How Long Should Cars Last?


Automakers love the media attention they receive when one of their vehicles passes the million-mile mark.

It has happened a handful of times to the likes of Volvo, Toyota, Saab, and Chevrolet. Sometimes the owner of a million-mile car gets special treatment by the automaker and occasionally even drives away with a brand new car.

Of course, most cars self-destruct long before reaching the million-mile mark. Many don’t even crest 200,000 miles, and most owners start thinking that it’s time for a new car sometime after 100,000 miles.

Automakers face a conundrum of sorts because they want their cars to be long-lasting, but also want to make money by keeping people coming back for new cars. So how long should a car last?

I own a 1999 Toyota Land Cruiser with 287,000 miles on the clock, and the engine still runs strong and remains reliable even when towing a 26-foot boat. The old Toyota shows no signs of an imminent death. On the other hand, I just got rid of a 2008 Audi Q7 with 128,000 miles that felt like it was on its last legs.

An article at The Truth About Cars brings up the idea of disposable cars and gives an example of some software built into BMW cars that hints at their expected lifespan.

Starting around 2002, BMW implemented a system called Condition Based Service (CBS), which is a set of algorithms that calculates how often service such as oil changes should be performed. The system uses sensors and mileage to make the calculations, allowing them to increase the time between service intervals without any detrimental effects on the vehicle.

The CBS system, though, stops working after 300,000 kilometers (about 186,000 miles). That’s not to say that the car will stop working after that predetermined milestone, but the car will no longer remind owners of upcoming service needs or monitor the car’s health. In fact, once the system stops working, the driver is continuously reminded that service is due via a red dash light that can only be turned off by a technician.

All of the details about the BMW issue can be read in the TTAC article, but the bigger point is this: Do automakers have expected lifespans for their cars, and what signs point to their coming demise?

How do you know when it’s time to get rid of a vehicle?


Find Certified Pre-Owned Cars and Used Cars in your area at CarGurus.

Used Toyota Land Cruiser
Used Audi Q7


  1. a lot of talks about cars reliability and dependability and about cars that last longer. 100% of the time cars reviews. always give a good mark on a brand new cars that who know how are they after 6 or 7 or 10 years on the road ?!

    a lot of 4 Cylinders with Turbo. that they say it is powerfull and fast. i wonder about the downside? because nothing is perfect. the other side when it comes to sales and marketing. not all people are really able to buy a new car the price tag we see advertised on a car.

    is not the real number that the car will be sold. it is always at least $100 more than what’s advertised. after adding all these taxes and fees to it. right now I’m in the market to buy a car i thought buying new car!!. and i make not bad income in my bad week i make $400. but the future is danger in the world of business.

    these days. you will never know how long the business will keep on operating. that for the decision. on buying a new car is pretty much difficult. even if i can make that monthly payment. that for i start looking into used cars just so i can make these payments in case i get unemployed. i will still be able to make that monthly payment. what makes it more difficult special when buying a used car. is the dealer integrity.

    does he or she really care not to rip off. an ordinary working people?!!! i don’t think in such. hard life. people think like that . but it is scary world to trust out there!!!special when buying a car. because cars sales people have a really bad reputation. right now i have good running car model year is 2002 V6 3.0L Mitsubishi 165K on it . still planning on keeping it. but i still think i need another one beside it.

  2. This place is pretty amazing. When I went to buy my new car the sales rep was kind and courteous and respectful of what I needed it a car. He didn’t try to sell me a car I didn’t need just so he could get a bigger commission. Instead we talked about what I needed in a car and he then took me around the lot showing me the cars that fit into what I needed. Once I settled on the car he was able to help me get an awesome financing package. I was able to get a new car instead of a used one and I love, love, love my new car. My sales rep made sure I was able to get not only what I needed in a vehicle, but what I wanted as well. He made the whole process of buying an incredible painless. I would defiantly be recommending this dealership to anyone looking for a vehicle.

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