The explosion of social media has given the entire world a glimpse into the lives of the rich and famous. Their lives may seem completely different from the average person—and to a large extent, jet-setting around the world and being as exclusive as possible surely is different—but in the end, even celebs are people. They flaunt their fancy clothes, fancy houses, and fancy cars online for everyone to see but they still have to drive those fancy cars while wearing fancy clothes on their way to the grocery store.
While rich and famous people may enjoy their expensive cars, the rest of the world worries about making the next car payment on their new lease or when they’ll have to shell out at the mechanic’s shop to keep their old car running. But the automotive industry isn’t as black-and-white as they have and the have-nots. There are plenty of cars out there that were built to last forever without an enormous price tag to buy and without enormous maintenance costs to live with.
For most of the world, having a beater that will keep chugging along for years without even an oil change sounds great. But for everyone who finds meaning in the ostentatious values of the rich and fabulous, the old adage of “pay to play” certainly becomes a factor. Keep scrolling for 10 beaters that will run forever and 10 new cars that may seem nice at first but were definitely built to crumble.
20 LASTS A LIFETIME: MERCEDES-BENZ 300 TD
Mercedes-Benz was famous before they started building tanks disguised as cars, it’s true. But their history in motorsport (which the 300 SL Gullwing only helped to bolster) couldn’t have foreseen the incredible reliability that their cars would become known for the in the 1970s and 1980s. Today, cars like this 300 TD station wagon still cruise along, with a soft ride, plenty of roominess, and at the very least, a modicum of modern luxury. But the real reason this 300 TD will be worth $20,000 or more for the next couple of decades is that everyone loves having a car that can be relied upon for another few hundred thousand miles.
19 LASTS A LIFETIME: HONDA CRX
18 LASTS A LIFETIME: TOYOTA PICKUP
Before the Tacoma cemented Toyota’s reputation as a builder of some of the world’s most reliable cars, their small pickup truck (a Hilux without the badge, in this country) was leading the pack. These trucks have all the panache of a brown plaid shirt but that’s the whole point; actually, the whole point is hundreds of thousands of miles, presumably between oil changes if not between times spent checking under the hood. Available in myriad configurations, one of these little trucks in 4×4, extra-cab, or base trim is still one of the best bets in the entire automotive landscape—new or used.
17 LASTS A LIFETIME: SUBARU LEGACY
16 LASTS A LIFETIME: ACURA LEGEND
Compared to today’s Acuras, the brand’s models from the 1990s and 2000s look much more like the Hondas with which they share lineage. But Acura today is struggling to live up even to its own reputation for reliability, simplicity, and performance that was set in stone in the 1990s (only to be broken in the late-2000s). Compared to the simple yet refined first-generation NSX, the modern iteration is a multi-engined computer freeze waiting to happen. Likewise, Acura has nothing like their old Legend on the market today, which could explain why their sedan sales have been dismal for quite some time.
15 LASTS A LIFETIME: CHEVROLET PICKUP (ADVANCE-DESIGN SERIES)
14 LASTS A LIFETIME: GEO METRO
The Geo Metro may be the punchline to a joking automotive industry (and it has been for decades) but that doesn’t mean it’s not one reliable little machine. With teensy engine options like a 1.3-liter four-cylinder or even a 1.0-liter three-cylinder, even a drivetrain made of Silly Putty could have handled the torque output for the rest of eternity. A curb weight of six and a half feathers helped keep the suspension from wearing out and the brakes are good to go until the universe fades into darkness. The only reason no one drives Geo Metros anymore is that it’s just scary when surrounded by so many massive crossover SUVs.
13 LASTS A LIFETIME: VOLKSWAGEN GOLF
12 LASTS A LIFETIME: HONDA CIVIC
The car that perhaps single-handedly established Japan’s dominance in the market of small, economical, and well-engineered vehicles is the Honda Civic. In the decades since it hit the market in 1972, every single generation has proven to be just about the perfect combination of minimal style and maximum reliability—until now. But while owners of the new, overly vented and flared, spoiler-wearing and rim-clad Civics might struggle to keep their cars from bottoming out on speed bumps, everyone who owns a Civic from the 1980s and 1990s is happy to let the paint fade, the wheels get nicked, and the engine just keeps on chugging.
