How long do cars last in Canada?

17 minute read Published on Apr 15, 2023 by BrokerLink Communications

A close-up of pre-owned cars on car dealer lot

As a driver in Canada, you may be wondering “how long do cars last?” Vehicle shelf life is an important consideration anytime you are purchasing a car, whether you’re buying a used vehicle or a brand new car. Thankfully, there are many factors that determine the lifespan of a vehicle. There are also many things that you can do as the owner of a car to make your vehicle last longer. For more information on how long cars last in Canada, keep reading.

The average mileage of cars in Canada

In Canada and around the world, one of the simplest ways of assessing a car’s longevity is by looking at its mileage. Mileage is the number of miles (or in this case, kilometres) travelled by your vehicle. Your mileage should be stated on the dashboard of your vehicle. Many years ago, the maximum car mileage topped out at around 160,000 kilometres. Nowadays, due to the many advancements in vehicle technology, the average car mileage is closer to a maximum of 322,000 kilometres. For most people, this translates to a lifespan of roughly 10 to 12 years. However, depending on how much you drive your vehicle, this will vary. It is worth noting that electric vehicles have even longer average mileage than gas-powered cars, with a life expectancy of 483,000 kilometres.

Factors that can impact how long your car lasts in Canada

While the average car in Canada may be designed to last around a decade, there are several factors, some of which are within your control and some of which are not, that can impact how long your car lasts. From driving conditions and how regularly you take your car in for a checkup, below is an exhaustive list of details that may influence the lifespan of your vehicle:

Quality of construction materials

The first factor that can affect a car’s lifespan is the materials that it was constructed with. Over the years, certain automakers have developed reputations for constructing cars that are long-lasting and durable, not to mention safe and reliable. If longevity is one of your top factors when buying a new car, we recommend doing some research into the most reliable car brands in Canada. Currently, these brands include the likes of Dodge, Lexus, Toyota, Honda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, and RAM.

Driving style and frequency

The way you drive your car and how often you drive it can both contribute to wear and tear. In other words, if you abuse your vehicle by adopting a certain driving style, its lifespan might be shorter. Examples of driving styles that may impact your car’s lifespan include accelerating and braking hard and maintaining high speeds for long periods of time. High engine speeds create heat and put stress on the engine, which could wear down the car’s internal parts. This is yet another reason that obeying the speed limit is so important. Similarly, the more often you drive, the more kilometres you will rack up. If you frequently take long road trips with your car, you might reach 300,000 kilometres in half the time as someone else.

Driving conditions

The conditions you drive in may also have an effect on the number of years your car lasts. Adverse driving conditions, such as steep hills or icy road conditions, can put greater stress on your car, leading to a shorter lifespan. For example, if you live in a hilly or mountainous area and are constantly driving up and down steep hills, you are putting more stress on the powertrain of your car. Meanwhile, if you frequently drive on icy or snowy roads, especially if those roads have been treated with salt, this can corrode the undercarriage of your car. Lastly, idling can cause wear and tear on a car, so if you live in a busy city and often find yourself idling in traffic or at intersections, you could be wearing your engine down. As you can see, there is a wide range of driving conditions that can impact a car’s lifespan.

Preventative and regular maintenance

Preventative maintenance is crucial when it comes to your car. Experts recommend scheduling a checkup for your vehicle at least once a year. Regular maintenance is one of the best ways to increase your vehicle’s lifespan. In the owner’s manual of your car, there will be a list of routine maintenance items recommended for your specific vehicle. While these vary, they generally include an oil change, transmission fluid change, coolant exchange, tire rotation, brake fluid flush, timing belt replacement, tune-ups to the spark plugs and ignition wires, and an inspection of the brake pads, belts, hoses, etc. Additional maintenance you may be able to request from your dealership or auto body shop, or that you may be able to handle yourself, include undercarriage cleaning, interior stain preventative treatments, regular washing and waxing, alignments, and more.

Cutting-edge safety features

The number of safety features in your vehicle is another variable that can influence how long your car lasts. As vehicle technology becomes more advanced, so do the safety features that cars are equipped with. For instance, cutting-edge safety features like blind-spot collision avoidance, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and lane-keeping assist are becoming standard. The more safety features your car has, the less likely you are to get into an accident, and the longer your car is likely to last.

Old-fashioned luck

One final factor that can impact how long your car lasts is good, old-fashioned luck. Unfortunately, luck is one factor completely out of your control. You have control over the way you drive, but not the way others drive. Even if you are a defensive driving expert, you can still find yourself involved in a car accident. Alternatively, due to weather-related risks outside of your control, your car could be damaged while parked in your driveway. Though you might not like it, luck of the draw can play a role when it comes to vehicle shelf life.

