Keep your car longer

By glblguy


The current recession is really causing a number people to take a hard look at their cars and how long they intend to keep them. Americans are holding on their old autos longer instead of buying new models. In 2008, the new auto market experienced a 16-year low. Used vehicles being traded in at dealerships averaged 6.3 years of age after the Wall Street meltdown in late 2008, about 6 months older than before the crisis, according to forecaster J.D. Power & Associates.

Keep your car longer

Keeping your car longer 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 the required maintenance, your car may run for 200,000 or more miles, but is it really worth the cost?

According to Consumer Reports magazine, keeping your car longer, specifically for 200,000 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 and will go a long way to allowing you to keep your car longer.

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. You might want to even consider changing your own oil, but take a hard look on whether changing your own oil worth the cost savings.

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.  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 $1,000 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. Not sure how to properly wash a car? Read my article on how to wash your car and save money. To keep costs down even further, consider using homemade car cleaning products. Clean out the inside, clean the inside, and shine the tires. You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel about your car. Not to mention keeping your car clean will keep it running longer and make the paint last longer.

I currently drive a 2000 Ford Expedition with 116,000 miles. Before that I drive a 2001 Nissan Sentra with 125,000 miles. I loved both cars. Any guesses on how much longer my Expedition will go?

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

Photo by: streetoftrees

23 Responses (including trackbacks) to “Keep your car longer”

  1. DDFD at Says:

    Preventive maintenance is key. I am slowly replacing things on my 135,000 mile car so that I choose when the repair happens and keep the costs in check. I do as much as I can by myself, and choose low cost providers for the things I can’t tackle (I buy the parts ahead of time– no crazy mark-ups).

    I do/have done wipers, fluids, lightbulbs, rotors and brakepads, filters, oil, O2 sensors, spark plugs and wires, etc.

    Soon I will have someone change the belts (timing and serpentine) and the water pump.

    Again, I would rather control the repairs then be on the side of the road and be a victim of whatever garage my car gets towed to . . .

  2. SaveBuyLive Says:

    I drive a car with about 140K on it. It’s a Camry. I’m really hoping that I can squeeze another couple of years out of it.

    In my opinion get a car that is known for its reliability. I also make sure that my car has had a full oil and fluid change before I go on any significant road trips.

    I’m rather confused about oil changes. I hear some people (this blog) saying I should get them regularly. Then I hear other personal finance blogs saying its fine to go every 4-6 months. In times like this I try for the more conservative route and go for the regular more frequent oil change.

  3. DDFD at Says:


    Ignore everyone and read your owner’s manual– it will tell you how often to do oil changes and recommend the right grade of gas too.

  4. Pamela @ Frugal Vet Tech Says:

    Both of our cars probably have at least 160,000 miles on them. We’ll continue to drive both of them until they a) fall apart or b) it becomes more cost effective to replace the car than to continue fixing it. We did the same thing with our last two vehicles. Both had well over 100,000 miles on them, though I forget the exact numbers. When I was growing up, my parents had a car that they drove for 210,000 miles. They then sold the car to someone else who drove it for a while and then sold it to another person.

  5. passatfreak Says:

    I cannot emphasize enough changing your oil and filter. Even if the owners manual says 7500 miles, change at no longer than 5000 miles. I am a big fan of synthetic oil, especially for turbo engines. Frequent oil changes are worth the price. Blown engines are not.

    Find an enthusiast site for your car model. You’ll get real world experience of fellow owners. What problems to watch for, tips and tricks, and ways to save money on DIY repairs and parts. The best example is passatworld. It’s a finicky car, made less finicky (and less expensive!) with these amazing enthusiasts.

    Preventative maintenance is critical along with a trusted mechanic. There is nothing worse than an unknown garage with a gun to your head. They’ll tell you need to fix something for twice the true cost because you have to get your car back on the road asap.

