to curb a car. Thanks to the efforts of Nick Lariviere (<— Click the link!), and the cooperation of an automotive conglomerate with more money than some state governments, I now have 257,020 purely anecdotal examples of this type of personal decision making.

I now need to figure out one simple thing.

What does all this data tell me?

impala

Well, for one thing, I’ve figured out that a lot of this information reaffirms my past prejudices about what tends to be worth buying at the whoelsale auctions, and what vehicles should be avoided at all costs.

So what to buy used then? OK. Here are the top ten most reliable used vehicles according to the TI-QI Index.

 

1. Lexus LX Series

Lexus LX

Quality Index Rating:  8.09

Sample Size: 230

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See how that little yellow hump peaks at right around 200,000 miles?

These vehicles are the automotive version of granite. They are heavy as hell, don’t age, and will most assuredly squash off whatever vehicular bugs and cockroaches are on the road should the Zombie Apocalypse ever take place.

 

2. Toyota Land Cruiser

Quality Index Rating:  7.42

Sample Size: 183

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The Land Cruiser would be the Toyota of Lexuses if  Lexus had a Toyota that wasn’t already a Lexus. See what I mean? Not really? Neither do I.

Just look at that nice big yellow wave of space after the two intersection points and forget I ever wrote that.

 

3. Ford E250

Quality Index Rating:  6.37

Sample Size: 109

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The van of choice for locksmiths, utility workers, parts haulers and a highway beacon for young ambulance chasers who can’t afford their daytime TV commercials just yet.

I have a theory that when Comcast and AT&T are forced into the bankruptcies they rightly deserve, these vehicles will follow them into extinction.

Every one of them drinks gas like an old Lincoln, and there is already a massive glut of these vans in the used car marketplace.

You can’t kill em’. But like minivans, the buyer base is shrinking.

 

4. Lexus LS

Quality Index Rating:  5.99

Sample Size: 561

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Okay, the orange hump represents all the vehicles traded in before the Lexus on average.

The yellow bulge after the intersection point represents all the LS models that are kept for the longer haul. Note the substantial difference in the 250k to 300k zone.

Green means great. Yellow means good. Red means Suzuki.

 

5. Dodge Sprinter

Quality Index Rating:  5.94

Sample Size: 43

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Okay, 43 vehicles don’t exactly offer a big slice full of data. What matters here is the name. Dodge.

Dodge, as in thankfully nowhere near a typical Dodge. It’s a Mercedes that was once sold as a Freightliner and is now just a turbodiesel Benz in drag.

 

6. Toyota 4Runner

Quality Index Rating:  5.8

Sample Size: 1626

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Another Toyota SUV that consumes gas with aplomb. These things are less economical than a Town Car, and almost as good looking, but that doesn’t matter in the end.

If the LX and Land Cruiser are the king of SUV’s on an international scale, then the 4Runner is Gollum equipped with a jedi sword, an UZI and a chainsaw.

 

7. Toyota Avalon

Quality Index Rating:  5.15

Sample Size: 1125

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You see a trend here? That’s right! The first five vehicles are all built on truck and SUV platforms, and the other two can cause numbness of the extremities.

What helps the Avalon is that the first two generations were insanely over-engineered, and most mature folks like to drive their ride with a tap instead of a stomp.

 

8. Lexus GX

Quality Index Rating:  4.93

Sample Size: 251

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What the hell is a GX? Lexus needs to stop using acronyms and start using names such as, “Endurante” and “Hedgehog”.

On second thought, maybe GX is perfectly fine.

 

9. Ford Excursion

Quality Index Rating:  4.9

Sample Size: 279

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The Ford Canyonero really isn’t an SUV. It’s the future of family housing after the US government decides that free enterprise is too expensive.

 

10. Saturn LS1

Quality Index Rating:  4.88

Sample Size: 57

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Who? What? Huh?

Well, I have this theory… GM designed these Saturns to run on meth.

At least it seems to attract that type of customer base in my neck of the woods. I have one of these that’s now on it’s third run through with the local meth clientele.

