How to make your car last 200,000 miles

Don't Waste Your Money

The average driver trades in a car after six years and about 75,000 miles, starting all over again with a new payment book.

But drivers can save thousands of dollars by keeping their cars running for 150,000 miles, 200,000 miles, or even more.

3 Drivers Who Keep on Going

Maintenance tech Ron Kattine drives a 2002 Chevy Silverado with just over 200,000 on the odometer.

"It's got about 229,000 miles on it... Just regular maintenance I've done on it," Kattine said.

College student Chris Lawrence drives a 2001 Ford Explorer, with 213,000 miles under the hood, and he said it's still got the original transmission and original engine.

Cindy Adams drives a 1998 Honda Civic with almost 200,000 miles on the odometer, and she counts her savings every day.

"I am saving thousands and thousands of dollars... by not getting a new car," she said.

Secrets for Long Engine Life

We turned to a certified mechanic who specializes in older, higher mileage cars to find out the secret to longevity.

Scott Miller, of Dan Miller's Auto Service, has a shop full of high-mileage cars, including one Volvo with almost half a million miles.

"He's got 405,000 miles on it," said Miller of the customer who owns it.

To get anywhere near this far, Miller shared 5 tips:

What You Need to Do

1. Change the fluids when your book suggests or even sooner.

Once the car is up past 100,000 miles, consider synthetic, semi-synthetic or high mileage oil. It lubricates an older engine better.
Also, he says, change the transmission and coolant fluid well before the book says they are due.

"They are saying the newer coolant can go up to 100,000 miles," Miller said, "but we're seeing a lot of problems with them gunking up. I would recommend no more than 50,000 miles on your coolant."

Brake fluid should be changed before 100,000 miles or it loses its protection, which then leads to rusty brake components.

2: Check under the car for leaks: Get them fixed. 

A small leak could mean you need a new rubber gasket. Cost: $150.

If you let a leak get bigger, you could need a new engine. Cost: $3,000.

And once the engine is blown on an older car, it often doesn't make sense to replace it, as the value of the car is less than the cost of the repair.

3. Wash and wax regularly to prevent rust, which is how that customer's high-mileage Volvo looks so good.

"Always gets the underbody washed when you wash it," Miller said. "Always keep it waxed up," to save the paint from fading and eventually peeling.

4. Park in a garage or carport it if you can to protect the paint, dash, sunroof seals and seats from cracking.

"Garage-kept is always better," Miller said.

5. Drive at highway speeds, frequently. Not doing this is a mistake many people make, Miller says. They "baby" their car, barely driving it, which doesn't do it any favors.

Miller says the worst thing you can do is drive a car 2 miles locally to work or school every day; the engine never heats up, and gunk builds up inside.

Also bad for a car: Starting it to pull it in or out of the driveway, then shutting it off. Running the engine for 2 minutes is terrible for it, Miller says.

Top Cars for the Long Haul

Consumer Reports Magazine recently named nine cars, SUVs and minivans that tend to last to 200,000 miles without major engine or transmission failure.

They are:

    -Honda Accord
    -Subaru Legacy
    -Toyota Avalon
    -Honda Odyssey
    -Nissan Maxima
    -Toyota Camry
    -Ford Taurus
    -Honda Civic
    -Acura TL
    -Subaru Outback

The full-size Chevy Silverado, Chevy Suburban and Ford F Series pickup are also on the list.

Caution About Older Cars

One caution: An older car from the '80s or early '90s probably wont have airbags, stability control or anti-lock brakes, so those may not be good cars to run the wheels off, especially if you are giving it to a young driver.

Choose a newer car, ideally a 2000 model or newer, to run forever so you don't risk safety and don't waste your money.   


Don't Waste Your Money is a registered trademark of the EW Scripps Co.

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