  6. Travis @ CMM Says:

    My 2002 Nissan Pathfinder just went over the 150,000 mile mark. I make sure to change the oil every 3,000 miles. It needs new tires, but I’ve been putting that off. I’m kinda nervous on how much longer I can drive it before I have to start replacing stuff. So far the only problem I’ve had is having to replace an O2 sensor (knock on wood). Hopefully, it will go another 100,000 miles.

  7. Kim Says:

    We recently just got a new car…well new to us anyway. We sold our ’96 SUV with 196,000 miles for $2,500 and bought a ’98 SUV with 55,000 miles for $4,500. Granted it wasn’t a huge upgrade in years or extras but look at all those miles we dropped and all for 2 grand!
    We do regular maintenance and barter services with a local mechanic, trading hours for hours, paying only for the parts exchanged.
    Depending on how much you trust your regular shop I would get it in towards the beginning of the week…to avoid any crooked padding of the pockets if it was a slow week on their part (a tip a heard from a tow truck driver).

  8. Gypsie Says:

    I bought my little VW new in 1999. It now has over 110,000 miles on it. It has traveled all over Europe and now the US. and while DH would love to buy me a new car, I am waiting until the wheels fall off or I truly fall in love with another car. It’s been almost 10 years since I fell in love with this one, so it might take a while (plus, I refuse to go test drive other vehicles right now).

    Thankfully I have a mechanic that I fully trust. when I wanted to change a part on my car myself but couldnt locate the factory part, my mechanic not only sold it to me for cost but also made sure that I understood what i was doing. Total cost: $1.60

  9. MITBeta @ Don't Feed the Alligators Says:

    I have a car with 155,000 miles on it, still going strong. I bought it new in 2001. It’s on its 3rd timing belt, 4th set of brakes, 3rd set of tires, etc. I did oil analysis on the first few oil changes and now change the oil every 20,000 miles. Buy a high quality synthetic and don’t worry. There’s no need to change the oil any sooner than the manufacturer’s recommendation.

    My car’s starting to develop a few rust spots on the front of the hood that I need to address. But I plan to keep this car for at least several more years and hope to get at least another 100,000 miles on it.

  10. Susie G Says:

    Well, my 1992 Camry has over 260,000 miles on it. When we got it it had 120K. My brother is our mechanic and we get regular oil changes and maintenance. We have painted it once but the paint is awful again (but no rust!). The passenger door lock has fallen into the door, my brother bolted the driver’s one in place :-)
    The upholstery is shockingly good. There is a lot of smoke on starting – I think we have some slow (oil?) leaks… Otherwise the shocks are obviously tired but it’s not a bad ride. I’m proud to be highest in the mileage contest thus far!

  11. collin Says:

    I drive my cars untill my wife can’t stand to look at them anymore or the paint is so faded that a repaint would be worth more than the car.
    Currently I have a 96 GMC pick up w/ 212,000, 1990 honda w/ 254,000,
    2006 Grand Prix w/ 80,000 and expect to get about 250,000. Within last 4 years gave a 93 ford aerostar to some one after it turned over 244,000, and a 91 Pontiac 6000 w/251,000 given to a relative and they’re still driving it.
    Oil changes along with filters belts and hoses, drive conservatively,
    although I don’t always. Do repairs as soon as a system is starting to act up instead of waiting for complete failure. Go over the car inside and out with a philips screwdriver and torx drivers etc and tighten all fasteners to take care of rattles and keep from losing screws that have worked loose. and parts becoming damaged. Keep it clean and enjoy it also take care of rock chip repairs promptly and keep tires inflated at or slightly above recommended pressures, I add about 2# to my car tires and run truck tires about 5# under maximum loaded pressures. As your car gets higher mileage on it, it is a good idea to sign up with AAA or something similar.
    My Father Who is 79 Yrs old just traded in his 6year old Camry because it had over 80,000 miles on it and he was afraid it would start giving him trouble. He has been used to the older generations of cars that often needed rebuilding at abt 100,000 miles, not understanding that the car he had would have likely given him 300,000 miles or more.

