by Eric Mack
If you listen to the radio, you may have heard those Car Talk guys say that buying and maintaining a used car is almost always cheaper in the long run than buying, financing and maintaining a new car. And on the same show, you've no doubt heard the countless tales from “Bonnie in Minnesota” and her car with 300,000 miles that just keeps running, even in the harsh winters, and with minimal maintenance. Chances are you've heard such stories of nearly invincible cars from people you know, or maybe you've even told them yourself.
With the economy in the tank and more folks looking for these used diamonds in the rough, we compiled the following list of 'forever cars' from research, reviews from places like Edmunds and Consumer Reports, fun little anecdotes, and even our own personal experience. It's far from scientific, but neither is picking a used car. In fact it's still relatively a crap shoot, and no model carries an absolute guarantee of everlasting life, but here's a few that seem to beat the odds more than others.
1. Subaru Wagons
Here's a Japanese company that just knows how to make a hatchback. Whether it's a new Forester or a vintage GL, they seem to be ubiquitous everywhere you go, including some of the harshest climates around. Whether it's Alaska, Minnesota or high in the Rockies, you can bet on seeing a disproportionate number of Suby wagons still rockin' the road.
2. Ford F-150
There may have been a few dodgy years back in the 80s and before, but even older models still ply the road as the prototypical 'work truck' that goes anywhere and does anything. As the years keep coming, this best-selling pickup continues to earn its keep.
3. Scandinavian oddities
For years, some of the older European models were notoriously unreliable, and yet, those same Volvos and Saabs hold some of the automotive world records for longevity. A 1989 Saab 900 SPG previously owned by a Wisconsin salesman now sits in a museum with its original engine, having turned over 1 million miles, and a New York schoolteacher holds the world-record with the 2.5 million miles put on his 1966 Volvo P1800. Go figure.
When it comes to living a long, luxurious life, Lexus is among the front-runners. Both luxury sedan and crossover SUV models make just about every list of “used best buys.” Who says posh can't be affordable?
5. Toyota 4-Runner and Tacoma
Back in the early 80s, after 21 iterations, the Toyota engineers scored a hit with the 22R engine, the mainstay of the 4-Runner and other models until the mid-90s. The model is still a hot topic of conversation in tinkering circles today for its reliability. The Tacoma comes from the same mold, just about the only light truck that can really give the F-150 a run for its money. Let us know if you see one for sale with an extended cab.
6. Honda Accord
When it comes to long-lasting autos, sometimes basic is best. The Accord is to mid-range commuter cars what the F-150 is to mid-size trucks. Change the oil, hope for the best and the odds are you won't be disappointed.
7. Mitsubishi Endeavor
A relatively new kid on the block, debuting in mass production only in 2003, the Endeavor seems to be a likely contender for the emerging title of 'everlasting crossover.' The Honda Element scores high marks across the board in this category, as well.
8. Toyota Corolla / Camry
We figured plenty of Corolla and Camry owners would be getting indignant after seeing the Accord higher up on the list. Truth is, it's the Corolla that really makes the grade for never saying when, but we threw the Camry in just for the sheer volume of the things that we see on the road – and we mean every road – every single day, no matter how ugly they may get. Keep the faith, people!
9. BMW 3-Series
Here's a true dream car. Looks, performance, long-life. They told us it was impossible to marry a car, and that may be true, but that doesn't mean you can't forge a beautiful and lasting relationship with one of these. Don't worry what everyone else says. Trust us, they're just jealous.
10. Toyota Prius
Let's hope it lasts, because we sure as heck can't help you with fixing this one. In the rush for auto companies to go green, many put out early hybrids plagued by electrical problems like the Saturn Vue Green line, which has atrocious battery issues. But when it comes to this groundbreaking design, the original leaders at Toyota seem to have gotten it right the first time, with almost unanimous agreement among the experts that this is the hybrid most likely to outlive that puppy that just peed on your leg.
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