How Long Do Cars Last? Comparing the Lifespan of Different Vehicle Types

There are over 286 million registered vehicles on the road, just in the United States. Just as importantly, many of those vehicles are cars or trucks that people bought used with years of service on them already.

While buying used vehicles is a valid strategy for keeping costs down, it’s not a risk-free choice. One of the biggest concerns any car buyer has when buying a vehicle is the overall car lifespan for that vehicle.

Are you in the market for a vehicle and wondering, “How long do cars last?” Keep reading for a breakdown of what kind of lifespan you can expect for different vehicle types and some factors that can affect vehicle lifespan.

Passenger Cars

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When it comes to types of vehicles on the road, passenger cars are the most common type. People rely on them for commuting, everyday errands, and even road trips. Passenger cars come in three main varieties, which we’ll look at below.

Gasoline Engine

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Gasoline engine vehicles are still the dominant option on the road, in large part because there are still so many used gasoline engine vehicles on the road.

In terms of overall lifespan, you can measure it either in miles or in years. The typical lifespan for modern vehicles is either around 12 years or approximately 200,000 miles of travel.

Electric Engine

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Estimates for electric vehicle lifespans are trickier because there are a couple of ways to measure them. One option is to measure lifespan until the factory-installed battery pack needs a replacement. On that front, estimates range from around 80,000 miles to as high as 200,000 miles.

As a general rule, 150,000 miles is a good average which works out to around 10 years assuming you only drive an average of 15,000 miles per year.

Hybrid Vehicles

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Hybrid cars are also tricky to estimate because the engines are more complicated, shifting from gas power to electric power and back again. The battery pack lifespan is often the limiting factor, but an average of around 10 years is also a safe bet.

If you measure based on the time until the first battery pack replacement, you can often use the manufacturer’s warranty on the battery pack as a rough estimate.

Bear in mind that the battery packs will typically become less efficient over time. You can conceivably drive the car well beyond the initial lifespan, but get reduced performance from the vehicle as the battery fails.

Pickup Trucks

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Pickup trucks have a reputation for lasting longer than passenger vehicles. While this reputation is earned, it often applies most to larger pickup trucks that employ more durable materials in production. Smaller pickup trucks often use similar materials and engines as passenger vehicles, which reduces their lifespan.

In general, you can expect around 200,000 to 250,000 miles of service from a pickup truck. In years, a pickup truck will often last 15 to 20 years with proper maintenance.

The catch is that while the body and engine will routinely last that long, many pickup truck owners must replace the transmission between 100,000 and 150,000 miles. The wear and tear simply beat up the transmission faster than the rest of the truck.

Factors That Affect Car Lifespan

Longevity in vehicles isn’t just a matter of what you can expect from a particular type or brand of vehicle. There are a lot of other factors that can increase or decrease the working life of a car or truck. Let’s look at some of the most important factors.

Vehicle Age

One of the major factors affecting the lifespan of your car or truck is the age or mileage when you buy the vehicle. If you buy a new car from a dealer, you can reasonably expect to wring the full number of years or miles from the car, assuming all other factors are equal.

If you buy a used vehicle, you must decrease the expected lifespan of the vehicle based on either its age or mileage. The higher the age or mileage, the shorter the lifespan you can expect.

Maintenance

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Another huge factor in the lifespan of a vehicle is the kind of maintenance it got over time. Let’s say that someone follows the maintenance schedule religiously. Those vehicles often last longer because the maintenance reduces overall wear and tear on the car or truck.

Some people even invest in extended warranties to get new factory parts for vehicles after the manufacturer’s warranty expires. You can head over here to find out more. Using original parts can also boost the car’s life because the part is designed to work specifically with that vehicle.

On the flip side, poor maintenance can drastically reduce the working life of a vehicle. Poor maintenance increases the overall wear and tear on your car or truck.

That additional wear and tear causes extra damage to the engine and the body of the car. That extra damage adds up over time and reduces the working life of the car.

Accident History

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Something else you must keep in mind is the accident history. While minor accidents only damage a car’s lifespan a little, major accidents are a different matter.

If you ever break something like a vase and then glue it back together, it will hold. The problem is that every crack you glue together reduces the overall strength of the vase. That makes it more likely to break back apart in the future.

While vehicle repairs can put a car back on the road, it will never prove as sturdy or last as long as a similar vehicle without that accident and repairs.

How Long Do Cars Last?

There isn’t a single answer to the question of how long do cars last. Your vehicle lifespan will depend on a lot of factors. In general terms, you can expect around 12 years of service or around 200,000 miles from a car that you buy new off the lot.

Pickup trucks last a bit longer, while electric and hybrid vehicles enjoy a shorter lifespan, at least based on battery replacement times.

Other factors like age, maintenance, and accident history can also extend or reduce the lifespan of your vehicle.

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