The first customer had a wife and kid on meth. The second was a user of meth, and the third is a distributor of meth.

When I first got it, my wife liked the color and wanted to keep it. But it never ran quite right for her. It needed meth.

As soon as I fixed the fuel pump and retailed it, no problems. It has gone through three addicts so far and has taken more abuse than the local public defender. Still runs fine.

Why? It must be the meth. I can think of no other reason why it’s in the top ten.

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65 Comments on “Hammer Time: The TI-QI Top Ten...”


  • avatar
    Jeff Weimer

    That’s a picture of a Dodge Comcast van instead of a Ford.

  • avatar
    ExPatBrit

    Hate to be the “spelling nazi” but …

    It’s spelt “MILEAGE”.

    I feel better now!

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Huh…five of those vehicles are Toyota/Lexus models, and four of them are trucks. The GX of course shares a platform with the 4Runner, and is literally a luxed-up version of what is called the Land Cruiser Prado in other markets. As for the LX…it depreciates much slower than competing vehicles like the Mercedes-Benz GL and Range Rover, lasts a very long time and doesn’t look super ostentatious.

  • avatar
    Scribe39

    Nice to see a good, definitive survey, proving . . . ?

  • avatar
    KalapanaBlack

    Certainly rings true for my Avalon. One of the first 1995s built, November of ’94 (happy 19th!). It’s sitting at 214k and runs beautifully. I was given it for free two and a half years ago, and since then it has required one battery, bought the first month I had it, two windshield wipers, one tire plug, and two front brake hoses that were weathered and cracking. They weren’t leaking yet, but would have failed PA state inspection. 100% of the luxury/power features operate on it, it cruises well at 80 mph, accelerates better than many newer 4cyl cars, gets 28 mpg on the highway (despite 4 speeds and the aerodynamics of a Target store), and heats/cools me in perfect comfort. Well, the digital display for the clock and exterior temperature occasionally fade away in weather under 30 degrees… I guess that’s something that’s kind of broken.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Not a Honda on the list – VERY surprised.

    Seems there is something to be said for trucks and SUVs.

    If Mercedes can build such a reliable van, why are their cars service nightmares.

    • 0 avatar
      RHD

      Easy – there is LOTS of money to be made on parts and labor!
      Especially if the parts have to come from Germany, and the labor requires special tools that can only be found in the dealer’s service department.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      This data says nothing about reliability it is only the mileage when they went through auction and the percentage of them advertised as having engine, trans or engine/trans issues.

      The Sprinter is the money pit of vans. Fedex sends the few they bought to try directly to the scrap yard rather than fix them. The 0% trans issues is highly suspect other than possibly the fact that the dealer where it was traded in knew that the price of the trans far exceeded the value of the truck so it wasn’t worth bothering with sending it to auction. The dealer gets $12K+ for one installed and the last I checked my wholesale cost for one from Jasper one of the few companies that will sell one with more than a taillight warranty was $6K.

      • 0 avatar
        jz78817

        Plus, the sprinter (regardless of badge) seems to be made from compressed rust. I don’t think I’ve seen a single Sprinter in MI more than a few years old which didn’t have ruddy brown streaks all over it.

        Incredible piece of junk.

        • 0 avatar
          tonycd

          I’ve noticed this too. Amazingly poor quality sheetmetal.

          BTW, I’ve noticed the same thing on S-Class and E-Class sedans around the turn of the millennium. Between this and Mercedes’ stewardship of Chrysler in general, it kinda makes you wonder exactly what Mercedes “management” thought the lesson of Lexus’s success was.

        • 0 avatar
          JREwing

          Absolutely true. I haven’t seen vehicles rust out so badly or so quickly since the ’80′s. Simply appalling.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        Agreed. Every single one who I know, and all those at work, are reliability nightmares. Perhaps they can go the distance if you throw money at them, but why would you?

