Eighteen years ago next month, my husband and I bought a new Chevy Silverado. For 14 of those years, it was our only vehicle. Our goal from day one was to make it last longer—maybe even twice as long.
We still have it and as I write, it’s closing in on 250,000 miles—and still running great on its original front brakes.
This truck has turned out to be really cheap transportation. And the longer we drive it, the cheaper it gets considering its per-mile cost.
Most cars and trucks are built to last far longer than we can imagine. And when all is said and done, the difference between a clunker and a cream puff is mainly the difference between how the owner has taken care of it.
According to current auto insurance statistics, the average car’s useful life is 10 years or 100,000 miles. Practice the following and it’s reasonable to believe you can double your car’s useful life and spend less time visiting your mechanic, all the while putting off buying a replacement car.
1. Practice preventive maintenance
Research by major car manufacturers reveals that neglect of routine service and maintenance is the number one reason for major car repairs. Routine maintenance doesn’t cost; it saves money, aggravation, frustration, and lives. Pay attention. Anticipate maintenance so you don’t have to pay for repairs.
2. Estimate, estimate, estimate!
When you have a major repair to do, get at least three estimates before you proceed, if possible. Don’t just judge by the lowest price, but judge by competence, ability, experience, equipment, and after-service care.
3. Stick with a great mechanic
When you find a good mechanic you trust, stick with him or her even if the prices are a bit higher. All things being equal, you’ll save time, money and aggravation in the long run. Plus, your mechanic will get to know your car more intimately.
4. Keep it clean
It’s true. A clean car lasts longer because you are routinely washing away contaminants, which cause corrosion.
5. Heed the Owner Manual
It’s your bible for making your car last longer. Read it. Know what to expect and how to head off trouble. And be sure to keep it in the vehicle.
6. Under cover
Statistically, we know that a garaged car lasts longest, a carport is the next best, and a car cover is close behind. If you can’t garage, carport or cover your car, park under trees or any covering to protect it from the sun.
7. Take it easy
Avoid jackrabbit starts and stops. Stop and accelerate gradually. This will save gas, and conserve wear and tear on your brake linings, transmission, and suspension.
In extremely slow or stop-and-go traffic, don’t ride the brake pedal. This wears out your brake linings prematurely and wastes fuel. It’s best to shift into a lower gear.
8. Keep it full-ish
Avoid running your car with the tank low on gas. Keeping the tank low increases the chance that dirt, water, and moisture will settle into your fuel system.
One government study pointed to these top three causes of car breakdowns while on the road: 1) tire trouble 2) cooling system problems and 3) running out of gas.
9. Mind the oil
Regular oil changes according to the manufacturer’s guidelines are the most important thing, dollar for dollar, you can do to protect your engine and make it last longer.
10. Lighten up
The more a car weighs, the harder the engine, transmission, brakes, and suspension have to work. While cars are designed to carry extra weight, over the long term any unnecessary strain will take miles off its life. Don’t use the trunk for a mobile garage. Keep it as light as possible.
Follow these suggestions and you can look forward to doubling your car’s useful life!