How long do smart cars last?

The Mercedes-Smart Benz division specializes in building small cars with distinctive styling that stand out on the street. The company was founded in 1994 and the Smart City-Coupe, their first model, was released in 1998.

Smart vehicles have a minimum lifespan of 150,000 miles when properly maintained, and some have even exceeded 450,000. Smart can operate without problems for up to 20 years in mild climates.

However, this is an optimistic estimate as driving a Smart car will become much less feasible due to repair costs. To learn more about the key issues with Smart Vehicles, read the next CarMats section below.

Smart Cars in America

Despite being widely used in Europe, Smart cars were only partially available in the US when the first ones arrived in 2008. In addition to the Fortwo Cabrio, the third-generation Smart Fortwo Coupe was unveiled in 2016. In 2017, Smart USA made the decision to stop producing any gasoline-powered Smart vehicles and concentrate solely on all-electric vehicles.

To commemorate its success, Smart unveiled a limited-edition Fortwo Coupe on the occasion of its tenth anniversary in the US. It was short-lived, though, as the business decided to leave the US market in 2019 as a result of high homologation costs and weak sales.

Seven things to think about when purchasing a smart car

After giving you a brief overview of Smart’s history in the US, this guide will walk you through the 7 crucial factors to take into account if you currently own or intend to purchase a Smart vehicle.

Fuel consumption and range

Fuel usage doesn’t really affect how long a car lasts, but it’s significant to know about the Smart Fortwo. Petrol-powered smart cars are not the most efficient vehicles on the road, despite their size.

Maximum highway fuel economy for the older 1-liter 3-cylinder engine and the short-lived 0.9-liter 3-cylinder engine is 38–39 mpg, or 35–36 mpg combined.

Many rivals have more fuel-efficient vehicles than Smart cars in the same model years and price range. The Toyota Prius, which is bigger and heavier, can get 51/48 mpg because it has a hybrid system.

With a range of only 63–68 miles, the Smart Fortwo’s final model year is powered exclusively by electricity. The relatively quick charging times of 40 minutes on a public charging station or 2.5 hours through a home outlet make up for this, though.

Despite using more fuel, Smart has one advantage over most city cars: it can park almost anywhere. If permitted, Smart can park next to your other vehicle, saving you a parking space. On the street, parallel parking will be simpler, but given the size of the space, you could park at a 90-degree angle and still fit within the restrictions.

2. Motor

One would think that Smart would gain from having a close relationship with Mercedes-Benz. That is regrettably not the case.

The most significant flaw in the Mercedes brand, which is the high maintenance costs, is combined with a relatively unreliable engine in smart cars. After only 22,000 miles, the owner of a 2015 model experienced total engine failure, with a $14,000 replacement cost. Fortunately, he was still under warranty, but that is no longer the case for the remaining Smart cars in the USA.

A record was set on a company-owned model with 450,000 miles, and some owners have reported no problems even after 100,000 miles. Make sure to thoroughly inspect a used Smart car for mechanical issues if you’re thinking about buying one.

The engines require less maintenance because they are chain-driven. The replacement interval is between 75,000 and 95,000 miles, though, so bear that in mind. Your total outlay for a new timing chain and labor could reach $2,000 No matter the type of service or repair, the difficult-to-work-on engine drives up labor costs dramatically.

3. Communication

The gearbox of the Smart Fortwo also has an impact on its dependability. Even for a slow city drive, the 5-speed automated manual transmission is known for being slow and bad.

The main issues with the petrol-powered Smart with the automated manual transmission are gear shift issues, a lazy clutch, and a generally unresponsive throttle. These issues are not present in the electric model, which may make it a wiser choice.

4. Body

In mild climates with few salted roads, smart cars are resistant to rust. When purchasing a used Smart, take into account the area in which it was driven and check the body for dings, dents, and scratches. When the protective coating is still on the panels, rust can’t get in, but when it’s gone, rust can easily get in.

As evidenced by the number of 20-year-old models that are still in use in Europe, rust is not a determining factor in the longevity of a Smart car.

5 Suspension

One of a Smart car’s biggest flaws, from the perspective of the driver, is the suspension. The suspension is in charge of ride comfort; the weak engine and sluggish transmission will affect how well the Smart controls on the roads.

In addition to being very uncomfortable to drive, suspension issues in Smart cars are also very expensive to fix. For a 2012 Smart Fortwo, replacing a single shock or strut will cost you about $300. If you multiply it by two or four and add more parts, the repair will be very costly.

Batteries no 6

Since Smart left the US market in 2017, it seems likely that any all-electric vehicle will need a new battery system at some point.

The estimated cost to replace the batteries in a Smart all-electric vehicle is between $10,000 and $15,000. I had to check forums to verify this statistic, and it is accurate. In 2019, the owner of an electric Smart Fortwo from 2014 said that new batteries cost $11,000 without labor.

7. Brakes

The brakes on the Smart Fortwo have a peculiar issue. There is no problem with their efficacy, but it has been reported that one owner replaces them every eight months due to how quickly they degrade.

This is probably related to the way the car is driven and how often it brakes on city streets. Although the average brake pad lifespan is rated at 40,000 miles, Smarts can only travel 25,000 to 30,000 miles, so there is some validity to this claim.

How durable are Smart cars?

Smart cars, as I said at the beginning of the article, can last more than 150,000 miles, but only if you regularly maintain and repair them. Models imported in 2016–2017 may actually already have deal-breaking issues.

Although the price of new Smart cars has decreased significantly over the years, the cost of parts and labor, particularly the cost of replacing batteries, has not. New Smart cars were unreasonably expensive.

FAQs

Can a Smart Car travel long distances?

Long-distance driving is not where smart cars excel, but to be fair, that was not their intended use. They work best for commuting to work and navigating the city, but they can also take you to a nearby location if necessary. However, I wouldn’t advise travel distances greater than a few hundred miles.

Why aren’t Smart vehicles available in the US?

The official reason for not bringing Smart cars into the US is that the process of homologation is expensive and sales are slow.

Are Smart cars risky?

Although their size might make you believe they aren’t safe, Smart cars actually outperform most other vehicles in terms of safety. Euro NCAP gave the 2014 Smart Fortwo 4 stars, with scores of 82% for adults, 80% for children, and 56% for safety assistance.

Are Smart cars trustworthy?

In terms of dependability, smart cars are erratic. While some models can travel 100,000 miles with only necessary maintenance, other models malfunction after just a few oil changes. Given how much it costs to fix and work on smart cars, they can’t be considered very reliable.

How much does a Smart car oil change cost?

You’ll need to spend about $100 on parts and labor to replace just the oil. Since oil and air filters can be replaced for as little as $20 each, it is advised to do so at the same time as routine oil changes.

Summary

Although smart cars have a long lifespan, I would suggest choosing an alternative minicar from a French, Italian, or Japanese manufacturer. While providing better ride comfort, battery life, performance, and dependability, models made by Citroen, Toyota, or Honda can be less expensive to purchase and operate. I have read a lot about Smart cars, so I am not surprised that they chose to leave the US market.

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