Toyota dominates list, which includes all Japanese automakers with the exception of German Volkswagen

Fourteen of the top 15 cars that owners keep for 15 years or more are Japanese models, according to a new study by iSeeCars.com. A single German import, the Volkswagen Golf, narrowly made the list in the fifteenth spot, while Toyota dominated with nine models including the top-ranked Highlander.

The automotive research firm analyzed over 650,000 cars from the 1981-2002 model years sold in 2017. Fifteen models were at least 1.6 times more likely than average to be kept by the original owners for 15 years or more. Along with nine Toyotas, Honda was the only automaker to earn multiple spots on the list with two. Other manufacturers joining Volkswagen with one model on the list include Acura, Subaru, and Nissan.

Top 15 Cars Owners Keep for At Least 15 Years

Rank Model % Original Owners Keeping Car for 15+ Years Compared to Average
1 Toyota Highlander 18.3% 2.7x
2 Toyota Sienna 17.1% 2.5x
3 Toyota Tundra 15.7% 2.3x
4 Toyota Prius 15.0% 2.2x
5 Toyota RAV4 14.3% 2.1x
6 Honda Odyssey 12.8% 1.9x
7 Toyota Sequoia 12.8% 1.9x
8 Toyota Tacoma 12.4% 1.8x
9 Honda CR-V 11.9% 1.7x
10 Toyota Avalon 11.7% 1.7x
11 Acura MDX 11.6% 1.7x
12 Toyota Camry 11.5% 1.7x
13 Subaru Forester 11.5% 1.7x
14 Nissan Frontier 11.0% 1.6x
15 Volkswagen Golf 10.6% 1.6x
Average for All Cars 6.8%

 

“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 ,” said Phong Ly, CEO of iSeeCars.com.  “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.”

The only hybrid vehicle on the list, the Toyota Prius, earned the fourth spot.  “Hybrid owners have the added incentive to keep their cars on the road for longer in order to accrue fuel savings to offset the increased upfront cost of these vehicles,” Ly noted. “Despite consumers’ concerns about battery durability and the associated high replacement cost, its appearance on the list shows that the reliability of the Prius measures up to Toyota’s conventional fuel counterparts.”

The iconic Volkswagen Golf stands out as the only German import on the otherwise exclusively Japanese list. The popular hatchback boasts more cargo room than most compact cars and markets itself on delivering both style and performance. “The Golf appeals to a wide range of demographics by being a compact car with significant cargo space,” indicated Ly. “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.”

How Popular Vehicles Fared

Absent from the overall top 15 list are some of the nation’s most popular vehicles. Among the top vehicles that are typically most popular with US consumers, the percentages ranged from 6.9 percent to 11.5 percent. Eight Japanese models and one Korean model were kept for 15+ years at better-than-average rates, while only three of the eight American models were above-average.

Percentage of Owners Keeping Popular U.S. Cars for At Least 15 Years

Model % Original Owners Keeping Car for 15+ Years Compared to Average
Toyota RAV4 14.3% 2.1x
Honda CR-V 11.9% 1.7x
Toyota Camry 11.5% 1.7x
Toyota Corolla 9.9% 1.5x
Honda Civic 9.3% 1.4x
Hyundai Elantra 9.2% 1.3x
Honda Accord 8.9% 1.3x
Chevy Silverado 1500 8.4% 1.2x
Nissan Sentra 7.9% 1.2x
GMC Sierra 1500 7.4% 1.1x
Nissan Altima 6.9% 1.0x
Ford Escape 6.8% 1.0x
Average 6.8%
Dodge Ram Pickup 1500 6.3% 0.9x
Ford F-150 6.3% 0.9x
Chevrolet Malibu 6.0% 0.9x
Ford Explorer 5.7% 0.8x
Jeep Grand Cherokee 4.9% 0.7x

 

Popular compact and midsize sedans, Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra and Honda Accord all fared above average, but did not place on the Top 15 list.  Three American-made pickups were close to average, but failed to come close to the overall third-ranked Japanese Toyota Tundra. “Trucks are often used as heavy work vehicles, and are driven more than a typical passenger car. Consequently, they may need to be replaced earlier.”

Comparison of Brands

As reflected in the model analysis, Japanese brands produce the most cars that owners keep for fifteen years or longer. Eight of the top 10 brands are Japanese.  The two non-Japanese brands making the top 10 list are the South Korean Hyundai in the sixth spot and American-made GMC at tenth.  

Top 10 Brands Owners Keep for At Least 15 Years

Rank Brand % Original Owners Keeping Car for 15+ Years Compared to Average
1 Toyota 11.8% 1.7x
2 Subaru 9.9% 1.4x
3 Honda 9.7% 1.4x
4 Acura 8.7% 1.3x
5 Lexus 8.7% 1.3x
6 Hyundai 8.2% 1.2x
7 Mazda 7.6% 1.1x
8 Nissan 7.6% 1.1x
9 INFINITI 7.4% 1.1x
10 GMC 7.2% 1.1x
Average for All Cars 6.8%

 


“iSeeCars aims to empower consumers to find the right car at the right price, and providing information on cars that owners keep for at least 15 years helps achieve that,” said Ly. “If consumers are looking for a dependable car that will stand the test of time with the right maintenance and upkeep, they should consider these brands and models.”

 

Methodology

iSeeCars.com analyzed over 650,000 used cars from model years 1981-2002, sold between January through November 2017. For each model, the number of cars sold by the original owner was expressed as a percentage of the total number of cars sold. “Original-owner” cars were bought as new by the owner. The models were then ranked by the original-owner percentage. Models with fewer than 100 cars sold or which were no longer in production as of the 2017 model year were excluded from the analysis.

About iSeeCars.com

iSeeCars.com is an automotive data and research company that helps consumers find the best car deals by providing key insights and guidance. It has saved users over $140 million by applying big data analytics powered by over 25 billion (and growing) data points and using proprietary algorithms to objectively analyze, score and rank millions of cars and thousands of dealers. Based in the Boston area, iSeeCars.com was founded by former TripAdvisor and SAP executives determined to improve the car shopping experience for consumers.

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