By on January 7, 2013

This week has been nothing less than the usual.

The top 5 vehicles were either Toyotas or Ford trucks, with a 2005 Toyota RAV4 that had galloped 425,904 miles skating right past a 2003 Ford E250 with 413,579. Eight of the top ten were either the usual Ford/Chevy/Toyota truck, or a Honda/Toyota car. Only a solitary Vulcan V6 Ford car and a Nissan Maxima interrupted the usual domination. Both of those models I’m thinking about adding to the list just because they are frequent enough to merit that distinction along with Sajeev’s beloved Panthers.

But then again, I did have one big surprise. Anyone remember the Mercury Capri?

Picture Courtesy of

A 1992 model with 294,766 miles in rust free Albuquerque, New Mexico made it to the top 25. This one came with the sundial slow 1.6 Liter non-turbo and a handshaker. Two important qualities that likely kept this old convertible from an early grave.

Chrysler fielded a minivan with 302k that apparently did time in Leavenworth… and that was about it. Everything else was composed of vehicles that were perhaps 40% of the usual car population back in the day, and yet they once again yielded 80+% of the high mileage vehicles.

This brings me to an open question for the Best & Brightest. The database I use will field over 200,000 trade-ins during the course of the year and the brand population for all those vehicles will be exceptionally neutral. Chevy dealerships attract more Chevys. Ford dealers get more Fords. This firm offers none of that static or orientation.

I am planning on building what can loosely be considered a long-term CSI index. Back in 2009 when I wrote an article called Kiametrics (one of my personal favorites) I noticed some unusually strong tendencies from certain manufacturers. The outperformers back then routinely fielded vehicles with well over 200k as trade-ins while those with lesser reputations routinely displayed trade-in mileage at less than 100k and rather scary announcements on the block (engine needs service, transmission needs service, lemon law buyback, etc.)

Read Kiametrics first here and consider the following questions…

1) At what mileage point and/or age has a typical vehicle earned a good repuation for quality?

NOTE: I am mentioning age on this question because certain enthusiast vehicles (Miata, Wrangler, Corvette) and those with an older clientele (Buick, Lincoln, 90’s Cadillacs) routinely get traded in with less than 100k.

2) Would you be interested in knowing about whether certain models have a high tendency for failure?

VW and Volvo transmissions. Chrysler 2.7 Liter engines. Mercedes electrical issues. The mainstream media may love covering the mileage issues of Ford and Honda hybrids for example. But the population of older hybrids with battery issues may also be worth a far more serious issue for the buying public. What about the longevity of the CVT? Are those models less relaible and more expensive to own than ye olde conventional transmissions? That’s an important question to me as a dealer since it’s virtually impossible to rebuild a CVT or find an affordable replacement at the junkyards.

3) Finally. If you are interested… can you help me a bit with the data?

It’s not that hard to do and should take no more than 15 minutes a week for any three major brands. The company has provided an automatic sorter so all you need to do is add them up, and write the numbers down.  26 Ford trucks had over 200k, 2 had less than 100k, etc.

My hunch is that certain mainstream publications don’t have the means or the interest to divine these questions. But the answers could be especially useful for millions of folks who will buy an older used car. Maximas may have far fewer mechanical problems than Accords and Tauruses. The F150 may be a far better choice at a higher mileage than a Ram or full-sized Chevy. The Buick Regal can be a hidden gem in an endless mineshaft of GM mediocrity.

There is a lot of solid statistical ground that can be covered with well over 200,000 vehicles.

What are your thoughts? And please take a quick look at the Kiametrics article first. Thanks!

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52 Comments on “Monday Mileage Champion: An Open Request...”

  • avatar

    Steve, I love working these kinds of stats. (In fact, Paul asked me to write an article a few years ago analyzing NHTSA data from the Toyota UA witch-hunt:

    We might even be able to scrape the data in a more efficient way, depending on what you have access to. The TTAC hamsters should still have my email address, so feel free to get in touch with me if interested.

    • 0 avatar

      I’d also be happy to give you a hand with it. My e-mail address in my profile is current.

