Analysts are pondering a future in which cars are sold or leased on a subscription basis, much like mobile phones, so modish motorists can be assured of upgrading to the latest models as soon as they're released. But there's still a strong contingent of auto owners who, whether out of necessity or sheer pride, will literally run their rides into the ground.
Among these dedicated owners, a salvage yard would be the only suitable second owner.
To help shoppers determine which cars will — at least historically — go the distance, the automotive data and research company iSeeCars.com in Boston, looked at more than 650,000 used car transactions conducted during 2017 and found a dozen models that are at least 1.6 times more likely to kept by their original owners for 15 or more years.
Following current ownership trends in the auto business, the majority of the models cited for extreme long-term ownership are trucks, specifically pickups, SUVs and minivans. Of the 12 models owners hold onto the most tenaciously, all are imports, with nine coming from Toyota, including the chart-topping Highlander crossover SUV with 18.3 percent of its original owners keeping them for 15 or more years. Honda accounts for two spots, with Nissan, Subaru and Volkswagen placing one model each. We're featuring the full list in the accompanying box.
"While a decade on the road used to be a significant milestone for vehicle life expectancy, the elevated quality of cars being produced has raised this standard to beyond ten years," says iSeeCars.com CEO Phong Ly. "Japanese automakers are known for setting quality and reliability standards, so it is no surprise that they are the most likely to reach the fifteen-year milestone."
Perhaps curiously, only three out of the vehicles on the list — the Toyota Camry sedan and the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V crossover SUVs — are among the industry's top selling models. By brand, Toyota tops the charts with 11.6 percent of its original owners keeping their cars for 15 years or longer, followed by Subaru (at 9.9 percent) and Honda (9.7 percent). The industry average among all makes and models is 6.8 percent.
Seven models on the list are either compact-sized autos or crossover SUVs, with the only non-Asian model on the long-term list being the Volkswagen Golf sedan. "The Golf appeals to a wide range of demographics by being a compact car with significant cargo space," Ly says. "The car is known for its practicality, so it appears to attract practical consumers who will make the necessary repairs to keep it on the road for as long as possible."
Noticeably absent from the list is the nation's most-popular vehicle, the Ford F-150 full-size pickup truck, though this is not necessarily a vote of no-confidence among truck owners. "Trucks are often used as heavy work vehicles, and are driven more than a typical passenger car," Li says. "Consequently, they may need to be replaced earlier."
Additionally, the lack of upscale luxury models on the list, particularly from the German brands, can largely be attributed to the high percentage of luxury cars (at least 50 percent) that are traditionally leased, rather than purchased outright.