For many car owners, reaching the 100,000-mile point on their beloved vehicle’s odometer is a landmark moment. More than likely, five or six meaningful years have passed since that special day at the dealership when you signed the dotted line and brought your newest family member home. For the vast majority of vehicles on the road today, that number represents more than an invisible barrier that you’ve driven across, 100,000 miles signifies the end of the vehicle’s factory warranty coverage.
Of course, it isn’t all bad news. Most new vehicle loans will be paid off by the time the vehicle passes the 100,000-mile mark, and even including routine maintenance and repairs, this is the time when many vehicles hit their value sweet spots. If you’ve been faithful to keep the fluids changed and investigate irregularities and have them repaired under the manufacturer’s warranty, you might even get away with another 50,000 miles or more before anything major breaks.
Six-figure mileage cars can also represent excellent value for the second-hand consumer. Most vehicles face the majority of their depreciation by the time the 100,000th mile rolls around, meaning that clean, well-cared for examples have the ability to make excellent “new to you” cars. In today’s golden age of automotive manufacturing, just about every vehicle produced has the ability to successfully reach 100,000 miles and beyond. Used examples are everywhere, from cross country commuter cars that are only 2 or 3 years old, to 20-year-old beauties used for grocery store runs.
Not all vehicles that reach the 100,000-mile marker are equal, some are just getting started and others are already pushing the average lifespan of key components. In today’s blog post my goal is to suggest five different vehicles, each from a different segment, that are typically worth considering even if they have recently, or not so recently, seen six digits pop up on the odometer. Just keep in mind that my references should be limited to well-maintained accident-free examples, which is something that a CARFAX Vehicle History Report can help clarify.
Family Sedan: The Toyota Camry
In full disclosure, this was the toughest category for me to decide on. While I ultimately chose the Toyota Camry, the Honda Accord and slightly larger Nissan Maxima both deserve honorable mentions. The Toyota Camry continues to be the best-selling car in America year after year for good reason. Toyota is decidedly not the trendiest automaker, but that slow deliberate approach to building vehicles pays dividends when it comes to long-term reliability. If an engine, transmission or feature is offered on a Camry, it is likely to work flawlessly and continue to work for a long time.
The subdued nature of America’s favorite car, well according to sales figures anyway, means that it rarely is abused. The Camry is a conservative midsize sedan that typically rewards maintenance-mindful owners with hundreds of thousands of relatively trouble-free miles.
While the Camry may not be my first choice for fun, a well-documented example with 100,000 miles on the odometer is a relatively safe investment that I would be comfortable with.
Sports Car: Mazda MX-5 Miata
I am fairly convinced that a lion’s share of the original front-engine, rear-wheel drive 1990 Mazda Miata MX-5 roadsters are still on the road today, unless of course they met an untimely death being wrung out on a race track. Not only has the Mazda Miata proven itself as an incredibly reliable vehicle, but it is entirely affordable. Early running examples that can be daily driven can be had for a few thousand dollars. Considering the teeny price tag and the potential for weekend greatness, very little shares the thrills-per-dollar ratio of Mazda’s tiny sports car. The Miata is also credited with singlehandedly bringing the roadster tradition back to the U.S.
While all four Miata generations have unique personalities and quirks, it is hard to go wrong with any of them if the price is right. I would avoid the automatic transmission, not for reliability issues, but simply because the five- and six-speed manual transmissions are nothing short of brilliant. Gas mileage is great and parts are cheap. The Miata represents such great value that buying a specimen with 100,000 miles on the odometer and keeping it as a fun weekend car is entirely plausible on almost any budget.
SUV: Lexus RX 350
The midsize SUV segment is loaded with great options, and the Lexus RX 350 gets my pick because it’s incredibly reliable and makes a very nice daily driver. Sharing many underpinnings with the equally fantastic (and entirely worthy of an honorable mention) Toyota Highlander, a used high-mileage RX 350 is desirable for many of the same reasons that the Toyota Camry is on the list. The 3.5-liter V6 engine is time-tested, offers plenty of silky-smooth power and is built to last. With proper maintenance I have heard of instances of this power plant reaching 10 times the 100,000-mile mark and more.
Keep in mind that Lexus is a luxury brand and used parts should be based on the RX 350’s original sticker price, not the 150,000-mile used price. But overall, a clean, well maintained example holds its value strongly, because a 10-year-old Lexus remains a desirable vehicle for anyone looking for a quality luxury SUV on a tight budget.
Truck: Honda Ridgeline
Ford and Chevy fans are throwing their hands in the air in disgust and I will admit that both manufacturers have built excellent pickup trucks that belong on this list. However, the strong consensus is that if you put long-term reliability as your first priority, the Honda Ridgeline has a slight edge over the better selling U.S. competitors. Based on the chassis and sharing a drivetrain with the bullet-proof Honda Pilot SUV, which easily deserves an SUV honorable mention, the midsize five-passenger crew cab Ridgeline tops customer satisfaction lists year after year. It repeatedly earns a top rating in J.D. Power’s Vehicle Dependability Study.
The Ridgeline’s aesthetics may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but a well-kept 100,000 mile Ridgeline still has a lot of utility-packed life left in it, earning the outside the box pickup truck a place on our list.
Minivan: Honda Odyssey
While the Toyota Sienna deserves an honorable mention if you’re shopping minivans built before 2008, our pick for 2008 and beyond is the Honda Odyssey. This minivan provides seating for up to eight, a venerated 3.5-liter V6 and incredible gas mileage for the segment at up to 19/28 mpg city/highway. The glorious Honda 3.5-liter V6 engine is simply a silky-smooth power plant that sounds expensive when it revs. If you’re a parent with school age kids, you’re well aware of the carpool lane dominance of Honda’s best-seller. Owners tend to keep them for a long time.
If you can find a 2008 or later model in good shape with an extensive maintenance history, don’t be too concerned if the odometer reads north of 100,000 miles. Chances are that the Odyssey is finally getting broken in. Being a minivan, there is a good chance that the interior will wear out long before the mechanicals give up the ghost.
Throwback: Volvo 240
OK, this one really is personal. My first car was a 1977 Volvo 240 wagon that – no matter how poorly I treated it – simply refused to die. Sure, first gear didn’t work and releasing the clutch with it engaged often resulted in a horrible bang that would render the car in neutral, but it kept running nonetheless. By the time I sold “Elvis,” he had covered close to 300,000 miles. The Volvo’s little four-cylinder engine still sounded fantastic and didn’t burn a drop of oil between changes. The air conditioning even worked!
My dad would argue that the reason Elvis lived so long was because we basically replaced every mechanical system at one point or another, but I drove the car for about two years and he only required simple oil changes. If anything finally marked the end of my beloved blue station wagon it was rust. I lived in the Northeast, and the road salt had eaten through most of the body panels and even parts of the floor.