Hard drivin'
April 1, 2014 8:06 PM   Subscribe

What is the best vehicle for long-term ownership for someone who is hard on cars? By that I mean they accelerate and brake more rapidly than they should and they are slow, but not completely negligent, to perform maintenance.
posted by michaelh to Travel & Transportation (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Could we have a little more info? How many miles a week would they drive? And would it be highway or city miles?
posted by dawkins_7 at 8:10 PM on April 1, 2014

Cop car and/or a taxi, probably.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:59 PM on April 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

Nothing is going to save brake pads if you ride them too hard, but Hondas and especially Toyotas are almost proverbial at this point for their reliability and cheapness to fix if they ever do break.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:42 PM on April 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


I drive a Jeep. It eats gas and keeps track of gas mileage automatically.

I drive this vehicle's strengths, my husband drives the way you describe. My gas mileage is far superior to my husband's.

A hybrid negates most of these concerns.
posted by jbenben at 11:25 PM on April 1, 2014

My first car that i awkwardly learned to drive on, and taught my mom to drive stick on and generally abused was a toyota tercel. My boss owns two hybrids(prius and a highlander) that have also been SERIOUSLY abused, crashed by teenagers, used as commercial delivery vehicles for months, etc with no real issues.

There's prius taxis getting abused daily with >400k miles on them, google around about it. The regenerative braking, CVT keeping the engine in the perfect rpm range, and electric motor providing most of the starting "grunt" makes the brakes and drivetrain last very well. Alternatively, as i said i had really good luck with just a super basic toyota... but i burned out a few clutches.

I can't think of a better car to directly answer this question than a prius though. Seriously, those things can take a beating and are quite miserly with brake pads, etc. My bosses son is one of the worst drivers in the entire universe(like, borat level comically bad) and hasn't caused any problems with the thing. It's also been ignored for extended periods with the check engine/error light on and nothing bad really happened. The taxi thing would be the biggest vote of confidence in my mind, though.
posted by emptythought at 12:51 AM on April 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

I drove a honda civic for 10 years that has been in 3 car accidents (none of which while I was in the car, weirdly), and the only maintenance I did on it was maybe 2 or 3 oil changes. It ran pretty solid up till the end.
posted by empath at 1:13 AM on April 2, 2014

Actually, I'd avoid getting a cop car or taxi for the precise reason that they've been beaten on so severely for so many years. Lots of them have wear problems in weird places, hacked-up wiring looms, warped brakes, and shot suspensions.
posted by Punkey at 3:12 AM on April 2, 2014

Most taxicabs and and until very recently most police cars were Ford Crown Victorias.

Who drives harder than taxi drivers? Every fleet in every city I've lived in is entirely composed of Crown Vic's with maybe a van or two. They sold 80,000 of the fuckers in the last year before they shut the plant down so there will be plenty of parts for years to come.

I mean, I guess you can try and reinvent the wheel as it were but wouldn't taxi cab companies and police who drive all the time know something about this?

Hybrid? Prius? Did you read the question? "accelerate and brake more rapidly than they should"

There are plenty of good reasons to buy a hybrid [I would probably go with a Toyota because I can't afford a Tesla] but absent the money and to answer the question of "accelerate and brake more rapidly" I think it's fairly clear that this was what the crown victoria was designed to do.
posted by vapidave at 3:15 AM on April 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

In the "being constructive" part of the discussion though, something cheap and Japanese is a pretty good idea. Subarus are legendarily bulletproof, Toyotas and Hondas are almost as good. jbenben is right; hard acceleration and hard braking eliminate a good chunk of the mileage benefits you get from the drivetrain, so maybe avoid those. The small Toyota pickup (Hilux in the rest of the world) is also a legend for durability and dealing with poor maintenance.
posted by Punkey at 3:19 AM on April 2, 2014

Response by poster: Assume a large percentage is city or suburban driving with a little highway if needed - typical driving. No off-roading, flooded roads, etc.
posted by michaelh at 4:11 AM on April 2, 2014

Honda or Toyota, very reliable, cheap and easy to repair if repairs are ever needed.

