Cars People Keep the Longest

By Julie Blackley

Cars Owners Keep for 15 Years or More

The top 15 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 350,000 cars from the 1981-2004 model years sold in 2019 to determine which cars owners are most likely to keep for at least 15 years. Among the top 15 models, Toyota has 10 spots on the list, followed by Honda with four.  “Japanese vehicles, especially Toyota and Honda, are known for their reliability and durability,” said iSeeCars CEO Phong Ly. “Owners are more likely to hold onto cars that are still dependable and don’t require a great deal of expensive maintenance.”

What Vehicles Do Owners Keep the Longest?

The car that people keep the longest is the Toyota Highlander midsize SUV, with 18.3 percent of cars that are 15 years or older kept by their original owners.  The average for all vehicles is 7.7 percent. 
Top 15 Vehicles Owners Keep for 15 Years or Longer
Rank Car % 15+ Year Old Cars Kept by Original Owners  Compared to Average
1 Toyota Highlander 18.3% 2.4x
2 Toyota Sienna 15.5% 2.0x
3 Toyota Tacoma 14.5% 1.9x
4 Toyota Tundra 14.2% 1.8x
5 Subaru Forester 12.8% 1.7x
6 Toyota RAV4 12.7% 1.6x
7 Honda Pilot 12.6% 1.6x
8 Honda CR-V 12.4% 1.6x
9 Toyota Prius 11.9% 1.5x
10 Toyota 4Runner 11.8% 1.5x
11 Honda Odyssey 11.6% 1.5x
12 Toyota Corolla 11.4% 1.5x
13 Toyota Camry 11.0% 1.4x
14 Honda Civic 11.0% 1.4x
15 Toyota Land Cruiser 10.6% 1.4x
Overall Average 7.7% -
Link to Table

“SUVs are the vehicles most represented on this list with seven, but the longest-kept vehicles do include a mix of additional vehicle types including pickup trucks, sedans, a minivan, and even a hybrid,” said Ly. “While American automakers have abandoned smaller cars from their lineups to focus on trucks and SUVs, the proven dependability and solid reputation of these vehicles has not only kept them in production, but helped them remain popular even amid their segment’s decline.” 

Earning the top spot is the Toyota Highlander midsize SUV, with 18.3 percent of cars 15 years or older kept by their original owners, which is 2.4 times the average for all vehicles. “Along with its great J.D Power reliability ratings, it also boasts lower-than-average ownership costs,” said Ly. “It is also among the more spacious three-row crossovers, which makes it a popular choice as a family vehicle that is backed by Toyota’s solid reputation for reliability and longevity.”

Three additional Toyota SUVs make the list including the sixth-ranked RAV4, the tenth-ranked 4Runner, and the fifteenth-ranked Land Cruiser. “The Toyota RAV4 compact SUV is also known for its reliability and has class-leading cargo and seating space, and the Toyota 4Runner is a rugged three-row SUV built on a truck platform that is known for its durability,” said Ly. “Also known as a reliable vehicle, the iconic Toyota Land Cruiser is among the most expensive vehicles in its class and its current generation has only received a mild refresh since it was introduced in 2007, so owners may hold onto it since it’s expensive to replace and doesn’t appear dated.” 

Also from Toyota are two pickups that make the list: the third-ranked Tacoma and the fourth-ranked Tundra. “Toyota trucks are known for being indestructible, so their owners likely replace them less often since they’re still able to function as haulers,” said Ly. 

Two minivans make the list--the second-ranked Toyota Sienna and the eleventh-ranked Honda Odyssey. “With their vast cargo room and easy accessibility, minivans are ideal for families with young children,” said Ly. “Since these vehicles are so reliable, our data shows that families choose to keep them after their children have grown when a minivan may no longer be necessary.” 

The lone Subaru on the list is the fifth-ranked Forester compact SUV. “The Forester is a reliable vehicle known for its safety and affordability,” said Ly. “The vehicle offers standard all-wheel drive and impressive fuel economy, which appeal to practical consumers who are diligent about scheduled maintenance and want to prolong the life of their vehicles.”

