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How Many Miles Can A Car Last On The Road?

Hanna Kielar7-minute read
December 23, 2021

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When you're contemplating making a vehicle purchase, you might want to consider how many miles you can expect it to last in its lifetime. The answer isn't as simple as checking the odometer, because a variety of factors can influence a vehicle’s longevity. Some makes and models with a reading of 100,000 miles are worth buying, while others with as little as 80,000 miles might hardly be worth their value as scrap.

Table Of Contents

    How Many Miles Does A Car Last?

    Improvements in technology and production techniques mean that with proper maintenance, a traditional gas-powered car should run for up to 200,000 miles. Modern electric and gas/electric hybrid vehicles, however, have fewer moving parts than traditional drivetrains, which reduces mechanical trouble to the point they're projected to keep running for up to 300,000 miles.

    While many people believe that the cars of 40 – 50 years ago were built better and were more reliable, this is actually not the case. One interesting fact that illustrates the reliability of modern cars is that more Americans are now driving older cars than ever before. According to Kelley Blue Book, the average vehicle on the road is more than 12 years old. This is the result of decades of continuous improvement and advancement in production that have elevated the reliability and longevity of cars to new heights.

    In some cases, manufacturers identified common points of failure and totally replaced their function with something new. For instance, rubber timing belts lost elasticity and eventually failed somewhere between 65,000 and 100,000 miles. In recent decades, manufacturers have replaced them with metal timing chains that frequently outlast the rest of the car.

    Similarly, the introduction of electronic systems into cars has increased their longevity. Electronic systems generally endure less wear and tear than traditional mechanical systems and tend to perform more efficiently. Today's mechanical systems themselves are superior to older versions, thanks to enhanced standardization of factory production techniques and the introduction of precise, robotic machine tools.

    Today's cars have tighter tolerances and more consistent assembly, which keeps out the dirt and grime that contaminated the delicate machinery of past vehicles.

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    Get started buying or selling your used car with Rocket AutoSM.

    Understanding High-Mileage Vehicles

    In the past, any car with 100,000 miles was considered a high-mileage vehicle, but that's simply not true anymore. While the exact point at which a vehicle reaches this threshold is somewhat subjective, 150,000 miles is a realistic estimate. A modern car with 150,000 miles on the road may be considered high mileage, but it can still provide years of reliable use.

    How Many Miles Should A Car Have Per Year?

    There’s an old maxim that applies to assessing a used car that goes: “It’s not the years, it’s the mileage.” How many miles a car has been driven is a better indicator of wear and tear than its age. A 4-year-old vehicle with 25,000 miles may have a better projected lifespan than a 2-year-old car with 50,000 miles. The average driver puts roughly 12,000 miles a year on a car. A good benchmark for expected mileage is to multiply the vehicle's age in years by 12,000, but keep in mind a variance of 30% more or less is considered normal.

    Age Of The Vehicle In Years

    Average Mileage

    1

    12,000

    2

    24,000

    3

    36,000

    4

    48,000

    5

    60,000

    6

    72,000

    7

    84,000

    8

    96,000

    9

    108,000

    10

    120,000

    11

    132,000

    12

    144,000

    13

    156,000

    14

    168,000

    15

    180,000

    Source: Kelley Blue Book

    How Many Miles On A Car Is Too Many?

    How many miles on a car is bad? As a general rule, most vehicles begin to seriously degrade at around 150,000 miles. It is considered rare, and therefore outstanding longevity, if a car reaches 200,000 miles on the road. That said, there's more to identifying good versus bad mileage on a used car than just the odometer reading. Additional factors that can affect the life of a car include the make and model (some cars have better track records for longevity), maintenance history (a well-maintained vehicle can last twice as long as one that has been neglected), and how the car was driven (highway miles are far easier on the vehicle than city or off-road miles). Many used car dealers will designate their vehicles as “Certified Pre-Owned (CPO),” meaning they have given the car a thorough mechanic’s assessment and declare the vehicle to be sound. A CPO designation can give you confidence that the car is worth what you are paying for it.

    How To Get The Most Miles Out Of Your Car

    Once you’ve purchased a used car, whether or not you reach that 200,000-mile threshold and maximize your investment for a number of years will depend greatly on how you maintain the vehicle. Every 5,000 – 10,000 miles (or when the manual advises), you should tackle the following routine maintenance tasks:

    • Change your oil and lubricants: Motor oil and other lubricants allow the mechanical systems in your car to run smoothly, but they can run low or collect grime over time. Changing your lubricants helps keep your car running at maximum efficiency.
    • Check the tires: While tires are expensive to replace, it can be disastrous if they fail while you're driving. Check air pressure, rotate your tires and replace them when their treads have worn down or they've been in use for 50,000 miles. Find someone you trust to assess tire wear. A tire dealer wants to sell you new tires, first and foremost.
    • Proactively replace worn parts: Timely part replacement is another element to getting the most from your vehicle. A good mechanic will know the life expectancy of every vital component of your car. This can be a large dealership that sells your particular make and model, but there are also many small, independent mechanics who are excellent, too. If you can develop a relationship with a good local mechanic and build trust over several years, this can be good for you and your community.
    • Switch to synthetic oil: Many cars are at risk of sludge buildup, either because of short trips that cause condensation to form inside the motor or longer trips that make the engine too hot for long periods of time. You can eliminate the risk of sludge buildup by using synthetic oil that has a broader effective operating range. In fact, many of the newest models require synthetic oil for their engines. Be forewarned that getting your oil changed using synthetic oil can cost $100 or more, which is up to three times more expensive than a traditional motor oil change.

