Here Are Some Cars People Never Sell
Reliability ranks highly among the needs of many prospective car buyers, and people who buy these cars tend to never let them go.
When it comes to buying a car, us enthusiasts tend not to think of long-term reliability as a standout requirement from the cars we shop – unless all we’re looking for is a dependable daily driver. We might put dynamics and handling above interior quality, or we agree to put up with a finicky engine because of its power delivery and noise.
But we are not the average car shopper. Reliability and affordability rank highly among the needs of a lot of prospective car buyers, and people who buy cars this way tend to hang on to their vehicles for a very long time.
iSeeCars.com put out a study listing the top 15 cars that people keep for over 15 years, exceeding the average age of cars on the road in the US of 11.6 years. It should come as little surprise that all 15 of these cars come from Japanese manufacturers, most of them Toyotas.
15 Toyota Land Cruiser: 10.6% kept over 15 years
The Toyota Land Cruiser is a byword for reliability. Its story and legacy are well-known; we’ve all seen footage of Land Cruisers crossing impenetrable terrain, carrying people deep into some of this planet’s most hostile environments. Land Cruisers of the last couple of decades have also been improving their credentials as high-end luxury SUVs, although more in the traditional material quality sense of luxury, rather than the recent trend towards high-tech. They remain extremely dependable if expensive machines.
14 Honda Civic: 11.0% kept over 15 years
The Honda Civic has always been a safe choice for an affordable commuter that still provides some degree of driving excitement; a Corolla for someone who understands trail-braking. Civics are reliable, cheap, easy to fix when they do need attention and generally, they’re pleasant things to own. Recent Civics have become questionable-looking things, but Honda’s solid engineering beneath the weird skin is what makes the Civic such a long-lasting vehicle.
13 Toyota Camry: 11.0% kept over 15 years
Long-term Camry ownership is an enticing idea if you’re the sort of person who doesn’t like uncertainty. If you want a car you know will start every time and you know will never leave you stranded, you needn’t look much further than one of these perennial favorite sedans. What the Camry lacks is a soul, a sense of passion, and excitement about the intricate act of driving. But that isn’t what the average Camry shopper is looking for, and the current car today continues to tick all the boxes that it has always done for decades.
12 Toyota Corolla: 11.4% kept over 15 years
To best understand the Corolla, see above, only smaller and cheaper. Yes, the Corolla has been the default answer to “you know about cars, what do you think I should buy?” because a Corolla will never let you down. It might not excite you, and you may never form the kind of connection with it that you would with something more involving, but a Corolla will always be there for you, a helping hand to guide you on your way to whatever it is you have to do that’s more important than driving.
Of course, all this will change when we get the long-awaited turbocharged GR model sometime next year…
11 Honda Odyssey: 11.6% kept over 15 years
For a time, the Honda Odyssey was the top-end minivan on the market. It was the best family hauler you could buy, with a potent mix of clever features and good build quality that put even the industry-favorite Dodge Grand Caravan to shame. Odyssey buyers responded in kind, with over 11.6% of them keeping their dependable vans for over 15 years, which is long enough to make the day it gets replaced feel like the day the family dog goes to live on a farm out of state.
10 Toyota 4Runner: 11.8% kept over 15 years
It really is no surprise to see one of the greatest off-roaders of the modern era make this list. The 4Runner is a fantastic SUV, arguably the best in Toyota’s lineup short of the doubly-expensive Land Cruiser. To explain the ‘Runner’s success is simple: it’s a basic recipe that Toyota has refined and perfected over the years. A tough body-on-frame chassis, under-stressed (if underwhelming) V6 engine, beefy transmission, and world-leading quality control are all it really takes to build a car as dependable as a 4Runner.
9 Toyota Prius: 11.9% kept over 15 years
Here’s a quick thought experiment about the Prius: now that it’s no longer a pioneering hybrid, has the Prius become an enthusiasts’ car? Not enthusiasts in the tire-smoking sense, but for people who are enthusiastic about tree bark and the mating patterns of the common squirrel.