11 LASTS A LIFETIME: TOYOTA COROLLA
10 BUILT TO CRUMBLE: TESLA MODEL X
9 BUILT TO CRUMBLE: FIAT 500L
Fiat has long suffered from a hilarious acronym created by angry owners of their vehicles. But what does anyone expect from a brand that’s struggled from electrical gremlins since they first started making automobiles over 50 years ago. Today’s cars are increasingly computer-oriented and it leaves Fiat in the unenviable position of having to bring their cheap products to the market with a minimum of research and development—or risk losing money because they certainly can’t raise their prices. The 500L is among the worst crossover attempts in recent history and starts falling apart almost before it leaves the dealer lot.
8 BUILT TO CRUMBLE: FIAT 500E
7 BUILT TO CRUMBLE: LAND ROVER DISCOVERY
When the saying surrounding cars from the UK is that owners had better buy two because one will always be in the shop, that doesn’t inspire confidence in an entire nation’s worth of brands. Jaguar and Land Rover have long suffered from notorious reliability issues—with rust and electrical problems being among the lowlights—so when the two brands merged in a strange conglomeration under ownership by Tata Motors in China, things were already highly questionable. Now, both brands have reestablished themselves as leaders in the luxury market but trusting a new Discovery to merge modern computerized features with off-road ability is still quite a stretch.
6 BUILT TO CRUMBLE: DODGE CHALLENGER DEMON
5 BUILT TO CRUMBLE: BMW 8-SERIES
BMW’s new 8-Series is supposed to be a return to form for the manufacturer, who still hasn’t quite figured out how to unite the driver with the road since bringing too much electronic gadgetry into the mix in the later years of the 2000s. But even before that—since the E36, really—BMW struggled with reliability issues, mostly surrounding their degradable coolant system plastics. And now they want to bring a sports tourer to the market with active anti-roll bars (sway bars)? And they’re hoping people will think this car can possibly last longer than the first lease? Sounds highly dubious to anyone who likes to own their cars for more than three years and 36,000 miles.
4 BUILT TO CRUMBLE: RANGE ROVER EVOQUE
3 BUILT TO CRUMBLE: ACURA NSX
The original Acura NSX would have been a perfectly inclusion on the beaters portion of this list—except even owners enjoying their NSX well past 300,000 miles on the odometer somehow manage to keep their cars looking good. The first generation was a brilliant combination of performance, design, and reliability, helping to make it one of the most desirable cars on the market today. Acura definitely peaked in the late-90s, though, and their new NSX is further evidence. Priced well above the average consumers’ budget, it’s a legit supercar with all the tech and features to match—but no one actually expects to drive a car with four (count ’em, four) separate motors for nearly as long as the original.
2 BUILT TO CRUMBLE: AUDI RS3
Audi helped change the automotive landscape forever with the turbo-five engines and legendary Quattro all-wheel drive. But that landscape has further changed since the 1980s and now, planned obsolescence is in and rugged rally cars are out. And yet, the RS3 tries to straddle that line. With a modern turbo-five mounted transversely in front of the front axle and cranking out 400 horsepower that’s routed to all four wheels through a front-biased version of Quattro and dual-clutch automatic, the RS3 is probably the nearest Audi stands to get to the original Quattro. But one glance at resale values of even three-year-old Audis today will provide all the evidence need to prove the RS3’s undoubted quick crumbling.
1 BUILT TO CRUMBLE: JAGUAR F-TYPE
Jaguar’s F-Type has helped to put the brand on the map for wealthy customers looking for a little bit of performance and a lot of style. There’s no denying the model’s good looks but it seems healthy to question whether Jaguar will actually be able to turn things around and deliver a car that can keep running for more than a few years. The F-Type SVR offers features few other cars on the supercar market include all together, from its supercharged V8 cranking out 575-horsepower to an all-wheel-drive layout and sumptuous interior amenities. And yet, it seems likely the car will struggle to maintain a semblance of reliability while mashing all that grunt through its (admittedly gorgeous) structure.
Sources: Car and Driver, Jalopnik, and Bring a Trailer.