5 Keys to Making Your Car Last for 200,000 Miles

Senior couple driving
Photo by Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock.com

A car is the ultimate financial black hole. This depreciating asset sucks up your current savings and future wealth.

For that reason, many frugal drivers share the dream of saving stashes of cash by pushing their cars to 200,000 miles — or beyond.

Even if you’re not a penny-pincher, driving the same vehicle for years on end can help you build a retirement nest egg or even just accumulate more “fun” money. However, a car doesn’t make it to 200,000 miles on its own. Instead, it needs a little extra TLC from its owner.

The following tips will help you increase the odds that your ride will last for at least 200,000 miles.

1. Buy the right vehicle

It all starts with buying the right vehicle.

This year, iSeeCars.com released its latest annual ranking of the autos most likely to last more than 200,000 miles. Truck-like SUVs and pickup trucks dominate the list, but plenty of other models made the grade as well.

2. Follow your car’s maintenance schedule

Every car has its own maintenance schedule, set by the manufacturer. Typically, you can find these recommendations in your vehicle’s owner’s manual.

Esurance also offers a general breakdown of the kinds of car maintenance tasks you should not overlook.

It’s easy — and tempting — to skip preventive maintenance. After all, why spend money fixing something that isn’t broken? But Mom was right: An ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure.

Catch a problem early, and you’ll save money and likely extend the life of your vehicle. To get to the holy grail of 200,000 miles, you need to service your car as suggested.

If you really want to save yourself as much money as possible in the process, check out “8 Car Repairs and Maintenance Tasks You Can DIY.”

3. Change the car’s timing belt before something goes wrong

This should be part of your car’s maintenance schedule, but it’s so important that it deserves a category of its own.

Many people skip replacing the timing belt because it can cost several hundred dollars to have this work done. But ignoring this specific maintenance task can be a big mistake.

Depending on how your engine is configured, the timing belt might be responsible for keeping the valve’s stroke and the piston’s stroke from crashing into each other, writes Freddy “Tavarish” Hernandez at Jalopnik:

“If the timing belt snaps, they run into each other, causing bent valves (most common), cylinder head or camshaft damage, and possibly piston and cylinder wall damage.”

Once again, spending a bit of money now can help protect your car from the type of expensive damage that can kill your 200,000-mile dreams.

4. Purchase quality parts

Buying car parts on the cheap is another example of how saving money today can cost you a lot of cash over the long haul. As Consumer Reports notes:

“The wrong type of oil or transmission fluid, for example, could cause damage leading to expensive repairs, voiding your warranty and diminishing long-term reliability. Cheap and no-name belts and hoses might not wear as well as those from a name-brand supplier.”

Instead of shopping for bargain-basement deals, Consumer Reports suggests using parts and fluids that meet manufacturer specifications. It might pain you a little right now, but your future self will thank you.

5. Find a great mechanic

If you want to live to be 90, you’ll likely need the help of some good doctors to get you there. The same is true for your automobile. Find a mechanic who can provide sound advice and car care without ripping you off in the process.

As we note in “11 Keys to Finding a Car Mechanic You Can Trust“:

“Today’s cars are basically computers on wheels, which is why you don’t want to trust backyard mechanics or hobbyists with your ride.”

The article goes on to explain how to check a professional auto technician’s certifications and other key details.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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