Monday Mileage Champion: The Year In Review

Steven Lang
by Steven Lang
monday mileage champion the year in review

It’s time to make a confession to the good folks at TTAC.

The mileage game is rigged.

How so? Well, approximately two-thirds of the vehicles that reach the 300k+ mark at an auction I attend will usually belong in one of four categories.

Ford truck or SUV. Chevy truck or SUV. Honda car. Toyota everything.

There you have it. Nearly two thirds of the vehicles that I see with serious high mileage credentials will belong in one of those four categories.

Yes I do see the occasional V8, rear-wheel-drive Ford car. Nissan seems to do well with their mostly -90’s Altimas, 10+ year old Maximas, and their wonderful small trucks. A few Jeeps and Cummins diesel trucks also fly into the high mileage radar.

But everyone else? Just little glimpses every now and then.

The old school German machinery will sometimes score a 300k+ model with a level of maintenance receipts that could do damage to your next door neighbor’s window.

VW does well with the TDI, the too slow 2.0, and nothing else. Audi, Jaguar, Land Rover, SAAB, and Volvo have become a big fuhgeddaboudit for our weekly mileage contest. Volvo would probably field a few 300k vehicles if the odometers on all their 1990’s models didn’t break with a near 100% level of consistency.

In my experiences, Subarus can get close to 300k, But they will often have massive oil leaks and repair records that will rival the Germans.

Mitsubishi makes some decent cars as does Mazda. But the former are almost always eventually skirted away to the abuse oriented rental fleets and buy-here pay-here lots. While Mazda suffers from a nasty long era where many of their automatic transmissions simply did not hold up.

Then we have Chrysler. The 2.7 Liter engines rarely makes it past 120k miles and are virtually non-existent at the auto recycling centers. Even though they made millions of them, you may as well be asking the guy at the junkyard counter for a 20 year old Peugeot with a dancing unicorn on top of it.

The 3.7 Liter and 4.7 Liter engines are also becoming increasingly expensive due to sludge issues and the fact that they’re difficult to rebuild. Chrysler transmissions for their minivans are also becoming a rarer sight. Although they are far easier to rebuild.

Finally, it seems that Chrysler could never design certain basic parts that were worth a flip throughout the last two decades.

For a while at the auctions, I began to think that Chrysler engineered a whining noise into all the power steering pumps in their minivans and differentials in their luxury Jeeps. Chrysler wouldn’t even arbitrate certain Jeeps for differential noise back in the mid-2000’s.

However, a Dodge truck with a Cummins diesel remains a recipe for success, and the Hemi engine seems to be long lasting along with the old 5.2 Liter 318 engine and the 4.0 Liter inline-six.

Finally we are back at GM and Ford, again. I will give special kudos to the GM 3.8 Liter V6 and the Ford Vulcan V6. The former was a marvel for the time. While the later represents the ultimate in amortization costs and continuous improvement. Everything else ranges from above average (GM 2.2 Liter engines and early non-plastic intake 3.1 Liter engines), to problematic (Ford 3.8 Liter engines, GM 3.4 Liter V6 models, Northstar V8’s.)

Sometimes these issues had to do with the overuse of cheap plastic in the engine bay and coolants that gel up. While other times it has more to do with basic bad design (Saturn and Freestar CVT transmissions) and planned obsolescence (Aveos, Neons, PT Cruisers, last-gen Festivas, last-gen Metros).

I expect that the Koreans will likely join the fray of 300k+ in the coming years. But a lot of just plain bad Hyundais and Kias were made until recent times. I can’t recall a single model from either brand with a notably high mileage at the auctions.

As for the Honda Accord with 403,817 miles? It was followed by a Toyota Tacoma, an Acura TL, and a Ford Explorer. All with over 390,000 miles. The durability quartet took 8 of the top 10 spots and 22 of the first 30.

Not bad… and not unusual at all.

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  • Danio3834 Danio3834 on Jan 02, 2013

    Not that it makes a huge difference to the statement, the Freestar was never available with a CVT. You're thinking of the Freestyle, before it was a Taurus X or 5th gen Explorer.

  • Geozinger Geozinger on Jan 02, 2013

    My mileage champion is a 1987 Dodge Lancer ES Turbo with Trenton 2.2 and 5 speed. Ran it 10+ years and 160+K miles before trading on a Dodge Dakota. If the rear main seal hadn't started to leak, I probably would have driven the car a few more years. Loved the turbo motor, to the very end. My wife's car, a 2009 Pontiac G6 with Ecotec 2.4 and 6 speed autobox is at 63+K miles at 3.5 years of ownership, it looks like we'll be driving this one well into the 100K miles, probably 200K or more. When I buy a car new, I like to try and keep it 10 years. OTOH, since my mother and her father (last ones) have passed away in the last year, maybe we won't be taking as many long distance trips as we once did.

  • Jeff S Corey Lewis--GM designed those cars shortly after the 1978 oil crisis caused by a reduction in oil production in Iran and the eventual over throw of the Shah and the Iranian hostage crisis. GM anticipated gas would be $5 a gallon and up and that there would be shortages of oil. By the late 80s the supply of oil stabilized and gas and diesel prices stabilized. Ford didn't have the resources to completely redesign all their cars and except for the midsize, compact, and small cars that were front wheel drive and that is why Ford held onto the Panther platform for so long. GM just on the X car design and development spent 2.5 billion dollars and spent at least another billion on the C platform that was used on those 1985 full size front wheel drive cars.
  • SilverCoupe I am one of those people whose Venn diagram of interests would include Audis and Formula One.I am not so much into Forums, though. I spend enough time just watching the races.
  • Jeff S Definitely and very soon. Build a hybrid pickup and price it in the Maverick price range. Toyota if they can do this soon could grab the No 1 spot from Maverick.
  • MaintenanceCosts Would be a neat car if restored, and a lot of good parts are there. But also a lot of very challenging obstacles, even just from what we can see from the pictures. It's going to be hard to justify a restoration financially.
  • Jeff S Ford was in a slump during this era and its savior was a few years away from being introduced. The 1986 Taurus and Sable saved Ford from bankruptcy and Ford bet the farm on them. Ford was also helped by the 1985 downsize front wheel drive full sized GM cars. Lincoln in 1987 even spoofed these new full size GM cars in an ad basically showing it was hard to tell the difference between a Cadillac, Buick, and Oldsmobile. This not only helped Lincoln sales but Mercury Grand Marquis and Ford Crown Victoria sales. For GM full size buyers that liked the downsized GM full size 77 to 84 they had the Panther based Lincoln Town Cars, Mercury Grand Marquis, and Ford Crown Victorias that were an alternative to the new GM front wheel drive full size cars that had many issues when they were introduced in 1985 and many of those issues were not resolved for several years. The Marks were losing popularity after the Mark Vs. 1985 was the last year for the rear wheel drive Olds Delta 88 and rear wheel drive Buick Lesabre the rear wheel Caprice and Caprice Classic 3rd generation continued till 1990 when it was redesigned. B Body Buick Estate wagons continued thru 1990 as the Olds Custom Cruiser wagon and both were redesigned. GM held onto a few rear wheel drive full size cars but the Lincoln ad really brought home the similarly looking front wheel drive full size cars. Lincoln's ad was masterful.
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