The automotive research firm analyzed over 750,000 cars from the 1981-2003 model years sold in 2018 to determine which cars are most likely to be kept for at least 15 years. Among the top 15 models, Toyota holds 10 spots followed by Honda also earning multiple spots on the list with three. “Japanese vehicles are known for their quality and reliability, which is reaffirmed by the results of this list,” said iSeeCars CEO Phong Ly.
Here are the top 15 cars owners keep for 15 years or longer:
“While SUVs account for the majority of the vehicles on the list with eight, the list includes a mix of additional vehicle types including pickup trucks, sedans, minivans, and even a hybrid, showing that consumers can find an enduring vehicle to match their unique needs,” said Ly.
Earning the top spot is the Toyota Highlander midsize SUV, with 18.5 percent of original owners keeping the vehicle for 15 years or more, two and a half times the average for all vehicles. Three additional Toyota SUVs make the list including the sixth-ranked Sequoia, the eleventh-ranked RAV4, and the fourteenth-ranked 4Runner. “These Toyota SUVs all have above-average reliability ratings, which likely contributes to why their owners choose to hold onto them,” said Ly.
The second-ranked Toyota Prius is the only hybrid on the list. “Because of the added upfront cost of hybrid vehicles, owners have the incentive to keep their cars for longer to accrue fuel savings to offset the initial expense,” Ly noted. “The oldest hybrid vehicle to remain in continuous production, the Prius’ appearance on the list helps dispel concerns about battery durability and shows that Toyota’s quality and reliability standards extend beyond its conventional fuel vehicles.”
Two minivans make the list--the third-ranked Toyota Sienna and the eighth-ranked Honda Odyssey. “Minivans are the consummate family vehicles ideal for families with younger children due to their practicality and accessibility,” said Ly. “However, these vehicles are so reliable for families that they may be keeping them after their children have grown when a minivan is no longer necessary.”
Two Honda SUVs, the fourth-ranked midsize Pilot and the ninth-ranked compact CR-V, are among the vehicles most likely to be kept for 15 years or more. “Both vehicles consistently earn high reliability and safety ratings making them popular family vehicles that stand the test of time.” said Ly. The lone luxury vehicle on the list comes from Honda’s luxury marque, Acura, with the MDX in the thirteenth spot. “The MDX shares a chassis with the Pilot, which suggests that both are well-made vehicles that are depended on by their owners.”
Also making the list are two Toyota pickup trucks: the fifth-ranked Tundra and the seventh-ranked Tacoma. “The Tundra has frequently been named as the ‘Most Dependable Large Pickup’ according to JD Power, and the Tacoma has consistently been the best-selling midsize pickup truck,” said Ly. “The fact that their owners don’t want to give their trucks up speaks to the dependability of Toyota pickups.”
Two Toyota midsize sedans, the twelfth-ranked Camry and the fifteenth-ranked Avalon round out the list. “The Camry and Avalon are built on the same platform and both achieve excellent reliability ratings,” noted Ly. “While many manufacturers are discontinuing sedans due to the declining popularity of the segment, there is still a demand for the popular Toyota sedans due to their excellent quality,” said Ly.
The lone Subaru on the list is the tenth-ranked Forester compact SUV. “The Forester is a reliable vehicle known for its safety and affordability, which are both characteristics of the Subaru brand,” said Ly. “The vehicle offers standard all-wheel drive and impressive fuel economy, which appeal to practical consumers.”
|Top 10 SUVs Owners Keep for 15 Years or Longer|
|Rank||Car||% Original Owners Keeping Car for 15+ Years||Compared to SUV Average|
|9||Hyundai Santa Fe||9.3%||1.2x|
|11||GMC Yukon XL||7.7%||1x|
While the top eight are all Japanese vehicles that also appear on the overall list of vehicles owners are most likely to keep for 15 years or more, the ninth-ranked Hyundai Santa Fe and the tenth-ranked Kia Sorento Korean midsize SUVs join the list of longest-kept SUVs.
“Both the Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sorento receive high reliability ratings and are among the more affordable vehicles in the midsize SUV segment,” noted Ly. “This shows that these vehicles resonate with practical buyers who want a dependable and long-lasting vehicle.”
Rounding out the list are two American-made full-size SUVs from General Motors--the eleventh-ranked GMC Yukon XL and the twelfth-ranked Chevrolet Suburban. “These large SUVs feature body-on-frame construction, which means they are built like trucks and have truck-like durability,” said Ly. “They are also popular family haulers, which means that parents are likely to not replace them until a large family vehicle is no longer necessary.”
|Ranking of Light-Duty Pickup Trucks Kept for 15 Years or Longer|
|Rank||Car||% Original Owners Keeping Car for 15+ Years||Compared to Pickup Truck Average|
|4||Chevrolet Silverado 1500||8.7%||1.1x|
|5||GMC Sierra 1500||7.0%||0.9x|
|Pickup Truck Average||7.7%||-|
Categorically, pickup trucks are kept longer than other vehicles with a segment average of 7.7 percent, compared to 7.5 percent for SUVs, 7.1 percent for sedans, and 3.6 percent for sports cars. “Because pickup trucks are often used as work vehicles, their owners are more likely to keep up with the necessary preventative maintenance to keep these vehicles on the road for longer,” said Ly.
Four of the eight light-duty pickup trucks on list are more likely than the average pickup to be kept for 15 years or more. Of the top four, three are Japanese and one is American. “These results speak to the dependability of Japanese trucks and show that these vehicles are able to serve their function for many years,” noted Ly.
