How Long Do Cars Last? (& The Most Reliable Brands)

When buying a new car, it really makes sense to look for one that will give you the most miles for your money. No one wants a car that is going to develop a serious mechanical or electrical failure within just a few months or maybe years of owning it; ideally, you want a car that will definitely last for as long as you need it to without requiring excessive maintenance, particularly if you plan on reselling your car or passing it on to your kids at some point.

On average, cars currently last about 11 years before they eventually break down. Most cars will last between 3 and 15 years, with their longevity depending on the brand, the conditions the car is driven in, and how well the owner takes care of the vehicle.

The truth is, there are a lot of factors that determine how long anyone car will last, including how often they’re driven, the conditions they’re driven in, and the conditions in which they’re stored; however, the biggest factor is undoubtedly how thoroughly you maintain your car throughout its life.

The Average Lifespan of a Car

Overall, modern cars tend to last longer than cars from decades past; according to research conducted by the Department of Transportation, the average age of all cars currently still on the road is over 11 years.

However, modern cars tend to experience issues for different reasons than cars from the ’90s or earlier. Back in the day, many cars were simply not built all that well, and most issues resulted from shoddy construction or the absence of high-quality building materials.

Today, cars are built to higher standards, but with the introduction of high-tech electronically-controlled components, modern cars are often overcomplicated in their construction. Therefore, modern cars tend to break down due to the simple fact that there’s just a lot more that can go wrong.

Why Cars Do Not Last Forever

We’ve already touched on this just a little bit in the previous section of this article, but let’s go into more details on why cars tend to break down over time.

In any car, the materials used are going to break down over time. Unless you store your car in perfect conditions and are extremely good at replacing every damaged or worn-down part, your car will almost certainly start developing more issues the older it gets.

Nothing is designed to last forever, and regardless of what kind of car you own, you’ll have to perform regular maintenance on it to keep it working for any reasonable period of time.

In both old and new cars, the electrical systems are often the biggest cause of problems. In old cars, the issue is that the electrical systems use somewhat archaic technology like distributors and generators, which are more prone to breaking down over time. In new cars, the issue is that many of them contain a vast array of complicated computers and software, so there are way more opportunities for glitches to occur.

Can Cars Last 300,000 Miles?

It’s entirely possible for a car to last 300,000 miles or more if it is properly maintained. There are even a few examples of cars being driven to over a million miles.

One famous example is the Million-Mile Lexus, owned by auto journalist Matt Farah. It’s assumed that one of the previous owners took a lot of care to properly maintain this particular 1996 Lexus LS400 before Farah acquired it; still, the fact that it was able to reach a million miles without any significant fixes (save for a $3,700 transmission repair) is impressive in its own right.

You may have also heard of the late Irv Gordon, the owner of a 1966 Volvo P1800 who put over 3 million miles on his car during his lifetime. He accomplished this simply by performing regular maintenance and replacing any broken or damaged parts as soon as he saw them.

While most people probably won’t keep their cars long enough to rack up 300,000+ miles, as long as you really keep up with your maintenance, you should have no trouble making your car absolutely last as long as you need it to.

What Car Brands Last the Longest?

When it comes to long-term reliability, there are certainly some car brands that have a better reputation than others. Let’s take a good quick look at the top five longest-lasting car brands, as determined by Consumer Reports.

The car brands that are known to make cars last the longest are currently Mazda, Toyota, Lexus, Buick, and Honda. These brands produce models that are known to last for several years and thousands of miles, without requiring a lot of maintenance.

As of 2021, Mazda ranks as the most reliable car brand overall. This is because Mazda never redesigns anything too radically, meaning that their cars are relatively uncomplicated.

Toyota and its sister company Lexus take second and third place for reliability, which shouldn’t come as a surprise; Toyota has long been known as a reliable brand, particularly when it comes to their trucks and SUVs like the Tacoma 4Runner and Land Cruiser.

Buick is also one of the highest-rated brands for reliability as of this year; this is because Buick is only producing four different models, making it easier to ensure that every vehicle Buick makes is built well.

Finally, Honda is the fifth-most reliable car brand today. While a few of their vehicles (the Odyssey, Pilot, and Passport) were subject to a recall in 2020 due to a software bug, the majority of Honda’s model range is known for being of good quality and solid reliability.

How to Make a Car Last Longer

Bringing your car in for maintenance on schedule is one of the best things you can do to ensure your car’s longevity, and being familiar with the signs and symptoms of various mechanical faults will also go a long way.

It’s also important not to cheap out on replacement parts, as they can wear out more quickly and cause your car to require even more maintenance.

Final Thoughts

It’s incredibly important it is to properly maintain your car if you want it to last. While some cars are certainly less reliable than others, you can make almost anything last a long time if you take care of it well.

Having a reliable daily driver is a necessity for any commuter, but keeping your car in good shape will help to preserve more of its value for the future.

Gui Hadlich

Hey there! I'm Gui. To be honest, I'm not really that interested in cars. But what I'm really, really not interest in is spending lots of money fixing my car up. Thankfully, I have a father-in-law who's obsessed with cars and a brother getting a PhD in internal combustion engines, so I get to learn about fixing cars. And with Fixing Engines, I hope to help you save a lot of money and take good care of your cars.

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