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Cars that are long lived

I?m looking for a new car with qualities that aren’t typically commented on.

Can you recommend a few cars to look at?



I could be facing retirement within 5 years and want a car (and a warranty) that is long lived.

1. Carriage should have more plastic then metal. I live in the Midwest where the roads get salted heavily and don’t want the car to rust out too soon.

2. Fuel efficiency. Range and mpg are both important. A hybrid would be OK, but current economics don’t necessarily justify the purchase price

3. Carrying space. Sedan with fold down back or small SUV (e.g., Lexus 350 or 450h) would be acceptable.

By “carriage” I assume that you are talking about the vehicle’s chassis.
Luckily, we have not yet reached the point where cars have more plastic than metal in their chassis. In fact, plastic in the chassis is very limited in scope.

On the other hand, if you are talking about the vehicle’s body, every vehicle on the road uses plastic for some body parts–typically bumpers and fender tips. The “old” Saturn cars used plastic for all horizontal body panels, but several years ago Saturn morphed into just another variation of other GM products, with the result that the plastic body panels went the way of the Dodo.

Truthfully, if you want a car with a body that is essentially plastic, then you might want to look at the Chevy Corvette, even though that car fails the other tests that you have set up.

I think that you really need a good orientation to cars in general, and modern cars in particular.
So, rather than accepting random suggestions from strangers, I strongly suggest that you buy a copy of the Consumer Reports New Car Buyer’s Guide. This publication, which is available at Barnes & Noble, Borders Books and large news stands, gives capsule reviews of everything that is available in the US automotive market, including historical reliability ratings, prices, and other valuable information.

The first question you should ask: “Will the manufcturer be in business during my retirement”

This will avoid buying a Chrysler, Fiat, or some other make with an uncertain future.

Most retirees drive very little and a Hybrid is a poor investment.

The best recommendation would be a mid size hatchback made by a quality manuafacturer. My brother is a retired farmer and loves his Toyota Matrix.

Other suggestions:

  1. Toyota Camry 4 cylinder with minimal options

  2. Hyundai Sonata 4 or Elantra Touring (hatchback)

  3. Honda Accord 4cylinder wiht minimal options

  4. Ford Fusion, 4 cylinder and minimal options

  5. Chevy Malibu 4 cylinder with minimal options

You get the picture, avoid complex stuff, avoid any German car (very expensive to fix), avoid any turbocharged car, avoid any luxury car like Infiniti, Lexus, Acura as they are expensive to maintain.

To test this theory, go to a parts store and ask for a list of normal replacement items for a 25 year old Accord, Camry, and Malibu. Then ask for price and availablility of these same parts for a 25 year old VW Passat, Lexus, and other low volume cars. This test will convince you quickly as to what to buy; don’t take my word for it.

A long warranty does not coincide with reliability. It’s a sales tool. Frequency of repair is a better indicator than warranty length. My basic recommendation should include owner satisfaction. Not to include that in your requirements is a recipe for early trade regardless of your intent. Avoid hybrids, as their financial payback is too specific in use. The most reliable, satisfying sedans with high owner satisfaction have been the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. I would do research on these two models, set those as your bench mark, try them out extensively and if you then can find models that are more reliable, efficient, test rated higher and satisfying to you; buy it. If not, they are your safest bets.

My recommendation is to stop by the local bookstore and pick up a Consumer Reports New Car Buyers’ Guide. That’ll give you good data and comparisons on everything on the market. From there you can select some that look good and take some test drives.

When I was prepping to retire I was looking for a car with similar traits you have stated. I chose a new ('03) Honda Civic. It now has just short of 100K miles and I’m still happy with the decision. I do like to shift so I went for the 5 spd standard trans. The Civic has surprising large trunk space. The rear seats do fold down. The rear seats are big enough for most people who aren’t in the NBA, NFL, WWF. I get 36 mpg most of the time and 40 mpg on expressway trips.

Check out the Civic, you can get bigger cars - but the current civic has as much space as an older Accord.

The Honda Fit, Toyota Matrix, and Hyundai Elantra are very spacious and reliable.

