Twenty years ago, in Sept. 2001, my husband and I bought a new 2002 Chevy Silverado. For 14 of those years, it was our only vehicle. Our goal from day one has always been to make it last longer than any vehicle we’d ever owned—maybe even twice as long.
As I write, we still own this truck. It’s closing in on 300,000 miles—still running great and still 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 comes down to how well its owner has taken care of it.
According to Eric Lyman, chief analyst at TrueCar, “The average lifespan [of a car] is now almost 12 years,” says Lyman. By that statistic, we’re well on our way to even doubling that statistic!
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 it’s time for a major repair, get at least three estimates before you proceed, if possible. Don’t judge who will make this repair only by the lowest price; 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. You will feel better too, drive a car or truck that’s shiny on the outside, pristine on the inside.
5. Heed the manual
The Owner’s Manual for your vehicle (you can find it online if you’ve lost the original) is 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.
Statistically, we know that a garaged car lasts the 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 damaging rays of the sun and other harsh weather conditions.
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. And it annoys the drivers behind you to no end. 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 sediment dirt, water, and moisture that sit at the bottom of the fuel tank will be drawn into your fuel system. That’s engine damage just waiting to happen. This is bad for your vehicle.
But that’s not the only reason you should always keep the fuel gauge above half. Running out of gas increases the chances of getting in an accident as a result of the sudden loss of power and resulting exposure to traffic should you find yourself in the middle of a lane or even on the side of the road.
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. Generally, cars and trucks used to require oil changes every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, depending on the make and model. Just one more reason to become intimately familiar with that Owner’s Manual. It’s better to err on the side of changing the oil too often than run the risk of failing to change it often enough.
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. That is not a good place to store a 100 lb. bag of sand or every piece of sports equipment you own. Keep it as light as possible.
Follow these suggestions and you too can look forward to doubling your vehicle’s useful life!
A couple of weeks ago, while parked in the street, a USPS mail driver slammed his truck into the back of our truck! I know, how would that even happen, but it did. His vehicle was damaged so severely that it was barely driveable. Our truck, not as much. Still, looks like we’ll be getting a new tailgate, lights, bumper, and maybe a quarter panel. And who knows? Might come out with a new paint job, too. Now we’re wondering how long it will take to get those parts. Maybe as long as waiting to get the proper estimates. I’ll keep you posted.
Question: Got a great story or vehicle longevity tip or trick? Share it in the comments area below!