      I also endorse the thought of more efficient data scraping.

    • 0 avatar

      2005 with 426,000 miles? That’s 1,000 miles per week. Was this used as a taxi? I can’t image a privately owned vehicle putting on this many miles. Well, maybe Irv Gordon and his Volvo.

      • 0 avatar

        @twotone, that’s roughly a 200 miles a day in a 5 day work week for commuting. There was a time in my life that I considered taking that kind of commute because I was that unhappy with my job but that happy with where I lived. I would have bought a Cobalt XFE (stick) and driven it into the ground.

    • 0 avatar

      I would also be interested in helping. Drop me an email if you are interested. :)

  • avatar

    The Mercury Capri that I remember didn’t look like that and was produced about 20 years earlier.

    Also, the Desrosier’s Longevity reports seem to me to be similarly useful in determining what cars really, really go the distance. I think R.L.Polk gathers registration information from all 50 states, which could be analyzed to get info similar to Desrosiers but they don’t give that data away.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      Most states do not record the mileage. None have records on the condition of certain components, which is one of the unfortunate failures of any system that is completely dependent on a government database.

      Youtube doesn’t have a 90’s Capri commercial. So instead I posted the old cat. All the best.

    • 0 avatar

      I owned a German-built 1973 Ford Capri, which was the European take on the Mustang, and eventually a 1980 Mercury Capri, which was a hatchback version of the Fox-body Mustang. The car in the photo is the next car to use the nameplate. It was sold from 1991-1994 as a four-seat Miata competitor although it was based on the Mazda 323. Built in Australia (!) and front-wheel drive (!!) and not very loved.

  • avatar

    For number 3, Can the data be gotten in an .xls format? If so I can build pivot tables which can dissect the data any which way you like. Let me know, the email address in my profile is monitored daily.

  • avatar

    Steve, did you consult Mr. Karesh to see how these could be used by or maybe have a framework from TrueDelta? Different data entirely, but similar goals over the long term.

  • avatar

    In 2005 as part of of my last class to graduate, Statistics, I gathered Manheim auction data I gleaned off the free reports when you walk in, and examined the price structure of five models of diff types for best and worst resale (Eldorado, Town Car, Cavalier, Taurus, Corvette). I can say Corvettes had/have the best and Taurus the worst at the time (slightly edging out Cavalier). There may be some Excel champions on TTAC but I would suggest creating a database and then running metrics against it either with Excel/Access or using code from a webform (or a reporting tool like SSRS or Crystal Reports).

  • avatar

    The Capri @ 294K miles doesn’t surprise me that much considering its Mazda powertrain but the the rest of the car does—the dry climate must have helped a lot.

    • 0 avatar

      StudeDude, there is no way of knowing whether or not the capri has it’s original engine without checking the VIN on the block. It could be the original unit or it could be on it’s second or third.

  • avatar

    A goal of 200000 cars sold in 6 weeks? Does all of Ford Motor Company even sell that many units anymore let alone just Mercury prior to their demise?

    • 0 avatar

      Looks like Ford (brand) 2012 US sales were 2,160,859. That averages to about 41,554 per week. 6 weeks of sales would be about 249,329.

      According to, all Ford brands considered, the Ford Motor Company’s 2012 US sales were 2,243,009 vehicles.

  • avatar
    Nick 2012

    I’d be happy to help and am going to venture with a bit of creative Excel work the data analysis could be mostly automated. While you’ve got an extremely large sample size, would consulting with Michael Karesh be worthwhile to make sure there would be no bias in the numbers?

  • avatar

    This should produce some interesting results. However, I think we can make some comments from the data we have already seen. Some cars simply can.t make it a long distance, though that is mostly a thing of the past. Back in the day, first generation Escorts were highly unlikely to last to 100K without major rebuilds. Cars like this were simply short lived. Any make may have a few that go great distances or may fail early, but that first gen Escort had the vast majority fail well before 150K. Today we see virtually no models that are not capable of high mileage. Looking at Steve’s list of vehicles that have significant failures, what makes some of them worth fixing, and therefore candidates for long lives, and those that get junked? It comes down to raw economics. Just as many Taurii can make it to 200K as a Camcord, if they were worth the trans rebuild that they will most likely need. Sure, the Taurus will likely have more smaller issues but because of the low resale, they will likely not get the chance. So what I am saying is that the “junkyard” test of seeing how many cars have gone XXX distance is not really a measure of potential durability. Heavy depreciation dooms certain cars to early deaths when they need a major repair. And that repair is going to be a transmission, or possibly engine work on some models. More telling would be to find out how long a given car goes before it needs that transmission or major repair.