"Check out the Civic, you can get bigger cars - but the current civic has as much space as an older Accord. "

Yes, today’s Civic is more like my 2005 Accord than today’s Accord is. The Accord is a full size car now and the Civic is a midsize. If you want a large hatchback, you might consider the Accord Crosstour. It only comes in the highest trim levels and is still $5000 more than the equivalent Accord EX sedan. But you might like it.

A taller vehicle will make entrance/exit easier on the legs/knees, so something like a Hyundai Santa Fe or Tuscon would be ideal given your criteria. A new Tuscon with automatic transmission and popular equipment group(adds much needed cruise control) comes to just under $23,000, and it comes with a 10 year warranty
Also, a key to longevity is the complexity of the vehicle. A stick shift hatchback/sedan with crank windows, handlebar seat movement, and pull-up locks is less complex than an automatic with power windows, keyless entry, keyless start(i.e. push button start), and power, heated seats.

A Crown Vic is the PROVEN Champion when it comes to longevity…That’s why Taxi fleets use them…But a Toyota Corrola will give long, reliable service too. When shopping, ask if it has a rubber timing belt. Subtract 10 points if it does…If it has an “interference” engine, subtract 20 points. AWD? subtract 20 points. FWD with an automatic transmission, subtract 10 points…

Longevity is helped by simplicity, something that you won’t find with a hybrid. You should also go with two wheel drive. A Honda CRV or Toyota RAV4 (both in fwd) would fit the bill, with decent economy and room. Nothing out there to fit you ‘plastic’ requirement.

The car that will live the longest, is the car that gets the best maintenance.

“1. Carriage should have more plastic then metal. I live in the Midwest where the roads get salted heavily and don’t want the car to rust out too soon.”

Just an additional comment. My 4Runner is plastic from the belt line down. Not to prevent rust as the underpinnings are still metal, but to stave off parking lot and off road dings.
That plastic doesn’t rust is true; but the cars will rust just as rapidly underneath as any other poorly designed all metal car with the plastic facade simply falling off. It happens. If auto makers were serious, which they aren’t, in preventing rust, a few more dollars worth of chromium added to the steel used for sheet metal would suffice. It’s a bean counters decision and equally important what you do to prevent rust as what the car maker does to his product. Maintain the body with the same enthusiasm you have for changing your motor oil, and your car will be rust free for many years, regardless of the conditions.

Thank you all for the ideas.
On to Consumer Reports!

I agree, at least 75% of the retirees / geriatrics I know, including my grandfather and my grandmother (up until we took the keys from her) drive Crown Vics or Grand Marquis. They are comfortable,exceedingly cheap to keep on the road and as an added bonus, the bench seat makes it easy to slide a walker or cane onto the passenger’s seat upon entering the car.

With respect to AWD and 4WD, is there something that’s “dislikeable” about them? Ive never had difficulty, but do they attract more trouble over time?

Just the general rule that more parts=more parts to break. Also, awd vehicles require more care in making sure all tires are of about the same diameter. Losing one tire may requre replacing all 4.

Consumer Reports seems to know little or nothing about road salt nor do they have a problem regarding the employ of US vs foreign engineers, designers and marketing people or whether or not the corporate profit goes to a US based company.

I suggest that you look at US cars first. US car quality has recently improved to make it competitive with anyone’s cars. A person has to wonder too, what else Toyota is hiding from scrutiny.

I suspect that cars owned by retired people in the salt belt rust more slowly than working peoples’ cars. When you work, you need to go no matter the weather and so your car gets a frequent dose of salt spray. If retired, you can stay home until the roads are clearer.

Also, the additional systems needed to have AWD weigh more and add drag to the drivetrain, which generally means the gas mileage won’t be as good as a comparable 2WD vehicle.

Cars clad in plastic actually tend to rust WORSE than ones with none, because they trap moisture against the metal behind them. And cars that have actual plastic body panels still have metal (usually steel) chassis. The rust will just be out of sight. Plastic isn’t going to help you. You might look for a car made mostly or entirely from ALUMINUM (some recent Audis are, for example, and both Audi and Mazda are set to start using more aluminum in their next generation of cars). They’ll still corrode, but not as bad as steel.

What’s your price range, anyway?

Oh, and I’d say Consumer Reports is about the worst place to go for car advice, but you seem to be approaching this like you’d approach buying a refrigerator, so Consumer Reports is perfect.