The Keepers: 10 Cars People Hold Onto for 10 Years or More

March 30th, 2017 by

What makes a car a keeper? For one thing, it has to be reliable. Any vehicle giving owners headaches in the first few years usually head to the used auto market. Versatility is a close second. The models owners keep for the long haul (at least a decade) have to be adaptable to changing lifestyles. Those that can handle another child or a new outdoor hobby make the cut.

According to research by iSeeCars.com, Japanese-branded SUVs and crossovers rule when it comes to the vehicles Americans keep longer than a decade. Using data on 2.5 million used auto sales over 25 model years (ending in 2006), the car search engine isolated the 10 vehicles that owner had kept at least 10 years. For the best models of the bunch, nearly one-third (32.1%) of all a car’s owners had kept it in the garage for over a decade.

That’s quite a track record, and you’ll notice two Japanese companies with the lion’s share of cars on the list.

Here are the 10 vehicles that are the keepers — the ones people hold onto forever, or the next closest thing

10. Honda Odyssey

Family haulers made up a big part of the list of keepers. According to iSeeCars CEO Phong Ly, it makes sense when you think of why people buy them. “They might be expected to be kept for many years if they’re bought just as their owners start their new families,” he said. In the case of the Honda Odyssey, almost one in four (24%) buyers kept the minivan for 10 years or longer.

9. Lexus RX hybrid

When you think back to 2006, hybrids were barely a sliver of the U.S. marketplace, but that’s when the first Lexus RX 400h landed in America. Since its debut, it has been one of the vehicles people refuse to give up. According to the sales data, 24.1% of RX buyers held onto this early hybrid SUV for at least 10 years. Its reliability, versatility, and enduring style obviously did the trick.

8. Subaru Forester

Anyone who peruses lists of the most reliable cars will usually find at least one Subaru. In the iSeeCars study, the Forester was the brand’s lone model in the top 10. Some 24.2% of owners kept their Foresters a decade or longer, which is about two times the average. As a whole, Subaru ranked third among brands with the most keepers in the model lineup.

7. Toyota RAV4

While American pickup trucks always occupy the top spots on every sales list, these vehicles were nowhere near the top keepers. In fact, only two of the top 10 sellers were models people always tended to keep over a decade. Toyota RAV4, No. 8 in U.S. sales for 2016, is one that stays in owners’ garages forever. One in every four (24.9%) RAV4 buyers hung onto the crossover for at least 10 years, according to the study.

6. Honda CR-V

Another keeper that ranks very high (No. 7) on U.S. sales lists is Honda CR-V. It’s hard to drive anywhere in America without seeing a few of these compact SUVs, and once people buy them, they keep them. More than one in four (25.2%) had their CR-Vs more than a decade after the original purchase, which is exactly twice the average.

5. Honda Pilot

It’s impossible not to notice a pattern here. Car buyers target a Japanese-branded SUV, buy, then worry about a new model some 10 years later. In the case of the Honda Pilot, owners stick with the good thing they originally chose. A remarkable 27.2% of Pilot owners kept theirs in their possession for over a decade in the iSeecars.com study.

4. Toyota Sienna

On a list that began with the Honda minivan, it was only a matter of time before Toyota’s kid hauler entered the picture. Sienna was the top performer in the segment with 28.7% of its original owners hanging onto it for at least 10 years. That ratio is more than twice (2.2 times) the average length of ownership. Buyers don’t change until the kids all grow up.

3. Toyota Highlander

There are many SUVs that outsell the Toyota Highlander, but none compare with this model’s devotion it inspires among owners. By the time they went to sell, an amazing 29% of Highlander owners had held onto their vehicle for at least a decade. Actually, the only Toyota SUV that did not make this list was 4Runner, a vehicle that has been called out for a few safety issues.

2. Toyota Prius

Remember when hybrid skeptics warned about the potential for batteries becoming worthless? You don’t hear them much anymore because Toyota Prius is not only among the most reliable cars ever; it’s also one owners never give up until a decade passes. A whopping 32% of Prius owners waited 10 years before putting the hybrid back on the market. While part of that term was waiting for the hybrid premium to be repaid, the other part was the owner recognizing the car’s value. Prius is the only passenger car to make this list.

1. Toyota Highlander Hybrid

Of the millions of vehicles iSeeCars looked at, none had the devotion of owners like those of Toyota Highlander Hybrid. Since its debut over a decade ago, some 32.1% of original buyers held onto the car for more than 10 years. Every trim got better than 30 MPG in city driving, which was an extraordinary number at the time and is not exceeded by the 2017 model year. Two and half times as many people kept their Highlander Hybrid as did the average car. Guess those batteries hold up after all.

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