Being kind, the Prius’ styling has evolved to the point where those of us blessed with the gift of sight should prefer the Corolla Hybrid, yet it continues to print money for Toyota. Its place on this list certainly suggests that its owners are willing to hold onto them for much longer than the average, which says something in defence of this funny little car.
8 Honda CR-V: 12.4% kept over 15 years
The Honda CR-V didn’t quite have the evolution you would have expected based on the rugged durability of the early models. Sure, modern CR-Vs are good family vehicles, but you’d never expect to see one bouncing down a dirt path or doing four-wheel drifts in a gravel parking lot like you would with the first-gen CR-V from the late-90s. Still, it has evolved to meet market demands and customers seem to be very happy with them, with 12.4% keeping their CR-Vs longer than 15 years.
7 Honda Pilot: 12.6% kept over 15 years
The relationship between the Pilot and the CR-V is much like that of the Toyota Camry and Corolla: same idea, different size of the vehicle. The Pilot succeeded for much of the same reasons as the CR-V, it started as a dependable, if slightly rough SUV and morphed into a much more on-road and family-friendly version of itself, while maintaining its solid value proposition for its build quality and longevity, with 12.6% of owners keeping their Pilots over 15 years.
6 Toyota RAV4: 12.7%
The RAV4 has been a runaway success for Toyota ever since the first model scampered onto the scene in the late-90s, aimed squarely at the Honda CR-V, Suzuki Vitara and other compact SUVs of the era. It was a quietly capable machine, with surprisingly strong off-road performance for its class and typical Toyota stalwart reliability. It’s hard to go a few hundred meters without seeing one of these in suburban areas such is their popularity with today’s young families. Lots of people buy them, and plenty of those people keep them for a very long time.
5 Subaru Forester: 12.8% kept over 15 years
The fact that a Subaru has narrowly edged out both the CR-V and RAV4 says more about the devotion of Subaru customers than it does the durability of their vehicles. Subarus need more attentive maintenance than some competitors, and many a flat-four has been sacrificed to the car gods due to a general lack of the upkeep that EJ (and to a lesser extent, FA) engines need.
But, it seems that a healthy portion of Forester owners are willing to care for their cars well enough to keep them on the road for over 15 years, which is brand loyalty that many of the bigger car companies only wish they could rely on.
4 Toyota Tundra: 14.2% kept over 15 years
Speaking of devotion to a car, Toyota Tundra owners are some of the most loyal ones in the entire car industry. People who own them swear by them, for their legendary Toyota reliability that can make the trucks easily outlast even the best that the American Big Three can produce. Tundras are tough and are known for being able to rack up hundreds of thousands of miles without issue. Some have even cracked one million miles. Small wonder that nearly 15% of owners keep their Tundras over 15 years.
3 Toyota Tacoma: 14.5% kept over 15 years
The Tacoma narrowly beating out the Tundra is no surprise. It takes everything great about that truck and downsizes it to a more practical and usable package for most buyers. We don’t all have the space for a full-size pickup, but a midsize one with the same legendary reliability will do just fine. Tacomas are also some of the very few trucks left that you can still buy new with a manual transmission, which ticks a box for us enthusiasts that few trucks do anymore.
2 Toyota Sienna: 15.5% kept over 15 years
Its place at number 2 on this list makes the humble Sienna the longest-lasting minivan on North American roads, an achievement that shouldn’t be surprising. It may lack some of the Honda Odyssey’s prestige, but the Sienna compensates by having better reliability and long-term ease of maintenance at a competitive price. The Sienna has been a staple model for Toyota since it replaced the Previa in 1996, and hopefully, its legions of loyal fans will keep buying new ones as more manufacturers start dropping minivans in favor of SUVs.
1 Toyota Highlander: 18.3% kept over 15 years
What’s that about another SUV? The Highlander tops this list as the car with the longest ownership, with a staggering 18.3% of owners keeping their Highlanders for over 15 years. That’s nearly 1 in every 5 units sold. It’s an impressive stat for a car that generally doesn’t seem to impress.
Then again, it doesn’t need to. Highlander buyers know what they want and what they’re getting into a reliable, economical, and practical SUV that can haul nearly as much as a Sienna but avoids the minivan image. And for those people, there is nothing else that can compete with their beloved Highlander.