How do you describe devotion to a car? Better than getting tattoos of it or posting pictures of it on your Facebook account, people with the deepest bond to a vehicle prove their love by keeping it. A decade or so later, you don’t have to ask your neighbor if he likes the car you saw him drive into his driveway 150,000 miles ago. It’s family by that point.
Thanks to iSeeCars.com, we know which cars on the U.S. market inspire the most long-term affection from drivers. The research firm tracked which automobiles remained in owners’ hands for at least 10 years, and the list was dominated by Honda and Toyota. Besides the importance of reliability, this list reflects the love of practicality and long-term planning when making a car purchase. It’s more like a successful marriage than anything else.
The top 10 vehicles that were kept by owners for 10 years or longer consisted entirely of models by the two Japanese automakers, with the Honda CR-V topping the list with 28.6% of original owners still in possession of their rides a decade later. No. 2 was the ever-faithful Toyota Prius with a shade less at 28.5%, followed by RAV4 (28.2%), Highlander (26.5%), and the Odyssey minivan (25.6%).
This trend continued with 10 of the top 15 vehicles falling into the crossover or minivan class. According to Phong Ly, chief executive of iSeeCars, the presence of so many large family cars reveals buyers are thinking well into the future when shopping for a vehicle.
“[I]f people buy these cars when they are just starting their families, it stands to reason they would suit them for many years,” Ly said in a statement accompanying the study.
On the other hand, that formula does not work unless the car hangs around to give you the chance to keep it. With that in mind, Prius was one of the biggest winners.
Electric vehicle and hybrid naysayers have warned of the dangers of battery degradation since the first Prius model appeared in 2000. As the results of this study again confirm, they shouldn’t hold their breath. Prius nearly took first place on this list and had owners holding onto it over twice as long as the average car. That would be impossible if battery issues and other reliability problems existed in any volume.
In fact, many Prius owners saw 150,000 miles, the average for a car older than 10 years, as just a stop on the way to 200,000, Ly said in the iSeeCars release. Fans of the best-selling hybrid of all time are happy to cite the Consumer Reports study showing more Priuses on the road with 200,000 miles than any other car. (Actually, these two lists are almost identical.)
This extreme reliability is clearly cherished by car owners, but the Prius wouldn’t really work for a family of five that is fond of camping trips and other activities requiring space and four-wheel drive. That’s where the RAV4, Highlander, and the Subaru Outback — the lone outlier in the top 15, at No. 11 — enter the picture as far as American consumers are concerned.
Among this segment of car buyers, it’s not about the latest, greatest thing. Buying a vehicle is about finding something that delivers on your expectations repeatedly and will do so even a decade later. Looking at these results, it appears Honda and Toyota have cornered that market.
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