Cars Owners Keep the Longest

By Julie Blackley

Loyalty-Inspiring Cars that Owners Keep for 15 Years or More

  • Toyota Prius is the vehicle most owners keep for 15+ years, 2.2x more than the average car
  • The top 10 longest-kept cars are exclusively Japanese models, led by Toyota
  • Longest-kept cars are from Toyota, Honda, and Subaru 
 

The top 10 longest-kept cars that original owners keep for at least 15 years are exclusively Japanese models and predominantly Toyotas, according to a new study by iSeeCars.com

The automotive research firm analyzed over 660,000 cars from the 1981-2005 model years sold in 2020 to determine which cars owners are most likely to keep for at least 15 years. Among the top 10 models, Toyota accounts for seven, while Honda has two and Subaru has one.

“Japanese vehicles, especially Toyota and Honda, are known for their reliability and durability and attract practical consumers who want vehicles that can be kept on the road as long as possible,” said iSeeCars Executive Analyst Karl Brauer. “Drivers are more likely to hold onto cars that they know they can rely on and don’t require a great deal of expensive maintenance.”

What Cars Do Owners Keep the Longest?

The car that people keep the longest is the Toyota Prius, with 13.7 percent of cars that are 15 years or older kept by their original owners. The average for all vehicles is 6.1 percent. 
Top 10 Vehicles Owners Keep for 15 Years or Longer
Rank Vehicle % 15+-Year-Old Cars Kept by Original Owners  Compared to Average
1 Toyota Prius 13.7% 2.2x
2 Toyota Highlander 12.4% 2.0x
3 Toyota Tacoma 11.6% 1.9x
4 Toyota Sienna 11.5% 1.9x
5 Toyota Tundra 11.3% 1.8x
6 Honda CR-V 10.7% 1.8x
7 Honda Pilot 10.4% 1.7x
8 Subaru Forester 9.8% 1.6x
9 Toyota 4Runner 9.4% 1.5x
10 Toyota Sequoia 9.1% 1.5x
Overall Average 6.1% -
The list of longest kept vehicles includes a mix of vehicle types. SUVs account for the most vehicles on the list with six, followed by two trucks, a hatchback, and a minivan.

Earning the top spot is the hybrid Toyota Prius, which is kept for at least 15 years by 2.2 times more owners than the average vehicle. “Prius owners who have kept their vehicles on the road for at least 15 years are early adopters of hybrid vehicle technology, and these eco-minded consumers likely want to keep their vehicles for as long as possible,” said Brauer. “Priuses also attract practical drivers thanks to their fuel economy and their low ownership costs, and prolonged ownership of the vehicle helps drivers maximize their fuel savings.”

Three Toyota SUVs make the list including the second-ranked Highlander midsize SUV, the ninth-ranked 4Runner, and the tenth-ranked Sequoia. “Along with being a reliable vehicle, the Toyota Highlander is among the most spacious three-row crossovers making it a popular choice for a practical family vehicle,” said Brauer. “The midsize 4Runner and the full-size Sequoia are truck-based SUVs that are known for their durability.” 

Also from Toyota are two pickups that make the list: the third-ranked Tacoma and the fifth-ranked Tundra. “Toyota trucks are known for their indestructibility, and their owners likely replace them less often because they continue to function as haulers,” said Brauer.

The last Toyota and the only minivan to make the list is the Toyota Sienna, which ranks fourth.

 “While the accessibility and convenience features of minivans are ideal for families with young children, our data shows that the Sienna is so dependable that its owners choose to hold onto the vehicle even after these features become unnecessary,” said Brauer.

Two Honda SUVs, the sixth-ranked compact CR-V, and the seventh-ranked Pilot also make the list. “The Honda CR-V is among the most spacious vehicles in its class, while the Pilot rivals a minivan in terms of appearance and cargo room,” said Brauer. “These vehicles also have stellar safety and reliability ratings, which make them popular and practical choices for family vehicles.”

The lone Subaru on the list is the eighth-ranked Forester compact SUV. “The Forester is a reliable vehicle known for its safety and affordability,” said Brauer. “The vehicle offers standard all-wheel drive and impressive fuel economy, which furthers its appeal to practical consumers.”

SUVs Owners Keep the Longest

iSeeCars further analyzed the SUV segment to determine which SUVs were kept the longest. On average, 5.9 percent of SUV owners keep their vehicles for at least 15 years.
Top 10 SUVs Owners Keep for 15 Years or Longer
Rank SUV % 15+-Year-Old Cars Kept by Original Owners  Compared to SUV Average
1 Toyota Highlander 12.4% 2.1x
2 Honda CR-V 10.7% 1.8x
3 Honda Pilot 10.4% 1.7x
4 Subaru Forester 9.8% 1.6x
5 Toyota 4Runner 9.4% 1.6x
6 Toyota Sequoia 9.1% 1.5x
7 Toyota RAV4 8.7% 1.5x
8 Acura MDX 7.9% 1.3x
9 Hyundai Tucson 7.6% 1.3x
10 Subaru Outback 6.8% 1.1x
SUV Average 5.9% -
The top six SUVs on the list also appear on the overall list of vehicles owners keep for 15 years or more.

