At least once in everyone’s lifetime, every one of us should experience that one truck that just does not quit, no matter what. You can even name it. Something like, “the Danger Ranger,” “Worst Nightmare,” or even “The Punisher.” The point is, the thing just won’t quit as the miles pile up on the odometer. With that said, what is considered high mileage for a truck?

Everything is subjective. A dealer may tell you that 100,000 miles are high mileage for a truck, while an old-timer may consider 400,000 miles to be a qualifier. The truth is somewhere in the middle, at roughly 200,000 miles.

Some trucks just last a lifetime, and certain brands are almost always associated with extremely high mileage on a truck, like Toyota, Nissan, Chevy, or even Honda. All four have a place on the top ten list of Car Max’s most reliable trucks. How are these trucks able to go the extra mile the way that they do?

How are some trucks able to rack up extremely high mileage?

This photo was taken while camping on a private ranch in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Our host read tarot cards, and we set up our tent in their yard outside of their barn full of vintage farm equipment.
Photo by Sara Hamza / Unsplash

Durability is the progeny of quality parts. It is the direct result of a manufacturer putting together a working vehicle with high-quality parts that are built with the long run in mind. Out of all the makes and models out there, the Toyota Tacoma pounds the rest into dust, frequently listed as the number one, most reliable truck year in and year out.

But Toyota is not the only one that puts out trucks yearly that can drive until the wheels fall off. Several makes and models belong in the top ten for most long-lasting vehicles, and they all share a few things in common.

The following trucks reached the top ten because they are rated as the lowest in repair frequency, maintenance, the severity of repairs, and unscheduled repairs:

These trucks also share something else in common. They are all from 2006 to 2020, so it’s not as if this is a recent phenomenon. If you own any of these trucks from one of those years then the odds are high you can rack up some serious mileage before it’s time to sell it for scrap or trade it in.

What does it take to maintain a truck for 300,000+ miles?

Automotive shop interior. Motor oil product shelf. Good for illustration in automotive editorials and blogs.
Photo by Robert Laursoo / Unsplash

You would be surprised at what a truck can do if you keep it maintained and practice good habits in terms of preventative maintenance. The old saying goes, “if you keep the oil changed regularly, she’ll go forever.”

That’s not just an old saying from the days when every vehicle seemed to have a four-barrel carburetor and made roughly 5 miles per gallon in the city and 9 on the highway. The saying still applies today because it was a simple way of imparting the message that if you take care of your vehicle, it will drive forever.

Speaking of oil changes, keeping the oil changed at regular intervals is a major component in the formula for longevity. However, it’s not the only thing you need to take care of on a weekly, monthly, and yearly basis.

  • Keep the oil changed regularly
  • Keep a routine eye on the coolant, steering fluid, and brake fluid
  • Maintain and change your transmission fluid at the recommended intervals
  • Keep tabs on your timing belt
  • Keep the air filter changed regularly

Arguably, the hardest part about the deal is keeping the transmission fluid changed. It’s common knowledge that you should have it flushed every 25,000 miles, however, you have to be careful.

If you miss the first flush when your vehicle is brand new, you should never flush the transmission fluid going forward, as it tends to push the tiny metal shavings cast off from wear and tear, deeper into the transmission.

What you should do instead, is simply drop the transmission fluid out, measure it, and replace it with that exact amount. Everything else is pretty routine. Like clockwork, stay on top of your regular maintenance schedules, and your truck will be with you for a very long time.

Diesel mileage vs gas mileage

It’s a common curiosity concerning diesel longevity versus gas longevity. The answer is that diesel engines are generally going to last a lot longer than gas engines. You can expect a diesel truck to carry you for more miles than just about anything you can get out of a gasoline engine.

There are several reasons for this. First, diesel engines are designed to be tougher than gasoline engines. Aside from the fact that you can get more low-end power out of a diesel, you get a lot more longevity. There’s a reason you don’t see 18-wheelers running on gasoline.

A diesel engine can stack up a million miles, whereas a gas engine is exceptional if it takes you higher than 350,000. Second, diesel engines run on a fuel with a higher flash point but lower volatility.

Diesel has a 20% better thermal efficiency as well. The combustion process is more damaging with gasoline engines, and gas engines aren’t made to be nearly as robust as diesel engines.

Where you drive your truck matters

When it comes to extremely high mileage, where you drive your truck will make a large difference in the long run. That’s because highway miles are far more forgiving on any kind of vehicle than city miles are.

That’s because your truck will run hotter in the city, both because it is frequently stopped and idling behind other vehicles, and there is the wear and tear that is caused by frequent stops, starts, turns, and more abrasive reactions to other traffic.

Highway miles are cleaner. Your truck gets more air for cleaner and more efficient combustion and operation. While a truck in the city may churn out the same miles as a truck on the highway, the quality of the miles matters.

How to buy a high mileage truck

This right here truck used to belong to Charles Manson. It’s been sitting for 41 years baking in the desert sun in the ghost town of Ballarat. Located down a dirt road in the middle of Death Valley about 150 miles Northeast of Los Angeles.
Photo by Ash Edmonds / Unsplash

It’s always a little nerve-racking when it comes time to purchase a used vehicle. You don’t want to mess this decision up as you will likely pay the price for years to come. To top it off, it’s hard to find even a low-mileage truck that comes with any kind of warranty.

There are a few things worthy of your attention throughout the process, however.

  • Existing service records on the truck
  • Components of the truck are still under warranty
  • Research the make and model and read the professional reviews carefully
  • Have your own inspection done by a professional before you commit
  • Test drive the truck
  • Take 4WD trucks off-road for a test run

Every auto dealership has some semblance of a record on any vehicle you want to see the service history on. The first thing you should do if you spot a truck that piques your interest, is request a service report on the vehicle.

It may surprise you to find out that even though the truck is technically no longer under warranty, some portions of a vehicle may have longer warranties than others. Warranties stay with the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) for the life of the warranty, so it doesn’t matter if you’re the second or even the third owner.

Do a thorough level of research on the truck before you buy it. Make sure that when you look up the truck, you are accurate with the year, make, and model. There is a lot of information out there on trucks, regardless of what year they were manufactured. The higher the miles, the more important it is for you to research it thoroughly.

One of the best things that you can do is hire a professional mechanic that has no association with the dealer. It will drive the dealer absolutely bananas, and they may even act as if you can’t do that, but you can. Hire your mechanic and bring them out to take a good hard look at your potential truck investment.

Make sure you take it for a test drive and don’t play around. Drive it and drive it hard. Don’t break any laws but get that thing out on the interstate and get it up to speed in a hurry. You should spend at least 20 minutes on the road with it for a proper test drive.

The same goes for 4WD trucks. If you know a good off-road spot, take it there for your test drive and put it through its paces.

Final thoughts

A high mileage truck is oftentimes a point of view. However, anything over 200,000 miles is going to be considered high mileage by most people. There are many trucks out there that are more than capable of traveling a lot of miles. If you are in the market for one, be sure to do your homework on it before you commit because it’s a decision that will affect you, one way or another, for years to come.