10 cars people keep for 10 years

Do you like to keep a car long after loan payments have ended -- even 10 years or more? Lots of people do, according to iSeeCars.com, which has come up with a list of vehicles that most often stay with one owner for a decade or longer.

The automotive site, which uses a so-called big data approach to research, looked at 2.5 million used-car sales in 2016 involving model years ranging from 1981 to 2006. For the average vehicle in the study, 12.9 percent of those sold came from the original owner after 10 years. But for the top two models -- Toyota Highlander Hybrid and Toyota Prius -- nearly one-third of those sold were one-owner vehicles for a decade or more.  

Overall, the top 10 models were nearly twice as likely as the average car to be one-owner 10-year vehicles, all of which were Japanese brands. “That isn’t surprising,” said iSeeCars CEO Phong Ly, “since they have a reputation for reliability.”

More unexpected, said Ly, is that nine of the top 10 models are either SUVs or minivans. But he added: “These kinds of cars tend to be family cars, so they might be expected to be kept for many years if they’re bought just as the owners start their new families.”

Here are some other highlights of the iSeeCars study:

  • Hybrids are three of the top 10. In addition to the top-selling hybrid Toyota Highlander Hybrid and Prius, the Lexus RX Hybrid is on the list. This seems to contradict worries about hybrid battery life that were common when the Prius went on sale here in 2000. Prius batteries can last up to 200,000 miles, although fuel economy performance may suffer after 60,000 to 80,000 miles, according to specialist research firm The Hybrid Shop.
  • Pickup trucks are just about average. Although they’re among the best-selling vehicles in the U.S., the Chevrolet Silverado, the Ford F-150 and the RAM 1500 are all near the average rating of 12.9 percent of owners holding a specific model for 10 years or longer. “Trucks are often used as heavy work vehicles and so are driven much more than a typical passenger car,” said iSeeCars’ Ly. “Consequently they may need to be replaced earlier.”
  • Lease  and fleet cars trail the list. Cars that are popular for leases, which typically last three years, had a low ranking on this list. For instance, among the BMW 7-series sold in 2016, only 4 percent came from the original owner after 10 years. Domestic nameplates that are popular for rental and other fleets showed similar results. For instance, the Ford Taurus had a rating of 5.6 percent.

If you’re shopping for a cheap used car, Ly suggested that long-held one-owner cars can be good value. Such a car, he says, “is very likely to have been well cared for both in terms of cleanliness as well as maintenance and upkeep.”

Here are the top 10 vehicles on iSeeCars’ list and the percentages of that model sold in 2016 that had been held for 10 years or more by one owner:

Toyota Highlander Hybrid -- 32.1 percent

Toyota Prius -- 32 percent

Toyota Highlander -- 29 percent

Toyota Sienna -- 28.7 percent

Honda Pilot -- 27.2 percent

Honda CR-V -- 25.2 percent

Toyota RAV4 -- 24.9 percent

Subaru Forester -- 24.2 percent

Lexus RX Hybrid -- 24.1 percent

Honda Odyssey -- 24 percent 

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    Jerry Edgerton, author of Car Shopping Made Easy, has been covering the car beat since Detroit companies dominated the U.S. market. The former car columnist for Money magazine and Washington correspondent for Business Week, Edgerton specializes in finding the best deals on wheels and offering advice on making your car last.