An additional Toyota SUV makes the list in the seventh position, the compact Toyota RAV4. “The Toyota RAV4 compact SUV provides the perfect balance of reliability and affordability while providing class-leading cargo and seating space,” said Brauer.

Ranked eighth is the Acura MDX. “The Acura MDX shares a platform with the Honda Pilot, which suggests that both are well-made vehicles that are dependable,” said Brauer. “The MDX is also one of the more affordable options in the luxury midsize SUV class, so it attracts practical buyers who want to get the most out of their luxury vehicle purchase.”

Standing out as the only Korean vehicle on the list is the ninth-ranked compact Hyundai Tucson. “The Hyundai Tucson receives high-reliability ratings and is among the lowest-priced vehicles in its segment,” said Brauer. “It’s also backed by Hyundai’s 10-year powertrain warranty, which is double what most automakers offer, making it a good choice for practical consumers who want a long-lasting and reliable vehicle.”

Ranked tenth is the Subaru Outback. “Though it is technically a wagon, the Subaru Outback competes with vehicles in the compact SUV class because of its cargo space and utility,” said Brauer. “Subaru attracts practical owners who are passionate about their vehicles, so it is no surprise that their owners keep them on the road for so long.”

Trucks People Keep the Longest 

iSeeCars also analyzed which light-duty pickup trucks are kept by their original owners for 15 years or more. An average 6.3 percent of truck owners keep their trucks for at least 15 years, which is greater than the average vehicle. “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 Brauer.
Light-Duty Pickup Trucks Owners Keep for 15 Years or Longer
Rank Car % 15+-Year-Old Cars Kept by Original Owners  Compared to Pickup Truck Average
1 Toyota Tacoma 11.6% 1.8x
2 Toyota Tundra 11.3% 1.8x
3 Nissan Frontier 8.5% 1.3x
4 GMC Canyon 7.8% 1.2x
5 Chevrolet Colorado 7.6% 1.2x
6 Nissan Titan 6.7% 1.1x
Light-Duty Pickup Truck Average 6.3% -
7 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 6.0% 0.9x
8 Ford Ranger 5.3% 0.8x
9 Ram 1500 5.2% 0.8x
10 Ford F-150 5.1% 0.8x
11 GMC Sierra 1500 5.0% 0.8x
The top two trucks, the first-ranked Toyota Tacoma and the second-ranked Toyota Tundra, also appear on the overall list of the longest-kept vehicles. Two additional Japanese trucks, the third-ranked Nissan Frontier and the sixth-ranked Nissan Titan are also above the segment average for trucks owned for 15 years or more. “Japanese trucks lag behind their American competitors for towing capacity, so they aren’t subjected to as much wear and tear from heavy hauling,” said Brauer.

Two General Motors trucks that share the same platform are the remaining two trucks that exceed the segment average: the fourth-ranked GMC Canyon and the fifth-ranked Chevrolet Colorado.”Compact trucks like the GMC Canyon and the Chevrolet Colorado are more efficient and less expensive than their full-size counterparts, attracting more practical consumers who will likely keep them for longer,” said Brauer.

Sports Cars People Keep the Longest

When examining the list to determine the sports cars that are most likely to be kept for 15 years or more, iSeeCars identified six models that are above the 4.1 percent average for the segment.
Sports Cars Owners Keep for 15 Years or Longer
Rank Car % 15+ Year Old Cars Kept by Original Owners  Compared to Sports Car Average
1 Mazda MX-5 Miata 7.6% 1.9x
2 BMW Z4 6.7% 1.7x
3 BMW M5 4.9% 1.2x
4 Chevrolet Corvette 4.3% 1.1x
5 Ford GT 4.2% 1x
6 Audi S4 4.1% 1x
Sports Car Average 4.1% -
Earning the top spot is the Mazda MX-5 Miata. “Along with being fun to drive, the Mazda Miata is one of the least expensive cars in the sports car segment and has low ownership costs,” said Brauer.

Two BMWs make the list including the Z4 and the M5. “Both the BMW Z4 convertible and the M5 performance sedan have consistently earned above-average reliability ratings,” said Ly. “Both vehicles are dream cars for many people, so drivers can become emotionally attached and may want to keep them for as long as possible.”

