By on January 15, 2013

Lawdy! Lawdy! Guess who’s 40!

Well, it happened. After a weekend where my daughter scores the game winning basket and the trade-ins numbered 6432, I hit the golden age of middle age.

As for the 1983 Jeep Grand Wagoneer in the picture, would you believe 403,224 miles? That little factoid was just the very tip of a long data drilldown.

Not to mention a few unusual future contests between the automakers in what will now be called the Trade-In Quality Index… or TIQI for short!

The grandest of Wagoneers was followed by a Ford truck and six consecutive Toyota products. All in all, the quintet of Ford trucks, Chevy trucks, Hondas, Toyotas, and Panther vehicles took 23 of the top 30 mileage spots. If you were extra kind and added Dodge trucks and Jeep SUV’s into the mix, that number swelled to 27 out of 30 top spots.

But that wasn’t the big surprise. Not even close. For that you have to start with Europe. All of Europe.

The European nameplates encompassed 13 different brands, over 60 nameplates, and exactly 1018 trade-ins this past week. Only 48 of those vehicles had over 180,000 miles, and only 20 of the 1018 reached the ripe old automotive  age of 18. I should mention now that the outift furnishing me with all this data wears a nice big smiley face of dealerships across the USA with only a few spots where rust is an issue.

So I’ve made the longevity measurement a bit further out so that maybe, perhaps, we could look at the impact OBD-II standards will have on the longevity of vehicles by next year.

Anyhow, the European marques lost to Toyota and Honda on both measurements. Not to mention a long list of others. What I didn’t expect was that all 13 European brands would lose to the Honda Accord alone and nearly lose to the Toyota Camry.

Vehicles with over 180k at trade-in

Accord   58 / 204 vehicles

Camry   45 / 171 vehicles

EU         48 / 1018 (VW, Audi, BMW, Volvo, SAAB, Land Rover, Jaguar, Mercedes, Mini, Maserati had 1, Porsche, Smart, Lotus)

Now keep in mind, a team of twelve people are tracking an awful lot of criteria at this point. The data is a bit overwhelming. So here is a Cliff Notes version of week one.

Those with the healthiest ratio of vehicles traded-in at over 180k, versus those traded in at less than 120k were…

Toyota 1.52

Honda 1.61

Lexus 1.62

Chevy Truck 2.07

and the big surprise

Pontiac 2.45

This means that for every Pontiac traded in at over 180k, there were approximately two and a half that were traded in at less than 120k. Pontiac barely beat out Acura and Ford trucks by the slimmest of margins. However we are  incorporating a long list of other criteria (see the spreadsheet) along with time of ownership into this study. (for those that qualify)

By that measurement alone the winners for week one are…

1) Buick

2) Acura

3) Toyota

4) Honda

5) Cadillac

Keep in mind this is only week one and I am willing to give in to the fact that state registrations will provide a far better record of longevity than this 300k vehicle study. Still, the folks coming in to trade these vehicles typically use them as commuters instead of garage queens and barn molderizers. The Buicks and Cadillacs from 1995 on down may not be driven a lot, and especially by us enthusiasts. But they are well regarded by the grey haired Shoney’s crowd here in North Georgia and elsewhere. So it’s only fitting we give them a little bit of their due.

Now to the fun part. Out of all the laggards that are higher volume brands, it appears that Volkswagen, Hyundai and Kia are going to suffer the most. Volkswagen only attained 5 vehicles with over 180k out of 221. Who beat them?

This model. The Pontiac Grand Prix. A model that is not synonymous with any level of quality. Good or bad. The Grand Prix realized 11 vehicles out of 50 with over 180k miles. So for the remainder of this year we are going to track how the Grand Prix does relative to the #2 sized manufacturer in the world.

Then we have Kia and Hyundai. Personaly, I am just dead dog tired of having folks tell me how wonderful these brands are compared with so-called crappy domestics. So I’m going to let these South Korean juggernauts do battle with GM’s defunct import fighter. You know. The one that doesn’t have the word Old in it. The one to the left. No, not SAAB. The other one!

South Korea vs.  Saturn

8 / 203          vs.    11 / 95

There is an awful lot of good data we have at the moment, and as we get more of it, we’ll delve in deeper to mehanical issues and the weaknesses and strengths of specific models. For now enjoy the spreadsheet below. All the best!

