How to get 200,000+ miles out of your car

By glblguy

Auto Mechanic

Not so long ago, American cars weren’t engineered to run for 200,000 or more miles. If fact, they were engineered for a maximum of 100,000. Honestly, they were lucky to run that long under the best of circumstances. Today’s cars, both foreign and American are far better engineered and designed to last 200,000 or more miles. In some cases even much much more.

Of course to keep a car running this long requires keeping it well maintained. Not to mention keeping good tires on it, paying for oil changes, fixing things when they break, replacing the shocks, and who knows how many windshield wiper blades. With all of that maintenance cost, they may run for 200,00 or more miles, but is it really worth the cost?

According to Consumer Reports, keeping a car for 225,000 miles over the course of 15 years can save more money than the purchase price of the vehicle itself.

Here’s the recommendations from Consumer Reports for making your car last the long haul:

Buy Smart

Buy cars with a high reliability rating. Both Consumer Reports and provide comprehensive reliability ratings on cars. Purchasing a a car that has a high safety rating based on performance in government and insurance safety tests is also an important consideration.

Don’t Skimp on Maintenance

While it may seem to make financial sense to skip every other oil change, skipping even one oil change can result in engine wear. Engine wear ultimately leads to less lifetime. So keep those fluids changed, tires rotated and filters clean. One word of caution, do not rely on your local dealership of mechanic to provide maintenance intervals and recommended services. Consult your owners manual for required maintenance items.

Pop the hood

I know, some of you are cringing at this point…trust me, it’s not that bad. Consumer Reports encourages people to open their hoods and check for any unusual sounds, sights, or even worse smells. These are generally early warning signs for potentially big problems. Look for things like cracked hoses, exposed wires, cracked belts, liquid leaks, and insure the battery is clean and the terminals aren’t corroded. For the most part your engine will be dirty, but it shouldn’t be caked in oil or have pools of anti-freeze anywhere. If you see lots of oil on the engine, under your hood, or elsewhere, you should get the vehicle serviced.

Items like fan belts, cracked hoses and fluid refills are relatively easy to do. If you are mechanically inclined, you can save money doing these minor repairs yourself.

Don’t skimp on parts

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is purchasing low quality, off-brand, or even used parts. The cost of doing so could be much worse in the long run. Now I’m not saying that these are bad options in all cases, but just do your research. You certainly don’t want to save $100 on a part just to turn around and pay $1000 due to the damage the failed part caused.

Keep it Clean

The best way to avoid buying that shiny new car is to clean yours. Spend an afternoon really giving it a good wash and wax. Clean out the inside, shine the tires. You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel about it. Not to mention keeping your car clean will keep it running longer and make the paint last longer.

I drive a 2001 Nissan Sentra with 120,000 miles. I love my little car, and am very curious to see how long it will run. Any guesses?

Do any of you drive cars with more than 100,000 miles on them? How about 200,00? What tips do you have for keeping your car running so long?

29 Responses (including trackbacks) to “How to get 200,000+ miles out of your car”

  1. paidtwice Says:

    My spouse’s 1996 Toyota Corolla has 190,000 miles on it and we are hoping to get to 250,000.

    Mine only has 85,000 so far (2001 Saturn L-series) but I am hoping to get to at least 150,000.

    I honestly think the reliability of the car in general matters the most.

  2. PaulaB52 Says:

    The mini-van we had had over 150,000 when we traded it in for a Pontiac Vibe. We had to get something that got better gas mileage.

    From what I understand the Vibe has a Toyota engine. I’m expecting 200,000 miles. I’m being very diligent in taking care of this car. Rotating tires, oil changes, filter changes, etc.

  3. Justin Says:

    Let’s see, I bought a 94 Civic in 97 that had 17,000 miles on it, I drove it until it was totalled in 2005. At that time it had just under 250,000 miles on it.

    In 95 we bought a 93 Nissan Sentra that had 23,000 miles on it. I just sold that for $400 (could have gotten more but we kind of helped gift it to a friends niece that we have taken under our wing). It had 120,000 miles on it.

    I bought my first new car ever, an 07 Toyota Matrix, in June. I plan on driving it for at least 10 years, over 200,000 miles.

  4. glblguy Says:

    @all – Thanks for your input!