The classic Chevrolet Corvette ranks fourth. “Known as the consummate American sports car, the Corvette is an aspirational car that is probably not used as a daily driver,” said Brauer. “As such, drivers are likely to hang on to their Corvettes since it doesn’t accrue high mileage. ”

Ranked fifth is the Ford GT supercar. “The Ford GT is a supercar produced in low volume that attracts car collectors,” said Brauer. “The vehicle was out of production from 2007-2016, meaning drivers wouldn't trade it in for a newer model.”

The Audi S4 sports sedan, which is the high-performance variant of the popular Audi A4 sedan, ranks sixth. “The Audi S4 is a sedan, making it more spacious than a typical sports car or coupe, and it also has above-average reliability ratings,” said Brauer. 

Car Brands People Keep the Longest

iSeeCars also analyzed the data to determine the brands that people keep the longest.
Top 10 Brands Owners Keep for 15 Years or More
Rank Brand % 15+ Year Old Cars Kept by Original Owners  Compared to Average
1 Toyota 9.8% 1.6x
2 Honda 8.1% 1.3x
3 Subaru 8.0% 1.3x
4 Acura 7.9% 1.3x
5 Mazda 6.3% 1.0x
Average for All Cars 6.1% -
6 Mitsubishi 5.5% 0.9x
7 Hyundai 5.5% 0.9x
8 Chrysler 5.5% 0.9x
9 Nissan   5.3% 0.9x
10 Lexus 5.2% 0.9x
As reflected in the model analysis, Japanese brands produce the cars that owners are most likely to keep for 15 years or longer. Of the five brands that score above the 6.1 percent average for all vehicles, all are Japanese.  

The top three brands include Toyota, Honda, and Subaru respectively, which are the only brands that had models on the overall list. Rounding out the list is Acura in fourth and Mazda in fifth. 

“Luxury brands are often leased, so it’s notable that Acura is among the brands most often kept by owners for 15 years or more, while its direct competitor Lexus falls below average,” said Brauer. “Acuras typically cost less than other luxury cars, so they attract customers who are willing to pay a premium for their vehicles, but are practical enough to want to keep them on the road for at least 15 years.”

Popular Cars People Keep the Longest

Absent from the overall top 10 list are some of the nation’s most popular vehicles. Among the top vehicles that are typically most popular with American consumers, the percentages range from 2.9 percent to 12.4 percent. 
Popular U.S. Vehicles Owners Keep for 15 Years or Longer
Rank Car % 15+-Year-Old Cars Kept by Original Owners  Compared to Average
1 Toyota Highlander 12.4% 2.0x
2 Toyota Tacoma 11.6% 1.9x
3 Honda CR-V 10.7% 1.8x
4 Subaru Forester   9.8% 1.6x
5 Toyota 4Runner 9.4% 1.5x
6 Toyota Corolla 8.9% 1.5x
7 Toyota RAV4 8.7% 1.4x
8 Toyota Camry 8.5% 1.4x
9 Honda Accord 7.2% 1.2x
10 Subaru Outback 6.8% 1.1x
11 Honda Civic 6.7% 1.1x
Average for All Vehicles 6.1% -
12 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 6.0% 1.0x
13 Ram 1500 5.2% 0.9x
14 Ford F-150  5.1% 0.8x
15 GMC Sierra 1500 5.0% 0.8x
16 Nissan Altima 4.3% 0.7x
17 Ford Escape 4.3% 0.7x
18 Chevrolet Equinox 3.8% 0.6x
19 Jeep Wrangler 3.8% 0.6x
20 Ford Explorer 3.7% 0.6x
21 Jeep Grand Cherokee 3.6% 0.6x
22 Jeep Cherokee 2.9% 0.5x
The SUVs that are above average appear on the overall list of longest vehicles, while the remainder of the vehicles that fare above average are popular sedans. These include the Toyota Corolla, Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, and Honda Civic. “This shows that these sedans are popular for good reason--they are dependable and likely don’t require expensive repairs if they’re well-maintained,” said Brauer.

Popular American SUVs aren’t as likely as the average vehicle to surpass the fifteen-year milestone. “While these vehicles are reliable enough to be popular, they don’t measure up to Japanese vehicles in terms of prolonged ownership,” said Brauer.

