Lifespan of an Automobile ...agree /disagree

The safe and economical lifespan of a car is 13 to 15 years average, depending on the manufacture of the car and assuming good maintenance. A little used car may get 20 years on an outside estimate, but beyond 20 years it becomes a hobby. And hobbies can be very expensive and time consuming.
13 to 15 years gives you lots of time to sock away money in your “next car” savings account.

Depends on where you live. Even though there have been great improvements in preventing rust - it still happens. Especially in the rust belt.

20/yo daily driver in the rust belt is unlikely.

Also you didn’t mention mileage. Some of my previous jobs I was averaging about 49k miles a year. 13 years meant my car would have over 500k miles.


Yeah I think its really hard to make general statements on longevity. My Riviera made it 20 years and 500K in Minnesota but it had galvanized body panels, stainless exhaust, and had been rust proofed. I probably ran it a little too long since the front cradle was coming apart and getting some rust through on the jack points. Probably could have kept it going though a little longer if it wouldn’t have been stalling on me. I really liked that car though but one of the problems was it was getting hard to find some of the parts, especially body parts, electronic stuff and things like a seat frame.

Economical lifespan varies as much as the mechanical aspects. Cars from Mercedes, Audi and BMW have such a short “economical” lifespan that 4 year old used examples go for pennies on the dollar as used cars because they are so expensive to repair. While the engines and transmissions are fine, repairs to the electronic controls of these major components and a myriad of other systems that fail, doom the car to the scrap pile. Simpler, less expensive to repair cars, like Corollas, Fusions and Accords soldier on until a major repair sidelines them for cost alone.

Keep in mind the average age of a car on the road is 11 years. That means a great many cars are 13, 15, 17 years old to account for those first 10 years.


Every vehicle is different. My sister still drives her 1993 Mazda Miata every day and it’s in remarkable shape. My uncle recently scrapped his 2003 Ford Taurus after sitting in his backyard for 2 years. Drivers are also very different.

@Tom777 There is no hard and fast rule; the environment, miles and quality have the most influence.

In a dry climate a well built car will last 25 years and would be good for 500,000 miles at least. Provided the cost of spares is reasonable.

Where I live we have an owner of an early 80s Toyota Celica with well over a million miles on it and still going strong. The original white paint job still looks OK as well.

A friend of my wife has a 1997 Ford Taurus with nearly 200,000 miles on it. She uses it as her “winter car” while her Hyundai Elantra is her summer car. The Taurus runs just fine and has only a little rust.

However, a poor quality car in a rust prone area will likely reach the end of the road before 20 years are up.

13 to 15 years may be the mean average of the distribution curve, but it by no means establishes a vehicle reliable lifespan. I’ve exceeded it too many times, which if it were true would make me a statistical anomaly. Here’s a current photo of my current car, 11-1/2 years old. And it still runs great.

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Still have and drive my 79 Chevy short stepside pickup.
The daily drivers are 06 and 08.

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After 10 years of daily driving with no garage cover, I’ve always been doing something for the last 5 years to get my truck to pass inspection every year whether it’s replacing tires, patching/replacing an exhaust, or ball joints.

In a few months, I will have been driving my Honda Civic for 18 years and about 300,000 miles. Since I live in a place where rust isn’t a problem (Florida), and the car is still safe to drive, I’ve already exceeded your proposed “safe economical lifespan.”

Driving and maintaining this car is far from a hobby, but I keep it around because I only use it in inclement weather, like rain and when the temperature dips below 50 degrees. The rest of the time, I ride a motorcycle. You could give me a brand new Cadillac, and I’d still rather ride than drive in dry weather.

The most expensive maintenance that I farm out (other than tires) is a new timing belt every 90,000 miles, and the last time I had that done, it only cost me about $0.005/mile.

So, I tend to disagree.

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It WOULD, however, be interesting to see the distribution curve. I couldn’t find one, but I’m sure there must be one somewhere in the industry.

When you consider all the different places the same brand of vehicle can be and the different types of owners saying there is a certain life span seems more like a guess than an actual fact.

That is like a company saying 80 % of their trucks are still on the road doesn’t mean they all should be on the road.

Sold my 92 Explorer in 09 with 135k on it.
they were GLAD to buy it.
’‘135 ? . . is that all ? . .we’ll take it !’’

my 08 Expedition I replaced it with now has 135 itself.

Not taking rust into account, I think it is much more dependent on maintenance. In the past year, I have traded off or sold a '93, a '95, and an '02 which were all going to need $500 or more repairs. They would still be going great I’m sure, but I get tired of vehicles after 5 to 10 years. I just bought a 10 year old car for a daily driver, I also have an 8 year old daily, and a 35 year old weekend cruiser (am currently negotiating on a '79 Cougar for a project car). But I try to take care of them - most of the ones under 13 years old are often from people who don’t know how to check their own oil.

Almost everyone here is on the tail of that curve. The good tail, that is. Most of us take good care of our vehicles and they should last for corpulent (a couple) of decades at least.

I left spell checks stooopid guess at what I typed so you could have a laugh.

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My 2005 Camry has 160K miles. Here in CA rust is not much of an issue. Up to a few weeks ago I was ready to let it go because the suspension, esp the rear was completely shot mostly thanks to the “great” roads we have here. There are other minor issues with the car but none life threatening yet. The quote from the shop for the suspension was $1K, plus alignment.

So I manned up, got some cheaper complete struts from the www for the rear and 2.5 hours later with some hand tools, the car drives like new. I will tackle the front soon. Washed and waxed the car this weekend and I think I can get a few more miles out of it.

Jt makes an excellent point. We’re not exactly a random sample.

Rust is not an issue here in OK so there are many 20+ year old vehicles still on the road.

A lot of it depends on your definition of “worn out”. For some people it’s when the new smell wears off. I see a lot of “worn out” pickup trucks and cars being hauled to Mexico on I-35 to start a new life in the hands of people who have a different standard for “worn out”.


Folks on this site are most definitely not the “norm” when it comes to cars. We are the people who buy “used” cars from those who think 60,000 miles means the car is just all worn out or those who won’t spend $1000 on tires for a car that cost $35,000. I see those people as opportunities! :relaxed: