Can a 2008-2010 Honda or Toyota make it 250,000 miles without significant maintenance costs?

Hello. I am fairly clueless about cars and apologize in advance if this is one of those irritating newbie questions.

At issue–we just had our third child and need a van until the oldest leaves for college, in roughly 8-10 years, and we want to buy used. My husband and I have different ideas about how to approach this.

He wants to buy an older/ higher mileage one that I will drive for 8-10 years, ie. a 2006 Odyssey with 80,000 miles for $15k. I drive roughly 15,000 miles/ year, so it would end up with 230,000~miles.

I would rather buy a newer/lower mileage one and drive it 12-13 years (And our two younger children would both be in highschool still) ie. A 2010 Odyssey with 25-30,000 miles for $20k. Going this route would also end up with roughly 230,000 miles.

Which is the better option? What factors am I not considering here?

Thanks so much for whatever insight you can offer.

It depends upon your definition of “significant maintenance costs.” If you properly maintain your car at scheduled intervals, then the answer is “yes.” If you try to save money by delaying required maintenance, then the answer is “no.” You should budget at least $1,000/year for maintenance and repairs. Hondas and Toyotas are very reliable, but every vehicle requires proper care.

Maintenance and fuel costs are just two components in total per mile cost over the life of a vehicle. Depreciation, insurance, registration, etc. can equal or exceed those costs.

When you keep a vehicle a long time the initial cost is less of an issue. The scenarios you present seem pretty equivalent to me. The question is really can you expect an Odyssey to go 250K miles without significant repair bills. Not likely you have to expect some issues along the way. Odyssey vans have had issues with motor mounts, transmission mounts, and need for auto transmission replacements. Not far off other cars, but not trouble free for 250K miles either.

I hope that you know the difference between maintenance and repairs, and that you meant to say that you wanted to avoid repairs, rather than avoiding maintenance!

Almost any modern car, if it is maintained at least as well as the mfr specifies, can make it to 200k or 250k without needing to spend much on repairs. Just about the only exception to this generality is the Chevy Aveo, but it appears (luckily) that you are not considering this little, disposable car.

So, my point is that if you buy a used car that has been well-maintained, and if you continue to maintain it well, that vehicle will serve you well. The cars that wind up needing a lot of repairs after 150k miles are the ones whose owners did not believe in maintenance.

Hopefully you are getting my point about the difference between maintenance and repair, and the point is that you don’t want to limit your expenditures for maintenance. Instead, you want to do everything that the mfr specifies (and more–such as changing the transmission fluid every 3 yrs/30k miles!) in order to limit repair costs.

So…my suggestions for anyone buying a used car are as follows:

Buy a copy of the Consumer Reports Used Car Buyers Guide, which is available at Barnes & Noble, and other large news stands. This will give you historical data on “frequency of repair” for every make & model sold in the US over the past 10 years or so. This way, you can try to avoid the models with “black marks”, which translate into much higher than average repair costs.

Only consider used cars that come with full maintenance records, so that you can compare their actual maintenance with the mfr’s maintenance schedule, which should be contained in the Owner’s Manual. Obviously, you want to be able to study these things without interruption, so that you can get a really good idea of what has been done, and–more importantly–what has not been done, or what has not been done on schedule.

Getting maintenance records usually means buying from an individual, rather than from Honest Henry’s Used Car Emporium, but buying from an individual usually means a lower price, in addition to a higher probability of getting records of prior maintenance.

If you find a vehicle that checks out well in terms of maintenance, then you need to take it to your mechanic for a pre-purchase inspection. This can detect collision damage that was not obvious to you, and it can also detect many types of developing problems.

If a seller balks at allowing you to take the car for a pre-purchase inspection, walk away.
If they tell you that there are no maintenance records available, but that they know the car to have been well-maintained, assume that they are lying, and walk away.

My regimen will limit your possibilities for purchase, but it will limit them in the most positive way possible for your wallet.

Good luck with your quest!


Here’s some advice that may or may not help

Whatever car you do buy, treat it as if NO scheduled maintenance has ever been performed.

That means it’s probably due for a timing belt, valve adjustment (EVEN IF THEY’RE NOISEY), spark plugs, air filter, coolant service, brake fluid flush, fuel filter and a transmission fluid and filter service (NOT A FLUSH)

I’m sure I probably left something out, but you get the point, I hope.

Another important to remember.

If the maintenance manual says to replace the timing belt at 60,000 miles OR 8 years . . . that means that every 8 years it’s due for replacement, regardless of if you’ve driven 60,000 miles.

Yet another point to remember.

Valve adjustments are critical. Noisey valves obviously need to be adjusted. However, valves that are not noisey are not necessarily fine. Valves that are too tight will make NO noise, and they will eventually burn up. At that point, the cylinder head needs to be sent out to a machine shop.

Don’t let a shop talk you into a transmission fluid flush. Drain and refill is the best way to go. Of course, you should also remove the pan and replace the filter. Flushes are easier and more profitable for the shop.

Use only the correct transmission fluid for your specific car. NOT a generic multipurpose fluid.

Have the maintenance performed when it’s due. Don’t delay. That way, you’ll hopefully always have a fine running automobile.

It’s best to keep up with repairs, rather than to let them pile up. After all, who wants to drive a car with non-functioning AC, a bad battery, 4 failed window regulators and a rusted out muffler? These things obviously didn’t all happen at once.

I agree with @twotone about setting aside money each year for maintenance and repairs. However, if you don’t spend all $1000 this year, don’t spend the remainder on other things. Let it accumulate. That way, if you need a transmission rebuild in 3 years time, you might already have enough money set aside.

Since you want to keep it for so long, I’d get the newest car you can afford, thereby avoiding as much poor maintenance by the prior owner as possible.