Longest-Kept Cars in the Largest 50 Cities 

iSeeCars analyzed the data geographically to determine the vehicles that owners keep for 15 years in the top 50 cities by population.  
Vehicles Most Often Kept for 15+ Years in the Largest 50 Cities
Metro Area Vehicle % 15+-Year-Old Cars Kept by Original Owners 
Albuquerque-Santa Fe, NM Toyota Sequoia 12.7%
Atlanta, GA Toyota Tundra 13.2%
Austin, TX Chevrolet Colorado 15.3%
Baltimore, MD Nissan Frontier 19.9%
Birmingham, AL Nissan Frontier 12.5%
Boston, MA-Manchester, NH Toyota Tundra 10.0%
Charlotte, NC Toyota Prius 12.6%
Chicago, IL Subaru Impreza 17.2%
Cincinnati, OH Honda Pilot 11.7%
Cleveland-Akron (Canton), OH Toyota Sienna 14.5%
Columbus, OH Toyota Highlander 14.9%
Dallas-Ft. Worth, TX Toyota Highlander 15.7%
Denver, CO Toyota Highlander 16.6%
Detroit, MI Honda Pilot 18.3%
Fresno-Visalia, CA Toyota Camry 15.8%
Grand Rapids-Kalamazoo, MI Honda Pilot 10.2%
Greensboro-Winston Salem, NC Toyota Prius 15.5%
Greenville-Spartanburg, SC Toyota Sequoia 13.3%
Harrisburg-Lancaster-York, PA Subaru Forester 17.8%
Hartford & New Haven, CT Toyota Tacoma 13.5%
Houston, TX Toyota Sienna 17.8%
Indianapolis, IN Toyota Sequoia 15.3%
Jacksonville, FL Toyota Highlander 17.0%
Kansas City, MO Chevrolet Colorado 12.4%
Las Vegas, NV Toyota Tundra 18.2%
Los Angeles, CA Toyota Sequoia 20.8%
Memphis, TN Honda Civic 13.3%
Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, FL Toyota Prius 17.2%
Milwaukee, WI Toyota Sienna 17.4%
Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN Toyota Prius 17.3%
Nashville, TN Toyota Tundra 11.6%
New York, NY Toyota Prius 17.8%
Norfolk-Portsmouth-Newport News,VA Acura MDX 14.5%
Oklahoma City, OK Toyota Sienna 17.8%
Orlando-Daytona Beach, FL Toyota Tundra 14.1%
Philadelphia, PA Mazda MX-5 Miata 16.3%
Phoenix, AZ Toyota Sienna 16.0%
Pittsburgh, PA Toyota Sienna 14.4%
Portland, OR Toyota Prius 18.6%
Raleigh-Durham (Fayetteville), NC Toyota Sienna 12.8%
Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto, CA Toyota Prius 20.0%
Salt Lake City, UT Honda Odyssey 15.0%
San Antonio, TX Honda CR-V 17.1%
San Diego, CA Toyota Tundra 21.8%
San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, CA Toyota Prius 26.4%
Seattle-Tacoma, WA Toyota Tacoma 13.4%
St. Louis, MO Honda CR-V 9.8%
Tampa-St Petersburg (Sarasota), FL Mazda MX-5 Miata 11.9%
Washington, DC (Hagerstown, MD) Toyota Prius 29.3%
West Palm Beach-Ft. Pierce, FL Toyota Highlander 13.2%
The vehicle that most owners keep for 15 years or more across the most metropolitan areas is the Toyota Prius, which is represented in 9 metros. It’s followed by additional Toyota vehicles including the Sienna in seven, the Tundra in six, and the Highlander in five.

Owners in Cities that Keep their Cars the Longest

iSeeCars analyzed the data geographically to determine the metropolitan areas with the highest percentage of cars with original owners who keep their vehicles for at least 15 years. iSeeCars identified the top 10 metro areas with the greatest percentage of drivers who keep their cars for at least 15 years.
Top 10 Cities With the Most Cars Original Owners Keep for 15+ Years 
Rank Metro Area DMA Avg
1 San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, CA 11.7%
2 Washington, DC (Hagerstown, MD) 10.6%
3 San Diego, CA 10.3%
4 Los Angeles, CA 10.1%
5 Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto, CA 9.9%
6 Austin, TX 8.2%
7 Houston, TX 8.1%
8 Portland, OR 8.1%
9 Denver, CO 8.0%
10 Chicago, IL 7.8%
San Francisco is the area with the most drivers who keep their cars for at least 15 years. “The areas that tend to keep vehicles the longest tend to be areas with a high cost of living in temperate climates or tend to have populations that are eco-minded,” said Brauer

“If you’re in the market for a new or used car, you should consider the vehicles on this list,” said Brauer. “Even if you aren’t the type of consumer who plans on owning a car for at least 15 years, purchasing a vehicle that earns high loyalty with its owners is a smart purchase decision.”

Methodology

iSeeCars.com analyzed over 660,000 used cars from model years 1981-2005 sold in 2020. For each model, the percentage of cars sold by the original owner was mathematically modeled (“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 2020 or 2021 model year were excluded from the analysis.

About iSeeCars.com

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 $262 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.