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Get your Car to go the Distance

Maintaining Cars - How to Reach the 200,000-Mile Club

Take a look at your vehicle’s odometer. What do you see? With proper care, you could see you car last up to 200,000 miles or more. According to Consumer Reports, trading in your used vehicle every three to five years could actually be costs you thousands in savings.

In a recent survey, Consumer Reports identified 6,769 readers with 200,000 miles or more on their vehicles’ odometers. Car owner accounts ran the gamut of make and model, including a 1995 Honda Civic with 227,000 miles, a 1990 Lexus LS400 with 332,000 miles and one especially long-running 1994 Ford Ranger with an impressive 488,000 miles.

When comparing the costs of keeping a vehicle for 225,000 miles over 15 years, to purchasing and financing an identical model every five, the survery found that keeping a vehicle could potentially save the owner more than the original purchase price of that car.

Consumer Reports estimates that vehicle models, such as the popular Honda Civic EX (with an automatic transmission), could potentially save their owners as much as $20,500 over 15 years if properly maintained. That's a savings of $1,500 more than the vehicle's original purchase price.

In its analysis, the report included 15-years of destination fees, depreciation, maintenance and repairs, finance and interest, fees and taxes, and insurance costs to the vehicle purchase, the same factors used in figuring the costs of purchasing a new model every five years.

Factoring in 3 percent inflation and an annual 5 percent interest rate, an additional $10,300 in investment savings is estimated for those choosing to maintain their current vehicle. As a result, the proposed Honda Civic EX would cost approximately $30,800 less over the course of 15 years, than purchasing a new Civic EX every five years.

But how do you know if your vehicle can handle the long race to the finish line, that victorious moment when 200,000 appears in its odometer?

According to experts, buying a car with a good track record is important. Here, as tested by Consumer Reports, are a list of vehicles that have better-than-average reliability scores over several model years. Also listed are vehicles with multiple years of worse-than-average reliability and a history of problems.

Honda Civic
Honda CR-V
Honda Element
Lexus ES
Lexus LS
Toyota 4Runner
Toyota Highlander
Toyota Land Cruiser
Toyota Prius
Toyota RAV4
BMW 7-Series
Infiniti QX56
Jaguar S-Type
Jaguar X-Type
Mercedes-Benz M-Class (V8)
Mercedes-Benz SL
Nissan Armada
Nissan Titan
Volkswagen Touareg
Volvo XC90 (6-cyclinder)

Getting Your Car to Go the Distance

For motorists looking to make their car reach that 200,000-mile mark, here’s some advice on how to maintain its integrity.

Go by the book. Follow the maintenance schedule in the vehicle's owner’s manual and make any necessary repairs promptly. If you think you’re saving money by skipping an oil change, think again. Missing even one oil change can accelerate premature engine wear and cause engine damage. The manual contains a maintenance schedule.

Use the right stuff. When it is time for maintenance or repairs, use only parts and fluids meeting the manufacturer's specifications. Using the wrong type of oil or transmission fluid, could result in damage, which always leads to more expensive repairs.

Know what to look for. Problems can arise at any time for inexplicable reasons. So it helps to get in the habit of opening the hood and looking, listening, and smelling what’s happening in your engine bay. Look for fraying or cracks in belts and cracks or bulges in hoses. Investing in a vehicle service manual — available at car dealerships and most auto-parts stores — will help show you what to look for and assist you with minor repairs.

Keep it clean. Get out the cleaning products periodically. Regularly cleaning your vehicle inside and out can make it a more pleasant place to be as you rack up the miles. Also, washing and waxing your vehicle can help preserve its paint and keep its sheet metal from rusting. Vacuuming sand and dirt out of the carpets and seats can also the minimize premature wear that leads to tears and holes.

Buy a reliable, safe car. Buy a car with a good track record. Buy a car that has performed well in government and insurance-industry safety tests, and has the latest safety equipment including electronic stability control and curtain air bags. If you’re going to live with this vehicle for a long time, you want it to provide maximum safety protection. Check online, at sites including Consumer Reports, for important safety information and recalls.

Source: Consumer Reports