    • 0 avatar

      The mileage is an economic question I think. Say any car can go maybe 200k or 300k but the ones that actually get there don’t cause their owners to give up due to overwhelming maintenance/repair costs.

      • 0 avatar

        Echo that big time!

        Power6 is correct. Now ex-wife and I then myself alone ran an early model 1995 (1994 build – bought brand new 11-94) Dodge Neon SOHC 5 speed for 267,000 miles but only because:

        1. Extended warranty through 75,000 which fixed alot including a bad MTX at about 60k

        2. I did all the work myself after about 130,000 which included
        2.a. $1600 in parts at 167,000- new cv axles, new clutch, clutch throwout bearing, shift cable bushings (Neon Jeff’s Booger bushings! thank god), tires, timing belt side cam seal, timing belt, etc.

        2.b more parts downstream- 180k-ish alternator, 200k-ish fuel pump, timing belt again
        2.c 260,000 another cam seal, timing belt again and finally the seal backer retrofit.

        3. Rode it without air conditioning from the about 130,000 era when that the a/c compressor died to the end so about 130,000+ miles. I got the shorter non-a/c length drive belt for the power steering. I actually think that this helped with the durability as the engine then didn’t have the a/c drag on it and gas mileage was good for high 20s to 31mpg using 89 octane.

        Only sold it for $500 in 2011 when moving from one area and wife #2 and I had previously bought newer early 2000s model cars with the Neon being a daily commute to work and back 40 miles round trip only.

        That car was kept on the road via extra-ordinary means that most people would have not done or have had money to do to it…

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Thank you all very much.

    I am going to contact all of you later this week so that we can get the ball rolling.

    All the best!

  • avatar

    When you mentioned Volvo transmissions, do you mean the newer FWDs or the general line-up of the 90’s?

    • 0 avatar

      the volvo xc wagon of 2000 and 2001 trannys suck big time not a if but a when, and they were a small fortune to replace at Volvo ( 5k plus) very few made it to 125k before they blew up , i was given a 2000 xc wagon from a friend after they replace the tranny.

  • avatar
    Menar Fromarz

    Well that could be interesting…statistically speaking, as pretty much anything is now capable of a decently long duty cycle, whether that also means economical is another matter…also, the devil is in the details…ie: the mentioned volvo and vw transmissions….the auto yes, manuals are quite durable…as for the opposite end of the spectrum, has anyone ever got more than 50k out of a land rover defender before cooling system failure leading to engine meltdown?

  • avatar

    I like how this shuts the anti-Toyota crowd up ha. Not saying the auction observations are everything but it makes a good case against the “1996 Camry was the last quality Toyota” meme the writers and commenters love to repeat around here.

    • 0 avatar

      Seriously. You would think 1997+ up Toyotas were built like Soviet Aircraft or something based on some of the uninformed comments here.

      • 0 avatar

        Two words: engine sludging. And let’s not forget their earlier V6 head gasket debacle which they denied for years.

        Toyota along with Honda was already in value-engineering mode by the late 1990s and it has been a downhill slide since then.

        Why else did the 1998 Honda Odyssey have a LED CHMSL, while every newer generation Odyssey including the present one has an incandescent bulb?

        And what happened to amber rear turn signal lenses and redundant brake and park bulbs?

        When you are buying a premium-level imported sedan for $35K and you only have a single dual-filament incandescent bulb on each side in the back, something is seriously wrong. That’s OK on a Chevy Spark and that’s about it.

      • 0 avatar

        Soviet [military] aircraft were probably better engineered.

