High mileage cars: How to keep your vehicle running longer
Last updated: January 1
It used to be that a car approaching 100,000 miles was likely getting to the end of its life, but it's becoming more common for cars to still be on the road with much higher mileage, says Money — adding that cars today are simply made better than they were even a decade ago. In 1995, a car's lifespan was typically around 8 years, but this increased to 11 years by 2016, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Given that Americans drive an average of over 13,000 miles per year, according to the Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, what can you do to help keep your vehicle on the road as the odometer climbs higher?
The secret to keeping your vehicle running well, even when the odometer hits 200,000 miles, often comes down to maintenance, says Money. If you'd like your vehicle to run for a long time, consider these tips for maintaining a high-mileage car.
Choose wisely when buying a car
The first step to having a car that will last a long time is to choose carefully when buying a new vehicle, says Car Talk. Go with a car manufacturer that has a good reputation and is known for its longevity. This may make it easier to get parts and keep up with maintenance as the vehicle gets older.
Keep up with maintenance
One way to keep a car in good shape is to stay on top of routine maintenance, says Consumer Reports. This includes changing the oil and filters regularly, getting the tires rotated on schedule and completing major service, such replacing the timing belt. Consumer Reports states skipping even one oil change can contribute to premature engine wear. Car Talk says another upside to routine maintenance is that your mechanic may be able to spot small issues before they become big problems.
The required maintenance and service intervals are typically listed in the owner's manual. Car Talk notes that some owner's manuals may stop listing service intervals at 120,000 miles. In that case, you should keep doing routine maintenance on your high-mileage vehicle, starting over at the beginning of the maintenance schedule.
You're the one driving the car, so if something feels, sounds or even smells off, Kiplinger says you should trust your senses and take the car to a mechanic. And, do not ignore the check engine light or another dashboard warning light if it comes on.
Aggressive driving, hard stops and starts and rapid accelerating or decelerating may add unnecessary wear and tear to your car, according to Car Talk. Driving gently, including accelerating slowly and avoiding the need to slam on the brakes, may help prolong the life of a high-mileage car. On a cold day, Car Talk also suggests keeping the speed lower for the first few minutes of driving until the oil has warmed up.
Keep it clean
Cleaning your car can help keep both the interior and exterior in good shape, says Consumer Reports. Giving it a good wash regularly helps remove contaminants and prevent rust, says Popular Mechanics. This can be especially important for the underside of your car that isn't protected by paint — especially if your car is exposed to road salt during the winter. To help protect the paint, consider giving your car a good coat of wax. Vacuuming the interior of your car to remove dirt, sand and dust helps preserve the carpet and upholstery and prevent premature wear and tear.
Make fewer short drives
Shorter trips can be hard on a car, allowing water to build up in the engine and exhaust system, says Car Talk. This may eventually lead to rust. Kiplinger says quick trips can also lead to engine sludge, as the engine never gets hot enough to burn off the fuel in the oil, the engine and the exhaust system. While a drive to the convenience store or to pick up your dry cleaning is a must, try to plan for some longer drives or combine all your errands so that your car has a chance to get to the optimal operating temperature, says Kiplinger.
Modern cars may be built to last a long time, but taking good care of your vehicle is one way to help it reach higher miles. Routine maintenance, driving gently and keeping your vehicle clean are a few of the ways you can help a high-mileage car keep running smoothly.