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The Highest-Mileage New York City Taxis Aren't What You Think

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author photo by Doug DeMuro July 2016

There's no life more grueling for an automobile than working as a taxi in New York City. In human terms, being a New York taxi is equivalent to working a day job as a bricklayer, a night job on a road crew and weekends as a professional bear wrestler.

Here are a couple points that support my position.

Number one: The average NYC taxi travels 70,000 miles a year. This means these vehicles typically run out of their bumper-to-bumper factory warranties in 6 months.

Number two: New York City has the worst roads in the United States, possibly the whole world. Dozens of hipsters, fleeing from rising rents in Manhattan and Brooklyn, are currently living in a pothole on 76th Street. They've installed a fireplace.

And number three: Taxis must carry not only the driver but also a large number of human beings who range from business travelers to tourists to clubgoers who believe "taxi" is merely another way of saying "vomit chamber."

So it's a hard life. I don't envy New York taxis -- or the pedestrians from Wisconsin they honk at for crossing the road in marked crosswalks. Also, buying a used one would probably be about as smart as eating staples.

Now, on to the topic at hand: What are the highest-mileage taxis in the Big Apple? In other words, what cars are capable of handling this immense grind day in and day out, carrying hundreds of people, running over giant potholes, speeding up and slowing down at breakneck pace and hitting the 200,000-mile mark before their third birthday? What cars are especially ready for this ridiculous, grueling task?

The answer isn't what you think.

Your instinct would probably be to go with the Ford Crown Victoria, the venerable body-on-frame full-size sedan that has a reputation for hard use in police forces and taxi companies all over North America. But these aren't the highest-mileage taxis in New York. That distinction is claimed by the Ford Escape Hybrid.

Yes, that's right: The NYC taxis with the highest mileage are little compact crossovers with hybrid engines.

I travel to New York quite frequently, and every time I'm there, I spend at least a few minutes engaging in my favorite Big Apple activity: running Carfax reports on taxis. You can do this from a license plate number. So I'll be sitting there, in the back of one taxi, and we'll pull up next to another taxi, an especially worn-looking one with more scrapes and scuffs than the space shuttle, and I'll run the Carfax report. "Oh look!" I'll proclaim to the driver of my taxi. "That one has 310,000 miles! And six accidents!" And he will reply: "Please do not throw up in here, you crazy person."

So after running hundreds and hundreds of these reports, I've reached the conclusion that nothing beats the Ford Escape Hybrid. They routinely have 250,000, 300,000 or 350,000 miles. They've often been involved in several accidents. And they're constantly being driven hard, every single day, despite their advancing age, their increasing mileage and the grueling road conditions.

In fact, I've found one particular taxi that stands above all the others: It's a 2009 Escape Hybrid, taxi number 8F63. It's been in four accidents, and its last New York state inspection listed the mileage at 560,415. Of course, that was back in April, and I've seen it since then, doing what it does best: driving toward the Newark airport, edging ever closer to 600,000.

Godspeed, little Escape Hybrid. And look out for that pothole on 76th.

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The Highest-Mileage New York City Taxis Aren't What You Think - Autotrader