      • 0 avatar
        mikeg216

        All anyone needs to know about the sprinter is. Our Mercedes heavy duty truck repair center in Cleveland switched back to Ford for parts runner vans….

  • avatar
    jz78817

    For the excursion, I wonder how many of those “power train/engine issues” are 6.0 Powerstroke related.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    Clicking the link, I see that Plymouth rates better in the 180K index than Honda and Toyota….just started looking but that jumped out at me. Also, snot brands don’t do so well by this metric I see…

    What this data does not capture is what the vehicle had for repairs prior in its life. As I have said before, a Taurus will likely not get a transmission repair at 130K where the Accord most likely will, giving it a crack at 200K. So, true durability is not being measured unless one can actually track the value of repairs.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      Defunct brands from that time period (Olds, Geo, Plymouth, etc.) will naturally score higher in the 180k+ mileage area since they haven’t been made in well over a decade.

      As for the rationale for creating this study? Feel free to read the link below. Organizing it has been a long time coming and I believe it will offer folks a far better barometer of long-term reliability than any survey out there with the sole exception of Consumer Reports.

      http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/02/hammer-time-kiametrics/

  • avatar
    LeeK

    Hate to say it Steve, but Walter White is holding a vial of ricin, not methamphetamine. Later used on Lydia. But SL1s running on poison may still be an apt description of the vileness of the vehicle. I particularly despise the DRL setup on those cars.

  • avatar
    Detroit-X

    Mileage accumulation documented at car auctions? That’s it?!! That may have some perceived usefulness to you, but to me it is not a measure of anything. This could be one metric in the contrivance of something more proven, but just as-is: It means nothing.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      You bring on a good point. Not because you are right. But the data that we’re working with is unique in terms of the overall industry.

      For starters, the 250,000+ vehicles in the study are all trade-ins. There are no fleet lease vehicles, repossessions, rental cars, or program cars put into mix. This is 100% trade-ins, and every single one of them is sold for a price that is equivalent to at or below the rough wholesale price.

      How does that help? Well, let’s say you are looking at a specific model. Let’s say it’s a 2001 VW Jetta.

      http://members.wolfram.com/nickl/reports/Volkswagen.html

      The report will tell you the level of transmission issues, engine issues, and the typical level of mileage these vehicles are traded-in. If an older used vehicle has an unusually high level of transmission issues or engine issues, this extensive survey, which now averages over 250,000 vehicles a year, will highlight that issue.

      Right now we have well over 3000 data points on the Jetta. As time goes on, we will be able to highlight the data by year for most of the models. If Jettas or any other reasonably popular model has a history of issues at a certain point, this study will be able to track it.

      The folks inspecting these vehicles are trained to evaluate dozens of vehicles that are traded-in every week. So the bias is minimal. Also, in terms of when a vehicle is traded-in, usually people are willing to accept a low offer for their vehicle when they have reached a point when they would rather have the money, even a little money, than the car. If a certain type of vehicle is routinely traded-in with less than 100k miles versus 200k or 250k, it shows that the customer grew tired or dis-satisfied with the vehicle at an earlier point.

      If you ever wondered whether older Kias and Hyundais have indeed become good used cars to buy versus, say, Toyotas and Hondas, this study will furnish the exact type of information you need to make that determination.

      By the way, for right now, the answer to that question is a resounding no.

      The vehicles in the top ten for this article are ones that are traded-in with higher mileage on average. They also have infrequent mechanical issues which go hand in hand with that.

      You may not like the findings. But they are there, and as our data points cross the 500,000 mile barrier by late fall next year, we will section off vehicles by year and offer even more of our findings… for free.

      Why? Because we think folks should be given the opportunity to buy a vehicle that lasts. If we can help get a buyer away from a popular low quality vehicle, and into a less popular high quality vehicle, then we think this type of study is worth doing.

      Your mileage may vary. No pun intended.

