Hybrid Vehicles Lead in Owner Satisfaction

By Julie Blackley

  • Five hybrid vehicles make the top 10 list of cars with the most satisfied owners, led by Toyota
  • Tesla Model S leads competitors for owner satisfaction by a wide margin
  • Tesla among top brands for owner satisfaction
According to an iSeeCars.com analysis, owners of hybrid cars appear more satisfied with their vehicles than average. While overall, 16.8 percent of eight-year-old cars from the 2012-2013 model years are kept by their original owners, hybrid owners are 1.6 times more likely to do so, and certain hybrid models are kept at rates up to 2.2 times the average.

iSeeCars analyzed over 900,000 model year 2012-2013 cars sold in 2020 to see which vehicles have the most satisfied owners, as measured by how many of these cars are retained by their original owners. iSeeCars selected the 2012-2013 model years because hybrid vehicles had become widely available across multiple vehicle segments in that timeframe.  It was also the start of production for two of the most popular electric cars, the Tesla Model S and the Nissan LEAF.

In this study, five of the top 10 vehicles with the most satisfied owners are hybrid vehicles.  “Hybrid vehicles attract practical and eco-minded drivers, who are willing to spend extra money upfront to invest in vehicles that are better for the environment,” said Brauer. “Hybrid versions of Toyota’s popular gasoline cars have begun outselling the Prius, suggesting consumers  now prefer the hybrid versions of their previously-owned gasoline vehicles.”

Top 10 Cars for Owner Satisfaction - iSeeCars Study
Rank Vehicle % Cars Kept by Original Owners  Compared to Average
1 Toyota Highlander Hybrid 38.0% 2.3x
2 Toyota Avalon Hybrid 36.5% 2.2x
3 Toyota Camry Hybrid 34.6% 2.1x
4 Volkswagen Passat 33.8% 2x
5 Toyota Land Cruiser 32.7% 2x
6 Volkswagen Golf 31.3% 1.9x
7 Subaru Outback 31.2% 1.9x
8 Lexus ES 300h 31.1% 1.9x
9 Honda CR-V 30.9% 1.8x
10 Toyota Prius 30.5% 1.8x
Average for All Vehicles 16.8% -
Five hybrid vehicles from Toyota make the list and occupy the top three spots. The car with the highest percentage of original-owner eight-year-old cars on the road is the Toyota Highlander Hybrid, with 38 percent. Additional Toyota hybrids making the list are the Avalon Hybrid in second, the Camry Hybrid in third, its luxury variant the Lexus ES 300h in eighth place, and the Prius in tenth. “Toyota put hybrids on the map with the Prius in the early 2000s, paving the way for hybrid versions of its popular SUVs and sedans over the last decade,” said Brauer. 

A non-hybrid Toyota model also makes the list, the fifth-ranked Land Cruiser. “The iconic and indestructible Land Cruiser hasn’t had a major redesign since the 2008 model year, but owners are clearly happy with, and loyal to, their vehicles,” said Brauer. 

Two Volkswagens make the list: the fourth-ranked Passat and the sixth-ranked Golf. “The midsize Volkswagen Passat was completely redesigned for the 2012 model year and is a popular family-friendly sedan,” said Brauer. “The Volkswagen Golf hatchback has enjoyed enduring popularity thanks to its versatility as a practical yet fun-to-drive vehicle.”

Ranked seventh is the Subaru Outback. “With standard all-wheel-drive, the Subaru Outback blends the practicality of a station wagon with the all-weather confidence and functionality of an SUV,” said Brauer. “Additionally, Subaru has been steadily growing in popularity and attracts specific consumers with a passion for the brand’s value and capabilities.”

Rounding out the list is the ninth-ranked Honda CR-V. “The Honda CR-V is a safe and reliable small SUV with above-average fuel economy and robust cargo space for its class,” said Brauer. “Its ownership costs are also thousands below average for the small SUV class.”

