The Fiat 500 is a fun size 2-door car that was sold in the US from 2012 to 2019.
Throughout that time it gained a lot of fans thanks to its quirky retro styling, affordability, good gas mileage and sporty handling.
If you’re thinking about picking up a Fiat 500, you might be wondering about its average lifespan.
We’ll cover that in this article, read on to find out…
Here is the short answer to how long the Fiat 500 lasts:
The Fiat 500 is a small, durable car that can last on average between 200,000 – 250,000 miles when properly maintained and driven conservatively. Based on an annual mileage of 15,000 miles, you can expect 13 – 17 years of service before it breaks down or requires expensive repairs.
How Many Miles Can You Expect from a Fiat 500?
Despite the stereotypes that sometimes overshadow Italian car brands, the Fiat 500 is actually a reasonably dependable little vehicle.
Its average lifespan really depends on the owner, however with proper care there’s no reason why it shouldn’t last 200k – 250k miles.
Many Fiat 500 owners have reached well over 100,000 miles without encountering any major engine and transmission problems.
Its longevity becomes more apparent when you look up some of the older models on CarGurus, as many of them are listed for sale with over 150,000 miles on the odometer.
Most of these high mileage Fiat 500s running around are the naturally aspirated models (no turbo).
However the Abarth 500s, which had turbo issues early in its life, have also proven to be quite reliable vehicles over the years too.
The most common complaints with the Fiat 500 are for minor issues relating to interior accessories such as door handles and armrests that are prone to breaking.
However the drivetrain and chassis are considered to be quite solid and robust.
The life expectancy of your Fiat 500 will be cut short if you avoid:
- Using quality parts
- Service appointments
- Routine oil changes
- Tire rotations
- Driving smoothly
Your result will be heavily impacted by usage, personal care, and to some extent, luck.
Do Fiat 500 Rust Easily?
Excessive rust and corrosion isn’t a problem commonly associated with the Fiat 500 and these cars aren’t known to rust easily. This is thanks to a good standard of rustproofing that takes place during the manufacturing process which includes an E-Coat and underbody corrosion protection.
No car is completely immune to rust and we did uncover a few rust complaints from 500 owners although they aren’t very common.
Some spots to watch out for include:
- Tailgate under the rear spoiler
- Sunroof frame
One of the most common causes of rust on a Fiat 500 is from rocks that get kicked up whilst driving – these can chip the paint and expose the raw metal which over time rusts.
Rust will be much more of an issue for those that reside close to the ocean due to salt air and those living in states where roads are heavily salted during the winter – salt is one of the biggest causes of rust on any vehicle.
Tips to protect your Fiat 500 from rust:
- Regularly wash and dry your car: This includes its underside (especially during the winter – roughly every 1-2 weeks) to remove the salt, dirt and grime that causes rust. We recommend having a detail shop wash everything underneath at the end of each winter.
- Repair paint damage and scratches: Exposed metal will oxidize. If it’s beyond a DIY fix, speak to your local body repair shop.
- Garage: Store your Fiat 500 in a garage to protect it from harsh weather and bird droppings.
- Waxing: Wax your car twice a year. Not only will this give your Fiat 500 a nice shine, it also gives it a protective coating against rust.
- Rustproofing: If you’re planning on keeping your Fiat 500 for a very long time, you might want to consider a rustproofing treatment; popular choices are Krown and Rust Check.
- Ceramic Coating: A popular choice for those who want to add an extra layer of protection to the paint job.
All Fiat 500s are also covered by a 5-year/50,000-mile Anti-Corrosion Perforation Warranty to help address any excessive rust caused by manufacturing defects.
What is High Mileage for a Fiat 500?
A Fiat 500 with 100,000 miles on the odometer is considered high-mileage. Although it may deliver many more years of service, it will likely have more than a few parts that will require replacement and the risk of major component failure is much higher.
A full assessment of the vehicle should be undertaken and any decision should not be based on mileage alone
As cars get older repairs tend to become more frequent and they lose a lot of their value – and at a certain point the cost of repairs may outweigh the cost of the vehicle.
That being said, buying a Fiat 500 with over 100,000 miles won’t necessarily equate to a bad outcome.
A well-maintained 500 with 100,000 miles might be a better purchase than one with 60,000 miles that had lots of owners and led a rough life or was previously a rental car.
When buying a second-hand Fiat 500, always consider the following:
- Maintenance history. Check that the car was properly serviced and the owner can provide evidence of this.
- Get a second opinion. Take it to an independent auto repair shop or at least have it inspected by a mechanic you trust.
- Check the CarFax. This doesn’t guarantee anything but it will provide a clearer picture of wear-and-tear. Ensure it has minimal damage, if any. Review the information to make sure if something happened such as engine- or transmission-related.
- Number of previous owners. As a general rule, less is better. More owners usually means more wear-and-tear. If one family owned it and drove the full mileage and serviced the car, then you can almost guarantee they took good care of it throughout their ownership.
- How long you are planning on keeping the car. If you’re planning on keeping the car for a long time, you should evaluate whether the short-term savings outweigh spending a bit extra on something more reliable.
