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Cars People Keep for 15 Years or More (thedrive.com)
80 points by ourmandave 20 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 87 comments

As a Japanese car owner I'm a fan, but a list of 'cars people keep forever' has a huge amount of selection bias, no?

The sort of person who buys a new Merc probably doesn't _want_ to keep the car for 15 years. The interior is going to be shabby regardless of what you do, and the car will be out of date / an old style.

Japanese cars (at least in standard trim) are the stereotypical low TCO keep it until it stops working car; you've already accepted that you want utilitarian transport by buying one.

In Michigan at least a Merc was always short hand for Mercury. Now I realize they no longer make them but this is the first time I've ever heard a Mercedes referred to as a Merc. They will forever be a Mercury to me - and there were some sweet Mercury's as well ;<).

I owned a brown LN7 with a moonroof and got more requests for rides from pretty girls than any car I've ever owned.


Well, from across the pond, this is the first I've ever heard of Mercury at all.

You learn something every day!

(and the link you posted is a beauty.)

My friend, you've missed out on a lot of early American rock 'n' roll history.

Mercuries were the hot-rods of the early 50s. There are quite a few early songs that feature Mercurys.

Its definitely a regional thing. I never heard merc used for anything other than mercedes until i lived in missouri.

Not necessarily. I know people who kept older German cars forever. It’s not very possible anymore. They fall apart and parts aren’t available.

My 2003 Pilot was not a utilitarian transport. It was a well equipped car with 80% of the doodads of an equivalent Benz at half the cost. I got rid of it last year, because it had hit 300k miles and key suspension parts were worn out.

> Not necessarily. I know people who kept older German cars forever. It’s not very possible anymore. They fall apart and parts aren’t available.

In what sense? Japanese automakers are notorious for discontinuing model-specific parts after a few years (e.g. look at the Jalopnik blurb about the guy restoring a CRX).

Meanwhile you can get nearly any part from nearly any model Mercedes has ever manufactured. More esoteric stuff will cost you, but you can still do it. The other German manufacturers are somewhere in between. I currently have a few twenty year old BMWs and haven't run into any availability issues yet.

> Japanese automakers are notorious for discontinuing model-specific parts after a few years (e.g. look at the Jalopnik blurb about the guy restoring a CRX).

They stopped making CR-X in 1991. It is not "few years". 3 years ago I retired a 1994 Rover 600 series, which is basically a Honda Accord -- sans few body panels, trim and lights. It was still possible to get the spares for the Honda version, but not the Rover specific ones (got a headlights cracked). Otherwise a solid car after 21 years... Currently happy with Honda Insight.

> They stopped making CR-X in 1991. It is not "few years".

Depends on when Honda stopped making parts, no? Also, I was replying to this tidbit:

> Not necessarily. I know people who kept older German cars forever. It’s not very possible anymore. They fall apart and parts aren’t available.

Mercedes maintains a heritage program that makes parts available for models going back to their pre-war models (maybe beyond). You will pay dearly for those parts, but they are still available. Parts for newer models are even easier and often available both from Mercedes and aftermarket companies.

My friend was quoted $1,500 to fix an ignition problem on his 15y Mercedes. You can buy an entire 15yo Honda for that much :)

My friend was quoted about $1,200 to replace the plugs and coil packs on his 2004 Fit at an independent shop. He ended up paying about $600 for them to replace one or two packs (forget which). Paying people to work on your car is expensive. vOv

A few decades would be accurate. The model from the Jalopnik story was 1984. The article came out in late 2018.

Were Honda to have just discontinued parts that would be one thing. Honda discontinued making parts available for the CRX well before the Jalopnik article. After the Jalopnik article came out I took a look at the situation for the early 90s Accord and it was pretty damn bleak. Aside from some fasteners not much was listed.

Manufactures might stop, but aftermarket will pick up. It makes sense for aftermarket because Hondas there’s demand. While luxury vehicles are sold in lesser numbers and less demand for repair because of the type of target market who’d rather discard than fix.