      • 0 avatar
        SaulTigh

        As a person who has never had a brand new car, and driven several up to nearly 200,000 miles (’90 Taurus, ’93 Taurus, ’96 Grand Marquis), I thank you for your efforts and look forward to updates. My current rides are a ’95 Sable with a mere 61K on the clock. Bless my grandmother for always garaging her cars. I’ve got my wife in an ’08 Lincoln MKZ. I test drove the Lincoln on a whim one day after I saw it setting in a dealer lot. I went home and did some research and after finding out the Fusion/MKZ were thought to be generally reliable, what kicked it over for me is that the ’08 MKZ got a JD Power award for 3 YEAR QUALITY. I went back and bought the car, and in 2.5 years it’s been trouble free. I’m thinking seriously about taking it up to 250,000 miles if I can.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        You could also look at it another way. The people kept them so long because they were married to them due to an expensive repair. Say the trans or turbo blows on your Sprinter. So now you’ve got a vehicle that you still owe money on and is worthless. To some that means that they must fix it and once they fix it for that outrageous price they are stuck with keeping it for a few more years.

        You also say that these are all trade ins but do you have any data that proves it was the original owner that traded them in? It could be that the original owner tired of it before 100K and because they kept it in good shape it never went through the auction system, because it was something the dealer would put on their own lot. That alone could explain the skew in the Lexus mileages.

        • 0 avatar
          Steven Lang

          You are assuming that the original owner is the only arbiter of a vehicle’s worth.

          You are also assuming that people stay married to vehicles with expensive repairs. My experience has been that once a customer is no longer financially obligated to a money pit, they curb em’. One of the surprising things I find at the auctions is that folks often get rid of their vehicles right after they have already paid for a big repair.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            No it is the assumption you made that these vehicles are being traded in by their original owners and the mileage when they went through auctions somehow has something to say about their reliability.

            Certainly there are those people who trade their vehicle in shortly after a major repair. Being int he auto repair industry for 25 years has shown that there are both. More than a couple of times when I consulted with a owner before that major repair I stressed to them that it is only worth doing that fix if they intend to keep the car for a significant time period after the repair. They then assure me that yes the plan is to keep the car for a number of years. Then the next thing you know they are bringing me a car they just bought to have me check it out. In the case of those vehicles then when it comes through the auction it won’t have an announcement that it needs engine/trans work since it was already done.

            On the other hand there are a number of customers who brought me cars that had just had a major repair when it shouldn’t have with the need for another major repair. When I tell them it is not worth the cost of the repair they reply that they can’t afford to get rid of the car now since it wasn’t all that long ago that they spent more than the vehicle was worth to fix it.

            The fact that the Sprinter shows up on this list proves that there is a serious flaw. The Sprinter has prove itself time and time again to be the van with the highest purchase price, the highest cost of ownership, the greatest down time and the worst overall reliability of any van.

        • 0 avatar
          mkirk

          As a former Land Cruiser owner I will second this as highly plausible.

      • 0 avatar
        Detroit-X

        Steven

        Like I said, this data you are accumulating may be useful for something, but I don’t see it related to quality. Even “quality” itself is frequently debated as to the definition with respect to automobiles.

        For a given used car, the ‘money-pit clock’ begins again with a each buyer; it can start over and over. Huge amounts of repair cash can be piled into one vehicles via several owners. Where is that figure?

        Trading in a vehicle is for a lot of reasons. Where is the stated reason for trading in the vehicle?

        How do you know a 4 owner car wasn’t a fleet vehicle, repo, or rental car at one time? Why would including that be bad for establishing “quality?” People research and buy these cars too.

        In the industry, “powertrain” is the engine and transmission, which you list. So what is the separate Powertrain Issues metric for? This isn’t clear.

        This metric you created is just a snapshot in time. It is not a measure of quality, cost of upkeep, or ownership joy vs. tolerance. Your data should instead be called “Problems we found on old vehicles, traded in at ___ miles.” That’s it.

    • 0 avatar
      jz78817

      “Mileage accumulation documented at car auctions? That’s it?!! That may have some perceived usefulness to you, but to me it is not a measure of anything.”

