Could your car reach a million miles? Part One

Just another 900,000 miles to go! Image by Judy Roberts from Pixabay

How long do you expect your current car to last before it has to be scrapped? 200,000 miles? 300,000? Maybe you’re thinking too small, because it turns out that more than a few cars have made it past the million mile marker. So, in this two-parter, we’ll be looking into what cars have succeeded in clocking up seven figures and how you can join the million-mile club.

Off we go!

A million miles in perspective

Here’s some breaking news: a million miles is quite a long way. By the power of simple arithmatic, let’s put that figure into perspective. Driving a million miles is equivalent to:

  • 40 trips round the Earth
  • 400 road trips across the USA (Los Angeles to Orlando)
  • 23,529 trips from Cardiff to Bristol

And how long do you have to actually be in the car to clock up that mileage? Let’s say you’re driving at an unrealistically high average of 55 mph. That’s 18,181 hours behind the wheel, which is driving six hours every day for over eight years. For round-town averages of 20mph, it’s more like 22 years.

It’s hard to believe any moving system could stand up to that amount of punishment. And yet some cars do.

In search of genuine million-milers

Of course, claiming your car’s done a million and proving it are two different things, given that analogue and even electronic odometers can be fiddled with.

More definitive evidence comes from service records, where you can see the miles building up over the years. OK, a garage could be colluding, or you could be cheating the odometer between services, but it seems unlikely that anyone would bother. Having an ultra-high mileage car doesn’t exactly bring you riches (though you might just get a freebie replacement).

The bigger question is ‘what counts as a million-mile car?’ If you replace everything on it but the chassis, is it really the same car? Note that we don’t ask the same question about people, who regularly change almost all of their cells!

The consensus seems to be that a real million-miler is one that that’s running on its original engine. The rest are just wannabees.

What marques make it to a million miles?

If you’re anything like us, two marques immediately spring to mind as likely candidates for million milers: Honda (especially older ones) and Toyota. Both are lauded as having bomb-proof reliability. And indeed, some examples of both crop up in Motoverso’s list of million mile cars. For example, they mention:

  • A 1990 Honda Accord, which hit a million miles after being driven for two decades by its American owner – he’s the guy mentioned above who got gifted a replacement.
  • A dealer-maintained  2007 Toyota Tundra.
  • A Lexus LS400 (Lexus is Toyota’s luxury brand) owned by a motoring journalist, who purchased it with 897K on the clock.

So, no real surprises there. What’s interesting is the number of other manufacturers who made it onto the magic million list  – they range from BMW to Saab, from Mercedes to Porsche, from Volvo to Chevy. You can find some in-depth profiles of these in this great Autocar article.

American marques crop up a fair bit too, with Fords, Chevys, Lincolns and Plymouths. On the one hand, that’s to be expected, as virtually all of these lists originate in the USA (big distances and a car-oriented society, we guess). But on the other,  American cars aren’t generally viewed as paragons of reliability… at least on this side of the pond.

What this suggests is that getting to a million miles isn’t all about the marque. Sure, you wouldn’t want to bet your house on your Alfa Romeo Gulia making it to a million miles on the original engine, but there are plenty of brands that do make it, depending on how they’ve been treated. More about that in Part Two.

Your car’s only done one million miles – pfft!

We couldn’t leave Part One without tipping our hat to the Big Daddy of all million-milers – Irv Gordon’s amazing 3.25 million mile Volvo P1800. The Hagerty YouTube channel has the full story and it’s well worth 8 minutes 13 seconds of your time.

Next time…

In Part Two, we’ll look at what you can do to try to reach the million mile mark – or at least to squeeze as much mileage out of your pride-and-joy as possible. See you in a fortnight!

The WVS blog covers a wide range of automotive topics, from the contentious to the light-hearted. We are an independent garage specialising in the VW group marques, including Audi, Volkswagen, Skoda and SEAT. WVS provides services, repairs and MOTs, delivering a main dealer level of care at affordable prices. To book your vehicle in, or for any enquiries, get in touch.