Short Answer: The number of miles you can put on a vehicle varies depending on the car, your driving style, and where you live, but there are a few general guidelines to keep in mind. Most modern cars can make it to at least 200,000 miles, barring any accidents or serious issues. Below, we have more details about how many miles you can typically put on a car, as well as some tips for maximizing the lifespan of your car.
How Many Miles on a Car Before It Dies?
Whether you’re thinking about buying a new or used car but aren’t sure how long it will last or you already own a car and want to make a plan for when to replace it, it helps to know how many miles you can put on the car before it dies or needs major repairs.
A well-maintained, modern vehicle — manufactured within the past two decades — can, on average, make it to at least 200,000 miles before it dies. At this point, parts like the transmission, engine, or the body/frame generally start to need repairs. Repairs can theoretically extend the life of your car indefinitely, but, at some point, it’s no longer cost-effective, and most people will look for a new vehicle instead. Once the quoted cost of repairs starts to match or exceed your car’s value, you might opt to sell it, part it out, or send it to the junkyard for scrap.
That being said, there are some makes and models that are well-known for easily getting to 200,000 miles and beyond without costing much in repairs. Many models built by Honda, Toyota, and Subaru within the past two decades — with proper maintenance and responsible driving — will make it well past 200,000 miles without needing major repairs. Some will even make it to 300,000 without much difficulty.
Average Vehicle Lifespans
The automotive search engine iSeeCars.com conducted a study to evaluate the longevity of many of the major car brands. In this study, experts found that the two longest-lasting car brands are Honda and Toyota. These evaluations particularly take into account the percentage of each make and model that still have cars on the road with 200,000+ miles on them. Specific models reported to last the longest by this and subsequent studies include:
- Toyota Land Cruiser: 15.7% have over 200,000 miles
- Honda Odyssey: 2.7% have 200,000 miles
- Toyota Avalon: 2.6% have over 200,000 miles
- Honda Civic: 2.3% have over 200,000 miles
- Toyota Sienna: 2.0% have over 200,000 miles
- Honda Accord: 1.8% have over 200,000 miles
- Chevrolet Impala: 1.6% have over 200,000 miles
- Toyota Camry: 1.5% have over 200,000 miles
Subaru, while not topping the list in recent years, also has several models like the Forester and Outback that are known for being long-lasting and reliable.
Car brands reported to be consistently unreliable and/or experience serious issues before reaching high mileage include Volkswagen (0.3% have over 200,000 miles), Kia (0.2%), and Audi (0.1%). Also, keep in mind that while some car brands may be reliable, they can be expensive to maintain and repair when issues arise — a few of these brands include BMW, Mercedes, and Cadillac.
There are actually a few makes and models that became famous for driving over one million miles. Some Mercedes diesel models from the 1970s and 1980s were so reliable that the company started an owner’s program to reward drivers whose cars made it to the million-mile mark. One even went for almost 3 million miles before Mercedes bought it to put it in one of its museums. Older Volvos were also known for extreme mileage as well. However, these cars were the exception, not the rule. Most cars built before 1990 were only able to get to around 100,000 miles before requiring major repair work.
Tips for Getting More Miles Out of Your Car
You can help extend the life of your car with regular maintenance and careful driving. Below, we list some things to keep in mind when trying to get your car to last as long as possible.
The most important thing to keep in mind when you’re looking to get the most life out of your car is to follow the manufacturer’s scheduled maintenance list, which you can find in the car’s owner’s manual. These schedules were created for a reason, and even things like getting oil changes and changing spark plugs can make a difference in the life of your car. One specific replacement to keep in mind is the timing belt and knowing when to change it. Another thing to keep an eye on is the type of oil your car uses — for example, if you’ve always used regular oil, it is not the best idea to suddenly switch to synthetic oil, or vice versa.
Additionally, while it may seem like using the highest possible fuel octane is good for your car, it is generally best to use the octane level recommended by the manufacturer. If you follow all of the manufacturer’s recommendations, you can be well on your way to 200,000 miles.
Driving in a calm, defensive, and proactive manner will help you get the most life out of your car. Racing through traffic lights, taking corners too fast, and braking hard are all driving behaviors that add unnecessary wear to your car and can cause parts to wear out prematurely. Driving responsibly will keep you and your car safe, and it can also help save you money — you can get better gas mileage and avoid things like traffic tickets and even accidents that can increase your insurance rates.
Most people can’t and won’t simply pick up and move just to keep their cars running longer, but it is true that some locations are better for cars than others. Snowy climates where roads are salted tend to cause rust damage. Similarly, rainy climates and even beach areas with salt spray can cause premature rust and corrosion. Areas prone to hailstorms can also be dangerous for cars that are left uncovered. Additionally, constantly driving on poorly maintained roads can take a toll on your tires and your car’s suspension system.
Vehicles thrive in sunny, dry, unsalted areas with smooth roads — if you don’t live in an area like this, you may at least be able to mimic some of these favorable conditions by keeping your car covered and in a garage, if possible. You can also get an oil spray coating for the underbody of your car to help prevent corrosion.
While some car brands and models are known to last longer than others, the ultimate lifespan of your car ultimately depends on how well you care for it. Most modern cars can easily make it to 200,000 miles, as long as you stay on top of your car’s maintenance and practice safe driving habits. It also helps to live in a climate without inclement weather, or to at least keep your car covered and as protected from the elements as possible.