Pushing your car to 200,000 miles — and beyond — can save you stashes of cash. Here’s how to do it.
The super thrifty among us know that a car is the ultimate financial black hole. This depreciating asset sucks up your current savings — and future wealth — until both disappear, never to be seen again.
For that reason, many frugal drivers share the dream of saving stashes of cash by pushing a car to 200,000 miles — or even beyond.
Even if you’re not a penny-pincher, driving the same vehicle for years on end can add a lot of fuel to your efforts to build a retirement nest egg, or even just to accumulate more “fun” money.
However, a car doesn’t make it to 200,000 miles on its own. Instead, it needs a little extra TLC from its owner. Following are five ways to increase the odds that your ride will last for at least 200,000 miles.
Buy the right vehicle
So, you want to drive your car for the rest of the Trump administration. And the next administration. And maybe the administration after that.
It all starts with buying the right vehicle. Earlier this year, iSeeCars.com released its ranking of the longest-lasting autos.
Sports utility vehicles dominated the list. Interestingly, not a single luxury vehicle made the top 14. To find out which cars might be good candidates for you, check out “14 Vehicles Most Likely to Last 200,000 miles.”
Follow your car’s maintenance schedule
Every car has its own maintenance schedule, set by the manufacturer. Typically, you can find these recommendations in your vehicle’s owner’s manual.
The schedule varies by car model, but Esurance offers a general breakdown of which types of services are required once you pass milestones such as 15,000 miles, 30,000 miles and so on.
It’s easy — and tempting — to skip preventive maintenance. After all, why spend money fixing something that isn’t broken? But Mom was right: An ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure.
Catch a problem early, and you’ll save money, and likely extend the life of your vehicle. To get to the holy grail of 200,000 miles, you need to service your car as suggested.
Change the car’s timing belt before something goes wrong
This should be part of your car’s maintenance schedule. But it’s so important that it deserves a category of its own.
Many people skip replacing the timing belt because it can cost several hundred dollars to have this work done. But ignoring this form of maintenance can be a big mistake.
Depending on how your engine is configured, the timing belt might be responsible for keeping the valve’s stroke and the piston’s stroke from crashing into each other, writes Freddy “Tavarish” Hernandez, founder of the automotive website APiDA Online:
If the timing belt snaps, they run into each other, causing bent valves (most common), cylinder head or camshaft damage, and possibly piston and cylinder wall damage.
Once again, spending a bit of money now can help protect your car from the type of expensive damage that can kill your 200,000-mile dreams.
Purchase quality parts
Buying car parts and associated items on the cheap is another example of how saving money today can cost you a lot of cash over the long haul. As Consumer Reports notes:
The wrong type of oil or transmission fluid, for example, could cause damage leading to expensive repairs, void your warranty, and diminish long-term reliability. Cheap and no-name belts and hoses might not wear as well as those from a name-brand supplier.
Instead of shopping for bargain-basement deals, Consumer Reports suggests using parts and fluids that meet manufacturer specifications. It might pain you a little right now, but your future self will thank you!
Find a great mechanic
If you want to live to be 90, you’ll likely need the help of some good doctors to get you there. The same is true of your automobile. Find a mechanic who can provide sound advice and car care without ripping you off in the process.
John Lawlor, technical adviser at NPR’s “Car Talk,” told U.S. News & World Reportthat a car’s age can determine which mechanic is best for the vehicle. According to the story, you should use a dealership for newer-model cars.
The more recent the car’s model year, the more complex it’s likely to be, and dealership technicians undergo specific training so they know your car like the back of their hand.
However, as the car ages — perhaps after 10 years or so — going to a local repair shop can make sense for routine maintenance such as changing brake pads. The local shop is likely to charge less than the dealership, bringing us right back to our ultimate reason — saving cash — for getting a car to last 200,000 miles.