The Cars Owners Keep for 10 Years or More

By Kara Lawton

The cars that the most owners hold onto for 10 years or more are all Japanese models, according to a new study by SUVs and minivans dominate the list of owner favorites, which includes three hybrids: the first-ranked Toyota Highlander Hybrid, second-ranked Toyota Prius and ninth-ranked Lexus RX.

We analyzed over 2.5 million cars from the 1981-2006 model years sold in 2016. Ten models were at least 1.9 times more likely than average to be held onto by the original owners for 10 years or more.

The list includes five Toyotas, three Hondas, one Lexus and one Subaru. The percentage of the original owners who kept their new car for at least a decade ranged between 4.0 percent and 32.1 percent.

Top 10 Cars Owners Keep for At Least 10 Years

Rank Car % Original Owners Keeping Car for 10+ Years Compared to Average
1 Toyota Highlander Hybrid 32.1% 2.5x
2 Toyota Prius 32.0% 2.5x
3 Toyota Highlander 29.0% 2.2x
4 Toyota Sienna 28.7% 2.2x
5 Honda Pilot 27.2% 2.1x
6 Honda CR-V 25.2% 2.0x
7 Toyota RAV4 24.9% 1.9x
8 Subaru Forester 24.2% 1.9x
9 Lexus RX (hybrid) 24.1% 1.9x
10 Honda Odyssey 24.0% 1.9x
Average for All Cars 12.9%

“The top 10 cars that people hold onto are all from Japanese automakers, which isn't surprising since they have a reputation for reliability. But the makeup of the cars is unexpected,” said Phong Ly, CEO.

Nine of the top 10 cars are SUVs and minivans. “These kinds of cars tend to be used as family cars, so they might be expected to be kept for many years if they're bought just as their owners start their new families,” said Ly.


Equally surprising is seeing two hybrid vehicles in the top 5, with three hybrids overall in the top 10.  Despite common anxieties about the durability of the car batteries, owners hold onto these cars for a long time.

“For hybrids, the savings from fuel costs accrue only after several years of ownership, so one reason owners may be keeping these vehicles is to offset the higher cost of a hybrid,” Ly noted.

How Popular Vehicles Fared

Absent from the overall top 10 list are some of the nation’s most popular vehicles. Among the 10 that are typically most popular with US consumers, the percentages ranged from 7.9 percent to 20.3 percent. Four of the top five that were above average were Japanese cars, with the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 the lone domestic vehicle.

Percentage of Owners Keeping Popular U.S. Cars for At Least 10 Years

Car % Original Owners Keeping Car for 10+ Years Compared to Average
Toyota Camry 20.3% 1.6x
Honda Accord 17.7% 1.4x
Honda Civic 17.1% 1.3x
Chevrolet Silverado 1500 13.9% 1.1x
Nissan Altima 13.3% 1.0x
Average 12.9%
RAM 1500 11.5% 0.9x
Ford F-150 11.0% 0.9x
Ford Explorer 10.4% 0.8x
Jeep Grand Cherokee 8.7% 0.7x
Ford Mustang 7.9% 0.6x

The percentage of initial owners for the three most popular pickup trucks were close to or below average. “Trucks are often used as heavy-work vehicles, such as for construction, and are driven much more than a typical passenger car. So they may need to be replaced earlier,” said Ly.

By contrast, the bottom of the overall list was populated primarily by domestic nameplates that are known for their use in commercial fleets or the rental market, such as the Ford Taurus (5.6 percent of owners), or by cars that are popular as leases, such as the BMW 7 Series (4.0 percent of owners).

“Those markets favor cars that are only a few years old—10 years after these cars were first sold, chances are that they would be sold by their second or third owners instead of their original owners,” said Ly.

Brand Comparisons

Unsurprisingly, Japanese brands produce the largest share of cars that owners hold onto for a decade or longer. Seven of the top ten brands overall are Japanese, as are the top four. Korean brands Hyundai and Kia also make the list, coming in at fifth and seventh. Cars from these automakers have been improving in design and reliability over time.