Seven signs your car is nearing the end of its life

Most passenger vehicles have telltale signs that they are nearing the end of their lives. If you’ve noticed something is off with your car but don’t know what it means, keep reading to find out if it’s a sign that your vehicle isn’t going to last much longer:

  • Dashboard lights are on: The lights on your car’s dashboard are designed to warn you when something isn’t right. The more frequently you notice these lights turning on, the more likely that something is wrong, whether it’s the check engine light or the oil pressure light that is flashing.
  • Oil leaking from your car: Since oil is necessary for engine lubrication, it is crucial to the functioning of your vehicle. If you’ve started to notice oil leaking out of your car, take it to an auto body shop immediately, especially if it’s leaking out of your tailpipe.
  • Other fluids leaking from your car: You may not have experienced oil leaking out of your car, but if you notice other fluids leaking out, this could still indicate a problem. For example, like the engine, other parts of the car need fluid to function, including the brake, transmission, and steering. If you notice lots of leaks but are frequently topping up the oil and coolant in your car, it could mean your vehicle is on the verge of dying.
  • A knocking sound: Heard any strange sounds coming from your vehicle lately? A knocking sound is a telltale sign that your vehicle is nearing the end, as it typically occurs when the camshaft is no longer aligned with the pistons, which is a very expensive problem to repair.
  • Difficulty starting in cold weather: Older engines tend to have problems turning on in cold weather. If you often have to attempt start-up multiple times before your vehicle successfully turns on, this could indicate an issue. Of course, if your engine won’t start at all, you should start preparing to say goodbye to your car.
  • Smoke emanating from the engine: Smoke coming from your car is never a good sign. How serious the issue depends on the colour of the smoke emanating from your vehicle. In the best-case scenario, smoke likely means there is a problem with the pipes, radiator, or gasket, and in the worst case, it could mean the engine is on the verge of failing.
  • High mileage: One final sign that your car might be nearing the end of its life is if the average car mileage is quite high. As mentioned above, most modern gas-powered vehicles will top out at around 300,000 kilometres. If you’re approaching this number, you may want to start looking into new vehicles. For help calculating your mileage, contact BrokerLink.


Tips to make your car last longer

Now that you know what variables can influence a car’s lifespan and what signs to look out for that your car may be on the verge of dying, let’s dive into a more upbeat topic: how you can make your car last longer! As a driver, there are many steps you can take to increase the shelf life of your vehicle. A few of BrokerLink’s top tips for improving your vehicle’s lifespan are as follows:

1. Read through the owner’s manual

Anytime you purchase a car, it will come with an owner’s manual. Though you might be inclined to stuff this in the glove box and never look at it again, this would be a mistake. The owner’s manual contains a plethora of useful information, especially when it comes to taking good care of your vehicle. For example, most manuals will include key information like the ideal maintenance schedule for your car and when to plan oil services, tire rotations, belt replacements, and more.

2. Make sure to regularly change your oil

Oil is essential to the functioning of your vehicle, which makes regular oil changes extremely important. Your owner’s manual will give you an ideal schedule for oil changes, and we recommend you stick to it. A lack of oil could cause major damage to your car’s engine, decreasing its lifespan.

3. Keep all fluids topped up

Oil is certainly one of the most important fluids in your car, but it’s not the only one. Thus, it’s equally important to ensure that the other fluids in your car, such as brake fluid, coolant, wipe fluid, transmission fluid, and power steering fluid, are all regularly topped up as well. Your owner’s manual should provide information on these fluids. However, most cars also have indicator lights to notify you when your vehicle is running low on a certain type of fluid. Most car dealerships will top these up in addition to your oil and filter if you ask them, or request a service level that includes these.

4. Protect your car from the extreme weather conditions

Canadian drivers are no strangers to extreme winter conditions. Unfortunately, in addition to being unpleasant, they can wreak havoc on your vehicle. If your car is constantly being covered in snow, rain, or ice, this can cause long-term damage. If you can, do your best to shield your car from the harsh winter elements by parking it in a garage or under a covered driveway. If you are unable to keep your vehicle in either of those places, frequently washing your vehicle can help to keep the damage from things like animal feces, salt and mud to a minimum while also clearing off any residue leftover from snow, rain or ice.

