There’s a general perception that a car which has already covered, say, 150,000 miles isn’t going to last much longer, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
A very small number have exceeded a millionmiles, some of them by a substantial margin, and within that group here are some that have done so on their original engines. So let’s take a look at them all – and discover the secrets of their longevity:
BMW 325i (1990)
This BMW 325i bought by Mobil Oil in 1990 had what was probably the easiest million-mile run in history. After being driven on public highways for around 1000 miles, it spent four years on the rolling road at Mobil’s research center in Paulsboro, New Jersey, stopping only for oil changes at 7500 miles and normal BMW servicing.
The six-cylinder BMW M20B25 engine was in wonderful condition by the end of the test, but it would be fair to say it had had a less challenging life than most million-milers. Thanks to Mobil for supplying pictures of the car as it is today.
Hyundai Elantra (2013)
Almost unbelievably (though Hyundai has confirmed, after initial doubts, that it really happened), Farrah Haines, a car parts delivery driver from Olathe, Kansas, racked up a million miles in her Elantra in only five years – that’s 200,000 miles per year, or 548 miles per day for every day of the year.
She hoped to reach 1.5 million in the same car, but was stopped in her tracks when asked to deliver a package to a local auto shop. She was told the package was actually hers, and found that it contained the keys for her new 2019 model year Elantra, given to her by Hyundai in recognition of her extraordinary achievement.
How did she do it? Quite simple, Haines reported in 2018: “The key is to prioritize regular maintenance and to have a quality vehicle.”
Volvo 240 DL (1987)
Selden Cooper drove his first Volvo, a 1967 164E, for nearly 250,000 miles, a distance which seems much less impressive now than it did then. In November 1986 he traded it in for a 240 DL, fitted with Volvo’s famously reliable B21 series engine, and from then until September 2012 he put one million miles on it.
Many consumable parts were changed in that time, and the body was resprayed, but according to the Lehman Volvo Cars dealership in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, which serviced it, the engine was barely touched. Cooper donated the car to Lehman in June 2015.
Chevrolet Silverado (1991)
Wisconsin food distributor Frank Oresnik bought his five-year old Chevrolet Silverado when it had 41,000 miles on the clock. Powered by the legendary Chevrolet Small Block engine, it went through the million-mile barrier twelve years later, in 2008, having notched up roughly 80,000 miles per year.
Having paid for this one, Oresnik was not keen on putting himself back into debt buying a replacement, so he maintained his truck very carefully and drove it no harder than he needed to, though it did have to do a lot of towing. PICTURE: Representative model
Dodge Ram 2500 (1996)
Delivery driver Dan Edelman bought his Dodge Ram not through loyalty to the Dodge brand but because of his well-placed confidence in its 5.9-liter Cummins diesel engine. The truck went through several automatic transmissions before he realised how to set them up properly, but the engine required little more than normal and regular maintenance.
Edelman certainly knew how to get the most out of a vehicle. He also owned a 1994 Plymouth Voyager with more than 600,000 miles on the clock. PICTURE: Representative model
Honda Accord (1990)
The next two cars on our list are both fourth-generation Honda Accords fitted with the 2.2-liter F22A engine. The first, nicknamed True Blue because of its color, was bought by Maine resident Joe LoCicero (pictured, not to be confused with the actor of the same name) when it was six years old and had covered 74,000 miles.
Driving nearly 5000 miles-a-month for his work as a vehicle inspector, LoCicero reached one million miles in autumn 2011, and was rewarded with a brand new (and also blue) Accord presented to him by the Darling Auto Group Honda dealership. How did LoCicero do it? Regular oil changes and vigilant preventative maintenance.
Honda Accord (1994)
Another million-mile Accord is the 1994 model owned by David Witte, a self-employed route mapper from Timonium, Maryland. Witte’s job meant that he practically lived in his car for long periods. He reached one million miles – a surprisingly anticlimactic event, he thought – on Route 340 in West Virginia in May 2001.
Interviewed less than a year later, he said he was considering a change of career: “Driving around in a car all day doesn’t gain you a whole lot of respect.” PICTURE: Representative model
Lexus LS (1996)
In December 2014, American auto journalist Matt Farah saw an ad for a Lexus LS which had already covered 897,000 miles on its original four-liter V8 Toyota 1UZ-FE engine, over 700,000 of them in the hands of its third owner. He bought it with the specific intention of taking it to a million miles, with the help of many friends and acquaintances.
Farah himself was at the wheel when the six-figure digital mileometer froze on 999,999 miles in 2019. One mile later, according to the trip computer, he considered his work done. PICTURE: Representative model
Lincoln Town Car (1983)
Some people reach enormous mileages not through work but simply because they love driving. Chet Belisle of Topeka, Kansas was one of these. When he bought his Lincoln Town Car it had travelled just 53 miles, but he raised the total to over 1.3 million miles in a three-decade series of very long journeys.