My daily driver is a 1994 BMW 525i; 253,000 miles. My dad bought it new. Parts are very easy to come by. It is not fun to drive, but serves its purpose. I vastly prefer our 2007 Mercury Mariner (all wheel drive). I'll never sell either. Just park it in the field for when the kids get older.

Why is it not fun to drive? I know a lifelong BMW driver and he pines for the days when they made sporting saloons like the E28 and E39 instead of today's bloated barges.

His last one, an E46, had steer-by-wire! That's the antonym of a driver's car.

Are you sure about "steer-by-wire"? The only instance of that I've heard of on a production car is a recent Infiniti.

Perhaps you are thinking of electrically assisted power steering, which is not steer-by-wire - it has a physical steering column like most cars.

But then again, doesn't the E46 have hydraulic assist, not electric?

I'd recommend new shocks on the 525i, I just changed mine on a 2004 330i for a part cost of $725 and about 4 hours of labor.

Should make it fun to drive again.

I wrote that awkwardly.

I meant that that older cars are more maintainable. IMO it’s more likely that your 1994 is on the road in 2044 than a 2019 model year.

Makes sense for luxury/sports cars, but I doubt there's a huge difference between American and Japanese minivans, there.

Honda Odyssey is way better than anything American made.

That makes sense, though the Acura MDX is on the list.

That still doesn't come close to a Merc or BMW. At least by European standards.

It’s just an upgraded Honda CRV.

You must be thinking about RDX not MDX. Also latest RDX is not built on the same platform as CRV

No, I'm talking about the MDX that was on the list.

You're correct that it's not based on the CRV; it's based on the Pilot. So I should have said, "It’s just an upgraded Honda Pilot."

The car on the list would be a 2004 model.

Some of the older mercs are super sweet.

German cars, Mercs especially, seem to have a desirability curve that bottoms out and then skyrockets later. Few people are going to hold a car that looks dated long enough for it to start looking awesome

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This is almost comedy:

> To avoid personalized advertising based on your mobile app activity, you can install the DAA’s AppChoices app here.

It's for the obvious reason, right? So that they can opt-out your IDFA or AAID.

It's not like most people would be able to get that information.

I read it from the Google web cache.

I had a Honda for 12 years until 2015 then bought another one with the hope of only selling it when it becomes reasonable to acquire an electric car or do away with owning a car at all (I live in South America).

Is this commentary on the cars themselves? Or is this more a reflection of the types of people who buy those cars?

Would the type of person who buys a more exciting car keep whatever car they have for a shorter period?

A bit of both?

Original study has far more details: https://www.iseecars.com/cars-kept-15-years-2019-study

For example --

* Some commenters wonder where the German cars are. Well, turns out they dominate the luxury section.

* Some comments suggest people don't really want to keep luxury cars fifteen years. Sort of validated -- that segment is broken out and has a lower average, but just a few percentage points. Sports cars? Almost no one keeps a sports car. Unless you count the Miata.

* 17.2% of people in the San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose area keep a car more than 15 years. That's higher than any other studied metro area.

This list from the same site, titled “The 10 Longest-Kept Cars When Bought New” has almost no overlap.


Yeah, something is wrong with their methodology.

I absolutely do NOT believe that a Prius makes that list.

The first 5-door liftback Prius (what everybody recognizes as a Prius) is barely 15 years old. And, during that time, there were some really amazing incentives from dealers to turn in your old Prius and buy a new one. And big chunks of the early Prii will have batteries that gave out. And a Prius tends to have really expensive repairs after a collision. etc.

My daily driver (Ford) is 30 years old, my toy car (Dodge) is 47 years old. I've owned the Ford for 28 years, the Dodge for 30 some.

I like older cars. I suppose I got it from my dad, who'd buy them new and keep them for 30-40 years.

Take a look ynder the hood and you start to see the full picture. Older cars were heavy and inefficient. Newer cars have far more complexity and a lot more plastics. On the plus side they have some great traction features and are far safer to get in an accident with (in general).

My Ford has 4WD, and is satisfactory in the snow. The safety in a collision is an issue, likely the only one for me.

The Ford is cheap to operate, and very cheap to repair compared with newer models.


Toyota's obsession with quality is paying off.