  5. fiveberries Says:

    My dad informed me, only after I’d replaced the transmission on my 145,000 mile minivan, that using the parking brake will help extend the life of your transmission. Something about when you stop, and the car lurches a little after you’ve taken your foot off the brake and put it in park, it’s stressing the transmission. So if you use the parking brake (which he always told us to do, never the WHY!), it won’t lurch and stress the transmission, thus helping it to last longer. Does that even make sense?

    SO, I learned the hard way, but now I have a new transmission and I fully expect my car to last me to 200,000+ miles. Fingers crossed, right?

  6. glblguy Says:

    @fiveberries – Well, no first hand knowledge as most of my knowledge is around stick shifts, but I can see how that would be the case with all of that weight on the parking break mechanism. With a new transmission, and if you keep the engine up, it should.

    I’ve found that prayer works better than crossed fingers ;-)

  7. kate Says:

    I have a 1990 Chevrolet Silverado pickup(I purchased it new) that just turned 199,000 miles this month. My mechanic says I should easily get to 250,000 miles. The only major thing I’ve had to do is replace the transmission about 2 years ago.

    The two main factors in longevity in your car is regular and proper maintenance, and not abusing your car with poor driving habits. My friends accuse me of driving like the proverbial little old lady, but I’m not the one with the speeding tickets, the fender benders, I haven’t rear ended anyone because I don’t have to brake hard at the last minute, etc.,.

  8. glblguy Says:

    Hi kate! Man, a chevy that made it that long!! (Sorry, just teasing…couldn’t resist). That’s great you’ve gotten that much out of it. The transmission replacement seems to be a pretty common trend.

    Thanks for sharing your story and your perspective. When they tell you are driving like the proverbial little old lady, just remind them of the tickets ;-)

  9. Brooke Says:

    Our Honda Accord just ate it, but it had 269,000 miles on it. My husband loved that car, but it was costing us over $100 per month. It was time. We’ve replaced it with a Toyota Corolla, which made my husband feel a bit less guilty (he thinks it was made in the US) and is also notorious for its ability to withstand many miles!

  10. glblguy Says:

    Hi Brooke, 269,000…I’d say you got your money out of it. Can’t got wrong with Honda or Toyota, great cars that will run a long time. Go choice! Thanks for dropping by, that is certainly encouragement for others. You bought the Corolla used right?? ;-)

  11. Brooke Says:

    Yeah, the Corolla is a 2005 (got that two year depreciation out of the way but only has 20,000 miles). We had a really nice experience with Carmax. We also used Kelly Blue Book to compare prices. Another option available to military members is the “lemon lot” on base where private owners sell to other private owners, but they could not give us the guarantees that Carmax could. But now I’m turning this into a used-car buying blog – sorry!

  12. glblguy Says:

    Brooke, good for you! No problem, I love talking about cars and used buying. Buying a used car is one of the key steps to gaining wealth. Buying new cars is just a complete waste of money…more on that tomorrow in my “3 worst financial mistakes” article that will be going up tomorrow along with the rest of the M-Network.

  13. Buddy Bridges Says:

    I have a 99 Nissan Frontier I bought new to use for a work truck.As of now(12-07) it has 363,000 miles and the closest to a major problem was a new radiator a couple of years ago because the plastic cracked in the original.I use synthetic oil and change it at 5000 miles.Replace the coolant every year and try to keep the entire vehicle including under the hood very clean.

  14. glblguy Says:

    Hi Buddy! Thanks for dropping by and for leaving a comment. Wow, 363,000 miles, that’s awesome. Hope my Nissan runs that long. Let us know how many miles you get out it!

  15. Lara Says:

    I own a 1989 ford ranger that I purchased for $500 from a guy in pheonix. I am definately an exa,ple of what keeping good care of your car can do. I have had to replace a few things over the years but it has been going strong and I am still driving to this day! The big secret like Buddy Bridges was saying, just keep it clean. Check your fluids regularly and a $10 tire guage never hurt anyone. My wallet definately thanks me with the gas prices right now :)

  16. kevin Says:

    glbl, i just started reading your blog, and i have enjoyed it thus far. I saw in one of your replies that ‘buying new cars is just a comlete waste of money.’ i have compared the cost of certified pre-owned cars (toyota, carmax) with the cost of a new car, and the difference is only a few thousand dollars for the car that i really wanted – 2006 toyota corolla. for me, buying a new car was important because i wanted to ensure that my car would run for 200,000+ miles. I don’t trust a used car to do that since I do not know exactly how the previous owner took care of the car, and I have been burned in the past with bad deals. The peace of mind is worth the extra few thousand dollars.

