How Many Years Should a Car Last?

Cars are fun and useful, but they are by no means a good investment. The average vehicle depreciates fast, especially for the first few years after it drives off the dealership lot. A car can be an even bigger money pit if it frequently breaks down and needs expensive repairs.

To avoid this, it’s best to purchase a model with a high reliability rating. Fortunately, many modern vehicle are also built to outlast older models by several years. So, how many years should a car last, and is there any way to make yours last longer?

The average age of cars on the road

Recent studies have shown that most vehicles can live about 12.1 years before needing costly repairs. The lifespan of electric vehicles is less conclusive, but a few automakers offer lifetime warranties on the batteries. Additionally, used cars are more popular than new vehicles on today’s market because of the semiconductor chip shortage

However, the decreased inventory of new cars also means used cars are now more expensive. This means the average lifespan of a vehicle might remain the same. Still, as we learned from the recession, it might just result in another upward trend.

Can a vehicle last longer than 12 years?

Twelve years isn’t a magic number for any car, especially if you drive fewer miles than the national average per year. According to Car and Driver, the average driver travels more than 1,000 miles per month, up to 13,500 per year. Similarly, if you drive more than 15,000 miles per year, expect your vehicle to deteriorate faster.

Your driving behavior can also influence how quickly your vehicle will wear out. Speeding and aggressive stopping create more strain on expensive components like the brakes and engine. In general, city driving is typically harder on a car because of all the stop-and-go traffic. 

During highway driving, you can go for long stretches without having to shift gears. You also usually won’t run over as many potholes as you would on city roads, saving your suspension and wheels. However, the high speed limits on these roadways might also encourage people to drive too fast.

Vehicles that are primarily used for off-roading will also wear out faster than daily drivers. Although some automakers offer protective equipment for the undersides of these cars, they can still become damaged over time. These vehicles also get more frequent washing, potentially resulting in peeling body paint. 

Being exposed to the elements for extended periods isn’t great for any car, off-roader or not. A vehicle that drives on salted roads in the winter can accumulate corrosion if not properly maintained.

Cars that last 10 years or more

According to Forbes, there are many automakers offering vehicles that last 15 years. SUVs are usually the longest-kept vehicles, with the Toyota Highlander being the most beloved. Honda and Subaru also produce many long-lasting vehicles, while Acura and BMW lead the luxury segment.

The Chevy Colorado stays with its owners for the same amount of time without the high maintenance costs of other pickups. With routine oil changes and at-home maintenance, any of these models could easily last 20 years or more. A few have reportedly reached 500,000 miles.

Still, use your own discretion when shopping for used cars with high mileage. For example, a 2018 model with over 90,000 miles might have more issues than a similar car that age. Always check a vehicle’s history report to ensure it has been properly serviced throughout its lifetime.

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