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38 Comments on “Monday Mileage Champion: Lawdy! Lawdy!...”

  • avatar

    This article really needs a chart Steve, it’s difficult to read and sort in standard text format! :)

  • avatar

    Go USA, from one with a 220k final generation Olds Cutlass. It won’t, however, ever be traded in, as I drive em till they drop dead.

    Congrats on your wizened old age. You may get a little slower but much wiser. Soon they’ll be calling you gramps (ask me how I know).

  • avatar

    Actually, in 1983 a “Grand Wagoneer” was still just a “Wagoneer”. The Grand Wagoneer moniker wasn’t introduced until 1984 to differentiate it from the new Cherokee XJ based Wagoneer.

  • avatar

    Think of the fuel that Wagoneer must have sucked to get to that impressive total.

    At 10 MPG that rig had 40 322 gallons run through it. At $2/gallon that is over $80 grand.


  • avatar

    Where is the spreadsheet?

  • avatar

    Not surprised on the Pontiac/Buick results. The BP in BOP had some of the sturdiest GM car powertrains installed in them, large quantities the 3800 are likely.

    Even the 3100/3400 ran a long time if the intake gaskets were replaced. Even when something did break, the cost of fixing was usually far less than replacing the car.

    The Grand Prix is a notable high mileage champ around here. They’ll run as long as you can tolerate the switches and knobs in the interior falling off.

    • 0 avatar

      My beater Olds has the 3.1; I received it with a bad lower intake manifold gasket that I fixed. That was over 2 years ago; since then it’s been faultless.

      No intolerance on my part as there are NO switches or knobs falling off. This is at 14 years and 220k miles. What’s the basis for your statement?

    • 0 avatar

      I see quite a few thrashed Grand Prix’ around here still on the road, including a 1995 at my mechanic’s shop this last week with 220,000 miles on the clock. He said he’s been working on it for the lady who owned it since she bought it in 1997. She won’t do a thing cosmetic, but anything mechanical she’s game. He was replacing rear suspension pieces and doing a 4 wheel alignment.

      I hardly see any Grand Am’ or G6’s anymore, and they used to be absolutely thick in my neck of the woods.

  • avatar

    Not to be a Debbie Downer, but I think part of the domestics’ longevity is due to parts availability and pricing.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes! This.

      Need a part for your mid-90s Buick? No problem, Any auto store has several OEM equivalent parts at reasonable prices.

      Need a part for your mid-90s euro car? First you have to find someone who sells it. Get ready to special order the part online, or god forbid, at the dealer. Wait a month for it to ship from overseas. Be prepared to pay three or four times the price of the GM equivalent, or the the value of he car, whichever is greater… and that’s just for the part.

      Now for installation.

      Buick: FIYD (fix in your driveway)

      Euro: There will always be some special tool, or computer, or manual, or secret procedure that you need, but either can’t afford, or is a dealer only thing. bottom line, more money, we need MOOOWAR!!!

      It’s no wonder some cars make it to retirement age while others are abandoned in their youth.

      • 0 avatar

        Have you ever actually OWNED a European car in the modern age?

        I have no problems getting parts for my Alfa GTV-6, and they only made 19K of those total. Getting parts for a ’90s Volvo, Saab, or BMW is a complete and utter non-issue. And a Volvo 240 is a one heck of a lot less complex than a FWD Pontiac with a V6 shoehorned in the front. 240s are like working on tractors.

        Maybe there were issues with getting parts for Citroens in 1982, but this is 2013! We have this new-fangled thing called the Internet – it’s only been around for 20 years or so.

        There was a time when things like electronic fuel injection, disk brakes and independent rear suspension made European cars seem exotic to the average American mechanic. EVERY car has all of that stuff now. If you can turn a wrench on a ’90s Pontiac, you can fix a ’90s BMW. And when you are done, you get to drive a BMW, not some hooptie.

      • 0 avatar

        It’s not that hard to get parts from Europe these days on those new-fangled interwebs, and it doesn’t have to be as expensive as you say.

        Unlike here, some of the European junkyards/breakers/whatever you call them list their inventory online too. Ebay is a great resource too. I’ve found various parts for $30-40 or less (and that’s including shipping in some cases). There are also a variety of shops that market to European car owners that sell OEM and OEM-equivalent parts too, and the pricing is competitive.