Two Honda SUVs, the seventh-ranked midsize Pilot and the eighth-ranked compact CR-V, are among the vehicles most likely to be kept for 15 years or more. “The spacious, three-row Honda Pilot has the reputation as the crossover that most resembles a minivan in terms of appearance and cargo room, while the Honda CR-V is among the most spacious SUVs in the compact class,” said Ly. “Both vehicles are known for their stellar safety and reliability ratings, which make them popular choices for family vehicles.”

The ninth-ranked Toyota Prius is the only hybrid on the list. “Owners have the incentive to keep the Prius on the road for longer to accrue fuel savings to offset the higher upfront cost,” Ly noted. “The Prius also attracts practical buyers who want to take advantage of Prius’ low cost of ownership due to its reliability and fuel efficiency by keeping the vehicle on the road for as long as possible.” 

Two Toyota sedans, the twelfth-ranked Corolla and the thirteenth-ranked Camry round out the 10 Toyotas on the list. “The Corolla and Camry both achieve excellent reliability ratings and are praised for their affordability,” noted Ly. “The safety and longevity of these vehicles causes them to commonly be passed on from adults to their teenage drivers, which helps extend their life on the road,” said Ly.

SUVs People Keep the Longest

The SUV that people keep the longest is the Toyota Highlander. When analyzing the list to determine the SUVs people keep the longest, iSeeCars identified 12 vehicles that were at least 1.1 times greater than the vehicle category average for the vehicle category. Eleven of the top vehicles are Japanese, while the remaining vehicle is Korean.
Top 12 SUVs Owners Keep for 15 Years or Longer
Rank Car % 15+ Year Old Cars Kept by Original Owners  Compared to SUV Average
1 Toyota Highlander 18.3% 2.5x
2 Subaru Forester 12.8% 1.7x
3 Toyota RAV4 12.7% 1.7x
4 Honda Pilot 12.6% 1.7x
5 Honda CR-V 12.4% 1.7x
6 Toyota 4Runner 11.8% 1.6x
7 Toyota Land Cruiser 10.6% 1.4x
8 Toyota Sequoia 9.8% 1.3x
9 Hyundai Santa Fe 9.1% 1.2x
10 Mitsubishi Outlander 8.4% 1.1x
11 Acura MDX 8.4% 1.1x
12 Nissan Armada 8.0% 1.1x
SUV Average 7.4% -
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The top seven SUVs on the list are all Japanese vehicles that also appear on the overall list of vehicles owners are most likely to keep for 15 years or more, and four of the remaining five vehicles are also Japanese while the ninth-ranked Hyundai Santa Fe stands out as the lone Korean vehicle.

Continuing Toyota’s dominance on the list is the eighth-ranked Toyota Sequoia full-size SUV. “Built on a truck platform, the Sequoia has truck-like durability to serve as a rugged family hauler,” said Ly. “The Sequoia also consistently tops the iSeeCars rankings of longest-lasting cars to reach 200,000 miles, so it’s no surprise that it’s among the SUVs that owners keep the longest.” A second full-size Japanese SUV, the Nissan Armada earns the twelfth-spot on the list. “Like the Sequoia, the Nissan Armada is also a durable family hauler that families choose to hold onto because they are reliable and expensive to replace.”

Standing out as the only Korean vehicle on the list is the ninth-ranked compact Hyundai Santa Fe. “The Hyundai Santa Fe receives high reliability ratings and is among the most affordable vehicles in its segment,” said Ly. “It is 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 Mitsubishi Outlander, which like the Santa Fe is an affordable compact SUV. “Along with its affordability, the Mitsubishi Outlander is praised for its cargo space and reliability,” said Ly. 

The single luxury car on the list is the eleventh-ranked Acura MDX. “The Acura MDX shares a platform with the Honda Pilot, which suggests that both are well-made vehicles that are depended on by their owners,” said Ly. “As Honda’s luxury extension, Acura shares Honda’s reputation for reliability.”

