15 Cars That Owners Keep the Longest
Looking for a long-term relationship with your next set of wheels? These popular models could be your best bet.
Cars with a long life-span
Watch TV, open a newspaper, or even (as you’re doing right now) surf the web, and you’re certain to encounter advertisements for local car dealers offering leases for two or three years, or new car loans for five or six years. It seems as if everyone replaces their cars on these short intervals, doesn’t it? Nope. According to research from IHS Markit, the average age of cars is up to 11.8 years old. And as the average age of cars on the road increases, studies have shown that drivers have preferences for the cars they’re keeping. iSeeCars analyzed used cars sold in the U.S. in 2019 and found the top 15 models that owners keep for 15 years or more.
The Toyota Highlander has the highest owner retention rate in the iSeeCars research—18.3 per cent of the cars researched were kept by their original owners after 15 years. That’s 2.4 times the average rate of 7.7 per cent. iSeeCars CEO Phong Ly notes that “[a]long with its great J.D Power reliability ratings, [the Highlander] also boasts lower-than-average ownership costs” leading to the long-term popularity of Toyota’s midsized SUV. Have you ever wondered what others think of you when you drive your Highlander or other SUV?
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Number two on the iSeeCars list of owner retention is the Toyota Sienna. About 15.5 per cent—double the average rate—of the Siennas researched were kept by their original owners for 15 years or more. Popular among families, Toyota’s long-lived minivan offers plenty of family-hauling room, and has (until very recently) been the only minivan to offer all-wheel drive, a major benefit in snowy climates. (Here’s the difference between all-wheel drive and four-wheel drive.) In other words, many buyers could be buying a new Toyota Sienna when they have their first child, and keep it long enough to teach that child to drive in the minivan.
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Instead of the soccer team, do you frequently find yourself hauling heavy, dirty loads? A pickup truck might be right for you. The Toyota Tacoma has long been legendary for capability and reliability, and it shows in the iSeeCars data, where 14.5 per cent of 15-year-old Tacomas are with their original owners. Many Tacoma owners enjoy modifying their trucks for off-road driving, as they often have four-wheel drive and tall suspensions to safely navigate treacherous terrain.
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No, we promise this slideshow isn’t a Toyota advertisement. The data simply shows that the most kept cars are Toyotas, much like the Toyota Tundra full-size pickup. About 14.2 per cent of Tundras remain in their original driveway after 15 years. These full-size trucks give owners all kinds of capability, including stout towing ability when properly equipped. Boat and horse owners seem to love their Tundras. Despite their size, they’re comfortable enough to drive every day and maneuverable enough to park almost anywhere.
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Seemingly ubiquitous in northern climates where lots of snow blankets roadways, the Subaru Forester sits at number five on this list with 12.8 per cent of original owners keeping their cars for 15 years or more. The compact SUV comes standard with all-wheel drive, making commutes on frosty roads just a bit more worry-free. Interestingly, iSeeCars further analyzed the 50 largest metro areas in the United States for these ownership retention rates, and the Subaru Forester was the most popular car to keep in the western Michigan cities of Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo—a region often bombarded with lake-effect snow from Lake Michigan.
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The Toyota RAV4 is arguably the first car that could be what we now call a “crossover”—that is, a vehicle with SUV styling and tall ride height that makes it comfortable to take a seat, but built on a more efficient, lighter weight car platform. It’s the blueprint for dozens of the most popular vehicles on American roads today—and it’s the best-selling vehicle in America that isn’t a pickup truck. It’s also one of the best affordable family SUVs you can buy. In the iSeeCars data, 12.7 per cent of original owners still have their RAV4 after 15 years.
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The midsized SUV with three rows of comfortable seating has become the standard family hauler, replacing the once-ubiquitous minivan for many shoppers looking to move their family or the soccer team. Take a look at any suburban supermarket parking lot, and the aisles will be littered with these midsized SUVs. The Honda Pilot has proven to be one of the most popular in this class owing to a long history of reliability and value. Here, we see that the Honda Pilot stays in 12.6 per cent of its original driveways—1.6 times the rate of the average used car.
