By on February 25, 2013

My grandma was a bit of a card shark. You name the game, she played it.

You would think that she would show a teeny bit of mercy to a six year old kid like me back in the day. Nope. Not a chance. Whenever she was about to beat me… yet again… grandma would flash an ear to ear grin on her face and bellow out her trademarked version of checkmate.

“Stevie? Do you want the old news? Or the bad news?”

I would flash my own waning innocence in these matters and say, “What about no news?”

No news, indeed. If you are looking to find yet another new name to take on pole position in our weekly mileage race, think again.

This 1998 Toyota Tacoma may represent the ultimate nirvana of long-term durability.

Easy maintenance. A transmission that is less taxed over the log haul than Mitt Romney. An engine that originates from a million clones and ten million near replicas. Toss in OBD-II diagnostics and a good owner, and the Tacomas of this generation present better real-life results than an Al Gore environmental symposium.

409,440 miles. No announcements. Not even much in the way of physical wear.

Of course you get that little whiskey on the side which seems to be endemic with these models. Even my retired neighbor who lives diagonal from me is chugging along with a 275k truck that has been given the custom “fat check treatment” from two different wayward travelers. It seems that about a third of the older trucks in my neck of the woods have been permanently customized with a hard dent or a long scuff. 

No matter. This SR5 model should be able to go for as long as a frugal truck owner is willing to invest in this little beast. Other notable rides this time were…

A Southern Neon with over 308,000 miles… still running.

A double whammy 1999 Pontiac Grand Am SE that suffered from a prior rental history and the virulently hated 3.4 Liter V6. Still chugging along with 305,867 miles. No announcements.

Then we had the proverbial cockroach of the road. 2004 Chevy Cavalier. As base as you get with the 5-speed and power nothing. 272,494 miles. No announcements, and a lifetime in the rust ridden roads of northern Illinois. This one must have been garage kept.

The Accord and Camry combined are still offering more 200k cars than all of Europe by a greater than two to one ratio. Audi and Kia are still the two laggards of longevity along with the habitually broken VW’s and the locally defunct SAAB and Suzuki brands. As for the often unloved Pontiac Grand Prix… it still seems to be offering just as many 180k+ trade-in vehicles as the entire Volkswagen brand.

Two months of data so far now for the Trade In Quality Index (TIQI) with ten more to go. A forecasted 300,000 vehicles will go in this system and thanks to TTAC volunteer Nicholas Lariviere, we now have a database that will require no recounts.



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35 Comments on “Monday Mileage Champion: Tom Tuttle’s Tacoma...”

  • avatar

    As long as the intake gaskets were done on that Grand Am, no reason why it wouldn’t go that far. I’m sure all the interior switches and knobs are broken off, but it’ll still get you around.

    The Neon like the Grand Am, take care of the achilles heel, the head gasket, and they’ll generally go a long time.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s if they are given the chance like an Accord will. Because of resale values, many domestics will not get that head gasket or transmission repair, while a similar year/mileage Camcord almost certainly will. That’s why, IMHO, you will find a notably more of the first tier Japanese makes (based on percentage of units sold) with 200K than you will of a typical GM car. Further evidence of this would be the percentage of GM pickups/SUVs that crack that mileage barrier. They don’t suffer from the same depreciation, or from the cars’ worse reputation. Given an equal opportunity for having that big repair performed, most domestics will go the distance. All that being said, the Toyota truck has richly earned its reliability reputation. Out of salt regions, I’d give them the nod for the longest lasting vehicle, period…

  • avatar

    I think there needs to be a “degree of difficulty” multiplier for the Great Lakes region – lake effect snow belt” vehicles. 5 months of road salt plus monster chuckholes.

  • avatar

    Love the “Volunteers” reference in the title. One of the best bad movies ever.

  • avatar

    We see Grand Am’s with 3400’s all the time at the auctions with this many miles. If the intake gasket is done properly and with the upgraded gasket, there is no reason a 3400 won’t last unless the owner badly neglects it. We also see loads of Ecotec Cavaliers, Grand Am’s and Alero’s with 200-300k miles on a monthly basis.

  • avatar

    I love these articles. Helps enhance my instinct about what’s reliable long term and what’s not. Maybe I should look to trading my GTI for a Civic Si at some point and riding it out for the long haul.

  • avatar

    I’ve grown to love these articles.

    That Tacoma would look like brand new by pulling that dent, detailing it and replacing the one missing wheel cover.

  • avatar

    Yes, I like this feature too. Given their longevity, the cars are more like abandoned members of a family. Every one has a long history and a sad ultimate ending……

    The thing about the Cav: it was made for a million years and GM eventually got all the kinks worked out by 1998 or so. It then became one of the most reliable small cars available. Get a 2-door base version with a stick and it’d go a million miles.

  • avatar

    Kudos to Tom Tuttle’s Toyota Tacoma. May my sister’s FR-S last as long.

    My guess is that a rental history might actually be an advantage for engine longevity. Apparently a bunch of different driving styles break an engine in more effectively, so that it will last longer.