Trucks People Keep the Longest 

iSeeCars also analyzed which pickup trucks are most likely to be kept by their original owners for 15 years or more.  The pickup truck people keep the longest is the Toyota Tacoma, with 14.5 percent of its original owners keeping it for at least 15 years.
Ranking of Light-Duty Pickup Trucks Kept for 15 Years or Longer
Rank Car % 15+ Year Old Cars Kept by Original Owners  Compared to Pickup Truck Average
1 Toyota Tacoma 14.5% 1.9x
2 Toyota Tundra 14.2% 1.9x
3 Chevrolet Colorado 10.3% 1.3x
4 Nissan Titan 9.5% 1.2x
5 Nissan Frontier 9.3% 1.2x
6 GMC Canyon 8.9% 1.2x
7 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 7.9% 1x
8 GMC Sierra 1500 7.9% 1x
9 Ram 1500 6.5% 0.9x
10 Ford Ranger 6.4% 0.8x
11 Ford F-150 5.9% 0.8x
Pickup Truck Average 7.6% -
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“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.

Eight of the 11 light-duty pickup trucks on list are more likely than the average pickup to be kept for 15 years or more. Of the top five, four are Japanese and one is American. “American trucks surpass Japanese trucks in terms of towing capacity, which suggests that they are more likely to be subjected to wear and tear from heavy hauling,” said Ly. “Additionally, the proven durability of Japanese vehicles extends to the pickup truck segment as well, which could explain why they are more likely to be kept on the road for longer.”

Three American trucks round out the list of trucks that are less likely to be kept for 15 years than the average pickup. “The Ram 1500 has a more premium interior, which may attract buyers who may opt to turn the vehicle in when it becomes dated,” said Ly. 

The pickup that is the least likely to be kept by owners for 15 years or more is the Ford F-150. “Although it may not be 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.”

Sports Cars People Keep the Longest

The sports car that people keep the longest is the Audi S4, with 7.9 percent of original owners keeping the car for 15 years or more. When examining the list to determine the sports cars that are most likely to be kept for 15 years or more, iSeeCars identified nine models that are above the 5.7 percent average for the segment.
Ranking of Sports Cars Kept for 15 Years or Longer
Rank Car % 15+ Year Old Cars Kept by Original Owners  Compared to Sports Car Average
1 Audi S4 7.9% 1.4x
2 Mazda MX-5 Miata 7.7% 1.4x
3 Chevrolet Camaro 7.1% 1.3x
4 BMW Z4 7.0% 1.2x
5 BMW M5 6.9% 1.2x
6 Chevrolet Corvette 6.8% 1.2x
7 Porsche 911 (Coupe) 6.1% 1.1x
8 Porsche 911 (Convertible) 5.9% 1x
9 Audi TT 5.8% 1x
Sports Car Average 5.7% -
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The Audi S4 sports sedan, which is the high-performance variant of the popular Audi A4 sedan, is the sports car that owners keep the longest. “The Audi S4 is a sedan, making it more spacious than a typical sports convertible or coupe, and it also has above-average reliability ratings,” said Ly. A second Audi model, the TT earns the ninth spot. “Along with its performance, the TT is praised for its comfort and luxury, which could be why owners hold onto it for a long time.” 

Two BMWs make the list including the Z4 and the M5. “Both the BMW Z4 convertible and the M5 sedan have consistently earned above average reliability ratings,” said Ly. “Both vehicles are dream cars for many people, which is why they want to keep them for as long as possible.”

Ranked second is the Mazda MX-5 Miata followed by the third-ranked Chevrolet Camaro.  “The Mazda Miata and the Chevrolet Camaro are among the lower-priced vehicles in the sports car segment, which suggests that they appeal to more practical buyers who keep them on the road for longer,” said Ly.

The classic Chevrolet Corvette ranks sixth. “Known as the consummate American sports car, the Corvette is a dream car for many, so owners might be more likely to want to keep them for as long as possible.”

Rounding out the list is the Porsche 911 with both its coupe and convertible variants. “While Porsche is notorious for its high ownership costs, the 911 boasts excellent reliability ratings,” said Ly. “If owners follow recommended maintenance schedules, the 911 can have a long lifespan.”

