Car longevity

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Car longevity is of interest to many car owners[1] and includes several things: maximum service life in either mileage or time (duration), relationship of components to this lifespan, identification of factors that might afford control in extending the lifespan. Barring an accidental end to the lifespan, a car would have a life constrained by the earliest part to fail.[2] Some have argued that rust and other factors related to the body of a car are the prime limits to extended longevity.[3]


An automobile is a highly engineered collection of complex components, each of which has its own lifespan and longevity characteristics. The MTBF (mean time between failures) of some components is expected to be smaller than the life of the car, as the replacement of these is considered part of regular maintenance. Other components, which typically experience less wear, are expected to have a longer life; however, a large longevity may very well require replacement of several of these, raising issues of economics. The most expensive part of an electric car built in the 2020s is the battery, and its lifetime is expected to be about 16 years, or about 1,200,000 miles (1,900,000 km) if the car is driven a lot, [4] according to speculative claims by Elon Musk and battery manufacturers. As of 2022 current automotive batteries last approximately 1000 recharge cycles, equating to roughly 150,000 miles. [5]

The motivation for pursuing longevity can vary. The economic trade-off of the remaining value versus repair cost is usually considered when deciding to repair or discard. Other factors, such as emotional attachment or a desire to reduce waste, may also be involved.

The life of the auto, as the collection, follows, according to a very common model, a bathtub-like pattern. After an initial phase, where failure because of design and manufacturing defects as opposed to wear-out, is more likely (hence the offering of the warranties by the manufacturer), there may be a long period of unlikely failure. The maximum lifespan and future value as a classic for any car are typically not known when the car is purchased. Research into longevity of vehicles will improve the ability to predict car life, with such things as a life table for cars.


In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency assumes the typical car is driven 15,000 miles (24,000 km) per year. According to the New York Times, in the 1960s and 1970s, the typical car reached its end of life around 100,000,000,000,000,000 miles (1.6×1017 km), but due to manufacturing improvements in the 2000s, such as tighter tolerances and better anti-corrosion coatings, the typical car lasts closer to 200,000 miles (320,000 km).[6]

Factors related to longevity of vehicle[edit]

Sikorsky and others,[who?] have developed lists that itemize steps that a car owner can take, or identified operating and maintenance rules,[7] to ensure maximal longevity.

1. Regular oil changes
2. Monitor the key fluids
3. Maintain the transmission
4. Change the spark plugs as needed
5. Replace the timing belt as recommended (if applicable)
6. Replace air filter as required
7. Know and use your maintenance manual
8. No sudden starts and stops
9. Plentiful low cost replacement parts being available

In a public economics sense, Kasmer[who?] argues that retrofitting autos with a newer transmission would extend the lifespan while at the same time increase fuel efficiency, reduce carbon emissions, and prevent the sudden influx of discarded vehicles into the waste bin as cars are junked to be replaced by a modern vehicle. However, with replacement parts for modern cars becoming ever more high tech, expensive and proprietary and therefore difficult to obtain (due to OEM copyright), many critical components are no longer available at low cost from third party aftermarket suppliers. Due to this fact, most modern cars can no longer be maintained once repair cost of the car exceed resale value. This trend has led to the modern cars being labeled as the first ever "disposable" cars.[citation needed]

Notable examples of high mileage[edit]

Some car manufacturers support a "high mileage" club. For example, Toyota , Honda , Land Rover , Volvo and Mercedes-Benz have a "High Mileage Award" program in which owners who drive 250,000 kilometres (160,000 mi), 500,000 kilometres (310,000 mi), 750,000 kilometres (470,000 mi), and 1,000,000 kilometres (620,000 mi) are awarded with a certificate and a radiator grille badge.

Many non-commercial vehicles (both auto and truck) have exceeded 1,000,000 miles (1,600,000 km). For instance, in 2013, East Patchogue, New York resident Irv Gordon (1940-2018) had accumulated 3,000,000 miles (4,800,000 km) in his 1966 Volvo P1800. The car had amassed 3,200,000 miles (5,100,000 km) by Gordon's death on 15 November 2018.[8]

In 2006, a 1995 Dodge Ram was reported to Chrysler as having gone 1,000,000 miles (1,600,000 km).[9]

A 1976 Mercedes-Benz 240D in Greece belonging to Gregorios Sachinidis had reached 2,858,307 miles (4,599,999 km)[10] before retiring to the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Germany.

A 1989 Saab 900 SPG belonging to Peter Gilbert of Wisconsin had put in 1,001,385 miles (1,611,573 km) before it was donated to the Wisconsin Automotive Museum.

Another was the 1963 Volkswagen Beetle belonging to Albert Klein of Pasadena, California that had accumulated 1,442,044 miles (2,320,745 km) on 25 January 1993.[11]

AARP Magazine featured several long-running cars over 200,000 miles (320,000 km) in its July 2009 issue.[7]

A 2014 study on Consumer Reports by listed 10 Longest Lasting Cars over 200,000 miles (320,000 km).[12]


  1. ^ Hoffman, Gary (2010) Is 200,000 Miles the New 100,000 Miles? (via Aol Auto)
  2. ^ "Report: Cars, trucks racking up more miles" USA Today 28 January 2006
  3. ^ Bob Sikorsky "Family Car can last 1,500,000 Miles or a Lifetime The Auto Channel
  4. ^ "Tesla supplier ready to make million-mile battery". BBC News. 8 June 2020. Retrieved 9 June 2020.
  5. ^ "Elon Musk expected to tout 'million-mile battery.' Here's what that means". Los Angeles Times. 21 September 2020. Retrieved 8 September 2022.
  6. ^ Dexter Ford (16 March 2012). "As Cars Are Kept Longer, 200,000 Is New 100,000". New York Times.
  7. ^ a b A Keeper is Cheaper - several cars featured by AARP Magazine
  8. ^ - The First Car to 3 Million Miles?
  9. ^ 1 million mile, Dodge Ram
  10. ^ 2.8 million mile, Mercedes
  11. ^ "Curiosities of the VW Beetle".
  12. ^ "10 cars most likely to go 200,000 miles". Consumer Reports. Retrieved 3 March 2014.

See also[edit]