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How long do you keep your cars?

Or, to ask it another way, how do you decide when its time to retire a car?

I have a 2001 Chevy Lumina v6 sedan with 124k miles. I bought it used in 2003 and put 100 or those 124k miles on it, so I know its been well cared for. It has been, and continues to be, as reliable as any car I've owned. It runs great and I still enjoy it. So, I'm thinking just keep it until it eventually develops problems and then cross that bridge when I come to it. Alternatively, I can easily afford to buy a new or newer-used car now and not wait till I'm in a bind.

I have a friend who routinely gets a new car every 5 years because he thinks that's the best way to insure he always has a reliable car. I'm more in the 10 years and a 100k miles camp, but, I've passed that benchmark and I see no signs the car is nearing end of life. It also seems to me like the Lumina is fully depreciated at this point and so every extra year I keep it, is in some sense a freebie.

One other bit of info: I'm single and my chevy is my daily, around-town-transportation-car, so if it does break down, its not like I'd be stranded with a family on a cross country road trip.

So, how long do you keep your cars?

Thanks in advance for sharing your thoughts.


  • I tend to keep my cars for 8-10 years, or until they reach ~120k miles.
    Even though I maintain my cars meticulously, I like to update my cars by that interval, even if they are relatively trouble-free.

    Over that 8-10 years, I manage to save enough money so that I can pay cash for the new car, thus saving a huge amount of money over the years on finance or leasing charges.

    By the time that I have put 120k miles on a car, I am usually somewhat bored with the car anyway.
  • 5 years? It's not 1965 any more! 10 years for sure, my most recent were 15 and 13 years.

    Think of it this way, 10 year old cars are not worth a lot, there's not much to lose seeing how long they'll run. If they start becoming troublesome, then get a new one, it could be 11 years or 15 years.
  • I tend to buy 5 year old vehicles with 60K miles on them and drive them until I feel a major repair (like the transmission) would total the car..I then start looking for a replacement..When I'm happy with that, I sell the older but still serviceable vehicle I'm replacing..This works very well if you can do the routine servicing and minor repairs yourself..
  • I keep mine about 10 years or so, upwards of 150K miles. By this time the repairs are starting to add up, reliability dropping, seats are sagging etc. Who ever gets my old car gets a serviceable vehicle that is in good shape for it's age. It is nice to drive a car that is paid up for several years, but it is nice to get a new one every once in a while
  • It depends, I have always bought used (one exception), it up to the last 2 cars they used to have over 100K miles on them when I would get them. I would drive them until the repairs would get out of control, usually 150-160K miles and off load them. Just 3 years ago I bought a CPO Camry with 35K miles, plan to keep it or maybe pass it on to the kids if it is still in decent shape. We are somewhat in extreme suburbia, so can not put up with a lot of breakdowns esp since we travel/visit family a lot. Point in case, our 2000 Caravan with 120K miles has needed the following parts/repairs over the last 6 months;
    Alternator, with serp belt and tensioner (twice for the belt and tensioner), two rear brake cylinders, master brake cylinder, front and rear brake job, fuel pump (X2 because of the sending unit being defective on one), Power window regulator, power door latch, water pump and now radiator. Most of these are not wear and tear items, point in case we couldn't rely on this as a daily driver and we ended up buying a new car. This is the 1st time I went new, one because I could pay cash for it and two because the used pricing did not make sense.
  • We kept our cars about 100,000 miles in the past or until they became too much of a burden. Only the two Fords were so bad that we got rid of them before 100,000 miles. Our 2 oldest cars are both well over 100,000 miles now, though, and we intend to keep them for another 3 years if we can. That would put them both at around 150,000 miles when we retire them. College tuition bills will do that to you.
  • There is no simple answer to this question. Driver's needs differ widely, and some cars hold up better than others. Then there is where you drive, areas that salt roads for winter driving takes at least a few years off of any car.

    For most of my working career I was provided a company car which was turned over every 60K miles or 3 years. More miles and more years seemed to have a negative impact on resale values. During those years I put about 35K miles on a car per year.

    Virtually all new cars sold in the USA should last 100K miles or 10 years. There will be some repairs in those 10 years but they should not be ready for the crusher yet. Many cars can hold up well for 20 years and up to 300K miles without major motor or transmission repairs.

    I'm retired now, and my ego isn't tied up in what my neighbors think of the car I'm driving. At 62 I'm not planning on replacing any of my cars. They last as long as they last. I'm going to have a few big repair bills, but my budget doesn't have any room in there for a car payment. My youngest car is an '04 with just about 60K miles. It is driven the least per year, and is strictly the fun car. It is a convertible and if it dies it likely won't be replaced. Next youngest is an '03 with 108K miles. It gets driven the most miles per year because it gets 35 to 40 mpg. If it died I'd miss the fuel economy but would drive the '04 more. The oldest is an '01 full size SUV that hauls horse trailer, boat trailer, and assorted stuff. It is used as needed, less than 10K a year now but has the most miles on it at 117K. I think all these cars are capable of 300K miles and more if I take care for them. That means they might outlast me.
  • I'm the kind of guy who buys the well-cared for '01 Lumina with 124K on it for very little money and then proceeds to put at least another 100K on it - for not a whole lot more money. I also do most of my own maintenance & repairs though so the cost of having old cars is a lot less for me than it is for people who rely on mechanics for everything.

    My daily driver is currently a '97 Ford Escort. The odometer shows 285K though it isn't the original engine. It causes me no trouble whatsoever. Cheap & easy to operate & take care of. Everything works.

    IMHO your friend's thinking is about 30 years out of date.
  • I originally bought used and kept cars for about 10 years and/or 100K+ additional miles. A change in life style in a move to the "outback" forced a change in my fleet, all at less than 75K. I find I change cares more often than before as I get older.

    It's much cheaper to change cars than wives or houses so I never question anyone's "need" to buy a new car regardless of how frequent.
  • edited May 2011
    Anyone can keep a car longer, since it can become a second car and eventually given to one of the kids.

    Looking at past ownership, we kept the following:

    1. Our 1965 Dodge Dart 13 years, and 154,000 miles
    2. A 1976 Ford Granada 12 years and 110,000 miles; not a great car!
    3. A 1984 Chev Impala 12 years and 200,000 miles; then given to son for college.
    4. A 1988 Chev Caprice 19 years and 146,000 miles; sold for $1400 in very good shape.

    P.S. The next car to be retired is a 1994 Nissan and it will have about 140,000 miles on it by the end of the year.
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