    But those Toyotas… rumor has it that some may be immortal.

  • avatar
    Patricio la Estrella

    Gratuitous political swipes are stupid in an article like this, unless your goal is to piss off half your readers.

    Leave your politics in the left-wing blogs. People don’t want to be sucker punched with this crap.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      If TTAC had been designed to serve the common mayonnaise of knee jerks and PC politicos, this site would just be another servile flatterer of the mainstream.

      “the Tacomas of this generation present better real-life results than an Al Gore environmental symposium.”

      Yep, your left-wing conspirator in action. Please note that if you want to tell us all about what we should or should not write about, that song and dance will not last. That tired wretched music has been played far too often in the history of mankind with horrific results.

      But if you wish to re-educate all of us, feel free to visit this place. Maybe they will open a forum in your honor.

      • 0 avatar
        Patricio la Estrella

        Bottom line is – it’s a sucker punch. If you want to write a political article go for it. Slipping sucker punches in an article that is putatively about high-milage cars is just tricky way to jab people. When your employer relies on page views, its not wise to sucker punch the page viewers.

        • 0 avatar
          Patricio la Estrella

          By the way, Mitt Romney paid $1.94 million in taxes in 2011 per CNNMoney – That’s just for one year. I’ll wager that’s more than the entire TTAC staff will pay in taxes cumulatively over their entire lifetimes. But hey, who cares about accuracy.

        • 0 avatar

          Step 1) Get over yourself.
          Step 2) Stop pushing your politico on the internet.

          Result: You won’t be as butt-hurt as you are in your current mind set.
          Edit: I type this with all due respect. Your life will improve.

        • 0 avatar
          Steven Lang

          My employer is the guy that I see in the mirror every morning. The only thing he ever relies on is God, family and country… and sometimes a morning coffee.

          As for Mitt, when he is willing to share with the American people all of the assets he hid offshore, he may just earn my respect. Other than that hidey money thingie, and the fact that he rarely says what he means, I kinda like the guy.

          Now say the following words five times real fast without laughing. Obama balanced budget, Obama balanced budget, Obama…

          See, I knew you couldn’t pull it off!

          This is my amusing way of telling you, “Lighten up Francis.” As always, I’ll respect your right to post here under the auspices of TTAC, so long as you agree in turn to chill out and MYOFB. All the best!

          • 0 avatar
            MRF 95 T-Bird

            In the 60’s George Romney was a successful governor and prescient auto executive who paid 37% of his income released 12 years of tax returns and did not complain about it or call others moochers while his son paid roughly 13% and his god-knows what in the Caymans. Take the year 1969 we had a balanced budget, managed to pay for Vietnam with a surcharge that congress passed and LBJ opposed. all while the top tax rate was 70%, Oh yeah, we were also able to put a man on the moon.

    • 0 avatar

      TTAC Law!

  • avatar

    +1 for the Neon head gasket issues. Forgot bout the front motor mount that likes to tear out. (I put a mount saver in mine) the transmissions that like to spit the differential spider gear pin through the case. (Happened to me) and the coolant hose under the intake manifold that likes to burst. Other than that, you can keep one going way past 300K. I know before I finally sent mine to the junkyard it has closer to 475K. It was starting to smoke quite quite nicely by then.

    I do have a local odd ball around here however. A 97 Mitsu Montero with the small SOCH V6 and a automatic. They have 320,000 miles on it. Surprised the hell out of me. Granted every switch is broken, it has multiple sensor failures and looks like it has been through WW III. Not to mention 4x is iffy. But it is still getting them down the road.

  • avatar

    In SoCal, Toyota trucks, before they were called Tacoma, are still in mostly small business commercial service all over the place. I dont know the odo readings, but these things are running all day long with landscapers and scrap metal collectors.

    Of all the cars and trucks owned, the slow and uncomfortable ’84 Toyota 4×4 was probably the most likely to last the longest.

  • avatar

    “As for the often unloved Pontiac Grand Prix… it still seems to be offering just as many 180k+ trade-in vehicles as the entire Volkswagen brand.”

    Too funny, since I’m a current owner of a 2004 Grand Prix with 185K who is getting ready to trade it in. Mainly because of fuel economy and not that it’s broken or has failed in any way.

  • avatar

    Given that Accords and Camrys combined sold darned near 1 MILLION cars a year back when these cars were new, I sure as hell hope they are well represented in the high mileage club. But I cannot believe for a split second that as a proportion of sales there are more of them with 300K on them than the various Europeans. Saabs best year ever was only ~100K cars in the US, and most good years were 1/2 that. Volvo, BMW, and MB sold maybe double those numbers. Yet I personally have owned three Volvos with over 300K on them, up here in salty Maine. I also think looking at trade-ins only skews the numbers considerably. European car owners know better than to trade-in a high mileage car, the dealer won’t give you anything for it. Yet you can sell 250K Volvos all day long for good money privately. Or hand them down to the kids, which is SOP around here.

    What is the point of saying that the Pontiac had “prior rental history” when its rental life was MAYBE 10% of the total on the clock? What possible difference does it make at this point?