American trucks round out the remainder of the list, and while they are close to the average for all pickup trucks, they are all less likely than the average pickup truck to be kept for 15 years. “Although it may not be as kept as long as Japanese pickups, the American Ford F-150 is the country’s best-selling vehicle,” said Ly. “This suggests that F-150 owners likely replace their trucks before the fifteen-year mark because they want a newer model.”
|Ranking of Sports Cars Kept for 15 Years or Longer|
|Rank||Car||% Original Owners Keeping Car for 15+ Years||Compared to Sports Car Average|
|1||Mazda MX-5 Miata||6.1%||1.7x|
|Sports Car Average||3.6%||-|
The Mazda MX-5 Miata is the sports car that owners keep for the longest time, with 6.1 percent of owners keeping the vehicle for at least 15 years followed by the Audi TT at 5.1 percent and the Chevrolet Camaro at 4.2 percent.
“The Mazda Miata, the Audi TT, and the Chevrolet Camaro are among the lower-priced vehicles in the sports car segment, which suggest that they appeal to more practical buyers who keep them on the road for longer,” said Ly.
As a vehicle segment, sports cars have the lowest percentage of owners who keep the vehicles for at least 15 years at 3.6 percent. “Sports cars typically aren’t daily drivers and owners likely want to trade them in for something more practical,” said Ly.
|Top 10 Luxury Cars Owners Keep for 15 Years or Longer|
|Rank||Car||% Original Owners Keeping Car for 15+ Years||Compared to Luxury Car Average|
|2||Lexus GS 300||8.7%||1.7x|
|4||Lexus IS 300||7.2%||1.4x|
|9||BMW 5 Series||5.3%||1x|
German vehicles account for the majority of the list of luxury cars that owners are most likely to keep for at least 15 years, followed by Japanese vehicles with three. “German luxury vehicles are known for their superior quality, and this suggests that drivers enjoy their vehicles so much that they keep them on the road for an extended time” said Ly. “
The sixth-ranked Cadillac CTS sedan rounds out the list as the only American model. The top-ranked Acura MDX and the seventh-ranked BMW X5 stand out as the only SUVs on the list.
“Along with having strong reliability and safety ratings, the Acura MDX offers great value as one of the lower-priced vehicles in the luxury midsize SUV class,” said Ly. “It attracts the more practical luxury vehicle buyers who are more likely to keep these vehicles for a long time,” said Ly.
|Top 10 Brands Owners Keep for 15 Years or More|
|Rank||Brand||% Original Owners Keeping Car for 15+ Years||Compared to Average|
|Average for All Cars||7.5%||–|
|Percentage of Owners Keeping Popular U.S. Vehicles for 15 Years or Longer|
|Rank||Car||% Original Owners Keeping Car for 15+ Years||Compared to Average|
|9||Chevrolet Silverado 1500||8.7%||1.2x|
|16||Jeep Grand Cherokee||4.3%||0.6x|
The popular compact and midsize sedans Toyota Corolla, Honda Accord, Honda Civic, and Nissan Sentra all fare above average. “This shows that these sedans are popular for good reason in that they are dependable and likely don’t require a great deal of expensive maintenance if they are well-maintained during their years of ownership,” said Ly.
The lone popular American vehicle to be kept for 15 years or more at a better-than-average rate is the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 pickup truck. Two additional pickups, the Ford F-150 and the Ram 1500 are close to average. “Although they are two of the more popular pickup trucks, the Ford F-150 and the Ram 1500 aren’t as likely as the average vehicle to be kept for fifteen years,” said Ly.
Popular American SUVs aren’t as likely as the average vehicle to surpass the fifteen-year milestone. “Although they have shown improvement in recent years, American cars are still plagued by the perception that they aren’t as reliable as their foreign counterparts,” said Ly. “While these vehicles show that they are reliable enough to be popular, they don’t measure up to Japanese vehicles in terms of prolonged ownership.”
|Metro Areas with Most Cars Original Owners Keep for 15+ Years|
|Rank||Metro Area||% Original Owners Keeping Car for 15+ Years||Compared to Average|
|1||San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, CA||17.2%||2.3x|
|6||San Diego, CA||11.7%||1.6x|
|7||Dallas-Ft. Worth, TX||11.5%||1.5x|
|8||Salt Lake City, UT||11.5%||1.5x|
|9||Washington, DC (Hagerstown, MD)||11.4%||1.5x|
|11||San Antonio, TX||11.1%||1.5x|
|12||Las Vegas, NV||11.1%||1.5x|
|13||New Orleans, LA||10.8%||1.4x|
|16||Raleigh-Durham (Fayetteville), NC||10.5%||1.4x|
|21||Tucson (Sierra Vista), AZ||10.0%||1.3x|
|23||Santa Barbara-San Luis Obispo, CA||9.7%||1.3x|
|24||Los Angeles, CA||9.7%||1.3x|
|26||Baton Rouge, LA||9.7%||1.3x|
|27||New York, NY||9.7%||1.3x|
|28||Providence, RI-New Bedford, MA||9.5%||1.3x|
|35||Greensboro-Winston Salem, NC||8.8%||1.2x|
“Vehicles that are kept for so many years show that they can stand the test of time and likely don’t have to frequently undergo expensive repairs,” said Ly. “Those looking for a reliable and enduring car have a variety of options across all vehicle types.”
iSeeCars.com analyzed over 750,000 used cars from model years 1981-2003 sold between January and December 2018. For each model, the number of cars sold by the original owner 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 low sample size, heavy-duty trucks and work vans, and models which were no longer in production as of the 2018 or 2019 model year were excluded from the analysis.
iSeeCars.com is an online car search engine that helps consumers find the best car deals by providing key insights and valuable resources, like the iSeeCars VIN report. iSeeCars.com has saved users over $168 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 cars and thousands of dealers. Based in the Boston area, iSeeCars.com was founded by former TripAdvisor and SAP executives determined to improve the car shopping experience for consumers.