      I don’t think it was presented as any “measure,” only a bit of interesting information.

      besides, it’s not like it cost you anything to read it.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      I wouldn’t say it means nothing.

      It’s one dimension describing the longevity if cars, and it’s interesting because Steven Lang was able to get his hands on the data and extract a worthwhile story.

      Like any statistic, though, it’s not the whole story and it’s important to hold what it actually means in your head whenever you think about it. Most of the discussion is using the cars sold at a particular age are a rough proxy for the cars of a certain on the road at a particular time – but it’s really describing the used market for particular cars. These things are deeply related but, as you point out, they are not the same thing.

      One thing that might be interesting would be to compare national used car sales with the new-car sales numbers for a particular make/model/yeat car, which could be built into an approximate mortality curve for a particular car. But gathering the data for that sounds like a full time job, and I’m not volunteering for it.

  • avatar
    Tim_Turbo

    It sounds silly, but many times when I drive my “beater”, which is a 99 Cherokee Sport, I get people wanting to buy it. It is extremely clean for its age (except for the multitude of door dings), especially considering I live in Maine where rust has consumed most of them. Mine has only spent 3 winters in Maine, I bought it from the original owner who was from the southwest. And even though its my “beater” I’m pretty picky about keeping it clean. At only around 150K miles, it should go for a long, long time. I once had one with over 300K on it.

    Thing is, it’s mine, I own it. It is not a particulary valuable vehicle. But for the $2500-$4500 people have offered I can’t replace it with a similar vehicle in as good of shape. So nope, not going to sell it.

  • avatar
    Quentin

    I’ve toyed with the idea of selling my rarely driven 2010 4Runner and buying an older Land Cruiser. My brother’s wife’s family has a 1994 LC that they drive every day. 220k miles and nothing but normal wear items. They’ve had it since 40k. They refuse to part with it. If it had the factory lockers, I’d press harder to buy it.

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      A few things to keep in mind. First, the 80 series in any form is never going to top 11-12 MPG in any circumstance. Next, they are slow. The 93+ with the 1FZ-FE motor is less slow, but any 4 runner is still a rocket by comparison. Next, when they need ANYTHING at all bring your wallet.

      If you buy used make sure the brakes are good. The lines age and will balloon. The brakes are marginal on a good day and scary unless in tip top shape. 250k ish seems to be the magic number for the 1FZ while the old 3FE will apparently run forever. If you really need lockers because you routinely hit the rocks I’d get a non locked one and go ARB…The E lockers have some rather expensive/unobtanium components that can fail.

      On the cool side, a 12k pound winch will fit behind the factory bumper.

  • avatar
    mkirk

    As a former Land cruiser owner, I will say that my little Avatar just above this post will tell you pretty much all you need to know about that experience. That picture was snapped with 248,992 on the ODO when I could no longer drown out the engine knock with the radio.

    Having said all that and in spite of the fact that I threw money at it like it was a government project and it drank fuel like an Abrams Tank it was my favorite vehicle I have owned and when the zombies come I will miss it.

    I Would in no way ever recommend one to someone who did not wrench on their own vehicles at the level pictured above. Yes, they are built to last in the same way an old tractor is. That includes an intensive maint. schedule that original owners tended not to follow so pretty much any one you buy that is not from a Cruiserhead will require an intensive baselining process that easily gets into the thousands of dollars if you are paying a mechanic. If you are paying a mechanic that knows anything about Land Cruisers and you did not do your homework pre purchase that can get into 5 figure territory. The Axle service for example will run 12-1500 if you get it done but if you are willing to get dirty (very dirty) the parts run about 250.

    I loved mine, BUT it is the car that finally taught me that if I can’t afford it new, I really can’t afford it used.

  • avatar
    CliffG

    Ha. A picture of my old Impala begins the whole schtick on reliability. It is even a picture of it after the rally hubcaps (worth more than the car at the time) got ripped off in some random parking lot. But, one of only three vehicles (out of about 30+) I managed to sell for the same or more I had into it. As long as you topped off the oil and antifreeze every couple of days it ran fine. Alas, the end of the $450 cars.