Whatever you buy, find out how much it will cost to rebuild the automatic transmission in that vehicle. Few FWD / AWD vehicles will go 250K miles without some major repairs, including rebuild ing the transmission…Rebuilding Honda transmissions can be very expensive, expensive enough to total the vehicle when they fail…

Wow. A lot to think about. Thank you for all the input. I think I am changing my expectations to spending $20k on one with less than 30,000 miles and driving it for 10 years, putting me around 180,000 miles when we’re ready to get back into a sedan.

And yes, I meant repair costs. My husband follows maintenance schedules diligently, so we’re okay there.

With your desired vehicle lifespan with minimal cost, your best chance of getting that makes me think that you need a vehicle that has:

  1. A manual transmission. A clutch will be cheaper to replace than a failed automatic transmission.
  2. A timing chain, not a timing belt for the camshaft drive. With a timing chain there will be no $500 or more timing belt changes.
  3. Hydraulic valve lifters. Surprisingly, not all vehicles have these and a valve lash check or adjustment may eventually be needed with solid valve lifters.

There may be no minivan that meets this specification, leaving a few cars or station wagons that can.

Imagine that before the 1970s when Chrysler Corp. came out with the first minivan that sold in significant numbers, families rode around in cars and station wagons.

Any used car is a coin flip and whether any car lasts 250k miles is going to be dependent upon how it was treated before you got it and how diligent the maintenance will be after you buy it.

As to maintenance schedules, sometimes those are often not diligent enough.

Yeah, I currently drive a 2007 Honda Accord and am the original owner. The fact that it has a timing chain is definitely a perk. We would keep driving it, but I literally can’t fit two carseats and a growing 10 year old boy in the backseat. Trust me, we’ve tried, and my poor oldest son has to sit sideways in the middle seat between two carseats. It just doesn’t work, and it really won’t work as he keeps getting bigger. You’ve got to remember that back when families were driving station wagons and sedans there were no mandatory carseat laws. Have you seen carseats these days? They are huge and bulky and take up a lot of space. And in California now (where I live) carseats are mandatory until a kid is 80 pounds or 8 years old. Seriously, I have no choice but to get a third row. If there is a better option out there than a minivan, I’m all ears.

If your budget is approaching $20K, you might be better off spending a bit more, buying a brand new one, the lowest trim, and maintain in properly and keep it for as long as it drives.

With your goal of long vehicle life I’d add one thing to any maintenance schedules: regular transmission fluid changes. Every 30-40 k, drain and fill (not flush), and use only factory fluids.

@texases I agree that you should get the newest car you can afford, and make sure the maintenance records are available. If not bring everything up to date as per the manual.

For the life projected, you may get by with one transmission, but budget at some stage to have to rebuild it. Especially if most of your driving is city.

The other weak point of a Honda re the engine mounts which are liquid-filled , like shock absorbers. They may also need replacing within the projected time. Timing belts and water pumps, of course need replacing as per the manual.

Congratulations on doing such thorough planning, but always be prepared for unexpected repairs.

Should there be fewer issues going with a Toyota Sienna instead??

It’s 6 of one, half-dozen of the other. Either way, the first thing that will affect how long the car lasts – since the model years you are comparing don’t differ that much – and the repair costs is your own driving style and how well you take care of it. The second factor is the same as above, except as applies to the prior owner. The third is the make/model/year, how well that particular car holds up over time and miles. Con Reports is a good place to look for that kind of info. Models near the end of a multi-year production run are usually a better bet reliability-wise than models near the start. CR has that info too. And fourth is luck. Sometime you just get lucky and get a good sample. And other times, luck? Not so much.

I think you’ll be better off by concentrating your focus on a particular choice that functionally meets your needs (but not more than your needs) and has good reliability ratings, rather than focussing on the model year.

5k more for a 4 year newer van? I’d take the newer one

Can a Honda or Toyota make it 250K without significant maintenance costs? No, you have to expect and budget for some significant maintenance costs over 250K miles. Some people consider new brakes a big deal expense. Over 250K miles on a mini van you’ll go through about 4 to 6 sets of brakes alone. Some of these motors can have timing belts, so 2 or 3 timing belt water pump jobs if there is a timing belt. 3 sets of spark plugs, and some valve adjustments if it is a Honda. And these are just routine maintenance. By 250K I’d expect to replace an auto transmission at least once on an Odyssey van, and a Toyota might be just about due at 250K for a new tranny. The electric sliding doors, power liftgate, power door locks, and power windows almost always require some repairs by the time 250K miles are racked up.

If you really want and expect to get 250K relatively trouble free miles your best chance of that is to buy a brand new vehicle and take good car of it from mile one. You can buy used, but some people take car of a car and others simply don’t. In a used car you can never be completely sure what you are getting, and a CarFax is pretty useless as far as maintenance is concerned.

Expect to spend about $1000 every 100,000 miles for a new timing belt, water pump, coolant and serpentine belt. Actually, you should expect to pay $1000 when this 80,000 mile Odyssey hits 100,000 miles.

No one has a crystal ball but my daughter had a similar intent on her Honda van. She easily reached 200 plus with her previous Accord and CRV and felt the same should be the case with the van. At less then150 k the dreaded Honda Odessey transmission failure reared it’s head. They traded for a Sienna. Generally with few exceptions, the Sienna has had a
More Stella long term record for drive train reliability. They like the Odessey better but feel less confident in one for that many miles. My feeling would be the same.

Buying and keeping a used Chrysler van within the 50 to 150 k range to keep up with safety features and take rust and some other issues out of the equation has big advantages IMHO . Have known a couple who did this and their economic and safety considerations were hard to argue with. Swapping less expensive horses more frequently in a long race has some big advantages.