Tesla Model S Owner Loyalty

iSeeCars found that the Tesla Model S vehicles from the model years examined were far more likely to be kept by the original owner when compared to similar luxury vehicles or the Nissan LEAF EV. “The 2012-2013 model years marked when the Tesla Model S was first introduced, so these owners were early adopters who took a chance on Tesla before the quality of the cars was established,” said Brauer.
Tesla Model S Owner Satisfaction Compared to Similar Vehicles - iSeeCars Study
Rank Vehicle % Cars Kept by Original Owners  Compared to Average
1 Tesla Model S 23.6% 1.4x
Average for All Vehicles 16.8% -
2 Audi A7 14.9% 0.9x
3 Audi A8 L 10.5% 0.6x
4 Porsche Panamera 10.0% 0.6x
5 Maserati Quattroporte 7.8% 0.5x
6 Nissan LEAF 7.3% 0.4x
When looking at the Tesla Model S from the 2012-2013 model year, 23.6 percent of the vehicles are still with their original owners, 1.4 times the overall average. “Large luxury sedans are often leased because of their high price point or because owners don’t intend to keep them for more than a few years,” said Brauer. “The Tesla Model S remains current thanks to its over-the-air software updates, which appeal to its tech-loving consumer base while prolonging their satisfaction with the vehicle.” 

When comparing the two electric vehicles on the list, Tesla Model S owners are more than three times as likely to hold onto their vehicle when compared to the Nissan LEAF. “The Nissan LEAF had a range of 73 miles when it was first introduced, while the Tesla Model S had a starting range of 136 miles, extending to 265 miles when its largest battery pack was introduced just over a year later,” said Brauer. “Early adopters of the Nissan LEAF likely swapped their vehicles for a later generation LEAF or a competitor with longer range.”

Ranking of Alternative Fuel Vehicles

iSeeCars combined hybrid and electric vehicles to see how alternative fuel vehicles compared to the overall average of vehicles kept by their original owners.
Ranking of Alternative Fuel Vehicles for Owner Satisfaction - iSeeCars Study
Rank Hybrid Vehicle % Original Owner Compared to Average
1 Toyota Highlander Hybrid 38.0% 2.3x
2 Toyota Avalon Hybrid 36.5% 2.2x
3 Toyota Camry Hybrid 34.6% 2.1x
4 Lexus ES 300h 31.1% 1.9x
5 Toyota Prius 30.5% 1.8x
6 Lexus RX 450h 29.8% 1.8x
7 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid 24.3% 1.4x
8 Tesla Model S 23.6% 1.4x
9 Ford Fusion Hybrid 23.3% 1.4x
10 Ford Fusion Energi 20.4% 1.2x
Overall Average 16.8% -
11 Porsche Cayenne Hybrid 16.1% 1x
12 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid 16.0% 1x
13 Kia Optima Hybrid 12.6% 0.8x
14 Nissan LEAF 7.3% 0.4x
Ten vehicles fare above average, which includes nine hybrid vehicles and the electric Tesla Model S. Two additional hybrids, the Porsche Cayenne Hybrid and the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid fall just below average.

Top 10 SUVs for Owner Satisfaction

When examining the SUV segment, 17.5 percent of SUVs from the 2012-2013 model years are kept by their original owner.
Top 10 SUVs for Owner Satisfaction - iSeeCars Study
Rank SUV % Cars Kept by Original Owners  Compared to SUV Average
1 Toyota Highlander Hybrid 38.0% 2.2x
2 Toyota Land Cruiser 32.7% 1.9x
3 Subaru Outback 31.2% 1.8x
4 Honda CR-V 30.9% 1.8x
5 Lexus RX 450h 29.8% 1.7x
6 Subaru Forester 29.6% 1.7x
7 Toyota Highlander 29.1% 1.7x
8 Acura RDX 27.9% 1.6x
9 Mazda CX-5 27.2% 1.6x
10 Toyota Sequoia 26.3% 1.5x
SUV Average 17.5% -
Six additional SUVs join the four that appeared on the overall list of vehicles with the highest owner satisfaction. Ranked fifth is an additional hybrid vehicle, the Lexus RX 450h, which is the luxury version of the top-ranked Toyota Highlander Hybrid. An additional luxury SUV, the Acura RDX, also makes the list.

Two additional Toyotas join the list, including the seventh-ranked Highlander and the tenth-ranked Sequoia. “Both the Toyota Highlander and the Toyota Sequoia have stellar reliability ratings and below-average ownership costs,” said Brauer.

Two compact SUVs round out the list: the sixth-ranked Subaru Forester and the ninth-ranked Mazda CX-5. “The Subaru Forester and Mazda CX-5 provide affordability, confident driving dynamics and excellent passenger safety,” said Brauer.