Stay in the smaller vehicle range and tires will be less expensive too.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:22 AM on April 2, 2014

What is the best vehicle for long-term ownership for someone who is hard on cars?

Any good quality one. Alternatively, a really cheap one and throw it away when it breaks. Either fits those parameters and they are opposite ends of the spectrum. There's not enough in this question to suggest that you are either particularly hard on a car nor in what way you seem to think you are 'harder' on the car than most other people. Additionally there is zero information to allow anyone to narrow down even a size of car. This question is impossible to answer in any meaningful or useful way as written - What is 'best'? Cheapest? Longest lasting? Least maintenance? Least chance of major failure?

If you're asking what car can you buy, abuse and largely ignore the maintenance and get away with it, then the answer is 'none' or 'all'. The results will vary largely on luck.

Accelerating hard and braking hard are in itself no big deal. You'll just need to change your brake pads/discs more often and you'll get worse fuel mileage but you're not going to wear out the car itself any faster unless there is more to your usage you're not saying. You need to very much narrow down what you think the 'problem' with your use case is and what you want from a car more specifically.
posted by Brockles at 5:56 AM on April 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Anecdotal evidence warning:

To summarize how I drive, I have a 2009 Toyota Camry SE (V6). I bought the car new in 2008 and it now has 178,000 miles. Most of my driving is light city / highway (I'm in South Florida). Every time I bring the car in to have the brakes changed, I have to change the rotors due to my braking habits. I enjoy driving the car in Tip-tronic, and am usually the first person off of the line. I have started downshifting off of highway speeds in addition to braking, but I have driven this car hard.

I've calmed down a bit in the last couple years, but for the first entire year I had this car, I enjoyed peeling out off of every stop light and racing to the next red light. I also went through a tough financial period, and went about 15,000 miles without an oil change, and even recently, I'll usually go about two weeks after my "Maintenance Required" light comes on before I get around to changing the oil.

It's something I'm still working on, but I learned how to drive in NYC, and I still suffer from the delusion that I am somehow time traveling if I get to point B in the fastest way possible.

The only times this car has been in the shop is for battery, tires, brakes, oil, and one accident.

Of course, YMMV, but it would be a safe bet that I either drive like you, or "worse" than you, and this car has never let me down.

So... Yeah... My vote is for a Toyota.
posted by Debaser626 at 6:16 AM on April 2, 2014

Nthing Toyotas and related brands. I don't drive hard, but I drive a LOT. My 2006 Scion currently has over 120,000 miles on it (a healthy mix of city and highway) and is going strong (only just last week had to replace the alternator for the first time), and I am admittedly not the best at maintenance. My previous car was a 1999 Camry that I would probably still be driving had it not been totalled by a van some years ago. I will warn against the Scion TC for one specific reason though: It goes through tires like water. I've replaced all of them within the last year due to road damage. Low profile tires and potholes don't get along. I would recommend a Camry or a Corolla.
posted by picklesthezombie at 7:06 AM on April 2, 2014

My understanding of why cop and taxi fleets tend towards Crown Vics (or at least they have historically) is because GM made fleet management easy and they were easy to get in and out of, not because they were particularly reliable. Toyotas/Hondas are probably what you want here.
posted by craven_morhead at 7:24 AM on April 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Work-spec American full-size pickups (think, like, white truck with a small-block V8, power nothing and a vinyl bench seat) might be another option. Cheap parts, time-tested designs, most repairs can be done DIY or by almost any indie shop, generally not as much to go wrong.

Plenty of downsides, though--terrible mileage, hard to park, doesn't carry many people, RWD plus no weight in the back can be a handful in bad weather, etc., etc.
posted by box at 8:01 AM on April 2, 2014

My brother drives like a bat out of hell (tailgates out of road rage, brakes hard, zooms around people a lot) and he bought a new Honda Civic back in 2000 or 2001. Still driving it, it's got close to 300k miles on it. He's diligent about oil changes but AFAIK he hasn't put much money into it otherwise.
posted by jabes at 10:39 AM on April 2, 2014

Nissan Leaf - regenerative braking, no oil to change!
posted by flimflam at 11:03 AM on April 2, 2014

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