        Maybe eventually when I get a 70s or 80s Mercedes, I’ll have to deal with finding special tools to fix certain things, but at least Mercedes is good at making sure you can get parts, even if it’s at a price.

      • 0 avatar
        Athos Nobile

        “If you can turn a wrench on a ’90s Pontiac, you can fix a ’90s BMW. And when you are done, you get to drive a BMW, not some hooptie.”

        LOL, sorry mate, but the BMW will be also a hooptie. Or a bomb, as they say down here.

        However, I will concede to you that it will be a nicer one.

    • 0 avatar

      I drive a 1994 Mercedes E420, and while parts availability isn’t an issue, the car does require special tools for many, many different repairs, and parts and repairs are significantly more expensive than for a domestic (or indeed for a mid-90s BMW or Volvo, for that matter). While I’m okay with it and view it as worth it to get to drive a W124 (and mine is in excellent cosmetic shape, with no rust and in perfect working order), I can definitely understand why one of these would get sent to a scrap heap before 400k miles if it’s in fair or poor cosmetic shape and, say, reverse goes out.

      • 0 avatar

        I have also owned a W124 – ’88 300TE. And I did all of the maintenance and repair work on it myself. Including rebuilding the entire suspension front and rear including the hydraulics. The only “special” tools required were a good set of metric wrenches and sockets.

        I’ve also owned a W123 300TD – I did have to buy the special reamer for cleaning the crud out of the glow plug sockets for that one, cost $19, and a set of angled valve adjusting wrenches for $25. But the angled wrenches just make it easier, you don’t really NEED them.

        Parts are somewhat more expensive than for a domestic car, and there are more of them. But these cars cost 2-3X as much as the average domestic car new – what do you expect?? You’ll never need to rebuild the 5-link hydraulic self leveling rear suspension in a Pontiac, because Pontiac never had such a thing. I did not find either MB to be more expensive to maintain than my sundry BMWs, though either is MUCH more expensive to maintain than a Volvo (they are MUCH more complex). About on par with a Saab though.

        One thing I have quickly learned now that I actually own a domestic vehicle as well (’02 Jeep Grand Cherokee) – yes, you can get cheap parts for them at the discount auto stores. But they are often utter crap. Parts from the Jeep dealer are every bit as expensive as European car parts. And since many, many, many more European car parts are from generic suppliers like Bosch and Valeo, you can more easily get the EXACT same part from the aftermarket for less in a Bosch box instead of a MB/BMW/Volvo box. And with BMW, Mercedes, and Volvo, joining the owner’s clubs for a few bucks a year gets you a substantial discount at most dealerships, my local Jeep dealer could not care less that I am in the Jeep club. I’ve had to buy new tools to work on the Jeep – my existing set of balljoint and tierod pullers were nowhere near big enough to work on it.

      • 0 avatar

        The M103-based W124s are significantly easier to work on, and require less tools, than my M119-based E420, due in no small part to the total lack of room in the engine bay. Even removing the valve covers isn’t trivial, and replacing the failure-prone timing chain guides (except for the topmost one) is an ordeal involving disassembling most of the front of the engine.

        I used to do the work myself (flex discs, subframe bushings, timing chains/cam oiler tubes, routine maintenance/etc) but now the car is on a different continent from me, so repairs/maintenance are done at a mechanic (I can’t very well expect my 65-year-old mother to replace ball joints herself), and the car requires at least one $1500-2000 repair per year. Last year, it was the radiator and electric fans; the year before, the B2 piston in the trans.

        Yes, they’re more complicated and expensive, and yes, they have a level of sophistication unheard-of in domestics of the era, and yes, I think it’s well worth it, especially when I’m back in the US and take the Benz on a multi-state road trip, and yes, I’m an MBCA and BMWCCA member and use the parts discounts. But I understand perfectly why someone who doesn’t know or care what a multilink self-levelling rear suspension is wouldn’t want to open his/her wallet enough to see one of these to 300k miles. The Volvo 240 I had as my winter beater/DD before, on the other hand.. now that car was a cost-effective daily driver, and cost me $200-300 in parts per year to keep running. Mine had 282k miles too when I finally sold it.

  • avatar

    Any chance the long drivers are vehicles lower income folks need to keep running, while better-heeled Euro import buyers are able to shop newer more often?

  • avatar

    “Then we have Kia and Hyundai. Personaly, I am just dead dog tired of having folks tell me how wonderful these brands are compared with so-called crappy domestics. So I’m going to let these South Korean juggernauts do battle with GM’s defunct import fighter.”