5. Have your tires inspected regularly

Did you know that tire pressure is important to the longevity of your vehicle? It’s true. If you let your tires deflate, your engine will have to work extra hard to make up for it, which can lead to unnecessary wear, not to mention cost you more money in gas. Plus, having your tires regularly maintained can improve safety by increasing traction and helping you avoid blowouts, while also increasing the shelf life of your tires, saving you money.

6. Clean your car

Cleaning your vehicle is essential if you want to extend its life while also ensuring you receive the best possible resale value when it comes time to sell. When you clean your vehicle, make sure to give it the full treatment. This means wiping down the inside and outside of the windows, vacuuming the interior, using a leather cleaner or steam cleaner on fabric interiors, inspecting your windshield, and removing any salt or dirt that has built up, especially on the bottom of your car.

7. Replace your car’s air filter

Just as you need to regularly change the air filter in your HVAC units, it’s also important to replace the air filter in your car. It doesn’t take long for dust, dirt, and debris to get caught in your air filter. When this happens, your car will stop functioning as effectively. But when you replace your air filter regularly, ensuring it’s clean and clear of debris, you can increase fuel efficiency, reduce emissions, and increase the lifespan of your engine.

8. Adopt a smooth driving style

Remember how we said that your driving style can impact the shelf life of your car? The reality is that if you like to slam on the gas and brakes, this could spell trouble in the long run. Therefore, we suggest adopting a smooth driving style. This means accelerating and braking gradually and doing your best to avoid potholes or bumps on the road. Not only will this save your vehicle from wear and tear, it will also decrease your costs of replacement for brakes, brake pads and rotars. The positive outcomes of driving smoothly include increased fuel efficiency, less wear on your car, and an increased lifespan.

9. Fix vehicle damage as quickly as possible

Putting off car repairs is generally not wise, especially if you are focused on longevity. If your vehicle is damaged but you take your sweet time to get it fixed, the problem could get worse, leading to a very expensive repair bill. Thus, if your car is in need of repair, don’t wait - especially if you think it could be a mechanical problem. Call your local auto body shop and schedule an appointment as soon as possible.

Car insurance coverage to protect cars of all ages

No matter the estimated lifespan of your car, it’s important to protect it, and car insurance can do just that. With the right auto insurance coverage, you will be protected against all kinds of risks. Below, we have compiled a list of the main types of auto insurance coverage, some of which are mandatory for Canadian divers and some of which are optional. Keep reading to learn how each coverage type can protect you and your car on the road:

Third party liability coverage

Third party liability coverage is mandatory throughout Canada, with many provinces stipulating exactly how much of this coverage you need to have. Liability coverage is designed to protect drivers in the event that they are found liable for an auto accident. This type of coverage may reimburse drivers for a range of costs associated with at-fault accidents, like medical bills, vehicle repair bills, legal fees, and more.

Accident benefits coverage

Accident benefits coverage is also mandatory in many Canadian provinces and can help pay for the cost of medical care if someone involved in a car accident needs to see a doctor as a result of the accident. Accident benefits coverage extends beyond the policyholder to any passengers, pedestrians, or other drivers involved in the collision, and it can be claimed regardless of whether the policyholder was at fault for the collision or not.

Direct compensation - property damage coverage

Direct compensation - property damage coverage is a third type of mandatory car insurance coverage, and it specifically deals with property damage. For instance, if you get into an accident and your car is damaged, requiring a repair, you can receive compensation from your insurer to cover this repair through the direct compensation - property damage portion of your car insurance plan.

Uninsured automobile coverage

The last type of mandatory car insurance coverage in Canada is uninsured automobile coverage. This coverage comes into play if a motorist gets into an accident with someone who does not have car insurance or does not have sufficient car insurance. It can also be claimed if you are the victim of a hit and run incident.

Collision coverage

Collision coverage is a type of optional coverage that can help pay for vehicle damage if your car needs to be repaired following a collision. Collision coverage is worthwhile in a variety of circumstances, but especially if you have a new or luxury car. This coverage can be claimed whether you caused the accident or not.

Comprehensive coverage

Comprehensive coverage is another type of optional auto insurance coverage and a favourite among Canadian drivers. As the name suggests, this coverage is extensive, covering your vehicle against many risks. Specifically, comprehensive coverage offers financial protection should your car be damaged or stolen while parked. You may have noticed that the other coverages listed above pertain to cars in motion, especially when they are involved in collisions. Therefore, comprehensive coverage fills this gap by covering policyholders should their cars suffer a loss while stationary. Exactly what types of damage your car is safeguarded against depends on the perils you select for your policy, but they may include theft, vandalism, water damage, fire, wind, falling objects, and more. You can also opt for all perils insurance to give you the greatest possible coverage.

