200 mile commuter

Good day

I am looking for a little help. I drive from Steamboat Springs, CO to Vail, CO and back on a daily basis. The drive is 20 miles of interstate and 80 miles of 2 lane rural highway consisting of 70 mph straight aways and many 40 mph twisted turns. Throw in a few hundred deer to make things interesting . So we’re talking 1,000 miles a week. I have an appropriate winter vehicle so that is not a concern. What would be the most economical way to tackle this? Mpg, comfort and handling are important. No point in putting those kind of miles on anything vaguely new. I was thinking a 2002 TDI or maybe a civic that has 150,000+ already. Do I spend more than 3k on this?

Any and all suggestions would be helpful. What would Tom and Ray have said?

You drive 1000 miles a week and you want to buy a vehicle with 150000 on it already for 3000.00. You can not be serious.

The idea would be to drive it for a year. Repeat. Do you have any suggestions?

You are looking at 13yr old/150,000 mile cars for a 200 mile a day daily commuter? Are you serious? Are you a sadist?

What would be the most economical way to tackle this?

What you’re thinking is NOT economical. In fact it’s probably the MOST WASTEFUL.

Buying ANY 150,000k mileage vehicle is a crap-shoot. Around here Civic’s in good condition with 150k miles sell for $6k+.

I think you have unrealistic expectations.

From a economical point of view…it would be better to buy a new(ish) vehicle that is comfortable for you and is reliable and good gas mileage…then just drive it till the wheels fall off…but keep up with the maintenance…and you should have a good car for 5+ years.

The 150k mileage car is a crap-shoot…and $3k is unrealistic for anything that’s is good shape to drive another 50k miles without needing lot’s of repairs. It COULD happen…but unlikely.

If this is going to be a long term proposal, at least 10 years, then you need to look at a new economy vehicle. Look for something that costs less than $18k and gets 40 mpg highway. With reasonable maintenance, you should be able to get 300k out if it so at 50k per year. The $18k amortizes out to $3k per year which is your goal, and you don’t have the hassle of registering another car every year per your original plan.

You also gain a plus in reliability, so if this job is important to you, reliability will also be important.

Personally I think you should move or change jobs. 160 miles a day on two lane roads are going to make you gray in short order. I did 60 miles one way on all freeway and I never would have done it on two lane roads. Takes too long and too dangerous.

I did both new cars and used cars over the nearly 40 years. At the end of the life of the car, there really wasn’t much difference in cost per mile either way. With a new car you get what you want and have the benefit of few problems for the first 100K or so. For used I bought a couple nice cars with 100K on and that worked out. But you won’t get more than 3-400,000 miles without serious issues at that point and probably not cost effective to go beyond that.

Like I said that whether you buy new or with 100K, after 400,000 miles, the cost per mile is going to be about the same. Some will argue, but that’s been my experience, and once you get to 150K or so you are stuck and just have to keep driving it so equip it well.

How is the cell phone coverage along your route? If it’s not good, I’d be looking for something new enough to be reliable for a while, probably not more than three years old.

Do any of your other coworkers do this? It might be cheaper to find a small apartment to split and stay over a few nights a week.

To answer your original question, a diesel is certainly worth considering for a drive like this.

Thanks for your helpful suggestions. The reality is that my job is in vail but my kids in Steamboat. I do plan to try to reduce the number of trips from 22 to 16 a month by staying at times in vail. I don’t know how long it will last. As for those of you who think I am nuts, we’ll probably but my profession does not allow me to be any closer than I am.


A used Hyundai Accent can be had for about $4000 with a lot of life left in it. The gas mileage is great and it would easily last a year.

How about goin in with co-workers on a “crashpad”?

The term comes from airline employees who would live “wherever” and overnight in a local apt upon the start of their shift. I “get” that Vail is stupidly expensive…but a condo split 8 ways and filled up with bunkbeds…maybe you could swing that?

Obviously this works better for young, unmarried sorts–but perhaps a Vail crashpad plus home on weekends might work?

I don’t much care for them, but if it’s for only a year or two I’d consider buying a Kia or other econobox a few years old. If none can be had cheaply, any vehicle of any brand that is in good shape should do. Highway miles are pretty easy on a car. Gas mileage isn’t everything if you will never recoup your initial investment from the gas savings.

I have done a similar commute (actually much worse, with a lot of traffic) for 6 months in a Camry. It is not fun, but can be done and quite a few do it. You have to buy a car that is 1-2 years old though, unless you think this is a temp situation.

I had a VW Rabbit when I lived in Colorado, and it handled those type of roads well. I think the TDI is a reasonable choice, but maybe spend a little more and try to get a newer one w/fewer miles on it. The gasoline Corolla and Civic or Fit econo-boxes would be good choices too for mountain driving like that. I presume you will continue to drive your current winter vehicle on days when the road is snow-covered.

Like I said I would not worry about getting the cheapest most uncomfortable car just to save a few dollars. Get something more reliable and more comfortable. An extra $5000 over 400,000 miles is an extra one and one quarter cent per mile-really nothing. But you won’t get 400K unless you get something more mainstream.

Move ur kid to vail. Maybe ex does not what to live too close to you? What is your winter vehicle? 4wd truck?

When you’re spending that much time in the car, you really don’t want to be in an uncomfortable little econo-box. Find yourself a Buick LeSabre. The 3.8 V6 gets decent mileage for it’s size, and is relatively bulletproof. The car is the ultimate highway cruiser, but has enough power to make passing on the two-lane sections effortless.

I’d stay away from the 150K VW TDI. Great mileage but these cars are known to be expensive to maintain once they get beyond 200K. A friend found this out the hard way. He now has an Acura.

A small gas motored 4 cyl car from Toyota, Honda, Hyundai or Mazda should get you to 300K while getting in the high 30’s on the highway running cheaper regular fuel and repairs are much cheaper than diesel repairs. Look for a “grandma” car for sale. Old, small and boring with low miles.

Good luck, that kind of commute will make you old!