Cars in general have become more reliable over the years. Yet there are always some that just seem to keep rolling along, whistling right past the junkyard. Pinpointing exactly how many miles, on average, any given model has racked up is virtually impossible, but we’ve identified some with exceptional — sometimes surprising — endurance and value.
When you combine reliability and best-selling status you get ubiquity. Honda Accords of all years are everywhere, usually in tan, silver or white, like my friend Marcel’s 1999 model. It’s pushing 200,000 miles without any engine or transmission work, and relatively indifferent care. Sorry, Marcel. If you look up the Honda Accord in Consumer Reports you will see a sea of red dots in the rankings — a sign that owners have darn few problems with these cars.
Now, the smaller Honda Civic shares the Accord’s inherent quality but is more likely to be modified by its owners with spoilers, wings, loud exhausts, that kind of thing — with maintenance simultaneously neglected. So the Accord gets our nod.
Of all the cars General Motors put out in the 1990s and early 2000s, it’s the Buicks that got all the awards from the quality-ranking organization J.D. Power and Associates. And it’s also the Buick LeSabre, along with Centuries, Regals and Park Avenues that live on, more so than their Chevrolet, Pontiac and Oldsmobile equivalents.
One reason these cars endure? They were popular with older drivers, who maintained them well and drove them gently. That makes them a great value to pick up used, which is what my co-worker Marc did with his 2004 LeSabre. He bought it with 74,000 miles and has put on another 84,000 with very little trouble. Check out that sweet cassette deck!
And this is a Geo Prizm. They last forever, too. A what, you ask? Here’s the secret: Under the skin, it’s actually a Toyota Corolla. So are a number of Chevy Novas, Chevy Prizms and Pontiac Vibes. Makes more sense now, right? It’s a Corolla! All these cars were built on the same line in California, at a factory jointly owned by GM and Toyota. That technology-sharing project ended in 2010, but these cars, sometimes into their third decade, roll on. My boss uses the one you see here, a 1996 model, for his daily 46-mile commute. Sure, he could buy something fancier, but he loves his Prizm and its great gas mileage. He gets about 35 miles per gallon.