I'm fascinated by cars, even though I have no mechanical skills, and I've rarely had the budget or space to keep a car just for fun. So I couldn't resist a fairly lengthy response when I saw a question about the merits of American vs. Japanese vs. European cars -- in particular, of keeping one for 15 years or more.
Now, do you see that bare patch on the hood just above the headlight? That’s a rust bloom that started from underneath the paint and slowly blossomed to the surface. Over the years, I dealt with several rust spots on this truck, including both rear control arms. And I’ve since learned it’s a common owner complaint.
Before we jump to conclusions, however, about superiority vs. inferiority, note that Toyota is paying up to $3.4 billion in a class action settlement for rusty trucks:. I’m not saying that to rile Toyota loyalists; I’m just pointing out that rust is not a uniquely American occurrence.
Moving along, here’s another example.
I’m cheating a little. If you’re familiar with Jeeps, you’ll recognize this as a Jeep Wrangler JK model made from model years 2007 to 2018. The particular example shown above is a 2009 model which I’ve had since December 2008. In terms of reliability and durability, it’s been stellar. And, so far, no rust despite ten years of winter grime and brine. While it doesn’t yet meet the 15 year criterion, I’ve no reason not to think that it won’t blow it away in due time — which I fully intend for it to do. And here’s part of the reason why.
This is a 2000 Jeep Wrangler (the TJ model) which I drove off a dealer’s lot 19 years ago. It’s still mine, and it’s still doing great. We’ve had our share of repairs over the years, but nothing close to a rebuild for either engine or transmission. And most of those repairs were needed during the seven years when two of my children used this Jeep, in succession, as their daily drivers.
I got it back from my older son a few years ago, and I’ve been having a great time with it. But it’s beginning to show its age. The heater core gave up the ghost just a few weeks ago, and the air conditioning packed it in sometime around 2010. But since I only drive it with the top down, it doesn’t really matter to me. I figure I’ll keep driving it until one us turns to rust (or dust).
To give Europeans their due, I had a 1985 VW Jetta for 11 years. It was my first-ever new car, in fact.
The Jetta was a great car, but at the 10 year mark it began having problems. It was mostly little stuff, as I recall, but everything was expensive to fix. When the air conditioning gave out (I lived in south Florida at the time), I decided to pack it in. I’m pretty sure I could have gotten 15 years or more out of it, but my budget wouldn’t allow for it. That’s a Lhasa Apso licking her nose in the front seat, by the way.
As a college student, I bought a 19 year old VW Karmann Ghia Type 34 and drove it happily for five years. I’d consider that pretty satisfactory. I can’t find a picture of mine at this moment so here’s one I grabbed from online, also in Lotus White. Mine had an electric sunroof.
As one other poster on this thread has pointed out, Chevy Suburbans are noted for longevity. I had a ’92 for 11 years (bought it used) before I downsized to the Expedition. It was an incredible truck, especially in terms of utility, and I still miss it. It’s the best vehicle for a cross-country road trip with kids and dogs: hands down. I did have to rebuild the transmission, however.
I could go on, as I’ve owned a lot of cars over the years. These are just most of my favorites. But here’s one more. This is our “new” car: a 2014 Lexus that we bought about 16 months ago as I write this.
We chose it because it was smaller and more comfortable than the Expedition. But also because, given the brand’s reputation, we believed it would deliver both good reliability and durability. It hasn’t been that long, but nothing’s broken yet and I’ve no reason to believe it won’t pass the 15 year mark. On the other hand, I’ve no reason to believe that this Lexus will last any longer than my other vehicles, be they American or European.
Which brings me to this concluding thought: how long do you want your vehicles to last? None are perfect, but if you take care of them with regular maintenance and fix what breaks down, chances are you’ll be driving them for a long time.