5 ways to get your car to 200,000 miles

I was talking to a friend the other day, and he asked me about the mileage of my car, remarking it was in great condition.

“Hmm.. I think around 145,000 now.”, I replied.

“Seriously??!! I had to replace my last car at 80,000 miles!”

This shocked me. I’ve never had to “replace a car” ever. Typically one only needs to replace a car if the cost of fixing the problem costs more then the car is worth, or so many problems are popping up (say once or twice a month) to render the car completely unreliable. My last car I sold with 200,000 miles, and it’s still running great for the new owner. What’s the secret?

1) Keep excellent maintenance records – It’s hard to remember in your head if you are due for a belt change, or an oil change. Especially if you travel a lot, the mileage can really fly by.Used Cars On-Line offers a free online service for tracking your maintenance records. It estimates your current mileage, and emails reminders for changing the oil.

2) Change the oil regularly yourself – Ok, not everyone can do this depending on where you live, but changing your oil yourself (or having someone you know do it) ensures you know exactly what is going into your car. Quicky oil places use the cheapest oil possible, and don’t necessarily use what your manufacturer recommends. Check your manual, buy some ramps, and not only will you save money, you will also get a sense of satisfaction performing this relatively simply auto work.

3) Preventively replace belts and fluids – Waiting until a belt snaps to replace it is not only bad for your car, it can also leave you stranded on the side of the road at the wrong time. Especially cars with interference engines, changing the timing belt could mean the difference between a destroyed engine. If my manufacturer recommends changing a belt at 90,000 miles, I do it at 75,000. The extra cost of doing it more regularly is worth the peace of mind.

4) Find a mechanic you trust – We’ve all had the experience of taking a car to the mechanic for one thing, only to have three other things breaking after we get it back. If you are new to an area, don’t take the first opinion on car work. When I was having trouble with my shifting, I took it to a car dealership who said I needed a new clutch and about $1200 of work. If you ever get a quote for over $500, it’s worth shopping around. I did, and it ended up not needing a new clutch, and another mechanic fixed the real problem for $1000 less. If a mechanic is trying to talk you OUT of getting work done, he is a keeper. If possible find a specialist. Someone that works entirely on Honda’s or Jaguars will know all the little problems much better.

5) Buy a car with a good reputation - With some cars, it doesn’t matter how well you maintain them, they just come with baggage from poor parts decisions at the factory. Before buying a car, I always read user’s comments on EdmundsCarGurus, and e-opinions. If you see most people complaining about small cup holders and the air conditioning not blowing cold enough, it’s probably a good car. You’ll know a trouble car when people are talking about getting the transmission replaced 3 times, and power windows breaking constantly.