15 cars you can drive for 15 years

From a personal finance point of view, buying a car and driving it for as long as you can is the most economical thing to do. Some extreme buy-and-hold motorists now keep their cars running for 15 years or more.

"While a decade on the road used to be a significant milestone for vehicle life expectancy, the elevated quality of cars being produced has raised this standard," said Phong Ly, CEO of iSeeCars.com. His research firm is out with a study showing which vehicles' original owners are most likely to keep them for 15 years or more. The study looked at 650,000 cars sold in 2017 that were 2002 or earlier models.

The top vehicle is the Toyota Highlander SUV, which had 18.3 percent of cars sold in 2017 that were 15 years or older -- 2.7 times the average vehicle's 6.8 percent. The list is dominated by Japanese models, with Toyotas, Hondas, Subarus and Nissans. The one non-Japanese model that made the top 15 is the Volkswagen Golf.

"Japanese automakers are known for setting quality and reliability standards, so it is no surprise that they are most likely to reach the 15-year milestone," said Ly.

When the comparison was made for brands instead of individual models, one American name, GMC, made it into the top 10. It was in the decade after 2000 that U.S. cars really caught up to imports in quality. So it could be that a future study would show more Detroit-based brands on this list.

Toyota dominated with nine of the top 15 models. Those nine included Toyota's most popular models such as the Camry sedan and RAV4 compact SUV. Also on that list is the gas-electric hybrid Prius. "Despite consumers' concerns about battery durability and the associated high replacement cots, its appearance on the list shows that the reliability of the Prius measures up to Toyota's conventional fuel counterparts," said Ly.

Honda has two entries on the 15-year list: the Odyssey minivan and the CR-V compact SUV. As for the only non-Japanese entry, the study points out that the Volkswagen Golf is highly practical as a compact car with unusually commodious cargo space. 

Here's the full list:

RankModel% Original Owners Keeping Car for 15+ YearsCompared to Average
1Toyota Highlander18.3%2.7x
2Toyota Sienna17.1%2.5x
3Toyota Tundra15.7%2.3x
4Toyota Prius15.0%2.2x
5Toyota RAV414.3%2.1x
6Honda Odyssey12.8%1.9x
7Toyota Sequoia12.8%1.9x
8Toyota Tacoma12.4%1.8x
9Honda CR-V11.9%1.7x
10Toyota Avalon11.7%1.7x
11Acura MDX11.6%1.7x
12Toyota Camry11.5%1.7x
13Subaru Forester11.5%1.7x
14Nissan Frontier11.0%1.6x
15Volkswagen Golf10.6%1.6x
Average for All Cars6.8%-

(Table courtesy of iSeeCars.com)

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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.