In Case You Were Wondering, These Are the Best Selling Vehicles of All Time

September 10th, 2021 by

A grey 2021 Ford F-150 driving up a snowy mountain road

Have you ever purchased a new car, and suddenly it seems like everyone is driving that exact same car? Or maybe you’ve had the exact opposite happen, where people are constantly asking you where you imported your car from because they’ve never seen that particular model before. There are a lot of choices when you visit a Durham car dealership like CBS Quality Cars. There are so many different makes and models of vehicles released each year that between all the new and used cars, trucks, and SUVs on the road, it may seem like there are an infinite amount of choices.

Buying a vehicle can seem a lot like voting in a popularity contest. There are plenty of factors that go into choosing just the right option from the dealership lot, such as capacity, capability, fuel economy, horsepower, and cost, just to name a few. At the end of the day, however, a lot of your decision-making is based on the overall reliability and reputation of the make and model. How often have you read reviews of a particular vehicle to help make up your mind on whether it’s a good investment or not?

Of course, there are different ways to measure “the best selling of all time” when it comes to vehicles. You can look at the volume of sales in a single model year, sales by generation, or total sales over all the generations. Historically speaking, the Ford Model T has sold more units than the Chevy Impala, with the Model T surpassing 16.5 million sales in its lifetime, compared to the Impala’s 14 million. That being said, there probably weren’t many Model T’s sold in 1967, which was the year the Impala was the reigning best seller. So don’t worry – we’ll get into more detail about why each vehicle was chosen for each category.

The Best-Selling Truck

Trucks are tricky because pickup truck drivers are notoriously some of the most loyal customers in America. In fact, in 2020, five of the ten best-selling vehicles were pickup trucks, with the top three models making up 13% of all vehicles sold in the US. Therefore, for this category, it’s best to look at numbers alone. It should be no surprise that the most popular trucks in the US come out of Detroit, but can you guess which of the Big Three can claim the most sales?

Answer: The Ford F-Series.

Now, you may consider that cheating since the F-Series includes the F-150, F-250, F-350, and F-450, as well as the three chassis models, the F-550, F-650, and F-750. However, the F-150 stands out amongst the family as the best-selling vehicle in the US for the past 30 years and the best-selling pickup truck for 45 years as of 2021.

The F-150 joined the automotive world in 1948, known then as the Ford F-1. A little tinkering in 1953 turned it into the F-100. Over the generations, the Ford pickup truck grew and changed to meet the needs of the population, and after thirty years on the market, it claimed its place at the top of the rankings in sales. With plenty of features that drivers need to get the job done and top-notch towing and stowing capacity, it’s easy to see why so many drivers are loyal to the Ford F-Series, year after year.

The Best Selling Sedan

Over the years, many cars have stepped up to the plate to earn the title of “Best Selling Sedan.” The Oldsmobile Cutlass held the title for many years in the 1970s and 80s. The Ford Escort and Chevy Cavalier took the crown in turns after that. The Ford Taurus held its own in the early 1990s. Many would consider the Honda Accord the best-selling sedan, based on its wild popularity, but when we look at all-time sales – especially in the past two decades – the clear winner is the Toyota Corolla.

The Corolla hit production lines in 1966 and has gained its place as an affordable, enjoyable, reliable family sedan over those decades. It’s currently manufactured in a dozen countries, with drivers around the globe depending on a Corolla to get them where they need to be. While the Corolla has hovered at the top of the sales charts for decades, it first reached the top sales figures in 1997, when it beat out the reigning champion, the Ford Taurus. The Honda Accord beat the Corolla in sales in 2001, but the Corolla came back in 2002 and hasn’t let go of the crown since.

So why Corolla? Many people say price and cost of ownership are the determining factors. The 2020 Toyota Corolla, for example, came with a starting MSRP of $19,600 as a brand new model and has a fuel economy of up to 40 miles per gallon on the highway. For those who need a reliable daily driver that can handle lots of miles, the Corolla makes good budget sense. Factor in the impressive number of standard features Toyota throws in, and it’s easy to see why the Corolla is considered “the people’s car.”

A white 2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid driving on an open road at sunset

The Best Selling SUV

This one probably won’t be a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention to SUV advertisements and online reviews. The Ford Explorer is officially the best-selling SUV of all time. First-generation vehicles usually have a lukewarm reception, as drivers want to buy the hype but also want to cautiously observe performance and durability from a distance – at least until they know the product lives up to the marketing. In the case of the Ford Explorer, the first generation, debuting in 1991, sold over 300,000 units each year. In 1994, as Ford prepared to launch the second generation for the next model year, the Explorer was Ford’s best-selling SUV and the ninth highest-selling vehicle in the US.

Now in its sixth generation, the Ford Explorer has seen plenty of updates, all of which fans have appreciated intensely, as demonstrated by sales figures. In February 2020, the 8 millionth Ford Explorer was sold. The Ford Explorer received a major design overhaul in 2020, including upgrades to the overall ride and engine options with increased power, making the Explorer more capable than ever. With a Hybrid option offering additional savings at the gas pump and the impressive Ford Co-Pilot360 suite of safety technology, it’s understandable why families would flock to the Ford Explorer as a highly capable and reliable SUV option.

The Best Selling Coupe

Some people refer to anything that’s not obviously a truck, SUV, hatchback, or van as a “coupe,” especially if it’s on the sportier side of the road. Technically speaking, a coupe is a two-door car, named after the popular horse-drawn carriage design. So while the sporty coupe will forever be the iconic vehicle of the 1960s, we need to expand our gaze to look at all of the vehicles that meet the criteria of a coupe. And there, based on the sheer sales volume, we find an unlikely victor as the best-selling coupe of all time: The Volkswagen Beetle. Granted, the Beetle – or Bug, if you prefer – has time on its side, with US sales dating back to 1950. However, worldwide sales figures indicate that over 23 million Beetles have been sold to date.

In the early days of Beetle-mania, sales figures were in the hundreds of thousands, but by 1968, nearly 400,000 VW Bugs were being sold a year. Furthermore, the Beetle experienced a Renaissance in 1997, with a reimagined “New Beetle” offered by Volkswagen. Then came the Turbo S models from 2002-2004, and the A5 in 2012. The modern Beetle echoes the original styling while incorporating new-fangled technology, including a turbocharged gasoline engine, blind-spot monitoring, and a Fender-branded audio system that would make all the kids jealous in 1968. Volkswagen states that 2019 was the final year of production for the Beetle, but only time will tell if they stick to their word on that matter.

Rear view of a blue 2022 Toyota Corolla Cross XLE AWD overlooking a city skyline at sunset

The Current Best-Selling Champions

Over time, there have been many vehicles vying for the highly coveted “best-selling” title. Champions have come and gone, but the vehicles featured here have earned their clout fair and square.

The Ford F-Series comes to work each and every day ready to go, with loads of capability and a fully customizable set of features, from engine to wheelbase. The Toyota Corolla is a time-tested favorite in the sedan category and may be a heavy contender in the SUV segment as well, with the 2022 Corolla Cross compact crossover on the horizon. SUV drivers know they can depend on the Ford Explorer, year after year, to guide them through their daily commute as well as long-distance adventures. And the Volkswagen Beetle, while currently enjoying a well-deserved retirement, dominates the sales charts with over 70 years of contented drivers scooping up the coupe from dealerships.

As the years go by, it will be interesting to see which models continue to evolve to retain their best-seller status and which become short-term best-sellers, like the Impala, now also retired. It’s clear, however, that a well-calculated combination of price, dependability, capability, and fun is the secret to creating the best-selling vehicles of all time.