    +++++1. You have no idea how happy I am to hear you fall from the “Ain’t the Koreans GREAT now all of a sudden!” bandwagon that has been oompah-ing its way through every car mag and blog lately. Yes, the quality of the interior has gone up. And yes, there are more and better choices from the Korean makes. Yet, I have still not seen one HyunKia make 5 years and still not look like it was rolling through Syria.

    Case in point, is the five year Hyundai Sonata GLS V6 parked outside my office. It seems to be the top-of-the-lne of the mark but can’t help noticing the rear passenger door handle dangling like a barfly’s hoop earing, all the door handles have lost the thin coating of silver paint so now they are the color of the cheap plastic they’re made of, paint is peeling ins everal places, and the headlights have yellowed to the point to where I want to offer it a tube of Topal, the smoker’s toothpaste.

    • 0 avatar

      I seem to recall the release of that generation Sonata being heralded as being a benchmark product. When I went to check it out at the dealer for myself, wondered what all the hoopla was about. Certainly wasn’t anythign to get excited about in comparision to the FusionAccordCamryAltima.

    • 0 avatar

      The real test for the Korean makes is how the current batch of stuff holds up – that is, cars that were sold to people who were buying a virtue (hyped up or not) other than just getting approved for financing. I’d wager a lot of the rougher looking H/K’s are driven by rather indifferent owners who’ll quickly dump them for the next over-financed car.

      I know anecote=/=data, but in my immediate family, there are currently 5 Hyundais and one Kia, ranging from an ’03 Accent to a ’11 Elantra. Short of my mother-in-law’s ’04 Optima (120+k, starting to show a bit of rust, and chipping paint on the door handles), any cosmetic damage can’t be blamed on the manufacturer. And without saying they’re flawless for reliability, we’ve never been stranded, there’ve been no big ticket repairs, adn they’ve been acceptably cheap to keep running.

      I’d also like to know the average age of the 180+k cars – I’d assume at least ten years old.

      • 0 avatar

        @Maymar, as I too, used an anecdote, I cannot flaw yours. However, the majority of H/Ks I see do not have a long half-life. They also continue to have poor resale value, which let’s face it, is a benchmark of a carmaker’s status. While driving about, take a look at the cars of some of the mid-sizers of five years ago (Fusion, Camry, Malibu, Altima, Accord, 200, Passat, etc) and compare them to the Sonata/Optima of the same period. I think you’ll find that in the majority of cases, the H/Ks do a very poor job of quality.

        I am willing to state that cheap people buy cheap cars and most are not willing to keep up the maintenance, servicing and oh, car washes, but most American, Japanese and European makes seem to take this abuse better than Korean.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m sort of iffy on using resale as an indicator of quality – it’s certainly an element, but at the same time, public perception, availability, and desirability all come into play (in other words, a drab fleet queen won’t be worth much used, even if it’ll well outlast your desire for it to just give up and die). That said, a quick look of used compacts (2007, 75-100k kms) in my area shows Elantras being on par with Corollas and not far behind Civics (Mazda3s seem to have a hell of a lot of variance).

        In addition, for what it’s worth, I see 100-200 used cars a week for work. Last-gen Hyundai Accents seem to frequently have squirrely brake balancing valves, and that velour-y fabric used in last-gen Elantras wears a little quickly. Other than that, most of them seem pretty okay (albeit not the nicest stuff out there – better than Daimler-era Chryslers though). The aforementioned Mazda3 seems to age worse, although their propensity for rust certainly doesn’t help. Then again, most of the cars I see have already been through reconditioning.

  • avatar

    ‘If you were extra kind and added dodge trucks and jeep suvs into the mix.” That’s hilarious, especially taking the cummins equipped models into account, since they have been known to go over a million miles without an overhaul.

    • 0 avatar

      Maybe the reason Dodges equipped with the Cummins engine aren’t included is because they are still running well, and there is no reason for their owners to get rid of them. I believe that Mr. Lang deals with vehicles that have been sold, traded or repossessed.

  • avatar

    The only reason there’s a Pontiac Grand Prix as your high mileage champ is as a tail-of-the-distribution due to the numbers sold and the fact that not even a GM product rusts in NOGA. Lord, Pontiac put out some terrible cars in their prolonged death throes.