  • avatar
    claytori

    I was somewhat surprised to see the Saturn LS1 on this list. I now own two of these, MY 2000 vintage, one with >150,000 mi and one >200,000 mi. They are cheap to buy, cheap to run, and reliable. There is much confusion in the terminology used by Saturn for their model names. The LS1 (2.2 litre mid-size Opel based)is widely confused with the SL1 (compact 1.6 litre). The LS1 name was only used for 2000-2001. The reason for this appears to be widespread dyslexia, as I have to verify with parts counter guys all the time and can be seen in Craigslist/Auto Trader/Kijiji ads, and posts above. It runs 20-25%. The overall corrosion protection on the LS1 is excellent. The front subframe is prone to corrosion, however. The engine has a somewhat fragile timing chain, but this is easily detected and (hopefully) replaced before destroying the engine. The six cylinder version – LS2, has the German 3.0 liter V6 as used in the Cadillac Catera, and is to be avoided. I am aware that it isn’t the most glamorous car on the road, but it does the job.

    • 0 avatar
      wstarvingteacher

      I thought LS1 was a typo till I googled it. Not surprised to see it here though. The satellite guy was driving an LW when he hooked us up and I see it all around. I would have been less surprised to see the “made in america” (TN) Saturn SL though. Owned two of them and no problems worse than a cooling fan.

      Probably won’t be seeing many old Saturns in the future. I think they fouled their nest in 2002 when they started being just an Opel. YMMV but my experience was traumatic.

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      The original S Series (SL, SL1, SL2, SC1, SC2) could be had with a 1.9L engine. The no number and 1 cars had a SOHC motor that was 85 HP in TBI form and 100 after 1995 when it got multipart injection. The 2 cars got the twin cam 124 HP variant. In coupe form with a stick they would scoot and were solid cars. I had that opel 3.0 in a VUE and all I remember was you had to remove the whole intake to change the thermostat. The dealer wanted 750 bucks. It wouldn’t pass emissions without it and I was going in the Army in a few days so it got traded for a Hyundai as it had numerous other issues and I didn’t have time to mess with it.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    The LS keeps calling my name. Being in the desert southwest 10 year old models with less than 100,000 miles are shockingly common.

    • 0 avatar
      Japanese Buick

      Good to know Dan. If my current LS (a 98 at 245k) gives up the ghost, a road trip to NM with some money will be in order. Because lower mileage used ones are in short supply around here (NC).

      And you should definitely take the plunge. I’ve owned mine for 12 years, and it was four years old when I bought it. Still the best car I’ve ever owned.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        GO just a little further into AZ and you’ll strike gold. In the desert southwest the old people are as thick on the ground as in Florida. As a result the luxury and near-luxury vehicles are everywhere. I was in my old neighborhood in Gallup and I realized there were three 1st generation Oldsmobile Auroras in a 2 block area. All of them where in admirable condition. One house a few doors over had TWO Buick LeSabres in the driveway, one late 90s model and one mid 2000s model.

        Naturally down in the retirement villages of the Phoenix area of course the Cadillacs, Lincolns, Mercedes, and Lexuses are much more prevalent. Of course retires have all their work done at the dealership with OEM parts.

  • avatar
    mfgreen40

    Thanks Steve, I always enjoy your writing. I would like to see you and Michael Karesh pool your information for a complete buyers guide. Syke –I agree about the grammar police, they should get a life.

    • 0 avatar
      Japanese Buick

      There are grammar nazis and then there’s seeing the same annoying typo repeated 10 times. I am happy to let grammar mistakes go (and even make my own) in comments, forums, even the text of TTAC articles. But presentation / research charts assumably had SOME work put into them.

  • avatar
    markholli

    First off, Steven, it’s good to see your stuff on TTAC again. I have always enjoyed your pieces.

