I often drive from Fergus Falls, MN to Wadena, MN, a distance of about 55 miles. Between and inside these two towns, it seems that nearly all 1980s cars that are still being driven are Toyota vehicles. From the automobiles that I see being driven on the highways between, and on the streets within, these two communities, I might venture the guess that Toyota Motor Corporation had 80% to 95% of the U.S. new car market in the 1980s. However, back then, Toyota’s share of the U.S. car market was in the single digits. This suggests that 1980s Toyota automobiles have remarkable durability, relative to the products of other auto makers.
I have a fascination with car durability, as I own a 1984 Toyota Corolla hatchback, presently with more than 545,000 miles. I bought this car new in 1984 because of its Consumer Reports’ reliability history, but I had no idea that I would enjoy owning it longer than the 4 years that I owned my 1976 and 1980 General Motors cars, both with multiple problems and speedy dilapidation, and the latter with large rust spots within the first year and a half, cracks in the dashboard, and a sweating steering wheel, not to mention the mechanism failures.
So, my personal experiences have strongly suggested that Toyota vehicles have both a reliability and a durability that far exceeds the products of most automobile manufacturers. However, the question arises: Are these experiences anomalies without any guide for others as to what they might anticipate?
Most likely, they are not anomalies. The available data suggest that Toyota products are very long lasting, lasting much longer than those of most other motor vehicle manufacturers.
Here is some of that data.
From 2001 to 2009, visitors to a leading automotive website specializing in auto reliability and durability information were given an opportunity to submit information regarding their high mileage automobiles for inclusion in one or more of the site’s high mileage rosters that were then available. From the information provided, Toyota Motor Corporation accounted for more than 63% of the cars and trucks with 400,000 or more miles and 15 or more years and 60% of the Top 25 highest mileage vehicles.
Also from 2001 to 2009, owners of Toyota cars and trucks were asked, by one of the site’s online surveys, to estimate when their vehicle would be akin to a typical Big Three vehicle at 50,000 miles, taking account of “repair needs, unpleasant noises, surges, knocks, structural integrity, body-accessory integrity, proper component functioning, and interior esthetics.” The median estimate was 250,000 miles, suggesting that Big Three vehicles age about 5 times more rapidly than Toyota vehicles.
Similar aging results were obtained by detailed computations using the reliability information available in several years of Consumer Reports’ reliability tables. By these computations, the estimated age at which a typical 1999 Toyota model will be as troublesome as a typical 1999 General Motors model was at age 3 years was found to be 19 years. Corresponding estimated Toyota age equivalents for a 3-year-old typical 1999 model by Chrysler and Ford were 17 years and 15 years, respectively.
Consequently, the data indicate that 1980s and 1990s Toyota vehicles have been good prospects for long-term ownership. The question of interest today is: What 2000s vehicles are good prospects for 20-year to 35-year ownership?
For any vehicle to be a good long-term-ownership prospect, it must remain reliable as it ages, that is, it must have a low frequency of serious problems at all ages. The benchmark set here is that a good long-term-ownership candidate must have, at the very least, an overall 2010 Car Reliability Grade Point Average of 3.80 over a full 10-year data history. By this standard, the prospects, together with their 10-year-data-history GPA, are:
The V6 Toyota 4Runner, a midsize SUV with a perfect 4.00 GPA,
The 4-cylinder Toyota RAV4, a small SUV with a 3.88 GPA,
Toyota Motor Corporation’s Lexus RX, a midsize SUV with a 3.88 GPA,
Toyota Motor Corporation’s Lexus ES, a upscale sedan with a 3.81 GPA,
Toyota Motor Corporation’s Lexus LS, a luxury sedan with a 3.81 GPA,
The Toyota Corolla, a small sedan with a 3.81 GPA,
The V6, 4-wheel-drive Toyota Tacoma, a small-to-midsize pickup truck with a 3.81 GPA,
The 4-cylinder Honda Accord, a midsize sedan with a 3.81 GPA.
Close to meeting the standard are the Honda Civic Sedan with a 3.75 10-year-data-history GPA, the 4-cylinder Toyota Camry with a 3.69 GPA, and the Honda CR-V with a 3.63 GPA.
A good candidate for meeting the standard next year is the Toyota Prius, with a 9-year-data-history GPA of a perfect 4.00.