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Honda has a deserved reputation for reliability and quality which generally extends to its entire lineup. Honda’s compact SUV, the CR-V, is one of the least expensive vehicles to repair. For a family on a budget, a CR-V is one of the safest choices—it’s reasonably priced, comfortable, inexpensive to maintain, and safe. And, much like most of the cars on this list, the CR-V is built in North America. Indeed, the CR-V is built in Ontario, Ohio and Indiana. About 12.4 per cent of 15-year-old CR-Vs live with their original happy owners.
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Years ago, the unique teardrop styling of the Toyota Prius made it clear to all that the car was something different: a hybrid electric/gasoline vehicle. Indeed, millionaire celebrities lined up alongside regular folks to buy the affordable Prius, as it signalled to fans that they cared about the environment. It turns out being efficient with fuel makes a car incredibly popular with long-term buyers, too—11.9 per cent of 15-year-old Priuses remain with those environmentally-conscious first buyers. No surprise it made this list—it’s one of the cars most likely to last over 400,000 kilometres.
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In the early 1980s, the first generation of the Toyota 4Runner was a Spartan sport utility vehicle, with two doors and a removable rear roof section allowing for top-down motoring. Modern incarnations have become plusher and plusher inside, but no matter the year, the 4Runner has never sacrificed its rugged nature. Based on a tough pickup truck platform, the 4Runner is equally at home cruising on the highway, in the desert, or crawling through the wilderness. Besides staying in 11.8 per cent of driveways after 15 years, the 4Runner has proven to be one of the slowest depreciating cars on the market.
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While there are fewer choices of minivans on the market than a decade ago, it’s no wonder this list has a pair of them. Minivans give families the most possible space for people and their stuff in a vehicle that can fit in a standard garage, and owners tend to keep them for as long as they have kids—if not longer! The Honda Odyssey has long been a trusted family steed, with plenty of space, innovative safety features and Honda’s reputation for reliability. The iSeeCars survey shows that 11.6 per cent of owners keep their Odysseys for 15 years or longer.
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Your author’s mother loves her Toyota Corolla. She’s had a few, replacing them every few years when the miles creep up, but the only car she’s driven for thirty years has been a Toyota Corolla. There are thousands just like her, people for whom reliability, comfort, and economy trump all else in a car-buying decision. Here we see the results of all that loyalty: the Toyota Corolla remains with 11.4 per cent of the first owners after 15 years. The Corolla is, after all, the best-selling car of all time—nearly 50 million have been sold around the globe.
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For our ninth (out of ten!) Toyota product on this list, it’s no surprise to see the ever-popular Toyota Camry. While until recently it hasn’t been the most interesting car to drive for motoring enthusiasts, the Camry has proven to be a solid, comfortable companion with plenty of room to stretch out. Sedans have lost some cachet among some new-car buyers compared to the SUV segment, but they still sell in huge numbers—over 336,000 last year alone. That’s over 920 Toyota Camrys sold each and every day. And 11 per cent of those cars remain with their original owners after 15 years.
Eleven per cent of all Honda Civic buyers couldn’t bear to part with their cars after 15 years. The compact, efficient sedans and coupes have proven to be popular with drivers of all types for decades. When your author is asked for a car recommendation for someone who simply wants drama-free transportation, the standard answer is “the best Civic you can afford.” No matter the price range, the Civic is an easy choice for reliable, economical transportation. And if you aren’t the first owner and are looking to buy a great used car, an older Civic is one of the most trusted choices.
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Toyota Land Cruiser
The Toyota Land Cruiser is one of the oldest, most storied names in motoring history, as it’s been in production in one form or another since 1954. Born as a Japanese development of the legendary Jeep, it’s evolved into a luxurious SUV that can go nearly anywhere, across nearly any terrain. Beyond the go-anywhere capabilities, the Land Cruiser has a well-deserved reputation for ruggedness and reliability. Thus, it shouldn’t be at all surprising that 10.6 per cent of all Land Cruisers are with their original owners after fifteen years—with this kind of history, it’s no wonder owners don’t want to part with their Land Cruiser.
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