    Top Cars That Last The Longest

    It's difficult to determine which cars last the longest, as there aren't many available statistics, and it would be almost impossible for a study to control factors like routine maintenance and driving style. Therefore, we've taken a pragmatic approach and created the following list based on a study of the top 16 vehicles with more than 200,000 miles. This study by iSeeCars looked at more than 10 million vehicles to find those that vaulted past 200,000 miles with the greatest consistency.

    1. Toyota Land Cruiser

    Percentage of vehicles over 200,000 miles: 16.3%

    MPG: 13 city | 17 highway

    Drivetrain: 4-wheel drive

    The Land Cruiser hasn't exactly been a darling in the U.S. auto market, but it's a beloved favorite in developing countries that lack good road systems. This is thanks to the high-grade steel used in manufacturing and precise, small-batch production techniques that Toyota puts into the vehicle. It's designed to last decades handling rugged off-road driving, and this shows in the number of Land Cruisers on the road with more than 200,000 miles.

    2. Toyota Sequoia

    Percentage of vehicles over 200,000 miles: 11.2%

    MPG: 13 city | 17 highway

    Drivetrain: 4-wheel drive | Rear-wheel drive

    While the Land Cruiser takes the top spot, Toyota's reputation for making rugged, reliable vehicles doesn't stop there. Like the Land Cruiser, the Toyota Sequoia is a truck-based, body-on-frame SUV with a separated chassis that lends itself to a high level of durability.

    Browse Rocket Auto’s Toyota Sequoia inventory.

    3. Chevrolet Suburban

    Percentage of vehicles over 200,000 miles: 5.1%

    MPG: 15 city | 19 highway

    Drivetrain: 4-wheel drive | Rear-wheel drive

    The Chevrolet Suburban is another reliable, full-size sport utility vehicle (SUV). Compared to the prior-listed Toyota SUVs, this vehicle makes it to 200,000 much less often, but 5.1% is still an incredible figure that is five times greater than the average for all cars. It's helped by a durable design that can prevent issues like rust and major repairs for 6 – 10 years, and a strict adherence to good maintenance can take it much further.

    Browse Rocket Auto’s Chevrolet Suburban inventory.

    4. Ford Expedition

    Percentage of vehicles over 200,000 miles: 4.9%

    MPG: 17 city | 23 highway

    Drivetrain: 4-wheel drive | Rear-wheel drive

    The Ford Expedition has a sound, reliable design that can easily carry it to 150,000 miles and beyond. While the Expedition may begin developing serious wear at 150,000 miles, routine maintenance and good driving practices can see it reach the 200,000-mile mark.

    Browse Rocket Auto’s Ford Expedition inventory.

    5. Toyota 4Runner

    Percentage of vehicles over 200,000 miles: 4.1%

    MPG: 16 city | 19 highway

    Drivetrain: 4-wheel drive | Rear-wheel drive

    While the Toyota 4Runner doesn't have the same incredible longevity as the Sequoia and Land Cruiser, it still benefits from Toyota's conservative design philosophy and excellent manufacturing standards.

    Browse Rocket Auto’s Toyota 4Runner inventory.

    Honorable Mentions

    The following vehicles deserve an honorable mention for their longevity and reliability. Interestingly, truck-based SUVs are the most consistently reliable vehicles and make up most of the list. The Prius stands out as a notable exception, as it's a hybrid car that boasts excellent longevity.

    Make And Model

    Percentage of Vehicles Over 200,000 Miles

    Toyota Avalon

    3.9%

    Chevrolet Tahoe

    3.9%

    Toyota Highlander Hybrid

    3.8%

    Toyota Tundra

    3.7%

    GMC Yukon XL

    3.6%

    Honda Ridgeline

    3.4%

    GMC Yukon

    3.3%

    Honda Odyssey

    2.9%

    Toyota Tacoma

    2.8%

    Lincoln Navigator

    2.6%

    Toyota Prius

    2.6%

    The Bottom Line: Modern Cars Can Go The Extra Mile

    Modern cars have become incredibly reliable, which is great news for those in the market for a used car. It’s important to remember, however, that even the most reliable make and model won't be worth buying if it has a bad maintenance record. Check the credibility of the seller and ask for any records related to the vehicle’s history and care over time. CARFAX provides a vehicle history report that details any accident, airbag deployment, or other significant damage incurred over the life of the car. All you need is the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). For additional information, read more about what to look for when buying a used car.

    Ready for your next car?

    Get started buying or selling your used car with Rocket AutoSM.

    Ready for your next car?

    Get started buying or selling your used car with Rocket AutoSM.

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    Hanna Kielar

    Hanna Kielar is a Section Editor for Rocket Auto℠, RocketHQ℠, and Rocket Loans® with a focus on personal finance, automotive, and personal loans. She has a B.A. in Professional Writing from Michigan State University.