  • avatar
    Patricio la Estrella

    I have a ’04 Hyun Santa Fe 4 cyl. with 70K completely trouble free miles. I realize 70K is a long ways from 180k – but so far so good. I suspect the maintenance practices of the demographic that buys hyundai ranges from “infrequent” to “almost never”.

    A co-worker of mine recently retired and a subject of jokes at his retirment dinner was whether he was going to retire his 20 year old Grand Prix, his answer: NO!

  • avatar

    Your source data is rather limiting. Who on Earth would trade-in an old Volvo or Saab or BMW? They get sold privately (or handed down to the kids)and keep right on trucking.

    Heck, I didn’t trade-in my 2yo Saab when I sold it, I got $6K more for it than the trade-in offer selling it privately.

    • 0 avatar

      And your proof of this (beyond anecdotal experience) is found exactly where?

      My anecdotal experience is that these cars are either junked, or “kept on trucking” by someone willing to sink a small fortune in a constant series of repairs. It helps to be on first-name basis with a mechanic skilled in the repair of these vehicles.

      I’m glad that some people like (love) their vehicles enough to do that, but this is not synonymous with reliability or longevity.

      I’m inclined to trust Mr. Lang’s experience in the auto auction business. His findings are backed up by the independent mechanics I’ve talked to, along with a former service manager who now investigates cases for Pennsylvania’s biggest auto lemon law firm.

      As for your two-year-old Saab – Mr. Lang is dealing with considerably older vehicles. And virtually everyone gets more for their vehicle through a private sale than trading it for another vehicle at the dealer. If you got $6,000 more – congratulations, you got a live one. I hope that you did take the money and run…

      • 0 avatar

        My anectodal experience with later model Volvos has been the same. I had a couple who frequented me for repairs who had owned a series of Volvos over a period of the last 15 years or so.

        They had reasonably good luck with their 740 aside from some expensive turbo repairs and odds and ends, which they sold for an S60 with electronic throttle body and transmission issues. After a series of very expensive years with with their final Volvo a C70, they replaced it with a folding hardtop G6. I haven’t seen them in a while, I’ll ahve to ask them how the Pontiac is holding up.

  • avatar
    jim brewer

    Those Waggoneers were much prized by Coloradans who skied or otherwise spent a lot of time on snowy roads. I’m not sure what the particular attraction was over say, a Landcruiser, but it was there. The example is obviously well-maintained.

  • avatar

    how were are able to tell the millage of the Jeep? The odometer rolls at 100k. (At least it does on my 1986 GW).

    • 0 avatar

      Came here to say this, and with that wheezy lump of an emissions choked amc 360 it was going nowhere fast or efficiently. Has an appetite for gas like Richard Pryor had for Cocaine, but they will get you through anything.

      • 0 avatar

        @mikeg, how do you know that a previous owner didn’t add aftermarket intake, exhaust and ignition parts to improve performance and efficiency? How do you even know whether or not it has the original engine, since Mr. Lang doesn’t seem to even bother to check for that?

    • 0 avatar

      Well, for one, it wouldn’t make much sense to OVER-report the number of times the odo rolled past 100K.

  • avatar

    The Saturns have plastic body panels that don’t accumulate door dings, surface rust or paint fade. I wonder how much a car in decent cosmetic shape benefits in longevity by being more likely to be repaired because, gosh, it’s still a good looking car. In the case of Saturn, it can’t be because of the state-of-the-art drivetrain.

    • 0 avatar

      @Lorenzo, very pithy, but just because a car has plastic body panels (which, btw, are insanely easy and cheap to maintain and replace and look good for years) doesn’t mean its internal workings are plastic as well. The original DOHC 1.9L 4cyl was a very, very reliable engine due to in large part to the use of an internal, lubricated timing chain instead of a serpentine belt. It’s why you still see the cockroach, ever-present ’93 SL2 still rolling and looking good while I haven’t spotted a Hyundai S-Coupe in a very long time.

      In 2007, Saturn did away with the plastic body cladding with the demise of the Ion. From then on, Saturn’s were rebadged Opel’s like my Astra, near badged like the Sky, Aura, and Vue, or GM corporate platforms like the Relay and Outlook. I’ll bet if you and I went to or Autotrader and searched for a 2008 Saturn v. a similiar H/K, we’d find helluva lot of good Saturns for sale at higher values than the Korean.

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