      • 0 avatar

        Huh my 1MZ-FE and plenty of others are fine to 200, 300 400k miles. We already had an article about that here, sludge is a concern that is real but overblown. The Toyotas keep showing up on the auction blocks with big miles and True Delta shows good results for modern Toyotas.

        I might be spoiled because my old Camry is a Lexus ES but it is built every bit is well as a 96 Camry and the 97-01 Camry feels the same. The “cost savings” is real the materials quality in the interiors has suffered over the years but I fail to see how that has a big effect on reliability. Did they fundamentally change something in the mechanicals or their QA process? Doesn’t seem to be any evidence of that.

        So who is making the most generally reliable/durable cars if Toyota is not, and why are they not showing up at auctions with high miles?

        I know everyone assumes one is a fanboi if they show any opinion at all, if it makes a difference I’d have a 3.6 Impala in my drive if I needed a new car.

        The taillight aside seems a little inconsequential? Automakers play silly buggers with yellow and red signal lamps over generations and styling refreshes since the US allows that sort of thing. I could see eliminating LEDs being a cheap-out but could be styling concern too, and how does that effect reliability?

  • avatar

    2003 e46 with 294k. Clutch is just beginning to “go”, but I’ve been teaching a 16 y.o to drive stick.

    If the whole car is quality, it’s usually worth “fixing”. If it is not, it isn’t. My Mercury Mystique (V6, manual, SVT suspension) was “done” at 128k…..

    The BMW was better engineered, but more importantly, it was designed to be serviced over a long time. Working on it is/was way easier than the Mercury. Even my 2008 MDX is tougher to work on…the quality of steel and resistance to salt is an order of magnitude better on the German car.

  • avatar

    It would be interesting to see a comparison between northern and southern vehicles. Winters and road salt have an influence on vehicle life.

  • avatar
    Glenn Mercer

    More than happy to try to assist. But give me something with clear directions: I can work excel, but need to be told step by step what is needed. So if you have something tedious that you can explain clearly, let me at it! Something that requires creative problem-solving in statistics or spreadsheets, me no can do.

    Damnit where is my HP-12C? (grin)

    [email protected]

  • avatar

    Are you certain 294,766 isn’t the aggregate mileage of all the SA30 Capris ever sold?

  • avatar

    I occasionally see Capri’s for sale on Craigslist, but never with that kind of mileage. I had no idea that they could last that long.

    It seems they have a different reputation in Australia – here is an excerpt from Wikipedia:

    “Despite mechanical issues with the Capri in the United States, the Australian version was a reliable vehicle. Many are still in use as “daily drivers” in Australia, with the only faults being reported relating to leaks in the roof. In the United States, the car was known to have had electrical problems (the heater core is located on the right side interior firewall above the main computer, so wrapping the electronics here with water tight plastic shielding is advised) as well as drivetrain problems related to cold and/or extreme weather operation.”

    Looks like they would last if they were in a mild climate, making the one Steve saw seemingly less remarkable.

    I was briefly interested in buying a Capri – IIRC they were announced around the same time as the Miata and the photos made them look comparable. After seeing them in the flesh, it was clear which one I preferred (see my user name).

    Given how few convertibles were available in that time frame, I think that the Capri would have been much more successful if the Miata had not been produced.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      I have considered the Capri as well for a weekend roadster. Could they be any worse than a malaise era MG or Fiat 124 Spider? I see them reasonably priced and the 323 based drivetrain except the automatic version which apparently is not too robust are fairly reliable. I have known people with 323/Protege’s getting north of 200k out of them.

    • 0 avatar

      This is the same 1.6 used in the Miata. It is an overbuilt motor and will last. With a stick, one of these in a southern (no salt) environment would last so long as you could put up with the shoddy build quality.

  • avatar

    Looking at the Kiametrics article, I see that Mustangs do not seem to get high mileage. I thought that they were fairly simple with no parts availability issues, something you could keep going forever. As they get on in years and cheaper perhaps they are bought by people who just thrash them to death.