I love cars, current ride is an 11 year old Toyota product. (Lexus IS F. Heart of a muscle car!)

I kept my last ride almost 15 years, I hope to keep this one a good long time, too.

I love my '05 Toyota 4Runner, bought new. No serious issues and gets pretty heavy daily use. My mechanic says it should be good for another 8 years at least. Basically I hope to drive it until self-driving tech is widely available.

I am surprised there are no lexus cars. Those things last forever.

Probably not with the same owner, though. People who buy a new luxury car are probably going to buy another new luxury car before they make it to 15 years no matter how well the old one still runs.

I was wondering the same, but I think they probably upgrade after a while. They do get nicer and nicer over the years. I have a Toyota Venza and my next car will likely be the RX, or a Toyota Highlander, though I am leaning more towards the Lexus model. I would keep my Venza but I rather give it to my parents who need it more when I make my switch. I will probably keep the RX as long as possible, unless a reasonable upgrade entices me in the future (all electric / self-driving that doesn't scare me).

My GX is 15 years old. I had to repair some of the things the previous owner left broken, or had repaired badly. But so far there have been only a few age-related items needing work, like the radiator. Everything else has been just fluid changes and normal wear parts. It also helps that it's a California/Texas/Carolinas vehicle, with no rust.

Luxury brands are very likely to have first owners that turn over new cars rapidly regardless of how well they hold up.

Less of them around? Lexus is Toyota.

Lexus is pretty much Toyota.

The lexus brand has a higher quality standard. Toyota is already good, but they do additional checks for lexus. For example they CAT scan the motor for any imperfections.


Perhaps this data does not indicate the obvious for some stuff. We have two 2001 Tacoma trucks, one is 4WD, and one is 2WD. My truck is ugly as sin, but is reliable and easy to repair. The new Tacoma is essentially a full-size truck, too much plastic, much more complex, too much is not accessible for maintenance, and per my three neighbors, much less reliable. This is why we have not bought new machines.

I have an '01 Tundra that just keeps going. No kind words for the appearance and people use me as a moving service, but I love the damn thing.

Current Tundras, though being very different than your gen, are still seen as maybe the best forever truck. Those engines are pretty much bug free but also they get terrible gas mileage.

I'm hoping my V8 F150 goes for 20 years, though I doubt I'll keep it that long. I like the safety bells and whistles in modern cars and my 2016 is just old enough not to include adaptive cruise or a 360 camera or a blind spot camera.

All true but take comfort in the fact that you still sit on the floor board in a Taco.

My UK-model Toyota Celica Supra was owned by its original owner for 20 years. During that time, the car was pampered and treasured - I have a large folder of extensive service records dating to the late-80s. My father bought it in 2006 and gave it to me in 2013. I've sworn never to get rid of it, no matter what. Not only is it an incredible car to drive, and visually striking (classic 80s wedge shape), but no current car has my attention. Plus, even if current cars are more efficient, more powerful, etc, the amount of resources and energy used in the manufacture of a newer car quickly offsets those benefits when I could simply keep a well-engineered vehicle running for longer. Finding parts is understandably difficult, but I see no reason to chop and change cars every few years. If I could, I would have owned the car from new, but it's 4 years older than me!

Interesting, but not sure how useful. Inevitable that this kind of information becomes out of date as far as what car is worth keeping that you now own.

Implicit in this is company culture, how their engineering teams work. Toyota and Honda have been well known to make reliable cars for years. I think part of the reason for their reliability is their relatively under powered engines. Although, I'm surprised there isn't a GM vehicle on there. GM tends to make pretty reliable engines and trannys, although everything else on them tends to fall apart all at the same time.

We have a 15 year old Honda Odyssey, and if required periodic repairs for anything, not just powertrain, we'd probably replace it -- it just won't be worth the time and bother, even for relatively minor repairs. But it just soldiers on.

This is obviously true, but it's worth observing that 2/3rds of the cars on the list were made by Toyota and none of them are Fords.

BMW should certainly be on that list considering European owners. Countless numbers of E46 and E39 models remain on the road here.