  12. Kay Says:

    We drive a 1987 Jeep Cherokee with 210,000 and a 2000 Dodge Ram with 140,000. Neither one is anywhere close to giving up. The Jeep is sitting right now, getting it’s spring clean up – brakes, some minor hoses, things like that. Yes, we might spend more in maintenance than most people… but that Jeep is paid for, and insurance cost is minimal. We had the top half of the engine bored out at about 190,000, and fully expect that $200 job to get us at least another 50k miles.
    Once you sit down and do the math, making the necessary repairs to a high mileage car is usually MUCH cheaper than a monthly payment. We know that eventually, it will get to the point where it’s just not worth it anymore. Then? We’ll buy another car with over 100k at low cost, and repeat the whole process all over again.
    It does help that my husband does almost all of the work himself.

  13. micki Says:

    my 2001 suzuki Grand Vitara has about 240,000 miles on it right now, and I did have a Plymouth minivan with almost 200,000 miles on it when I had to junk it due to a distorted frame. I do newspapers for a living, which can rack up a lot of miles in no time. When I was delivering dailies, I would have to change the oil every 3 weeks and I went thru brakes and tires a LOT! Now that I am down to 3 days a week it is better but I am hoping to get another 100,000 miles out of my little workhorse. There are a lot of people, my mechanic included who ask, wouldn’t it be better (read: cheaper) to get a new one, that way you wouldn’t have the repair bills? I have no payment on it, so the only costs that are out of the ordinary are the repairs for engine parts. Brakes, oil, tires etc are the same no matter what year or mileage the car is! So, I will keep my little suv and keep moving! (God willing, that is :)

    And I agree with Collin about getting the car looked at as soon as I feel or hear a problem. Unfortunately the mechanic can’t always feel or hear the problem that I do (because he isn’t in it for 20 hours a week – used to be more). Doing this does save me from higher expenses.

    Keep driving until the thing falls apart!

  14. Glenn Says:

    Sold an 86 Camry with 330K on it. Have a 97 Camry now with 230K on it still going strong. Keep it serviced and they keep on going. We usually drive our cars until they die. Oil is usually changed every 3K miles.

  15. Tonya Says:

    I have a 98 Toyota Corrolla with 275K miles! I have always changed the oil and gotten any sound, pull, or shake checked out. Luckly I married a mechanically inclinded husband with a dad who is a mechanic! Now, anytime I sense that something is wrong I just tell my husband and he gets it fixed. The best thing you can do is to drive your car with no radio or air to get to know it “normal” noise! Then, every once in a while turn off the radio and air to check on her! Just being aware of your car as you drive makes all the difference!

  16. sharp drum cartridge Says:

    Very interesting information. Thanks for sharing.

  17. redakoni Says:

    I have a 94 acura vigor with over 250,000 miles on her,she still purrs like a cat.I change my oil every 3000miles and I only use synthetic oil.This will def, help your vehicle last forever.

  18. lisa Says:

    awesome!!! i just bought a vitara suzuki..the prettiest white thing with white soft top that i loved the LOOKS of, from texas. (mom has a tracker still going strong at 165,000 miles so wanted a tracker or vitara) Its 135,000 miles was scarring me but !!!! after reading here…THANKS!!!!!!

  19. Carol Lee Says:

    My 2005 Ford Freestyle has 140K miles on it…y’all don’t drive much, do you? WOW!

  20. Walter Says:

    1999 Toyota 4Runner, V6, automatic with 230K miles.

    Keep the maintenance up, don’t be cheap on parts, a great mechanic is a big factor, drive gently and never let the appearance go (read: wash, wax, vacuum as needed).

    Don’t sweat between synthetic and conventional oil. My mechanic owns a 1979 Landcruiser with 475K miles (60K miles of off-road) and still running as of this writing (June 2013) with nothing but regular diet of conventional oil every 3000 miles!

    Don’t let anybody drive your car also (except emergency). And yes, keeping any car up-kept can be an expensive thing but I’ll take that tasks over monthly car payments. :) I enjoy my old, good running, and payment free car. Don’t you?