  • avatar

    I just flipped over 294,000 miles on my ’90 Miata Saturday evening and it looks a heck of a lot nicer than that Capri does. So nice in fact that many people think it’s a low-miles example until they look at the odo. But then I fix things when they break and never let them pile up until the point that it doesn’t seem worth it to fix. The latest update was new factory upholstery (courtesy of an upholstery shop that put leather covers on a new Miata in 1991) and new seat foam too. Still drives nice as well and I can’t really think of anything that needs work at all.

    • 0 avatar


      It doesn’t surprise me. Mazdas are probably the most underrated vehicles in many ways, including reliability (a fact that Consumer Reports has recently confirmed in large measure).

      When Pabst from the RX8club sees his 2004 Series I Renesis go (original) he plans on letting Rotary Resurrection tear it down and study it in great detail (it’s currently at 278,000 miles).

    • 0 avatar

      This re-enforces what a previous commenter said: mileage gains are more of economic question. If you put the money into repairs and maintenance I bet ANY car could reach 300-400K. The real question, and it comes up in the Junk Yard articles all the time is: what killed this car? Most comments are rust, followed by something simple the owner overlooked or didn’t know was the weak point of the vehicle. Things like head gaskets and timing belts kill many cars which would survive if those part were replaced before failure.

  • avatar
    Creature of the Wheel

    “NOTE: I am mentioning age on this question because certain enthusiast vehicles (Miata, Wrangler, Corvette) and those with an older clientele (Buick, Lincoln, 90′s Cadillacs) routinely get traded in with less than 100k.”

    I once traded in a clean 6-year old turbo Miata with 50,000 miles on the clock. The salesman said something like, “Just a Sunday drive kinda car, huh?” I politely nodded in agreement. That car was my daily commuter, canyon burner, and track rat. The daily commute was just 20 miles. With the turbo kicking in at 4,000rpm and the tightly spaced gears, that driveline spent the whole commute from 4k to 7k. Any highway cruise was 80mph which meant 4,000rpm in 6th(!). I also burned through three sets of brake pads, two sets of rotors, and four sets of tires. I kept it clean, though. Anyway, I love looking at the extreme combinations of age and mileage and pondering the possible explanations.

  • avatar
    Larry P2

    The Capri has precisely the same engine as a Miata, with a FWD transmission that was built with many, if not most of the same bits. The fact that the top may have leaked shouldn’t denigrate the Capri’s drivetrain longevity in the least, since Miatas vie with Cummmins diesels for longevity.

    The received wisdom that emanates from this page is remarkable.

    Toyota Engine Sludging = Idiots changing the oil every 15,000 miles.

  • avatar

    I have found many Miata/MX5s are traded on average every two years. Why? Well, if an older person buys one, it’s just a toy. On average, 8,000 miles per year was what we found on most of the MX5s we looked at between 2 and 4 years old.

    We owned our 2007 MX5 sport for just over two years. We bought it still under factory warranty for a few months with only 15,150 miles on it. We sold it last July with about 33K. To us, the MX5 was a toy – a fun car, if you will, and we enjoyed it very much. I used it for commuting regularly until my commute changed a year-and-a-half ago.

    We sold ours in a down-sizing move and it was no longer practical for my commute for reasons I won’t bore anyone with…

    Right now, it’s across the street – one of our neighbors bought it and he uses it as his daily driver. I’m sure he appreciates the almost-new set of tires, too… His wife drives the big SUV.

  • avatar

    Holy crap, the lady at the beginning of that commercial scares the hell out of me.

  • avatar

    There should be some type of metric between age of the vehicle and mileage. The 12,000 mile/year city driver that has 200,000+ miles is quite a different breed than the highway champ that has similar mileage on a much younger vehicle.

    The hard city driving is where you really separate the men from the boys. On the highway just about anything can go forever.

  • avatar

    I think both 1) and 2) would be good things to have under either a “note” or “analytics” section of the database. I’d also be willing to help out with data curation (perhaps it would be good to have a web form for interested members to sign up on?).

  • avatar

    It would be really helpful to have some good data on which brands and models really provide the most long term service. It’s not for everyone – plenty of folks want to dump a car before or when a major expense hits and do so before 100K miles. Keeping any car running for a long time requires someone to value the car enough to put the money (and time) into dealing with whatever comes up. Some people don’t want that challenge and they may be drawn to certain models over others.