It says percentage of original owners. Luxury owners tend to lease more and upgrade more. I don’t know anyone that isn’t at least the 2nd owner of an E46 or E39.

Ah, ok. My mistake.

I would like to see the same statistics for Europe. It would be very different.

I am afraid the result is biased. Most of the people in US keep Japanese cars because most people actually buy Japanese cars at the first place and some of them keep them.

I guess in Europe we could see very different brands.

Here in Norway, and even more in Sweden, I think Volvo would feature pretty heavily in the list.

I have a 14 year old Volvo wagon and a 13 year old Camry. I regularly drive both. Love not having car payments. Live in the snow/salt belt. In my youth it just wouldn't have been possible. The cars would have rusted to pieces by now. Paint sure has improved.

I'm surprised the Acura Integra/RSX/ILX isn't on the list. I certainly see a lot of older Acuras driving around in the northeast.

Maybe a badging issue due to all the name changes?

Or maybe the kind of person that will drive a 15 year old car doesn't like compact cars?

The ILX hasn't been on the market for 15+ years.

Integra (2001 was last US production year) and RSX are both inline-4 with relatively agressive compression ratios. Anecdotally, an owner who purchased new as a daily driver with no intent on abusing the vehicle is liable to start encountering appreciable maintenance costs at 120,000+ miles. More often than not, these vehicles find a 2nd (or 3rd+) life on the used market. 10% ethanol gas didn't make reliability any better either.

Not simply driving a 15 year old car, but keeping a car for 15 years or more. Quite different!

I see a lot of 15 year old cars driving around in the UK (age of car is easy to gauge here, as it's encoded in the number plate) - I expect most will have changed hands at least once.

Ditto for Accord and Civic. Perhaps those cars are more likely to be traded in? Obviously owning a car for 15 years is a bit different than driving a 15 year old car if you bought it used.

It could be because it’s an aspirational brand (perhaps that caters to a consumer that prefers to upgrade more often) and/or the parts are more expensive relative to the residual value of the car.

The Integra was a great car though ...and great name!

My Toyota is only 20 years old. Still goes great so will keep for another five.

Of course such a list will be near-exclusively Japanese, but I'm a bit surprised that it's near-exclusively Toyota and Honda. Nissan and Mazda vehicles/customers aren't comparable?

Nissan vehicles have never been known for their reliability in comparison with Honda/Toyota and Mazda had a long partnership with Ford that included using their powertrains among other things that certainly didn’t help with reliability. The Mazda B series and Navajo were basically indistinguishable from the Ford Ranger and Explorer of the period.

FWIW I had a 2001 Mazda MX-5 for 16 years/268K miles. Wrecked it unfortunately, but got a 2017 model to replace it.

It was getting more expensive to keep up year after year, but parts were available and never had any major issues with it.

I wonder how things might be in Europe. We’ve owned BMW’s in the US for years. However, we get rid of them just before the warranty runs out. Cost of parts and maintenance is just too high.

There are some old bmw on the road, but there are more old mercedes. Mercedes is way more reliable than BMW.

Then it depends on where you live. In my region east of France, you can see a lot of Peugeot 205 which last forever. If you live on other parts of France, you will see more old Renault. If you are in Italy you have old Fiat :)

The japanese cars were never a thing in Europe, I don't know the reason. Maybe due high price, cheap interiors and bad diesel engines? What is sure is that they are damn expensive on the used market.

I knew somebody with a 15 year old BMW in the mid-90s. That was a nice vehicle and he somehow kept it going pretty cheaply if I recall.

I've got a 2012 Kia Soul that I'm going to keep until I can't get it to the dealership anymore because they're paying me for each mile I drive it. (MPG rebate)

I've got an 09 Honda Fit that I bought new and I have no intention on selling within the next 5 years. But I'm probably an outlier since it only has 55000 miles on it.

2010 fit sport here, seems totally fine at eight years old. we have zero intention to replace it.

I knew the Tacoma would be on that list.. VERY reliable and rugged car. Toyota should be proud!

Still driving my 1993 Toyota pickup as a second vehicle.

CA still makes me smog-test it every other year.

"... in the US"

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