The car’s Ford Windsor small-block V8 engine, whose fuel economy was at best 20 MPG, needed one rebuild but was never replaced. PICTURE: Representative model
Mercedes-Benz 240D (1981)
Georgia telecoms company executive Paul Harman bought his four-cylinder 2.4-liter diesel Mercedes 240D as a two-year old used car with 40,000 miles on it. He reached the one million mark in October 2007. Secrets of his success? He credits the fact he changed the oil every 3000 miles.
Slackening his pace a little, he got to 1.1 million miles in July 2012, shortly after changing the clutch and starter motor.
Saab 900 (1989)
Wisconsin travelling salesman Peter Gilbert’sSaab 900 is a very unusual million-mile car in that it was designed as a high-performance model. It’s a turbocharged SPG (Special Performance Group) version, known outside the US as the Aero.
Presumably by not driving too hard (though he accidentally hit a few deer), Gilbert took the car to 1,001,385 miles by 2006 before donating it to the Wisconsin Automotive Museum near Milwaukee, where it is still on display now. Saab then gave him a 2007 model year 9-5 Aero. Thanks to the Wisconsin Automotive Museum for supplying a picture of the car in its current home.
Mercedes-Benz 250SE (1966)
Unusually, Ben Clopot’sMercedes 250SE coupe already had around a million miles under its wheels when he bought it. Its original owner took it well past 600,000, and after he died in 1992 his family added a further 350,000.
Clopot, a Los Angeles real estate agent, used the car in the same spirit, maintaining it carefully and adding over 35,000 miles per year. The Mercedes M129 gasoline engine is original, though it has been rebuilt several times, and came with 300 pages of receipts when Clopot bought the car. The car has done 1.28 million miles to date. Clopot’s longevity secrets? “Anything that breaks gets fixed immediately.” PICTURE: Representative model
Mercedes-Benz 280SE (1970)
George and Luzstella Koschel of Orange County, California bought their Mercedes 280 SE new in Germany in 1970. They then drove it for 1,019,000 miles before selling it back to Mercedes-Benz in time for it to be displayed at the 2005 Detroit motor show.
Mercedes-Benz issues High Mileage certificates to the owners of its cars that have done 155,000 miles and more, with a special award at the 1 million mark. The current Mercedes high mileage champion is Athens, Greece, taxi driver Gregorios Sachinidis in a 1976 240D; it clocked up 2.8 million miles, though did so on four engines.
Porsche 356C (1964)
Guy Newmark’s father bought this late-model 356 when it was just a few months old and later passed it on to Guy as a graduation present.
The San Pedro, California, resident used it as his daily driver and reached one million miles in 2016. The four-cylinder air-cooled engine, similar to that used in the Volkswagen Beetle, was rebuilt three times.
Toyota Tundra (2007)
Delivery driver Victor Sheppard bought his Toyota Tundra pickup new in 2007 and drove it for 1,020,130 miles before handing it over (with some reluctance) to Toyota in 2016. The company dismantled it for inspection and gave Sheppard a new Tundra in return.
Toyota Tundra (2007)
In 2019, Victor Sheppard’s friend Aaron Morvant also reached one million miles in another 2007 Tundra. On Sheppard’s advice, he has had it serviced at Greg LeBlanc Toyota in Houma, Louisiana, which is presumably the only dealership in the world to have looked after two million-mile Tundras. PICTURE: Representative model
Volvo 740 GLE (1988)
Californian Vic Dres was already thinking in terms of breaking a million miles when he bought his Volvo 740 GLE new in 1988. A round-trip commute of over 160 miles every weekday for 17 years was a big help, and although he switched to a new job much nearer home in 2005 he kept at it, finally achieving his goal in 2014. PICTURE: Representative model
Volvo 1800S (1966)
The grand-daddy of all private high-mileage vehicles is Irv Gordon’sVolvo 1800S. Gordon, a schoolteacher, collected the car from the Volvoville dealership in Huntington, New York, on a Friday evening in June 1966 and took it back for its scheduled 1500-mile checkover the following Monday.
He was mentioned in the Guinness Book of Records for the first time in 1998, having covered 1.69 million miles, and hit three million in Alaska in September 2013. By the time he died in November 2018, aged 77, the total had reached 3.2 million, or 61,500 miles per year on average.
Chevrolet Silverado (2006)
Another Silverado, this time one a 3500 HD fitted with a GM Duramax diesel engine, hit one million miles in just six years – or a mighty 166,000 miles per year. Why? Well, it’s owned by Hugh and Tammy Pennington, and they deliver trailers (in some cases nearly 40 feet long) to car dealerships across North America.
Interviewed when the truck reached seven figures, Tammy estimated that she and her husband regularly drive up to 700 miles a day, either on business or when they take long-distance holidays. PICTURE: Representative model
Dodge Ram 2500 (2007)
Like the Penningtons, Donald Jensen delivers trailers using his Dodge Ram which, as with the Dan Edelman version, is fitted with a 5.9-liter Cummins diesel motor. It reached one million miles in 2013 and was reported as having hit 1.7 million by April 2019.
The mileage is an estimate, though we believe a reliable one. The problem is that the Dodge has had to have its mileometer replaced twice. In other words, the least reliable part of the truck is the one that shows how reliable it is. PICTURE: Representative model
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