Luxury Cars People Keep the Longest

The luxury car that people keep the longest is the Acura MDX, with 8.4 percent of its 15-year old cars being kept by their original owners. When analyzing the luxury vehicle segment, iSeeCars determined that nine vehicles are more likely than the segment average of 5.9 percent to be kept for at least 15 years. These are the luxury cars people keep the longest:
Top 10 Luxury Cars Owners Keep for 15 Years or Longer
Rank Car % 15+ Year Old Cars Kept by Original Owners  Compared to Luxury Car Average
1 Acura MDX 8.4% 1.4x
2 BMW 3 Series 8.2% 1.4x
3 Lexus IS 300 8.0% 1.4x
4 Audi S4 7.9% 1.3x
5 Mercedes-Benz C-Class 7.2% 1.2x
6 Mercedes-Benz E-Class (Sedan) 7.1% 1.2x
7 Lexus GS 300 7.1% 1.2x
8 Mercedes-Benz G-Class 7.1% 1.2x
9 BMW Z4 7.0% 1.2x
10 Mercedes-Benz E-Class (Wagon) 6.9% 1.2x
Luxury Average 5.9% -
German vehicles account for the majority of the list of luxury cars that owners are most likely to keep for at least 15 years with seven, 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 top-ranked Acura MDX and the eighth-ranked Mercedes-Benz G-Class 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. “Meanwhile, the iconic Mercedes-Benz G-Class is a luxury off-road vehicle with a starting price well into six figures, and thanks to its timeless styling owners likely choose to hold onto it for off-road adventures.”

Car Brands People Keep the Longest

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 four brands that score above the 7.7 percent average for all vehicles, three are Japanese. Korean brand Hyundai ranks fourth with 8.3 percent of their 15-year-old vehicles being kept by their original owners. These are the car 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 12.7% 1.6x
2 Subaru 11.0% 1.4x
3 Honda 10.6% 1.4x
4 Hyundai 8.3% 1.1x
5 Mazda 7.5% 1.0x
6 Lexus 7.4% 1.0x
7 Kia 7.3% 1.0x
8 Nissan 7.1% 0.9x
9 GMC 7.1% 0.9x
10 Chevrolet 6.9% 0.9x
Average for All Cars 7.7%
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Popular Cars People Keep the Longest

Absent from the overall top 15 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 3.8 percent to 18.3 percent. Ten Japanese models, two American models, and one Korean model are kept for 15 or more years at higher-than-average rates. Here are how the popular cars fare for owners keeping them for 15 years or more. 
Percentage of Owners Keeping Popular U.S. Vehicles for 15 Years or Longer
Rank Car % 15+ Year Old Cars Kept by Original Owners  Compared to Average
1 Toyota Highlander 18.3% 2.4x
2 Toyota Tacoma 14.5% 1.9x
3 Subaru Forester 12.8% 1.7x
4 Toyota RAV4 12.7% 1.6x
5 Honda CR-V 12.4% 1.6x
6 Toyota Corolla 11.4% 1.5x
7 Toyota Camry 11.0% 1.4x
8 Honda Civic 10.3% 1.3x
9 Honda Accord 9.9% 1.3x
10 Hyundai Elantra 8.7% 1.1x
11 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 8.7% 1.2x
12 GMC Sierra 1500 7.9% 1x
13 Subaru Outback 7.7% 1x
Average 7.7% -
14 Nissan Sentra 7.0% 0.9x
15 Ram 1500 6.5% 0.8x
16 Nissan Altima 6.5% 0.8x
17 Ford F-150 5.9% 0.8x
18 Ford Escape 5.0% 0.6x
19 Ford Explorer 5.0% 0.6x
20 Jeep Wrangler 4.6% 0.6x
21 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4.5% 0.6x
22 Jeep Cherokee 3.8% 0.5x
The popular compact and midsize sedans Toyota Corolla, Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Honda Civic, and Hyundai Elantra all fare above average. “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 during their years of ownership,” said Ly.

