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High Mileage Champions – Tough Used Cars

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Not all vehicles are built the same. Some models are large comfortable beasts, some vehicles are as compact as possible with lots of visibility, some are packed with features and luxury items.

Mileage badges on a used MB

Some manufacturers even have high mileage badges for customers.

For a price, almost any car can be kept on the road. In fact, we are reaching the point where some modern vehicles are becoming labeled as ‘disposable cars’.

The cost of high tech brand-specific parts can make the price of repairs higher than the value of the vehicle. This is why it’s more important than ever to know which makes/models/years are both repairable and built for mileage/durability.

Average Vehicle Lifespan

According to Wikipedia: “the typical car is driven 15,000 miles per year”, but that’s for US vehicles, and that’s ~24,100KMs once converted! Our own local Canadian mileage data suggests that the norm is closer to 15,000 KMs per year on average.

Oddly enough there’s very little data on average age of vehicles because of the way that vehicles ‘retire’. In fact, on Vancouver island, when a VW Microbus is due to be scrapped because it has a dead motor, it’s very common to transplant the motor/mechanicals from a used Subaru into the VW and scrap the Subaru instead! These situations would skew the data from wrecking yards, if we had data from the folks who are actually scrapping/crushing cars.

Local Vehicle Data

We can see there’s lots of reasons why Canadian statistics can vary vs. US statistics, but even if we weren’t living on Vancouver Island, and we were just shopping for “BC” vehicles, there’s a unique difference in statistics per province!

2016 Motor Vehicle Statistics
  Canada Alta. B.C. Diff
Total vehicle registrations 33,771,855 5,110,089 3,615,373 29.25%
Total road motor vehicle registrations 24,269,868 3,500,176 3,130,526 10.56%
Less than 4,500 kg 22,410,030 3,063,493 2,901,758 5.28%
4,500 kg – 14,999 kg 590,023 184,774 113,244 38.71%
Vehicles weighing 15,000 kg+ 462,908 106,938 42,356 60.39%
Buses 90,643 15,794 9,838 37.71%
Motorcycles and mopeds 716,264 129,177 63,330 50.97%
Trailers 7,269,669 1,419,854 430,948 69.65%
Off-road1, construction, farm vehicles 2,232,318 190,059 53,899 71.64%
1. Off road vehicles include snowmobiles, dune buggies and amphibious vehicles.
Source: Statistics Canada, CANSIM, table 405-0004.

More than double the heavy vehicles, and almost 1 million extra trailer registrations in Alberta vs. BC? It’s truly amazing how the local economy can impact the automotive market!

Used Cars on Vancouver Island are Unique

With over 25 years of experience selling used vehicles in Victoria and Vancouver Island, we know a lot about the difference in vehicles between cities. Not just how the vehicles are used, or which items wear faster, but also what vehicles are well suited to the needs of local residents.

In fact, if you were shopping for used cars in Courtenay you would notice a major difference compared to other locations. Go ahead and try comparing the search results with used cars in Victoria.

Used car shoppers in Courtenay/Comox Valley (and nearby areas like Powell River/Campbell River) are far more likely to need a reliable used car or truck that can handle high mileage without expensive and frequent mechanical intervention. A convertible sports/luxury might be nice to cruise around the city, but it’d be painfully expensive to commute between CFB Esquimalt and CFB Comox with such a vehicle.

Local Long Haul Champions

We’ll obviously be avoiding newer models that need time to prove themselves. What we’re looking for are popular local cars that we know age gracefully, without needing to urge your children to look at a career in automotive repair.

Automotive mechanic servicing vehicle engine
If you’re a mechanic with enough spare parts/money, any vehicle can survive high mileage.

For reasons mentioned above, not many of our readers will benefit from luxury statistics, same with exotics/sports cars (longevity isn’t a primary goal in these vehicles), and we also need to keep the hybrid/electric cars out of the discussion, mostly because of the looming costs associated with EV batteries (if you must go green, the Prius is getting very favourable reliability ratings at the moment).

Kings of Reliability

There’s a sweet spot for reliability plus value that has become home to a few well known models from some of the top manufacturers. These aren’t the cheapest or the simplest cars, but they don’t qualify as ‘luxury’ either, straddling the divide without compromising reliability.

Toyota Camry

The Toyota Camry is a perfect example of a model with focus on longevity and value.

2007 Toyota Camry

The 2007 model year Toyota Camry brings noticeable improvements to handling and driving performance that really makes it stand out compared to previous years. If you noticed a small price bump from the 2006 MY listings, that’s one of the reasons why.

The Toyota Camry came with several package options to give them more performance and additional luxury/convenience, but the base vehicle is very reliable and the cost of ownership over time is very low compared to similar cars from other manufacturers. Adding in the high resale value & safety ratings, it’s easy to see why the Toyota Camry is frequently picked as one of the smartest automotive investments.

Honda Accord

While slightly more expensive than the Camry, the Honda Accord is more pleasing to the eye and very similar in many ways to the Camry.

2011 Honda Accord

Other than the premature brake wear issues in 2008, the last decade of Honda Accord sales have seen very little to complain about, with most of the complaints focused on interior component problems. The 2003 Accord was famous for transmission issues and a used car buyer would be clever to avoid going older than 10 years without some paperwork to clear the transmission of any concern.

Locally the price difference between these cars is invisible and it’s not unusual to find an Accord at a better price than a Camry with similar mileage and condition!

Nissan Maxima

We cannot forget about Nissan’s version of the Camry/Accord; The Nissan Maxima wasn’t as popular as our first two cars, but they were very competitive for reliability, especially the 1994-1999 MY range or ‘4th generation’ Maximas.

