Of course every shopper wants to purchase a reliable car. When pouring this much money into a single item, you probably expect that purchase to last a good long while, especially one as important as a car. That’s why reliability in a vehicle becomes such an important metric when considering where to throw your money. But how do you measure reliability? It certainly is a measurement that has to be taken with quite a few grains of salt. But, by the way we look at it, the issue of reliability can be addressed with one question: Would I feel comfortable buying this vehicle if it had over 100,000 miles on it?
You can bet that a car with that kind of mileage would dip pretty low in terms of price. Finding a screaming deal on a good, reliable vehicle despite its high mileage may be the most promising part of these cars. We have compiled a list of vehicles that have no issue pushing the odometer past the 6-figure mark (some even make it above the 200K mark). Despite certain automakers having reputations for amazing reliability (and some for their distinct lack of longevity), we were able to find cars from diverse markets and nationalities that we’d comfortably consider even with more than 100K on the odometer. And no matter what issues these cars may have in some areas, they easily make up for those problems in others. We would not hesitate to jump on purchasing one of these cars despite a sixth digit on the odometer. We’ve also compiled a list of cars that retain their value well: Resale Royalty: The Top 10 Value-Retaining Vehicles.
10. The early-generation Jeep Cherokee just didn’t die, no matter how long you drove it. The fact that we still see Cherokees as often as ever is a testament to the refusal of Jeep products to stop working, which was really nice for Cherokee-lovers, because Jeep stopped producing them for 13 years. That 13-year hiatus certainly didn’t hurt the number of Cherokees currently on the road, and the new Cherokees rolling out have a big reputation to live up to. Really, any Jeep with the previous generation’s 4.0-liter inline 6-cylinder could make it on this list. One of our Gurus here had a ’98 Jeep Wrangler with that very engine, and it was still going strong with 170,000+ miles. The frame rusted through before that engine even flinched.
9. If you want a reliable sports car, but are limited to options with over 100,000 miles on the clock, the Mazda MX-5 Miata is pretty much your only choice. Don’t feel too bad, though, as these cars are famed as much for the pure driving experience they offer as they are for their reliability. With a simple front-engine, rear-wheel-drive design powered by a low-power, naturally aspirated engine, these roadsters run consistently well with six figures on the odometer (and often only four figures on the price tag). Almost one million Miatas have been sold around the world, so parts are plentiful and cheap. The best bet, as always, is to look around for a clean example that’s never been driven on a track… so you can take it straight to the track yourself.
8. Ever wonder why you still see the 1980-styled Volvo 240 all over the country? It’s ’cause it’s hard to kill. Volvo introduced the 240 in 1974 and kept the formula largely the same until it hit the end of the line in 1993. That formula was simple: Take a steel box, cut out some holes for windows, add an engine and wheels, and deliver it to the customer. While Volvo actually went through great pains to make sure the 240 was safer and more reliable than anything else on the road at the time, it clearly left no room in the budget for styling, so we ended up with the eyesore on wheels that is the 240. But that is just what makes the 240 so great—it may be ugly, but it’s got character. Thanks to Volvo’s superb work engineering the 240, its character has lasted a lot longer than that of its prettier competitors. 100,000 miles? Please. That’s nothing for a Volvo.
7. Don’t let the size of the Chevrolet Suburban deter you—this SUV is about as reliable as very large vehicles can get. The Suburban essentially embodies the formula for a reliable SUV. You have a true body-on-frame with truck underpinnings to ensure the body remains as sound as possible throughout the years. That body couples with the Suburban’s tried-and-true V8 engine to reduce its horsepower-per-liter measurement to about 53. This reduction indicates lower stress on the block and ensures this massive utility vehicle will last for some years to come. Although newer Suburbans can go for some significant cash, you should be able to find an older one for smaller change.