Ranking of Pickup Trucks for Owner Satisfaction

When examining the pickup truck segment, 16.4 percent of pickup trucks from the 2012-2013 model year are kept by their original owner. Six pickup trucks fare above this average.
Ranking of Pickup Trucks for Owner Satisfaction - iSeeCars Study
Rank Pickup % Cars Kept by Original Owners  Compared to Average
1 Honda Ridgeline 26.9% 1.6x
2 Toyota Tacoma 22.5% 1.4x
3 Toyota Tundra 21.4% 1.3x
4 Nissan Frontier 18.8% 1.1x
5 Ford F-150 16.7% 1x
6 Chevrolet Colorado 16.4% 1x
Average for All Trucks 16.4% -
7 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 15.5% 0.9x
8 GMC Sierra 1500 14.7% 0.9x
9 Nissan Titan 13.6% 0.8x
10 Ram Pickup 1500 12.7% 0.8x
11 GMC Canyon 12.1% 0.7x
The pickup truck with the highest owner satisfaction is the Honda Ridgeline. “The Honda Ridgeline is unique as a pickup truck built on a traditional car platform,” said Brauer. “Yet it offers competitive midsize truck capabilities as well as excellent ride quality and the dependability of a Honda, making it effective for a wide variety of car- and truck-oriented tasks.” 

Two Toyota trucks earn the next two spots: the second-ranked Tacoma and the third-ranked Tundra. “Toyota trucks are known for their reliability and dependability, giving owners the confidence to hold onto them as tough workhorses,” said Brauer.

Two additional compact pickups fare above average: the fourth-ranked Nissan Frontier and the sixth-ranked Chevrolet Colorado. “Both of these trucks are among the most affordable in their class, attracting practical-minded owners looking to keep them for a long time,” said Brauer.

Rounding out the list of trucks is the fifth-ranked Ford F-150. “The Ford F-150 has been the nation’s best-selling vehicle for 40 years, a testament to how owners perceive the vehicle and how loyal they are to its durable nature,” said Brauer. 

Owner Satisfaction by Brand

iSeeCars analyzed owner satisfaction on the brand level and found that 10 brands had higher owners satisfaction than average.
Top 10 Brands for Owner Satisfaction - iSeeCars Study
Rank Brand % Cars Kept by Original Owners  Compared to Average
1 Volkswagen 26.2% 1.6x
2 Subaru 25.9% 1.5x
3 Honda 24.6% 1.5x
4 Toyota 23.7% 1.4x
5 Tesla 23.6% 1.4x
6 Acura 23.1% 1.4x
7 Lexus 21.3% 1.3x
8 Mazda 20.5% 1.2x
9 Volvo 19.5% 1.2x
10 Buick 17.5% 1x
Overall Average 16.8% -
Volkswagen earns the top spot with 26.2 percent. “Volkswagen targets consumers who want premium, well-engineered vehicles at an affordable price,” said Brauer. “Volkswagen models often cost more than competitive vehicles, but buyers pay the premium to enjoy Volkswagen’s upscale cabins and confident driving dynamics. They also enjoy these traits for a relatively long period.” 

The next three brands are known for their safety and reliability: second-ranked Subaru, third-ranked Honda, and fourth-ranked Toyota. “These brands attract practical consumers who want durable, high-quality vehicles meant to last,” said Brauer.

Tesla ranks fifth with 23.6 percent of its owners holding onto their vehicles for eight years. “Tesla attracts fervent consumers as evidenced by the waitlists for its new models,” said Brauer. “Tesla’s sustained high demand is a testament to the innovative nature of its vehicles and its ability to excite customers.”

Gauging owner satisfaction can help in-market consumers decide what to buy. “The cars that are kept for eight years or more tend to be hybrids or reliable vehicles with below-average ownership costs,” said Brauer. “Consumers considering their first hybrid purchase should gain confidence in the above-average loyalty and owner satisfaction these models have inspired in previous hybrid buyers.”

Methodology

iSeeCars.com analyzed over 900,000 used cars sold between January and early September 2020 from the 2012-2013 model years. The percentage of each vehicle sold by the original owner was modeled and used as an indicator of owner satisfaction.

About iSeeCars

iSeeCars.com is a car search engine that helps shoppers find the best car deals by providing key insights and valuable resources, like the iSeeCars VIN check reports. iSeeCars.com has saved users over $253 million so far by applying big data analytics powered by over 25 billion (and growing) data points and using proprietary algorithms to objectively analyze, score and rank millions of new cars and used cars.