2002 Chevy Silverado

10 Things You Can Do to Make a Vehicle Last Twice as Long

Twenty-two 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.

 

2002 Chevy Silverado

As I write, we still own this truck. It’s moving 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. It feels good to slip behind the wheel of a sparkling, clean car! Drive a vehicle that’s shiny on the outside, pristine on the inside and you find yourself effortlessly treating it with more respect and love!

“When you look good, you feel good, and when you feel good, you do good.”

 

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. 

6. Undercover

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. If yours is younger, the requirement for oil change could be quite different. And there you have just one more reason to become intimately familiar with that Owner’s Manual.

Always 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 additional strain will unnecessarily shorten its lifetime.

Don’t use the trunk for a mobile garage. That is not a good place to store a 100 lb. bag of sand, that square of roof shingles 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! 

 

Updated and Republished 9-5-23

 

Question: Got a great story or vehicle longevity tip or trick? Share it in the comments area below!

 


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  1. cheryl says:

    I am the third owner of a 2013 Nissan Altima and it’s got 302,485 miles on it as i type. To say it’s been put through it’s paces is an understatement. I wear out tires with as much as it’s driven on the interstate, back and forth from my house to my mother/grandmother’s house. (2 hours each way.). I change the oil between every 3500-5000 miles. The gas mileage is awesome to me…I can get almost 500 miles out of 1 tank of gas!! Probably Intertstate miles use less gas than in town miles. I had a 2001 Toyota Camry that had 250,109 miles on it when I sold it for $700.00 to a friend. I will attest that regular oil changes go a long way to helping a car last!

    Reply
  2. Ingrid Asta says:

    My 2000 Tahoe is also close to 300,000 miles. I routinely change the oil every 5000 miles and only use synthetic. Only repair ever needed was the fuel pump and starter. Thank you, GM.

    Reply
  3. Judy Becker says:

    How is the mail truck driver doing? He or she didn’t have a medical emergency did they? Nobody asked about the driver of the mail truck.

    Reply
  4. Kitty says:

    Hi Mary. You are so spot on about the maintenance. I get my oil changed on schedule, and I love my Tacoma, about to hit 200,000 miles and still going strong. You also mentioned that we let you know if we like your reader’s questions and your answers – yes, keep them coming. You are the best.

    Reply
  5. Sandra Golightly says:

    That is amazing about your truck. My husband drives a 2003 Dodge Ram pick up. He bought it new and it now has 290,000 miles. For the most part we have done necessary repairs. It has been a tough truck and we plan to get another one. We got both kids through college. Two years ago just when we thought it was his turn for a new vehicle, COVID hit, the transmission went out in my car and could not be repaired and our AC unit for our house had to be replaced…all within a month’s time. Once again, my husband, continued to drive his truck. We are about to be in the position to buy a “new to him” truck and I am excited to do so. He has been such a good father, grandfather and partner in life. It’s his turn.

    Reply
  6. Kim says:

    Good advice, Mary, especially for young drivers. I drive a 2012 Ford Escape with 45,000 miles on it and we just replaced the original tires. The brakes are great and don’t need replacing yet. Other than new wipers each year, one new battery, plus other normal maintenance, we’ve not had to do any repairs. My husband is in charge of our cars and does all the upkeep and maintenance (although there are things he can’t do anymore with all the electronics in cars today, so if any of those had problems, we’d have to take it in for repairs). It’s always been parked in our garage, along with our truck, so no worries about birds or trees. When out and about, we try to park it in the shade, or in a parking structure, as sun is very damaging to car interiors. It looks like a new car still; it has no damage anywhere and the paint is shiny and in perfect shape. This car has had all it’s maintenance done as needed, and advised. We keep it clean, inside and out, to not only keep it looking nice, but because a regularly cleaned car lasts longer; hubby just this morning checked it over for an upcoming trip, plus got it it’s regular wash and cleaned the inside. He even regularly cleans under the hood to keep dirt, grease and other gunk off the engine, etc. Barring some unforeseen incident, I plan to be buried in this car….lol.

    Reply
  7. SueMN says:

    My mechanic marvels at how clean my trucks have always been. Vehicles are very expensive and my motto is “take care of your vehicle and it will take care of you!”
    Regular oil changes and maintenance are a must.
    Unfortunately, here in MN if you are a daily commuter on the highways your vehicle will eventually get rust damage no matter how often you go to the car wash.

    Reply
  8. Ingrid says:

    My 2000 Tahoe with 260 000 miles on it is a champ. Everybody always borrows it when their newer cars have to go into the shop. The only major item going wrong was the starter going out. A $700 fix. Love that car.

    Reply
  9. linda griesman says:

    i still drive my 1999 silverado with 254000 miles on her gets good gas mileage i can haul stuff ect the only thing is is that she is picky i am the only one that can drive it she always seems to have a problem when someone else behind the wheel i get in no problems at all she drives like a dream

    Reply
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