How Long Do Fiat 500s Last Compared to Similar Car Models?
In this section we’ll compare the Fiat 500 to some of its rivals.
Fiat 500 vs. Mini Cooper
The Mini Cooper is a very popular retro-styled subcompact car that’s also very fun to drive.
The Mini Cooper’s expected lifespan is around 200,000 – 250,000 miles or 13 – 17 years, which is on par with the Fiat 500.
- RepairPal gave the Mini Cooper a slightly lower reliability rating of 3/5 compared to the 3.5/5 it gave the Fiat 500.
- The Mini Cooper is more expensive to maintain costing an average of $846 per year vs. only $522 for the Fiat 500.
- Kelley Blue Book’s consumer reliability rating for the Mini Cooper is 4.4 stars which is slightly lower than the Fiat 500’s 4.6 stars.
The Fiat 500 has a slightly better track record for reliability and is cheaper to maintain.
However, it lacks the brand prestige of a Mini and can’t match it in terms of performance.
You may also be interested in our article: How Long Do Mini Coopers Last?
Fiat 500 vs. Smart Fortwo
The Smart Fortwo is a 2-seater, rear-engine microcar that’s even smaller than the Fiat 500.
A Smart Fortwo can last up 200,000 – 250,000 miles or 13 – 17 years, much the same as the Fiat 500.
- RepairPal gave the Smart Fortwo an above average reliability rating of 4/5 compared to the 3.5/5 it gave the Fiat 500.
- The Smart Fortwo is more expensive to maintain costing an average of $751 per year vs. only $522 for the Fiat 500.
- Kelley Blue Book’s consumer reliability rating for the Smart Fortwo is only 4.1 stars which is lower than the Fiat 500’s 4.6 stars.
The Smart Fortwo will either suit your needs perfectly or will be completely impractical due to its micro size.
We’d advise taking the Smart car and the 500 for a test drive before making any big decisions.
Fiat 500 vs. Honda Fit
The Honda Fit is one of the best-selling subcompact cars in the US. It boasts great practicality, decent handling and Honda’s legendary reliability.
The Honda Fit can last 250,000 – 300,000 miles or 17 – 20 years with proper maintenance and is expected to outlive a Fiat 500.
- RepairPal gave the Honda Fit an excellent reliability rating of 4.5/5 compared to the 3.5/5 it gave the Fiat 500.
- The Honda Fit is cheaper to maintain costing an average of $390 per year vs. $522 for the Fiat 500.
- Kelley Blue Book’s consumer reliability rating for the Honda Fit and Fiat 500 is the same at 4.6 stars.
The Honda Fit edges out the Fiat 500 in terms of reliability, longevity and is slightly cheaper to maintain.
The biggest difference between the two cars is their sizing, if you need a slightly bigger vehicle you should opt for the 5-door Honda.
You may also be interested in our article: How Long Do Honda Fit Last?
|Fiat 500||Mini Cooper||Smart Fortwo||Honda Fit|
|Annual Repair Cost||$522||$846||$751||$390|
|KBB Consumer Rating||4.6/5||4.4/5||4.1/5||4.6/5|
|Lifespan (miles)||200k – 250k||200k – 250k||200k – 250k||250k – 300k|
Is the Fiat 500 Reliable?
Industry data suggests the Fiat 500 is reasonably dependable and has fairly average reliability overall, however it is not the most reliable car in its segment. The engines and transmissions used in these vehicles are mostly problem-free – with exception to the 2012 model.
The reliability of a vehicle can also be heavliy impacted by your maintenance schedule (if you have one), your driving habits and whether or not you live in a region where extreme weather conditions may affect the car’s construction.
Here are a few data points that highlight the 500’s reliability:
- RepairPal gave the Fiat 500 an above average reliability rating of 3.5/5 and ranks it in 18th place amongst 21 other subcompact cars.
- Its average annual maintenance and repair cost of $522 is only slightly higher than the average for the subcompact class which stands at $456.
- Kelley Blue Book’s consumer reliability rating for the Fiat 500 is a very respectable 4.6/5 stars, which shows that owners are quite happy with their Fiats.
- J.D. Power gave the Fiat 500 a quality and reliability rating of 76/100 which is pretty average but also not terrible.
The Best and Worst Years for the Fiat 500
Despite having only had one generation so far, the Fiat 500 has had its share of good and bad years…
Worst Model Year
According to the CarComplaints website, the 2012 Fiat 500 is the worst model year based on several factors including repair cost and average mileage when problems occur. This model also received the most amount of complaints by some margin, 45 in total.
This is the first model year of the Fiat 500 in the United States and was plagued by multiple issues, including
- Electrical problems
- Transmission problems
- Clutch problems
The most common complaint for the Fiat 500, however, are related to its interior equipment and accessories.
Regarding Abarth 500 models, the general consensus on the Internet is to stay away from the 2012 and 2013 model years.
These had problematic turbos and were prone to leaks.
Best Model Year
The best years for the Fiat 500 are the 2018 and 2019 model years.
