A car parked in a parking lot

10 Ways to Make a Vehicle Last Twice as Long

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.

A car parked in a parking lot

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! 

More from Mary's Everyday Cheapskate

A bag of luggage sitting on top of a car
lady pumping gas
A baby sitting in a car
A close up of a computer123rf.com
Car and Sales
Question and Family
leather-cleaner-car interior
cleaning head light
A car parked in a parking lot
Print Friendly, PDF & Email
10 replies
  1. Amanda says:

    I drive a 1990 Subaru Justy with many many miles on her. My trusted mechanic is my wonderful husband who keeps me on the road. I wholeheartedly agree with all your points, especially the preventative maintenance! I also have a friend who has a tire changer, which saves us about 60% on the cost of tires. We reward him with home cooked meals for his trouble.

  2. canceledcheck says:

    My 20 year old Tahoe has 235,000 miles on it, It gets a synthetic oil change every 5000 miles whether it needs it or not:-). The engine runs so quiet, sometimes when I am stopped I am not sure the engine is running. The only thing annoying is the fact that our wonderful government (sarcastic) charges me an extra $9 for the age of the vehicle!! Just got my license renewed and seeing this charge was a shocker.

    • Shannon Robbins says:

      Is the extra charge because of it being considered a “classic” or a “show car”? If so, appeal it. Explain that it’s your everyday vehicle or emergency vehicle and that it’s not being shown as a classic..

    • discus/watchdog for God says:

      I have one more suggestion. If you live in a “cold” State with lots of snow and ice and salted streets, be sure to get a car wash at least once a month, more if weather is bad. Go to a car wash that has under body washing to get all that crud and salt washed away. This will help prevent a build up of rust that is the unseen destroyer of cars.

  3. kcjmc says:

    About parking under trees: Then you have to decide which is worse, bird poop and/or falling limbs and copious amounts of tree — or the sun.

  4. PatriotPeg says:

    mary, thanx for all the tips u provide each day. i tried your link for the are and maintenance of the fire extinguisher. link is not working. pls see if this is the correct. thanx again. peggy

  5. PattiHath says:

    I drive a 2003 Honda Accord with 240k miles on it. I do synthetic oil on a schedule and use Marvel Mystery oil with every gas fill (at the beginning) which really makes a difference in how well this car drives. It may not look great but I’m confident I’ll give it to the next person and they will get many more miles as well.

  6. Kathleen Hicks says:

    I have 480,000 miles on my Toyota Prius. I took it to the dealer while it was under warranty for all scheduled maintenance and I get the oil changed every time it is due. I just took it in for a tune up and to check the AC. It looks like it will make it to 500,000.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *