The myth of maintenance free Japanese cars (...that go to 200k with just gas, tires, and oil)


I think most people that are afraid of flying don’t fly much and don’t have a history of successful flights. I’ve flown well over a million miles, and I feel safe flying, even in rough weather.


Some years ago when I was very busy, I compared my flying hours with an airline flight attendant. That month I had put in 90 hours from check-in to exiting the airports. The flight attendant said she worked the standard company hours of 80 hours from check-in to checkout.

I had to do my job in addition to that. Accumulated well over a million airline points which we are still working off and now down to 194,000.

The most traumatic flight sequences I endured was being in the Far North on Friday with -40 temperatures, and flying South the next day and on to Abu Dhabi in the Middle East, where it was +40C when I arrived.

In addition to the jet lag and the weather change I needed a full day to recover.

Never during any of this did I feel unsafe about the travel it self.


That might be a factor in some cases, but I think many people are simply afraid of flying and always will be. I’ve never been afraid of flying. I don’t know why, I just never have. The first flight I ever took was the flight to basic training. I’d never been on an aircraft, so I had zero experience. Flying just never bothered me.

However, I can’t even stand on the ground and look at ferris wheels, roller coasters, and those rides that rise high into the air at theme parks without my stomach turning over. Again, I have no idea why, it just is.


I don’t seem to have that problem with my five speed MT Yaris. One of our steepest local grades is a half mile long 10% grade on RM2222 called Tumbleweed Hill. I go up it in third gear at the speed limit and am usually passing the rental vans crawling up that hill in the right lane.
But then, I own a version of the Yaris that isn’t handicapped by a four speed slush box of a transmission.
The power to weight ratios of the Yaris and Corolla is not that different, about 20 pounds per horsepower for the Corolla and 21.5 pounds per horsepower for the Yaris. If the Yaris is too slow for you, you won’t be happy with the Corolla either.
As for the Corolla getting the same fuel economy, while the EPA does report similar mpg data, the real world results are different.


The Yaris became the down and out loser in the automotive image war I guess. While I had a slight preference for the Scion of near identical proportions the Yaris didn’t seem to lack any essential qualities of being a comfortable and reliable model. Of course I am among the greatest fans of bang for the buck in basic transportation.

And on the OP’s question, waaay back up there I mentioned that Japanese cars were and likely still are junked out at 100,000 km to support the market although the stated reason is keeping the roads safe. It’s funny that Japanese vehicles that are designed to be trashed at 60,000 miles in Tokyo are expected to safely surpass 200,000 miles in Fargo and Tyler.


Ironic but true. At 10 years most Japanese cars are “condemned” by the government with the “reason” they are worn out and no longer safe.

Many Japanese tourists are totally surprised when visiting the US, Australia or Canada that there are reliable 20 year old Toyotas with many hundreds of thousands of miles on them and still street legal.

The Japanese move was totally focused on stimulating the domestic market.

Mexico City limited taxis to 10 years, mostly for pollution reasons and safety concerns. A good move!


A lot of those “forced into retirement” engines are converted into aero engines for home built aircraft.


Those so-called wrecks end up in many export markets where they drive on the left side. Malaysia, New Zealand, Ireland many African countries. The Irish Used Car Dealers Association petitioned the government to put a stop to this, since a perfectly good $1000 Japanese car with 10 years of life left on it was destroying the Irish market full of more expensive inferior British cars.

A typical export price from Japan is $300 or so. In Malaysia, even with import duties the Toyota Crown models are used as taxis and limousines, as well as company cars.

In Bolivia they take the steering wheel and put it on the left side, together with the pedals, but leave all the instrumentation intact!!! So the new steering column goes through the old glove box!

The only rule Bolivia has it that the steering wheel and pedals have to be on the left.

This is an example of Japanese beaurocratic solutions being capitalized on by international business ingenuity!

Where I live they import Japanese high performance models that are 20 years old as “classics” for next to nothing

They can leave the controls on the right since the car is a classic and no safety or emission changes are required!


