These cars have the most loyal owners

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Factory workers producing the hybrid Toyota Prius cars, work on the assembly line at the Toyota City factory in Japan. (Getty Images)

(iSeeCars) – 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.”

Which 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
RankVehicle% 15+ Year Old Cars Kept by Original Owners Compared to Average
1Toyota Prius13.7%2.2x
2Toyota Highlander12.4%2.0x
3Toyota Tacoma11.6%1.9x
4Toyota Sienna11.5%1.9x
5Toyota Tundra11.3%1.8x
6Honda CR-V10.7%1.8x
7Honda Pilot10.4%1.7x
8Subaru Forester9.8%1.6x
9Toyota 4Runner9.4%1.5x
10Toyota Sequoia9.1%1.5x
Overall Average6.1%

The list of longest kept vehicles include 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
RankSUV% 15+ Year Old Cars Kept by Original Owners Compared to SUV Average
1Toyota Highlander12.4%2.1x
2Honda CR-V10.7%1.8x
3Honda Pilot10.4%1.7x
4Subaru Forester9.8%1.6x
5Toyota 4Runner9.4%1.6x
6Toyota Sequoia9.1%1.5x
7Toyota RAV48.7%1.5x
8Acura MDX7.9%1.3x
9Hyundai Tucson7.6%1.3x
10Subaru Outback6.8%1.1x
SUV Average5.9%

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
RankCar% 15+ Year-Old Cars Kept by Original Owners Compared to Pickup Truck Average
1Toyota Tacoma11.6%1.8x
2Toyota Tundra11.3%1.8x
3Nissan Frontier8.5%1.3x
4GMC Canyon7.8%1.2x
5Chevrolet Colorado7.6%1.2x
6Nissan Titan6.7%1.1x
Light-Duty Pickup Truck Average6.3%
7Chevrolet Silverado 15006.0%0.9x
8Ford Ranger5.3%0.8x
9Ram 15005.2%0.8x
10Ford F-1505.1%0.8x
11GMC Sierra 15005.0%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
RankCar% 15+ Year Old Cars Kept by Original Owners Compared to Sports Car Average
1Mazda MX-5 Miata7.6%1.9x
2BMW Z46.7%1.7x
3BMW M54.9%1.2x
4Chevrolet Corvette4.3%1.1x
5Ford GT4.2%1x
6Audi S44.1%1x
Sports Car Average4.1%

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
RankBrand% 15+ Year Old Cars Kept by Original Owners Compared to Average
1Toyota9.8%1.6x
2Honda8.1%1.3x
3Subaru8.0%1.3x
4Acura7.9%1.3x
5Mazda6.3%1.0x
Average for All Cars6.1%
6Mitsubishi5.5%0.9x
7Hyundai5.5%0.9x
8Chrysler5.5%0.9x
9Nissan  5.3%0.9x
10Lexus5.2%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
RankCar% 15+ Year Old Cars Kept by Original Owners Compared to Average
1Toyota Highlander12.4%2.0x
2Toyota Tacoma11.6%1.9x
3Honda CR-V10.7%1.8x
4Subaru Forester  9.8%1.6x
5Toyota 4Runner9.4%1.5x
6Toyota Corolla8.9%1.5x
7Toyota RAV48.7%1.4x
8Toyota Camry8.5%1.4x
9Honda Accord7.2%1.2x
10Subaru Outback6.8%1.1x
11Honda Civic6.7%1.1x
Average for All Vehicles6.1%
12Chevrolet Silverado 15006.0%1.0x
13Ram 15005.2%0.9x
14Ford F-150 5.1%0.8x
15GMC Sierra 15005.0%0.8x
16Nissan Altima4.3%0.7x
17Ford Escape4.3%0.7x
18Chevrolet Equinox3.8%0.6x
19Jeep Wrangler3.8%0.6x
20Ford Explorer3.7%0.6x
21Jeep Grand Cherokee3.6%0.6x
22Jeep Cherokee2.9%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 AreaVehicle% 15+ Year Old Cars Kept by Original Owners 
Albuquerque-Santa Fe, NMToyota Sequoia12.7%
Atlanta, GAToyota Tundra13.2%
Austin, TXChevrolet Colorado15.3%
Baltimore, MDNissan Frontier19.9%
Birmingham, ALNissan Frontier12.5%
Boston, MA-Manchester, NHToyota Tundra10.0%
Charlotte, NCToyota Prius12.6%
Chicago, ILSubaru Impreza17.2%
Cincinnati, OHHonda Pilot11.7%
Cleveland-Akron (Canton), OHToyota Sienna14.5%
Columbus, OHToyota Highlander14.9%
Dallas-Ft. Worth, TXToyota Highlander15.7%
Denver, COToyota Highlander16.6%
Detroit, MIHonda Pilot18.3%
Fresno-Visalia, CAToyota Camry15.8%
Grand Rapids-Kalamazoo, MIHonda Pilot10.2%
Greensboro-Winston Salem, NCToyota Prius15.5%
Greenville-Spartanburg, SCToyota Sequoia13.3%
Harrisburg-Lancaster-York, PASubaru Forester17.8%
Hartford & New Haven, CTToyota Tacoma13.5%
Houston, TXToyota Sienna17.8%
Indianapolis, INToyota Sequoia15.3%
Jacksonville, FLToyota Highlander17.0%
Kansas City, MOChevrolet Colorado12.4%
Las Vegas, NVToyota Tundra18.2%
Los Angeles, CAToyota Sequoia20.8%
Memphis, TNHonda Civic13.3%
Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, FLToyota Prius17.2%
Milwaukee, WIToyota Sienna17.4%
Minneapolis-St. Paul, MNToyota Prius17.3%
Nashville, TNToyota Tundra11.6%
New York, NYToyota Prius17.8%
Norfolk-Portsmouth-Newport News,VAAcura MDX14.5%
Oklahoma City, OKToyota Sienna17.8%
Orlando-Daytona Beach, FLToyota Tundra14.1%
Philadelphia, PAMazda MX-5 Miata16.3%
Phoenix, AZToyota Sienna16.0%
Pittsburgh, PAToyota Sienna14.4%
Portland, ORToyota Prius18.6%
Raleigh-Durham (Fayetteville), NCToyota Sienna12.8%
Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto, CAToyota Prius20.0%
Salt Lake City, UTHonda Odyssey15.0%
San Antonio, TXHonda CR-V17.1%
San Diego, CAToyota Tundra21.8%
San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, CAToyota Prius26.4%
Seattle-Tacoma, WAToyota Tacoma13.4%
St. Louis, MOHonda CR-V9.8%
Tampa-St Petersburg (Sarasota), FLMazda MX-5 Miata11.9%
Washington, DC (Hagerstown, MD)Toyota Prius29.3%
West Palm Beach-Ft. Pierce, FLToyota Highlander13.2%

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 
RankMetro Area% 15+ Year Old Cars Kept by Original Owners 
1San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, CA11.7%
2Washington, DC (Hagerstown, MD)10.6%
3San Diego, CA10.3%
4Los Angeles, CA10.1%
5Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto, CA9.9%
6Austin, TX8.2%
7Houston, TX8.1%
8Portland, OR8.1%
9Denver, CO8.0%
10Chicago, IL7.8%

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.”

More from iSeeCars.com:

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 free VIN check reports. iSeeCars.com has saved users over $288 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.

This article, Cars Owners Keep the Longest, originally appeared on iSeeCars.com.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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