These have not had any reported problems on the CarComplaints website so far, and also received some nice updates.
All Fiat 500s from 2018 onwards are powered by turbocharged engines and come with backup cameras, 16-inch wheels, fog lights, a performance braking system and sport-tuned suspension.
Model Year and Number of Complaints
Here is the total number of complaints for every Fiat 500 model year from the CarComplaints database.
|Model Year||No. of Complaints|
|2019||0 (Best year)|
|2012||45 (Worst year)|
What About Recalls for These Models?
The Fiat 500 has had a total of 20 recall campaigns since it was first released in 2012.
You can check if your Fiat 500 has been subject to a recall campaign by entering your car’s year and model on the NHTSA recall database.
It is important to note that recalls are manufacturing faults repaired at no charge to the consumer.
Here are the total number of recall campaigns for every model year of the Fiat 500:
- 2019: 1
- 2018: 1
- 2017: 1
- 2016: 3
- 2015: 3
- 2014: 3
- 2013: 4
- 2012: 4
Fiat 500 Model Year List
- 2012 Fiat 500
- 2013 Fiat 500
- 2014 Fiat 500
- 2015 Fiat 500
- 2016 Fiat 500
- 2017 Fiat 500
- 2018 Fiat 500
- 2019 Fiat 500
Are Fiat 500s Expensive to Maintain?
In terms of ownership and maintenance costs, the Fiat 500 is relatively affordable, although it’s not the cheapest car in its segment in this regard.
According to RepairPal:
Yearly repair and maintenance costs for the Fiat 500 costs an average of $522 which is only slightly higher than the average for all compact cars.
It’s also cheaper than the average cost for all vehicle models which is estimated at $652 per year.
You can find a full breakdown of running costs here.
How Long Do the Brakes Last?
The Fiat 500 brake pads will typically last between 25,000 to 40,000 miles. This can differ greatly from person to person depending on driving conditions and styles.
- You can expect your brakes to wear out sooner if you frequently stop and accelerate in rush-hour traffic
- Brake pad replacement, which includes parts and labor, can cost anywhere between $150 – $250 per axle.
- Full and complete stops from a high speed are the #1 cause of premature brake pad wear.
- A sporty driving style will lead to faster deterioration of brakes, a slow and steady style will help them last longer.
How Long Do the Tires Last?
The stock tires on a Fiat 500 typically lasts around 20,000 – 40,000 miles or 2 – 3 years. However, they can wear out much sooner. This is dependent on various factors such as driving habits, climate, and road conditions.
- Rotate tires every 5,000 miles to ensure even wear.
- Check your tire pressures every few weeks to make sure they’re at the correct tire pressure.
- Have a mechanic or tire shop check your wheel alignment every 6 months.
How Long Do Fiat 500 Engines Last?
The Fiat 500 engines can typically last 200,000 – 250,000 miles with proper maintenance.
To get more life from your Mini engine let it idle for 30-60 seconds upon starting it to allow the oil to get up to temperature and flow through the engine.
If you absolutely must hit the road, drive gently for the first mile or two.
How Long Do Fiat 500 Batteries Last?
The Fiat 500’s battery usually lasts between 3 – 5 years. A vehicle’s battery life varies depending on many different factors such as climate, driving habits, and battery type, among many others.
- Keep your battery tightly fastened: The vibrations of your car can loosen the connections, potentially resulting in short circuits and internal damage.
- Limit short rides: Quick car rides prevent the battery from fully charging.
- Storage: Keep your Fiat stored indoors away from extreme changes in temperature.
- Control Corrosion: Clean the terminals (toothbrush dipped in baking soda and water mixture) and keep them free from build-up.
How Long Do the Spark Plugs Last?
The Fiat 500’s spark plugs need to be replaced every 32,000 miles and is part of the vehicle’s scheduled maintenance.
Spark plugs should be inspected when you take it in for routine maintenance and replaced if necessary.
Signs of a fouled spark plug include:
- Reduced gas mileage
- Lack of acceleration
- Rough idling
- Hard starts
- Engine misfires
What About Insurance Cost?
The average cost of full comprehensive coverage for a Fiat 500 is $1,140 per year or around $95 per month. In comparison, its rivals in the small car segment cost an average of $1,410 per year, which is $270 more expensive.
Insurance costs can vary from person to person; be sure to shop around to find the best possible deal for your Fiat 500.
Tips to Prolong the Life of Your Fiat 500
- Practice smooth driving habits.
- Keep up to date with factory-recommended maintenance.
- Use quality parts and fluids.
- Keep on top of repairs to prevent them from developing into larger problems.
- Regularly wash your Fiat 500 to remove dirt and grime to protect the paint and undercarriage from rust developing.
- Check your Fiat 500’s engine oil, coolant, brake, and transmission fluid levels and top them up when required.
- Keep your Fiat 500 in a garage to help protect it from the elements.
- Read the owner’s manual to learn the location of important components, what your Fiat 500 needs and what quantity, and to understand the symbols and dashboard warning lights.