I flew around 100,000 miles, mostly on vacation. One of my last flights was to and from Mexico City on vacation. I had to change to a small turbo jet in Chicago for the last lap. We had to walk out and go up stairs to get in the plane.

We loaded and the crew shut the doors, and the pilot started taxiiing, in the dark. I noticed the pilot had not started the right motor that was shut off while boarding. We mentioned it and people around us started getting nervous. When the stewardess walked by, I asked her about it. She looked out the window and trotted back and got in her seat. A few seconds after she got there, the pilot started the motor, performing a check list at 40 mph in the dark at the back of O’Hare.

I took the free magazine and wrote to customer relations about it. I got a nice letter back. The woman who answered told me she asked and was only told they shut that motor off while loading but no one could tell her why it wasn’t started before they started to taxi. She said she was sending our letter to the Chief of Operations. Which is what I wanted. I knew the chief of operations would understand exactly what happened as soon as he read the letter.

The pilot forgot that motor and there is a better than zero possibility he was about to start a run with one motor. I decided I didn’t want to fly much more. So, now I drive as far as I want to go, and that was before the TSA perverts got total control of our bodies.

The second reason I am nervous about flying was I worked for over 30 years on avionics black boxes. Most of our time was spent troubleshooting things that didn’t work. Everything that worked got a quick data package and shipped. So, psychologically, to us everything was broken. We were amazed when they would tell us our boxes had 10,000; 20,000; or more hours mean time between failures.

I do understand exactly where Mike is coming from, on not being impressed on the reliability of the US cars. I had an 1989 Dodge Caravan. I would drive to Amarillo and make an appointment with a mechanic. Then, to the Quad Cities, and make an appointment with a mechanic. In a few days, back to Amarillo and another mechanic. Then, back to McAllen and another appointment. I kept this going on too long because I hoped I would work through the failures and have a car I could count on. Not so.

I posted on this board that I cannot imagine a desperation to bad I would ever buy another Chrysler vehicle, and some people were offended. Maybe as if it weren’t fair, or something. Anyone who would buy another car of the same make after an experience like that needs to be institutionalized.

So, I see Mike’s point that even if the Big 3 or 2 or whatever it is now, are now as good as the imports, (and I am not saying they are because I don’t know they are) that simply is not grounds to buy one, after decades of junk. Why even take a chance when experience supplies something equally as reliable anyway? It would take a ‘major superiority’ to induce trying the make again with the bad history, not just “as good”.

I am Libertarian enough not to criticize anyone who wants to drive a junkmobile. Whatever floats his boat. But at the same time, it makes no sense to criticize someone who buys cars based on decades of high customer satisfaction.


We had a 2000 Caravan, loved the car but after 100K miles was a major money pit. I did most of the repairs myself, but got to the point that the Napa store was giving me the “Mechanic’s discount”. I guess they thought one car would not need that many parts.
I did the math and if I had sold that car at 100K miles and leased a new Sienna for the next few years I would have come ahead not to factor the number of hours I spent under the car.


Sorry to hear about your flying experience. I’ve had several close calls; a flameout on the left engine on a DC9 climbing over the Rocky Mountains, a DC3 that landed too late and ended up in the grass past the end of the runway, a Bomb Scare,

However flying is still 4 times as safe as driving. At least with reputable airlines. I flew Aero Peru on a 737 and nothing worked in the bathroom, which made me wonder what shape the rest of the plane was in. That same 737 crashed into the Andes a few weeks later, as you may remember.

Mainstream airlines are 26 times safer to fly with than private planes or 3rd world airlines. Saudi Arabia has its planes maintained by a reputable US company and spares no expense.

With respect to cars I share your opinion. Countless surveys show Toyota, Hondas, and now Korean makes to be the most trouble-free.

I kept tab on vehicles owned over the years and found the number of repairs for the first 100,000 miles:

  1. 1965 Dodge Dart 39
  2. Ford Granada 15
  3. Chevy Impala : 13
  4. Chevy Caprice 14
  5. Nissan Sentra 11
  6. 2007 Corolla: 2 @ 62,000 miles!
  7. 2012 Mazda3: 0 @30,000 miles

As miles increase to 200,00 the difference becomes more dramatic. At this stage the life expectancy of a Toyota minivan is about twice that of a Dodge Grand Caravan. If you are retired here and drive very little, this may not be important. We have 2 Chrysler/Dodge dealers nearby. In your case reliability would be a #1 consideration.