    Second, while I’m not surprised by this list (exception: Saturn), it is fascinating to see what the true “cockroaches” of autodom are. This cuts through all the crap that marketers love to cite in their ads, like “longest lasting” and “most durable” and “J.D. Power’s best…”, as well as the phony Strategic Vision studies. Maybe this will also shut up the blind fanatic fanboys (“My Subaru is indestructible” …except for the CV axles, head gaskets, diffs, clutch, etc.) for a minute or two.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I think this is a great start, but one big potential problem I see that it looks like the current analysis lumps all engines/transmissions and years together under model names.

    What about stuff like the Taurus, Explorer, or Lacrosse that had major makeovers between generations and really aren’t even the same vehicle at all? The trade-in quality of a 2003 Taurus doesn’t mean much to someone thinking about a 2008 version.

    What if a DSG Volkswagen is way more trouble-prone than the regular auto or manual version? A 2007 3.5L Impala might be a grood choice, but a 2007 Impala 5.3L might be a nightmare.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      Good point. Although the Impalas have less of a variance than Intrepids.

      Once you get enough data, you can break these things down. It’s just a matter of pulling it all together in stages.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Nice to see some more data from the mythical database I’ve been hearing about for so long, keep up the good work. Maybe next you’ll do the top ten worst on the list?

  • avatar
    Brian P

    One thing that I see is that brand names that are relatively recent to the market or have had large sales increases in recent years (Kia and Scion come to mind) naturally won’t have many high-mileage vehicles out there and are likely to get a low “percentage over 180k” even if the vehicles are good, while others that are dead and gone (Oldsmobile) or have flopped in sales in recent years are likely to have a higher “percentage over 180k” unless they were complete duds that couldn’t make it there no matter what.

    I don’t think Geo (or Plymouth!) is as good as the “percentage over 180k” chart would suggest … and I don’t think Scion is as bad … but maybe I’m wrong!

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    While my 1994 Saturn wagon had some ergonomic problems ( rattletrap plastic body , front seats as lousy as any car I ever owned ) it was quite reliable . Bought at 2 years old and over 60000 miles with the SOHC engine and a 5-speed for my wife . We flogged the car mercilessly . For a while she worked days and I worked nights and we both used it for commuting , 25 miles a day each way for both of us . Later she got another car and I got another job involving driving it up to 300 miles a day for work . Great car for that as I was paid for the mileage and it easily got 30 m.p.g. I did have to replace the clutch as IIRC the starter housing fell apart and killed the clutch and for many months the speedo/ odometer only sporadically worked . No problem as I learned to guesstimate my speed using the tach . And the ignition failed , allegedly a difficult repair job so I had it hot-wired instead .When it was rear-ended in 2001 it had 275,000 miles on the clock , in reality it had somewhere over 300,000 miles due to the odmometer often not working . The guy’s insurance company totalled it and gave me $3200 for it . Between that and the mileage money I received at work I don’t think it cost me anything .Not especially quick with the SOHC but I always liked slow cars with manual transmissions anyway .

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    Not at all surprised to see the LandCruisers and 4runners and GXs on there. When you take an inherently durable design (BOF, solid rear axle) and have it built by Toyota with intended use in third world environments, you have a winning combination.

    I was immediately smitten by my ’96 4runner when I test drove it, it felt tight as a drum, practically a new car in terms of having no rattles or looseness to any of the controls. After spending some money to replace all of the wear items, it may as well be a brand new vehicle. I routinely see them for sale on craigslist with 200-250k miles, still commanding $4000-$5000 dollars, the “Toyota Tax” as it were. The 3rd gen trucks have the iron block, non interference 5vzfe, and an Aisin transmission shared with the heavier LC80 LandCruiser. They don’t really have weak points that would leave them immobile except a snapped timing belt, but they will go well beyond the rated 90k, 7 year interval. And even after a break, getting the belt replaced at the local shade tree mechanic doesn’t break the bank given its easy access. Beyond wear items like brakes, shocks, and t-belt, mine needed a new fan clutch ($100 for a OE spec Aisin), and new axle seals ($15 for parts, 3 hours labor when combined with new rear brake shoes).