  17. glblguy Says:

    Hi Kevin. First of, glad to have you as a reader and glad you are enjoying the site. Toyota and and Honda seem to be the two exceptions to the “rule” right now, as they hold their value so well, you can get a new model for just a little more than a used one.

    I always recommend you get a used car inspected by a good mechanic you trust before buying it. I also personally don’t buy used Hondas or Toyotas. I prefer Nissan who has a similar reliability rating, but don’t hold their value as well. Allows you to get a great car for a great deal.

  18. andrew Says:

    I have a 2001 ford taurus with just under 105000 miles on it one thing that i never did with it that everyone should remember to do is make sure that at every 30,000 miles you get the oil changed in your transmitions. I bought this car with 10,000 miles on it and never chaged the oil in the transmition now it is in the shop and needs a new transmition ($2000) so i recomend changing your oil to make sure you can max out the miles on your car

  19. Colin Says:

    I have a 1998 Nissan Frontier that currently has 442,500 miles.

    Don’t skip the small stuff is all I can say. Just like the article says- I have kept it clean, changed all the fluids religously, and fixed any small problem before it becomes a large one.

    It has never had the motor worked on. It still has the original A/C that works like a champ, even in the south. It may not be a powerhouse, but it has more than earned its keep, and it still knocks down 25 MPG. Champion!

  20. Chris Says:

    My 99 Nissan Altima is pushing 185,000 I bought it used with 120,000. I’m hoping to see it to 250,000. Were about to take a road trip to NY from GA so that will help rack up a few miles. Anyone make it over 250K with an altima?

  21. Kevin Says:

    We bought two cars in 2004 one new and one used. The used one was a 2003 Dodge Dakota with 3,000 miles on it and the new car was a 2004 Toyota Corolla. As of two weeks ago the Dakota had 142,000 blew the 8th valve and had a cracked block…needed to replace engine so we scrapped it to a mechanic. The Corolla has 185,000 on it and running strong. We put 5x’s the amount of money in the Dakota for repairs than the Corolla. All we have done to the Corolla is a new serpentine belt, struts and an air conditioning service. I did all the oil changes every 5,000 miles and surprisingly only a 50,000 mile tune up was done. I just changed the spark plugs and transmission fluid at 184,000. Looking to get 250,000. – 300,000 miles out of it. The car is a champ and when I get done with this I will get another Corolla.

  22. Lindsay Says:

    I have a 1998 Malibu with 240 000 on it. It’s needed some major work in recent months, however. Next time it needs a big fix I think I’ll have to consider getting a new car instead. I keep thinking it’s coming to the end but it keeps on putting.

  23. Scott Says:

    My 2005 Mustang Gt has 210,000 miles on it. I just started to replace some parts for the hell of it. I’ve replaced the spark plugs, front roters and pads, shocks and struts every 100K. The clutch, water pump, everything else even the rear breaks have 210K on them. I just changed the serpatine belt for the first time, it could have gone longer. I’m going to replace the clutch, though it still works fine. Even when I replaced the front rotor and pads they were still in good shape. Honestly other then the spark plugs, I’m not sure how many more miles I could put on it before it need to be changed out. This is the best built car ever!

  24. Juliet Says:

    My 1998 Nissan Frontier just turned 206,000 miles and its running better than ever. I think it is finally broken in. I bought it used 10 years ago and I have had to do some major repairs, only because the previous owner and previous mechanics were hard on it. Seriously, who puts an oil pump gear in backwards? Yet it ran for 8 years with a backwards oil pump gear. Only found that out when the teeth eventually wore to the point that there was no grab. It is a little tired going up hill from a stand still, but other than that runs just fine. Regular oil changes, not many baths, it is a happily working farm truck. Hope to keep it for a long long time.

  25. Tom Says:

    2001 GMC Sierra with 192k miles and still running strong. In 18 months it becomes my teen son’s vehicle and hope to get another 50-60k miles out of it

  26. brenda Says:

    my 96 Toyota Camry have over 225,000 miles on it… hope it don’t break soon =[

    i do keep it maintained, and always to regular maintenance.

  27. Michael Says:

    I drive a 1996 Corolla with 277K. I purchased it a few years back with around 200- I’ve had to replace the clutch and starter, nothing major! The reliability of the car does matter for sure, but staying on top of oil changes is the most important thing you can do.