6. Of course if you want more reliability than a Suburban, you should buy a 1970 MG MGB. Just kidding. Like most British cars of its age, the MGB GT has a reputation for being wildly unreliable. However, if you just can’t say no to British style and want a cool, vintage ride for weekend cruises, the MGB GT isn’t actually a bad pick. One CarGurus user noted that, while they do require near-constant attention, the cars aren’t actually too difficult to work on, and there’s a strong—if a bit pedantic—enthusiast base available. We like the MGB GT in particular because U.S.-market versions pre-date the mandated rubber bumpers from 1975, and it provides plenty of cargo space with its convenient hatchback.
5. The Honda Accord continues to be the standard-bearer for long-lived sedans. Among the most popular of Japanese-born cars, the Accord has built its reputation for reliability throughout the decades. Each iteration year after year has met and even surpassed the expectations set by its previous iterations. The Accord has consistently met acclaim and awards throughout its history. We’re willing to bet this was one of the first cars you thought of when reading the word “reliability,” and there’s a reason for that. The whole point of this list was to highlight cars other than the reliability-juggernaut sedans of the Japanese automakers, but we couldn’t leave the Accord off this list. It’s the gold standard of reliability.
4. The Ford Crown Victoria has long been a staple of police departments, rental fleets, and taxi companies. Considering the fact that the Crown Vic regularly handles stop-and-go traffic, sits idling for thousands of hours, and still runs strong close to 200K, it’s hard to argue against it. Unfortunately, pesky government fuel-efficiency regulations spelled the beginning of the end for the legendary car, and Ford ceased production after the 2011 model year. Lucky for you, there are still a ton of Crown Vics on the road, and it’s relatively easy to find one. Just head to the CarGurus listings or your local government auction and you’re sure to find a great deal on one. Think how awesome it will be when you pull up next to that cop at the light and he gets lost in the curves of the Crown Vic, longing for the days when he got to patrol in a car with loads of interior room and a beefy V8. His loss is your gain.
3. The Toyota Tacoma has a reputation for rock-solid reliability. While that reliability has come into question with more recent models, older Tacomas are among the toughest and most reliable cars ever produced. Before the Tacoma killed off the competition and cornered the small-pickup market, Toyota worked extremely hard to make the Tacoma an absolute beast. In order to compete with the well-established Ford Ranger and Dodge Dakota, the first Tacoma needed to be as reliable as its predecessor, the Toyota Pickup, and as indestructible as its cousin, the Toyota Hilux (which Top Gear famously tried to kill and couldn’t). Toyota succeeded and brought us a truck that’s survived everything from rural farm life to going into battle with the Special Forces. We’d have no qualms buying one with a hefty 100k on the clock—at that point it’s just getting broken in.
2. When you imagine a car capable of hundreds of thousands of miles, chances are you’re thinking of a Mercedes-Benz 300-Class. The iconic 300D has been known to crack 500,000 miles without requiring an engine rebuild, thanks to its absolutely bulletproof 3-liter, 5-cylinder OM617 diesel engine. On top of their factory-provided reliability, the engine in these big Mercs is also now a favorite for bio-fuel conversions. Now going on almost 40 years, the W123 chassis, produced between 1976 and 1985, would be our choice. These cars are good looking, solidly built, and reliable enough to be considered family heirlooms.
1. If you really want a car that will last forever, just buy any new car. It’s no surprise that companies like Jeep, Kia, and even beleaguered GM are standing behind 100,000-mile powertrain warranties. With average mileage resting somewhere around 13,500 miles driven per year, any car less than 5 years old and with 100,000 miles on the clock will have been enjoying a mostly highway diet. Considering the relatively low stress that highway driving puts on vehicles and the sophistication of new engine technology, just about any newer car can be expected to run well into six figures with regular maintenance, whether it be a 2012 Audi A8 or a 2012 Hyundai Accent. Naturally, if you opt for the Audi, you’ll pay a little (or a lot) more for that maintenance, but there’s no reason to bet that it will be any more reliable than the budget-friendly Hyundai.
What car with over 100,000 miles would you buy with no reservations?
-jharrington, msmith and zwaller
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