  • avatar
    mkirk

    The early lc80 had literally a bus transmission. It was shared with the Coaster bus from other markets. Very durable, but heavy pigs that took a ton of power to spin and an integral component of the single digit city fuel economy.

  • avatar
    jimbob457

    Kudos for your Moneyball-type efforts to identify good used vehicles. As a trained economist, I have come to appreciate how important it is to separate naturally opposing forces like (for example) supply and demand. Your analysis by its nature focuses on one aspect (how well the vehicles were designed and built). Some of your B&B have alluded to the other side of this equation – how were they maintained and driven.

    I have spent most of my days in a posh neighborhood in an almost rust-free part of the world. Others call it the Park Cities of the Dallas-Ft. Worth metro area. We call it “the bubble”. No rust. Affluent and aged drivers. Buying grandma or grandpa’s three or four year old Caddie was for decades a proven formula. Hell, I even bought a couple of splendid examples from my mother-in-law (God rest her soul and her beloved bottle of Crown Royal). Eventually, the supply side of the equation reared its ugly head after the utter idiots who came to run Cadillac in the 1980′s made a total mess of it all.

    Perhaps, you might also want to consider some additional data that might turn out to be available like average age and income level of initial buyers. Possibly, geographic variables might prove useful?

    Good luck!

  • avatar
    Power6

    I have to come down on the side of possible irrelevance here…have you had a proper statistician or such look at your data?

    I know nothing about that stuff and I can already poke some holes here: The auction is a point in time, a snapshot of a market, cars can pass through many times. According to your data, the same BMW could pass through at 30k, then 75k miles then 150k and it is bring down its own average! Obviously that is an unlikely example in your timeframe but shows your analysis penalizes for cars that trade hands more often. Fickle owners should not be a factor.

    The high mileage part is pretty good stuff, the 200k+ cars represent a vehicle that is still running and being exchanged, the frequency of particular brands. But the fact that Plymouth throws off the process means you have a flawed calculation.

    • 0 avatar
      jimbob457

      It’s easy to poke holes in this kind of data mining operation. To me, that’s not the point. I think it is, even though you may be technically right, just a wee bit wrong to characterize this effort as a ‘flawed calculation’. Your analysts have given you several metrics to evaluate. Collectively, they tell a story.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    If I haven’t already done so, let me welcome you back to TTAC, Mr. Lang! This is an interesting study, and it confirms my own “horse sense” with one glaring exception: the Mercedes/Dodge Sprinter van. One of the things that has been done with these is sell them to RV makers, like Winnebago, who then build a compact RV on the chassis and sell them to gramma and grandpa who decide that, in their retirement, they’d like to see the USA. The sales pitch that brings them in is that, in exchange for doll-house sized accommodations (but good enough for two), they will achieve 15-16 mpg seeing the USA, as compared with maybe 10 mpg for a gasoline powered, van-based “class C” RV or maybe 6 mpg for a gasoline powered “Class A” RV if they want more room. Diesel versions of those “Class A’s” might manage 10 mpg on a good day.

    Unfortunately gramma and grampa are not told about the temperamental Mercedes engine, which like all diesels with particulate filters, is still using its owners as beta testers to get the technology right. And, of course, you are dealing with Mercedes-priced parts and the fact that your vehicle really can’t be serviced at a Dodge dealer or a Mercedes car dealership because they’re unlikely to have a mechanic on staff who’s been trained to fix these powertrains. You get to go to a Freightliner service center, and wait in line with all the Big Rigs. Fun for the grandkids!

    The RV forums are full of horror stories about these vehicles . . . and yet, the suckers are expensive, more than $100K, even used.

    Somehow, the system you’re using isn’t picking this up.

  • avatar
    jimbob457

    Just for fun I decided to follow up on (I think) your lowest rated used car, the dreaded Land Rover Freelander. I must say that on Edmunds.com the hate mail was astonishing.


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