    Speaking as the owner of a 96 Volvo 850 wagon, one of the appeals of these models was their rep, at least anecdotally, for lasting a long time. Certainly, the devotees of the older RWD 200/700/900 platform would have howled at that fact, but Volvo’s first FWD models actually have held up quite well. I see a lot of them on the road here in Minnesota where the climate does no car any favors. The secret seems to be in keeping up on maintenance (duh) and replacing things as they come along. Still, in my case, my 202,XXX miles car still has its original tranny, and it shifts fine. It leaks oil (surprise) and I’ve fixed every potential leak source I care to without probably doing the big expensive rear main seal. In other respects, it’s clear the car was overengineered for the era it was built in. Certainly other 90’s era cars have lasted too — Accords, Camrys, Civics, Corollas, etc. What has made all of these likely daily drivers even 15-20 years on? And made others complete wrecks after 5-7 years? Would be interesting to know.

  • avatar

    I’ll be very interested to see how the metrics shake out especially with regards to Volvo models starting with the 2001 models. I currently drive a 2001 V70 2.4T with 181,000+ miles and it looks and drives great. I also see a lot of S60/V70’s on the road from the 2001-07 model years. I know the RWD models have a great rep but I think the new Volvo’s may not be getting their due.

  • avatar

    “Sexy” used twice in an early 80s commercial? Mercury was pushing the limits!

    Surprised no one mentioned the great Ernie Anderson doing voiceover – the golden voice of ABC (youtube “Ernie Anderson Out Takes” for some amazing NSFW fun)

  • avatar

    200,000 cars in six weeks? Ambitious.

  • avatar

    1999.5 F350 4×2 crew cab shortbox SRW Lariat. 7.3L diesel, 4R100 transmission. As of this morning, 308,900 miles. Currently my daily driver/tow beast. Lived in SE Michigan from new in 03/1999 until 12/2008, when it moved me to Houston, hauling my enclosed trailer containing ’65 Mustang and all the stuff the movers either wouldn’t take or I didn’t want them to take.

    Stuff that’s gone wrong that isn’t really a wear item:
    – Pinion seal @ 85k
    – Water pump @ 146k
    – Rear axle hub seals twice: ~170k and ~280k (related to towing with a lot of tongue weight. I’ve reconfigured the trailer load-out to compensate.)
    – Ball joints @ 110k, 180k, 280k (replaced with Moogs at that last one. Technically, these are wear items, especially in SE Michigan.)
    – Rear axle cover rusted through (thanks, Jac Nasser, you cost-cutting little prick) @ 85k and 210k (replaced with 2008+ finned aluminum cover, no more problems)
    – CHMSL housing/wiring pigtail @ 130k (socket melted)
    – Hydroboost pressure line @ 165k
    – Torque converter stator overrun clutch came apart @ 228k and spread junk through the transmission, whole transmission replaced with Ford Authorized Remanufactured HD 4R100.
    – Rear axle brake hardline from ABS module to flex hose (and flex hose) corroded, replaced @ 260k
    – Blower motor, blower motor resistor, and blower motor resistor wiring connection replaced @265k
    – Alternator @ 270k

    The leather driver’s seat bum has worn out (Wet Okole seat cover set over all seats), as has the leather steering wheel wrap (Wheelskin to cover it). I’ve replaced all 4 speakers after one died. It’s got a few bumps and lumps, the paint has seen better days, and the underside looks like it lived in SE Michigan for the first 10 years of its life, but it keeps rolling and most folks are shocked to learn it’s got over 300k miles. This one’s a keeper. Book on it is around $11,700 top retail on a good day, $10k private party. A new equivalent F350 stickers around $65k. I can put a reman 7.3 in it for under $10k should it come to that and for another 5K put some Banks goodies on it if I’m so inclined — no signs of distress from the engine so far, I’ll hasten to add — and be thousands of dollars ahead.

    Hell, it’s still got the OEM exhaust system on it…

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