For generations of Americans, the 1980s will never die because that wood-paneled station wagon just keeps on rolling. Certain cars provide a living history of their various model years because they’re all still right there next to you on the road, year after year.
If you like to buy a new vehicle every few years, these cars are not for you. But if you want something for the long haul, check out the classic cars that are the most reliable.
If you have your heart set on a classic sports car but you want to avoid the excessive maintenance they have a reputation for, the Ford Mustang might be the one for you. These classics have been made since 1964.
That classic BMW 2002 is one used car you’re likely to have to spend extra to get. These classics helped create the reputation for BMW in the 1960s, and they’re still beloved today.
The Citroen 2CV was in production for 42 years, from 1948 to 1990. A long production run doesn’t just happen unless a car strongly appeals to the masses. The Citroen 2CV was designed to carry four passengers and a little over 100 pounds of cargo at 30 mph, even over adverse terrain. They won’t go much faster than 40 mph, but they will very reliably hit speeds under that year after year.
The Saab 900 is a reliable classic to be enjoyed for years to come. But a heads-up: The buying guide at SaabPlanet.com tells you to plan for repairs along the way. The turbo might need to be replaced after 120,000 miles, and the transmission might need to be repaired as soon as 150,000 miles.
OK, so driving a Volkswagen Bus might lead people to draw conclusions about just how much composting you do, but there’s a reason why hippies love these things so much. And while the 53-horsepower engine is only a little bit stronger than, say, a team of horses, that bread-box body seats nine people.
Volvo 1966 P1800
Volvos are pretty reliable cars, but this specific model year deserves a call-out. Why? Because it’s the one that Irv Gordon drove for a Guinness World Record 3.2 million miles before his death at age 77 in 2018, Road & Track reported.
A real outdoor enthusiast can spend years adding battle scars to the same SUV as it carries them from adventure to adventure. The older versions of the Jeep Cherokee had rugged four-liter engines that are now legendary, and pre-2007 models can sell for five times the price that other used SUVs of a similar age sell for.
Some 146,000 Plymouth Valiants were sold during its first year in existence — 1960. That launched a legacy of cars that became known for their durability and simplicity. Valiant owners enjoyed a car that was economical and would last.
The fact that the beloved game of punch buggy (slug bug to you philistines) has lasted for so many generations is a sign of how long the beloved Beetle has lasted. Decades after the last first-generation bug rolled off the line, there are still plenty to spot on American roads.
The name of the Honda Accord is fitting. When you buy one, you really do enter into an “accord,” because you and that car will be together for a long time. It’s been a Consumer Reports favorite for years. And good luck driving more than a mile in most cities without spotting several that are at least a decade old.
Buick Roadmaster Estate
The Buick Roadmaster Estate either looks charmingly retro or painfully out of date even for the years it was produced — 1991 to 1996. However, this car is enjoying a resurgence with car owners who adore the roomy, comfortable seats. And with Kelley Blue Book putting the typical mileage on the 1994 model year at over 130,000 miles, you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy this vehicle.
One endorsement for the reliability of the old Mercedes-Benz 240D came from Autotrader. It called the 240D the best car for the apocalypse, citing its lack of electronics and versatile diesel engine as reasons why it would be the perfect ride for characters on “The Walking Dead.”
One way to identify a car you can really count on is when you pull up to a stoplight behind the same make from 30 years ago. By that test, the Toyota Camry might be the all-time winner for a reliable family sedan. Toyota wins the top ranking from Consumer Reports as the carmaker with the most consistently reliable cars.
Ford Crown Victoria
Few people drive their cars harder than police officers and cab drivers, so the fact that you see so many Ford Crown Victorias used as cop cars and taxis should tell you something. The cars offer durability while costing very little to keep running, making them a favorite for people who do a ton of driving.
BMW E30 3-Series
This was the car that helped BMW establish itself as the go-to name in its segment. With understated styling and superb engineering, it was a smaller, more efficient alternative to the massive sedans Mercedes was cranking out — just as the oil crisis hit. The E30 is one of the most iconic rides of the 1980s, and you’ll still see some of them on the road today.
Toyota AE86 Corolla
If you’re looking for a car that really lasts but just don’t like Toyotas, you’re limiting your options. The AE86 Corolla is so reliable it has developed a cult following. In fact, these Corollas sell for about as much as a Ferrari of the same era.
Having a reliable truck is important for many reasons — including safety and cost. If you’re a contractor or small-business owner, replacing a pickup truck too frequently can be a big financial drain on your business. Whether you’re buying it for your landscaping business or off-roading, the Ford F-150 is a reliable icon for a reason.
Chevrolet Impala SS
For lovers of big sedans, the Chevrolet Impala SS is an absolute classic. Though its run lasted for a few years in the 1960s and mid-1990s, the old Impalas are usually adored by their owners.
While one doesn’t necessarily think of a classic Toyota as a “sports car,” there is the MR2. A 138-horsepower engine provides just the right balance of power and agility to the two-seat coupe. And it still has that Toyota reliability.
Mazda MX-5 Miata
The sporty Mazda Miata was an instant hit, with a million of the little roadsters selling during its run. They’re perfectly balanced between weight and power and are a lot of fun to drive.
Datsun Z Cars
Collectors of classic Japanese cars might feel their collection is incomplete without one of Datsun’s Z cars. These ’70s and ’80s classics are still coveted among some car enthusiasts.
Some believe that Volvo came to deeply regret the 240, the car that helped give Volvo the reputation of making vehicles that would last two decades or so. While some didn’t like the boxy look or underpowered engine, lovers of reliability found their perfect ride in the 240.
Yes, another Toyota. But again, it’s well-earned. The Toyota Hilux was a rugged, reliable pickup that would take a licking and keep on kicking. It’s no wonder that some owners are not ready to part with theirs decades later.
Mercedes-Benz E-Class W123
Launching in 1976, the Mercedes W123 remains a fondly remembered classic even among the many beloved Mercedes models. Fans still rave about the clean exterior lines created by Friedrich Geiger and Bruno Sacco.
Toyota Land Cruiser
The list wouldn’t be complete without just one more Toyota: the Land Cruiser. These classic vehicles were produced between 1960 and 1984, and they’re still sought after by lovers of 4x4s all over the world.
More From GOBankingRates
- The Best Car Insurance Companies of 2019
- Understanding ETFs and How They Work
- How Much Home You Can Buy for $300,000 in Every State
About the Author
Joel Anderson is a business and finance writer with over a decade of experience writing about the wide world of finance. Based in Los Angeles, he specializes in writing about the financial markets, stocks, macroeconomic concepts and focuses on helping make complex financial concepts digestible for the retail investor.