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    So what about my 98 Corolla with over 350k miles, but it’s not in the best shape, needs some repairs but still running everyday, dawn to dusk

  • avatar

    ‘Whiskey Dent’.

    I’ve always like that one.

  • avatar

    But, but, but, all I’ve heard for the last umpteen years is that GM made nothing but abysmal cars since at least 1973. That a Cavalier or Malibu was a piece of junk that wouldn’t last much past the expiration of the factory warranty.

    Is my perception incorrect? I honestly thought a Pontiac Grand Am was a disposable car, purchased only by GM employees and credit compromised buyers, yet some of these have endured past 350,000 miles.

    The evidence speaks for itself – there’s a much larger percentage of crappy 20 year old domestic cars still on the snowy, salty roads of the Canadian prairies compared to Japanese, or especially, European cars of similar vintage. And considering that by the early to mid-nineties some of the Japanese models (Corolla, Civic, Camry and Accord) were selling in quantities similar or greater than the Detroit rivals.

    Perhaps some members of this site should re-examine their biases about domestic vehicles.

    • 0 avatar

      “I honestly thought a Pontiac Grand Am was a disposable car…”

      I don’t think I’m a person with a heavy bias against domestics, and they were older than ’99, but all 3 of my Grand Ams have been pretty disposable. Looked neat though.

      The Quad4 one and the 3.0L one both suffered engine failures (the Quad4’s replacement engine also blew up) around 100K.

      The 3300 one solved the engine reliability issue, but still, that N-body just fell apart. Made it 198000.

      A-body is a million times better.

      • 0 avatar

        As a prior A-body owner (Tech-4 89 Celebrity) and current N-body owner (3100 99 Cutlass), I disagree. Both are screwed together well, both getting similar gas mileage. The N-body, a couple generations newer, gets better suspension so better handling and feel. Also better ergonomics, better sealing and better paint.

        Weatherstripping and paint were A-body problems that have gone away on my N-body, but I inherited a bad LIM gasket in the 3100.

        OK, I can maybe be nostalgic for a good A-body, but it’s not a million times better.

        • 0 avatar

          Just try to FIND a good-running ’85-91 N-body in 2013. I’ve tried (I’d really like a Calais), it ain’t happening.

          You want to talk about A vs early N paint and trim issues? Not even a contest.

          Maybe the later N-bodies were much improved after the A-bodies went away, but the N’s poor reputation for the pre-’98 versions is well-deserved.

          When the A-body existed, it was better.

    • 0 avatar

      And there’s a much larger percentage of far better 20 year old Japanese cars running around with 300K + miles out here on the west coast, where as comparable domestic cars are rare on the streets except at Pick N’ Pull. Hell, even early 2000s American cars are fast becoming junk yard fodder.

      Perhaps you should re-examine your obvious bias about Japanese cars.

      • 0 avatar

        To be fair, you also have to consider that domestic cars sell less robustly in certain parts of the West Coast, so there would be fewer of them around for that reason too. Many of them that do sell are trucks.

        However, I also see 20-year old domestics here in California quite frequently. This morning I was shocked to see a Ford fullsize wagon, and the engine sounded well-maintained. I still see some first and second gen Tauruses at least as frequently as 1990 Camrys, and probably more frequently. Also, some of the 20-year old LH cars are still around, as are many Pontiacs and Buicks.

        By the way, there are very very few Japanese cars on the road even in California that are too much older than 1988 or 1989 so. There are a few, like the 1980-ish Tercel I see semi-regularly, the Toyota Starlet I saw a few weeks ago for sale, and the ancient Honda Civic that I used to see regularly, but American metal from that era is probably more prolific (again, largely because it sold better overall).

  • avatar

    “The Accord and Camry combined are still offering more 200k cars than all of Europe by a greater than two to one ratio. Audi and Kia are still the two laggards of longevity along with the habitually broken VW’s and the locally defunct SAAB and Suzuki brands.”

    There’s a private seller in town with a 1989 Audi 90 with an impressive 236,000 miles on it. He says it’s been in his family its whole life. As an owner of two old Audis, it gives me hope (though I must admit, even as a fan of the brand, I was pretty surprised when I looked at the odometer).

    • 0 avatar

      I just saw an old Audi Coupe GT in my neighborhood the other day. I wanted to flag the guy down and ask him about it, but we were going in opposite directions. I may have to see if the guy lives nearby.

  • avatar

    I was impressed when my friend told me his 2004 Ford Explorer Sport Trac had 190,000 miles, right up until he told me what he’d had to replace. That thing is George Washington’s axe. Had he known about the cascading failures that started a year ago, he’d have been much better off dumping it when the first four figure problem reared its ugly head. He’s driving a rental right now waiting for the gas tank to be replaced. Ford charges over $1,000 for the tank, BTW. Other repairs have included the radiator, water pump, transmission, rear axle, fuel pump($800 installed), and other more normal replacements. If it is really worth the $5K that KBB says it is, he’d have been better off not spending dime one and selling it as a mechanics special for anything over -$2K when it started to go bad.

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