I hope you’re not putting down the TSA agents who are doing the pat-downs. They have a tough job to do, because they’re charged with implementing policies they have no influence in making.

The people who take jobs as TSA agents tend to be people who don’t have a lot of other choices in terms of their careers. I’m sure if they had better opportunities, they’d rather take them than be the object of ridicule from people like you.


I wish I could feel better about the effectiveness of TSA but there have been just too many slip ups. Our Army Reserve company flew into Pennsylvania some years ago when they first started doing metal inspections. Yeah the whole Company of Reservists in dress uniforms with lots of brass trying to get through a metal detector. If you can’t trust the Army, who can you trust? On that same Southern Airlines flight, we lost cabin pressure and seemed to be a number of other issues and when we landed, one of our guys actually kissed the ground.

Statistics aside, I’ve never had anyone get out of my car and kiss the ground. Really though I can’t imagine anyone actually liking taking a commercial flight. With parking, waiting, inspections, food and prices, then trapped in a tube for a couple hours or more?


Are there problems with TSA…any system that large there are going to be problems. But let’s look at what was in place before 9/11. I’ll take TSA over that system any day. The Manchester NH airport is a prime example. I’ve gone through those check-points dozens of times before 9/11 and since. Before 9/11 the security was a complete joke. Many times the only security people from the private security firm were retirees with little to no security experience. One was this nice sweet old lady about 70 who weighed at most 100lbs. Half the time she forgot to check Id’ or tickets. I feel a LOT safer with TSA security measures then the old system. Everyone I know who’s a frequent flyer like I am feel the same.


Family has had 2 corollas, one 4 runner, 5 Tacoma’s, 1 Accord and assorted other cars including a ford, Suzuki Chevy, 2 Subaru’s, .and 2 Saab’s,

My experience has been far better. I keep cars till they are about 10 years old with mileage between 90 and 210 k miles.

The Toyotas have been better then the others with the Saab’s on the bottom. Generally the taco and 4Runner bought new, even the batteries gave me ten years. Sorry, Toys have been great carefree cars overall.

The only vehicles that had the fewest problems, were my Kubota tractors at 12 and 13 years each.


Agree Whitey. We only fly about 2 to 3 times a year over the past two decades but our experiences have been very good.


I love that this thread is still going after 6 years.
And yea, Japanese cars are overrated overpriced turds.
In the used market, you can get twice the car for half the price
if you shop the cars that the brainwashed herds think require $600 repairs daily.
I will never own an overrated Japanese overpriced turd again.
I love driving.


Well, this is America, and you’re certainly entitled to your opinion

Considering I’ve been a professional mechanic for a few decades, and have experience on working on foreign and domestic, new car dealership, used, fleet, etc., my sample size is pretty big

And my opinion differs from yours :smiley_cat:

I don’t quite understand the purpose of that statement . . . :confused:


The two Honda Accords I’ve owned are the most reliable cars that I have owned. My sample size is small, but they are more reliable than the four GM cars I’ve owned during the same time period. I still consider the GM cars reliable, just not as reliable as the Hondas.


If Japanese cars are overpriced as used cars, there must be a reason. This would make Japanese cars good purchases as new cars. The late Tom McCahill, who tested cars and wrote a monthly test in Mechanix Illustrated claimed that one should buy a popular car when buying new, but the best buys as used cars were unpopular makes. A good example was the Edsel. A new Edsel lost its value very quickly and was a terrible purchase as a new car. However, the 1959 and the few 1960 Edsels that were produced were essentially Fords (the 1958 Edsel was a different story). The 1959 and 1960 Edsels lost value quickly, but engine, transmission, and chassis parts were widely available.
In 1965, I looked at a 1963 Volkswagen Beetle. The VW was a popular car and I could purchase a new VW for very little more.