The two popular American vehicles to be kept for 15 years or more at a better-than-average rate are the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 pickup truck, and its corporate cousin, the GMC Sierra 1500. Two additional pickups, the Ram 1500 and the Ford F-150 are close to average.  

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 fighting 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.”

Longest-Kept Cars by Metro Area

iSeeCars analyzed the data geographically to determine the vehicle that owners are most likely to keep for 15 years in the top 50 most populous metropolitan areas.  
Vehicles Most Often Kept for 15+ Years By Metro Area
Metro Area Vehicle % 15+ Year Old Cars Kept by Original Owners 
Albuquerque-Santa Fe, NM Toyota Highlander 13.6%
Atlanta, GA Toyota Sienna 17.5%
Austin, TX Toyota Tundra 20.8%
Baltimore, MD Honda Civic 25.4%
Birmingham, AL Toyota Highlander 11.5%
Boston, MA-Manchester, NH Honda Pilot 16.6%
Charlotte, NC Toyota Sequoia 17.0%
Chicago, IL Lexus IS 300 23.3%
Cincinnati, OH Toyota Highlander 29.6%
Cleveland-Akron (Canton), OH Toyota Highlander 18.2%
Columbus, OH Toyota 4Runner 14.1%
Dallas-Ft. Worth, TX Toyota Highlander 22.0%
Denver, CO Hyundai Elantra 24.6%
Detroit, MI Chevrolet Corvette 18.4%
Fresno-Visalia, CA Chevrolet Silverado 1500 14.4%
Grand Rapids-Kalamazoo, MI Subaru Forester 18.2%
Greensboro-Winston Salem, NC Toyota Sienna 20.0%
Greenville-Spartanburg, SC Toyota Sienna 25.7%
Harrisburg-Lancaster-York, PA Toyota Highlander 19.4%
Hartford & New Haven, CT Toyota RAV4 21.5%
Houston, TX Toyota Highlander 26.8%
Indianapolis, IN Toyota Highlander 26.6%
Jacksonville, FL Toyota Tacoma 18.5%
Kansas City, MO Chevrolet Colorado 23.7%
Las Vegas, NV GMC Sierra 1500 18.1%
Los Angeles, CA Toyota Highlander 29.5%
Memphis, TN Toyota Avalon 9.5%
Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, FL Toyota Highlander 29.6%
Milwaukee, WI Toyota Tacoma 23.7%
Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN Toyota Tacoma 17.3%
Nashville, TN Toyota Highlander 19.0%
New York, NY Toyota Tacoma 23.9%
Norfolk-Portsmouth-Newport News,VA GMC Sierra 1500 23.7%
Oklahoma City, OK Toyota Highlander 18.2%
Orlando-Daytona Beach, FL Toyota Tacoma 20.1%
Philadelphia, PA Toyota Highlander 28.7%
Phoenix, AZ Toyota Highlander 25.4%
Pittsburgh, PA Toyota Tacoma 25.1%
Portland, OR Honda Pilot 31.3%
Raleigh-Durham (Fayetteville), NC Toyota Highlander 20.9%
Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto, CA Toyota Highlander 31.3%
Salt Lake City, UT Toyota Tundra 22.8%
San Antonio, TX Chevrolet Silverado 1500 19.0%
San Diego, CA Toyota Tundra 32.2%
San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, CA Toyota Highlander 29.8%
Seattle-Tacoma, WA Hyundai Santa Fe 18.3%
St. Louis, MO Toyota Sienna 15.6%
Tampa-St Petersburg (Sarasota), FL Toyota Tundra 18.5%
Washington, DC (Hagerstown, MD) Toyota Sienna 24.2%
West Palm Beach-Ft. Pierce, FL Porsche 911 15.5%
The vehicle that most owners keep for 15 years or more across the most metros areas is the Toyota Highlander, which is represented in 17 locations.

“Vehicles that are kept for at least 15 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.”

Methodology

iSeeCars.com analyzed over 350,000 used cars from model years 1981-2004 sold in 2019. 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 2019 or 2020 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 $206 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.