1999 Nissan Maxima

The Nissan VQ30DE motor found in the Maxima held several awards from 1995-2001 thanks to being very reliable, light (aluminum open deck design), efficient, and versatile. The VQ30DE-K that went into the 2000-2001 Maximas improved performance, making 224 hp in the anniversary edition, but this ‘improved’ motor has become notorious for unwanted oil consumption.

Newer models had concerns about engine and transmission reliability, with most years splitting the model by either SE or SL trims, with the SL being aimed at value.

Mazda 3

How can you go wrong with a great looking car from a reliable brand at a competitive price? In the late 90s Mazda was famous for innovating, and sometimes failing horribly, thanks in part to the rotary engine. So the Mazda 3, a replacement for the Protege starting in 2003, was sold to a mix of Mazda fanatics and new customers willing to give it a shot.

2012 Mazda 3

While the Mazda 3 had good sales, there were several things to improve. Variable valve timing was added to the 2.0l engine in 2006 to boost engine performance, but didn’t help much. A more powerful 2.5l motor, added in 2010-2011 was long overdue and soothed a lot of complaints about this car lacking in performance.

Why wouldn’t the 2010/11 Mazda 3 be your first pick? The primary reason has to be the new ‘skyactiv’ technology, that debuted in the Model 3 during the 2012+ years. It’s important to note that the ‘skyactiv’ package of drivetrain upgrades largely amounts to better fuel economy, with no serious reports of problems, or improvements to longevity. While we all want to save money on gas, we also can’t ignore that newer in this case also means unproven.

K.I.S.S. – Simple & Reliable Used Cars!

Everyone knows that more isn’t always better, and it’s really easy to go overboard and ruin a basic goal. The more ‘gee wiz’ options and gadgets a car has, the more things there are to break and fail, even some must-have vehicle options can result in a compromise of durability or functionality.

swiss army flash drive knife
For a knife, this would be a poor choice to pack around; The same is true if you wanted a flash drive.

A convertible might seem like a major perk during the summer, but when that feature breaks you’ll be driving around a non-convertible with a bunch of added weight and less storage space.

Let’s focus on a few very simple, reliable, long-haul used cars, that have proven to offer great value above all else.

Toyota Corolla

The compact Toyota Corolla slots in as a slightly smaller version of the Camry. With less horsepower and weight, it’ll get better fuel economy, while typically costing less than a Camry of the same age/mileage.

2006 Toyota Corolla

The 2004-2008 model year range saw few major issues, almost as few as the 2011-2013 stretch of Corollas. Engine noise/oil consumption in 2009/2010 ruined the recent streak; Prior to that, engine and transmission problems made the 2000-2003 model years less appealing. The ‘sticky gas pedal’ drama in 2014 resulted in a bunch of NHTSA complaints for the Camry, 28 of those were specifically related to ‘vehicle speed control’.

Kia Forte/Koup

Only starting production in 2010, the Kia Forte is a hard pick for this roundup of ‘proven performers’ but these cars really get driven hard (fleet/delivery vehicles) and stand up very well. Even at just 40,000kms per year, a well used 2010 Kia Forte would have way over 300,000kms on it by now.

2015 Kia Forte

As a replacement for the lackluster ‘Spectra’ sedan, the Kia Forte was welcomed for its improved styling, performance, economy, and handling. The ‘koup’ is the 2 door version for the Forte, but if you’re looking for something a bit more nimble/sporty, look for the SX version.

While generally a solid car, the 2010 and 2012 model year Fortes did get some complaints from owners about engine knock/noise that could be cost prohibitive to fix for any vehicle outside of the powertrain warranty. If you’re shopping for a Kia Forte outside of warranty, make sure you get a full professional inspection to avoid purchasing someone else’s issues.

Hyundai Accent/Elantra

Used car shoppers on a budget may already know about these two value options. The Hyundai Accent is a champion of low cost imports, so inexpensive that it automatically qualifies as a smart purchase for value reasons. The Hyundai Elantra isn’t as basic but the price difference between these models in the used market is minimal, making the Elantra a very tempting value option.

2007 Hyundai-Accent-GL

Best model years for used Hyundai Accents were from 2005-2009. The 2003 MY Accent also had few complaints but the year prior had engine stalling problems and the 2004 MY Accent that followed had lots of transmission complaints.

2009 Hyundai-Elantra-GL

The 2008-2013 stretch of Hyundai Elantras generated above average complaints from owners, with the 2013 model frequently reported for having brake noise issues. Power steering on the 2008 models was frequently a concern, and for years this car was marketed with a 28-38 MPG (city/hwy) EPA rating but owners report having a hard time getting over 31 MPG on the highway. If you’re not expecting above average fuel economy, there’s not much to complain about with this inexpensive and spacious import.

Auto Finder

At Galaxy Motors, finding reliable used cars is easy! It’s often simply a matter of searching our used vehicle inventory. Here’s a pair of handy search links for finding older vehicles on our website:

Search Oldest Used Vehicles Search Used Vehicles (1990-2008)

We’re always trying to scoop up the best makes/models to sell to our customers! With 30 years of experience on Vancouver Island, we know the market inside and out, but if you’re looking for something we don’t have in stock, let us know with the Auto Finder tool!

Auto Finder

Can’t find a classic?

If you can’t find a value option, and you need to instead go for a newer car with some warranty, that’s not a problem! Galaxy Motors has in-house automotive financing!

Apply online for automotive financing

Not only do we make it easy to buy here and pay here, we also have 16 lenders we work with to get you unbeatable automotive financing rates(currently at 4.45% APR)!

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