Accident forgiveness coverage

One final type of optional car insurance coverage popular among drivers is accident forgiveness. Accident forgiveness is additional coverage that can be added to your car insurance policy as an endorsement, to protect your driving record and to help prevent your insurance premium from increasing if you have an at-fault accident claim. Note: coverage varies by province.

How the age and condition of your car can impact your car insurance premium

Now that you know more about how car insurance can protect your vehicle, there is one more topic to discuss: the impact that your vehicle has on your car insurance rates. The make, model, and year of your vehicle can all impact how much you pay for auto insurance in Canada. Therefore, keeping your car in tip-top shape by following the aforementioned tips may not only increase the lifespan of your car but can actually have an impact on your car insurance rates.

Ultimately, insurance companies use the type of car you drive to assess your risk level. The riskier you are deemed as a policyholder, the higher your premiums are likely to be. When considering your vehicle, an insurer will research factors like the safety and reliability rating, the average cost of repairs or replacements, and other statistical data, like rates of theft. How frequently you drive your vehicle can also come into play, which further relates to longevity. Cars that are driven more frequently, especially if they are driven on major highways or at night, may come with higher insurance costs. Meanwhile, occasional drivers who stay under a certain mileage each year can benefit from cheaper auto insurance rates.

Back to the make and model of the vehicle. The model of the car you drive, whether it’s a sedan, coupe, hatchback, SUV, van, etc., can impact your premium. In some cases, larger cars like SUVs tend to be more expensive than smaller cars like sedans, which might make your insurance more expensive. Of course, the specific features or trim levels you choose can also have an impact. Cars with more safety features may have lower premiums given that these features can reduce the odds of an accident. That said, typically the more expensive a vehicle is, the more expensive the car insurance will be. For example, owners of luxury sports cars or collector cars often pay more for insurance. Cars with low safety rates may also translate to costlier auto insurance rates, as the chances of the vehicle breaking down or being damaged in a collision may be higher. Further, if you drive a car that is associated with high crime rates, indicating that it may be disproportionately targeted for theft, you may also pay more for car insurance coverage.

Call BrokerLink for more information on vehicle shelf life in Canada

Whether you want more tips on how to extend the shelf life of your car or information on how car insurance can protect your vehicle long-term, contact BrokerLink today. We are automotive experts that offer a wide range of services to our customers. One of our licenced insurance brokers will be pleased to assist you with tasks like renewing your car insurance plan, reviewing your existing coverage, finding you a new policy, or even helping you determine which car is right for you. As insurance specialists, we can also provide free insurance quotes. Just make sure to come prepared, as when it comes time to buy a policy, you may need to provide information, like photo identification, your driver’s abstract, old car insurance documents, and more. Call BrokerLink today for more insight into how long cars last in Canada.


FAQs on cars

How many years does the average car last in Canada?

The average car lasts roughly ten to twelve years in Canada. However, ultimately a vehicle’s lifespan is dependent on how often it is driven and how it is cared for.

Are vehicle lifespans getting longer?

Yes, vehicle lifespans have increased in Canada, largely due to advancements in vehicle technology. Where the maximum mileage of a car used to be around 150,000 kilometres, it is now often 300,000 kilometres or more.

What is a high-risk driver?

There are many ways to be deemed a high-risk driver by an insurance company. For instance, if you file too many auto insurance claims with your provider, if you fail to pay for your policy or misrepresent yourself and your policy is cancelled due to non-payment or fraud, or if you have an above-average number of driving infractions, you might become what is known as a high-risk driver. Do your best to avoid this status as in nearly all cases it translates to higher insurance costs, and in some, can even make it difficult to obtain a policy at all. Given that car insurance is mandatory in Canada, being unable to obtain a car insurance plan could have a major impact on your life.

Can I bundle my car insurance policies?

Yes, bundling policies is a great way to save money on car insurance. By purchasing two or more car insurance plans at the same time from the same provider, you can be eligible for a multi-vehicle discount, saving you 15% to 20% per policy. If you have more than one car in your household, speak with a broker about insurance bundles.

How can I keep my car insurance rates low?

There are many tricks to keeping car insurance rates low. Choosing a vehicle with a high safety rating and a low rate of theft can help. In addition, maintaining a clean driving record, bundling two or more insurance policies into one, installing winter tires on your car, equipping your car with an anti-theft device, or buying a hybrid or electric car can also help you qualify for a reduced rate.

If you have any questions, contact one of our local branches.