These Cars Never Seem to Fail (and Get Over 30 MPG!)


Why is it so difficult for modern vehicles to approach 40 mpg? For some reason it takes complicated and expensive hybrid systems to deliver that kind of mileage now, when cars of the 1980s easily and consistently topped 30 miles per gallon and often approached 40.

Yes, there’s the issue of a modern car’s weight and safety equipment, which no doubt have impacted fuel economy. But come on – 20 years of development, and we’re struggling to get 25 mpg? That sucks. So with that in mind, here are some of the cars from the past that have proven themselves by easily topping 200,000 miles and burning very little fuel:

1980s and early 1990s Honda Civics

Just count how many of these you see on the road in the next week. They’re EVERYWHERE, probably because they get 30-40 mpg, are cheap to buy, cheap to maintain, and simply don’t die. You could drive one of these cars for 5 years, forget to change the oil even once, and still know you could drive across the country. Twice.

1985 Toyota Tercel Wagon


You may not look or even feel great driving one, considering even the deluxe versions lacked power anything, but you’ll get over 40 mpg on the highway and be able to laugh at all the Prius owners getting the same mileage, but with a $600 monthly car payment.

1987 Subaru GL


Hey, I’m not making this list because the cars are fast. I’m making it because they last. That’s why this Subie gets added. My mom had one with 250,000 miles on it, and it ALWAYS started and went where she wanted it to go. I won’t mention the part where flooring the accelerator was necessary to climb even the smallest incline, but that little 1.6-liter hatch consistently got over 30 mpg and refused to die.

1984 Toyota Pickup (or any Toyota with the famous 22R engine)


Got 150,000 or even 200,000 miles on your 22R engine? Relax, she’s hardly broken in! The team at Toyota who came up with the four-cylinder 22R really hit one out of the park, creating an engine that goes down in history as perhaps the most reliable ever built. Look for it in model years from 1981 to 1995. Yeah, 15 years. It was that good.

Do you have any stories of cars that refused to die?



  1. I’m driving my 1993 Nissan Sentra with almost 215,000 miles on it. It has consistently averaged 33 MPH until 5th gear went out a month ago. Thinking of replacing it only because I’m not sure I want to put a new tranny in it now. It has been reletively trouble free for the last 12 years we have owned it (it had 94,000 miles on it then and a salvaged title to boot!) My brother in law has a 94 Nissan Sentra (same motor) with well over 300,000 miles…..he’s faired even better than us!

  2. Ford F series Truck with the straight six motor was a great , reliable system. My 1981 f-150 named “Uff Da” by my fishing crew lived it life as a boat truck . never maintained always abused. rode hard and put to bed wet all the time. i though she was going to die at 320,000 so i traded it for a cement walkway to the cement mason thinking I got a good deal. After he used for another 250,00 making a total of 570,000+ mile that walkway wasn’t such a good deal. He gave the truck to his son in law and the original transmission finally failed. The engine was still running never having been touched. the final mileage of the truck and engine and drive line was 618,426 miles. it always got 20 MPG no matter where you went.

  3. Don’t forget the 1991-1995 Ford Escort LX 1.9litre engine, Manual transmission. I am currently getting 42.9 MPG or 6.5L/100 KM out of my 1993 LX wagon with an MTX. I was for 12 years a Ford mechanic specializing in Electrical/Driveability and bought it because I rarely saw them in the shop broken down. Now at 260,000 KM (162,500 Miles) it still runs perfectly without problems.

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