Cars people keep for 15 years

Notice anything?

All are cars made more than 15 years ago by companies based outside the USA.

Not so. The Toyota Tacoma has been made in Tacoma Washington since 1996 or 1997. I’m sure that some of those others have been built in the US as well.

The companies were and are based outside the USA. Places of manufacture in some cases include the USA - especially within the last 15 or so years.

My 1999 Honda Civic was made in Ohio by a company based in Japan, for example. I have happily owned it for almost 18 years.

Being “the most popular models that owners tend to keep for 15 years” doesn’t make them the most reliable or the most durable. This list is a popularity contest, not a measure of quality.

Excuses, excuses, excuses. The chart tells the story.
And it’s consistent with my own experiences over the past half century. You want a car for the long haul? Stick with a Toyota or Honda.


This list is an excellent measure of reliability. Folks won’t stick with problem cars for 15 years.


If you look at this is as the definitive answer to what vehicles are reliable…then I agree with you. But it’s not. It is however ONE list to consider to determine how well a vehicle might hold up over the long term.

When you add in other surveys…


You tend to see a pattern where many of these lists show some of the same vehicles over and over again.

Each of these surveys/lists have less value standing alone. But together, then it has a lot of value.

most of the list doesn’t surprise me at all. I am somewhat surprised that only 1 Subaru managed to sneak onto the list. I am surprised that the VW Golf managed to get on. My mom went 1/2 with them, my father-in-law’s hasn’t been great, granted he bought his used

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I don’t really care for lists of any sort. We do have a Nissan Frontier but there was not any other vehicle on that list that I would even consider.

15 years ago lots of Subarus had head gasket failure and many other maddening and expensive issues.

VWs, more than most brands, appeal to an enthusiast demographic. Those folks may be more likely than the average car buyer to stick with a car they like, even if repairs are a heavier than average burden. That is generally the case with VW over the decades.

Over the decades repairs have generally been less a problem with Toyota and Honda vehicles. That’s a factor in their initial popularity, and in people keeping them for longer than average.


I guess I’m with Volvo. Without knowing some of the finer points of the socio economic status for example of the owners and other factors, just keeping a car for a long time doesn’t mean anything. Is it more likely that people that want to keep a car a long time bought cars on general reputation? So its a cart leading the horse kind of thing. On Mikes list, I noticed Daewoo is on there several times. Really? An no GM but they listed Vauxhaul.

Same reason I find CR less than helpful.

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They certainly have had those issues, but Subaru also have a ridiculously fervent following very similar to VW I feel like (especially around here). Like I said, my mom had one golf that was very reliable from the start until she totaled it in an accident on icy roads. The next one? A constant problem child. She’s been using the same Toyota Corolla ever since that.

Mike’s list of “100 most reliable cars” was published in 2006. That article is not from Consumer Reports and should not be confused with CR’s surveys.

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Lots of Subarus around here (Duluth, MN) for many years. Also very popular in some of the mountain west states. People like the well-performing AWD system, which works better than Honda’s or Toyota’s, according to Consumer Reports testing. But, until fairly recently, not such a good rep for longevity and reliability.

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I love how folks “gut feel” takes priority over multiple sets of consistent facts.


My father-in-law finally sold his old 91 Legacy a year or two ago. The two of us did a ton of work on that old beast (including a clutch job when the weather was in the low teens!)…had well over 300,000 miles too. I can attest that the AWD system is fantastic having also borrowed my grandmothers 2000 or 2001 outback to get into work at the hospital in blizzards before.

Another factor for owners who keep their cars a long time might be the quality of the dealers, from office staff to mechanics to parts people, etc., all the way up to the USA and home corporate operations. In my experience, Toyota is top notch, Honda pretty close. Subaru and VW are much spottier as far as effective and ethical operations, from the bottom to the top of the organizations.

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The fact is that Toyota is at the head of the list. After that, I see a lot of conjecture as to why. Maybe Toyota owners are cheapskates and keep their cars longer than others.

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Probably. Part of ownership is cost of maintenance and repairs. Maintenance and repairs for Toyota is typically straightforward and reasonable and Toyota takes longer to vet newer technologies like direct injection. Whereas BMW and VW released direct injected cars that were prone to carbon build-up, Toyota figured out to use port and direct injection to keep the intake ports clean (aside from the Lexus IS250, oops).