GMC is the only domestic brand in the top 10, but the percentage of initial owners keeping their cars for a decade or more is barely better than the average.

 Top 10 Brands Owners Keep for at Least 10 Years

Rank Brand % Original Owners Keeping Car for 10+ Years Compared to Average
1 Toyota 22.2% 1.7x
2 Honda 20.2% 1.6x
3 Subaru 19.1% 1.5x
4 Acura 17.8% 1.4x
5 Hyundai 17.4% 1.4x
6 Lexus 16.5% 1.3x
7 Kia 15.1% 1.2x
8 Mazda 14.2% 1.1x
9 Nissan 13.5% 1.0x
10 GMC 13.0% 1.0x
Average for All Cars 12.9%

The Passenger Cars Owners Hold Onto

The top 10 passenger cars are also dominated by Japanese and Korean brands. Toyota's cars take four of the first five positions, and cars from Hyundai, Mazda and Honda make up most of the rest of the list.  The Audi A3 was the lone car from a non-Asian brand. (Audi has also had a reputation for producing reliable vehicles.)

Top 10 Passenger Cars Owners Keep for at Least 10 Years

Rank Car % Original Owners Who Keep Car for 10+ Years Compared to Average
1 Toyota Prius 32.0% 2.5x
2 Toyota Avalon 21.6% 1.7x
3 Hyundai Azera 21.1% 1.6x
4 Toyota Corolla 20.4% 1.6x
5 Toyota Camry 20.3% 1.6x
6 Audi A3 18.9% 1.5x
7 Mazda MAZDA3 18.4% 1.4x
8 Honda Accord 17.7% 1.4x
9 Hyundai Elantra 17.5% 1.4x
10 Honda Civic 17.1% 1.3
Average for All Cars 12.9%

The Pickup Trucks Owners Hold Onto

Trucks were kept by their original owners at rates that were closer to average. The top truck, the Honda Ridgeline, was held by its first owner at only 1.7 times the overall average. Four of the top 10 pickup trucks are smaller trucks. Interestingly, all of the top five are again from Japanese automakers.

Trucks Owners Keep for At Least 10 Years

Rank Truck % Original Owners Who Keep Truck for 10+ Years Compared to Average
1 Honda Ridgeline 22.3% 1.7x
2 Toyota Tundra 21.5% 1.7x
3 Toyota Tacoma 21.4% 1.7x
4 Nissan Titan 17.9% 1.4x
5 Nissan Frontier 17.0% 1.3x
6 Chevrolet Colorado 15.1% 1.2
7 GMC Canyon 15.1% 1.2x
8 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 13.9% 1.1x
9 GMC Sierra 1500 13.7% 1.1x
Average 12.9%
10 RAM 1500 11.5% 0.9x

For car shoppers, buying an older, single-owner car can mean a solid car at great savings. If an automobile has been kept by its original owner for a decade or longer, it's very likely to have been well cared for, both in terms of cleanliness as well as maintenance and upkeep. Shoppers may find more value in a one-owner car, compared to buying one that's had multiple owners or a more complicated history.

Methodology analyzed over 2.5 million used cars from model years 1981-2006, sold between January 1 and October 30, 2016. For each model, the number of cars sold by the original owner (based on Carfax data) was expressed as a percentage of the total number of cars sold. “Original-owner” cars were bought as new by the owner. The models were then ranked by the original-owner percentage. Models with fewer than 100 original-owner cars or that were no longer in production as of the 2016 model year were excluded from the analysis.

About is a car search engine that helps consumers find the best deal by providing key insights and analysis about used cars for sale. The proprietary algorithm ranks cars by calculating an overall score based on analysis of the car’s condition, history, negotiability, price and dealer. Based in the Boston area, was founded by former TripAdvisor and SAP developers and executives determined to improve the used car shopping experience for consumers.

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