Driving my old car across the country


Is it crazy to drive my '93 Honda Civic from Baltimore, Maryland to Sacramento, California? It has 209,000 miles on it and has been maintained (ie., oil changes religiously every 3000 miles and just had a preventative timing belt change at 200,000 miles). I call it the “dogmobile” though as I have 3 dogs (yellow lab and 2 jack russells) who would be traveling with me…as will all of their hair. My mechanic (who I love and respect) just laughed at me when I asked him this question. I currently have a rental minivan on hold for the trip, but would really like to take my Honda. This will be a one-way trip, as I am moving out there for “love”…I hope it does not turn into a roundtrip!!


Consider this. Highway driving is easier on a car than city driving. How many miles will you be driving? Would you consider driving that number of miles around town, if so why not on the trip. New cars have breakdowns also.

Have fun.


The worse that happens is you break down and wait a few days to get it fixed or get a rental and junk the vehicle. Is that really that bad?


As the others have implied, if it has been properly maintained, it is likely to make the trip. However, with the knowledge that any mechanical device can break down, I would suggest that you first obtain a list of “dog-friendly” motels prior to your trip.

As hard as it can normally be to find a motel that will take dogs, if you have to find one sans car (while it is being repaired, perhaps) it could be especially difficult to locate an appropriate motel. If you contact Purina, they have a publication called Traveling with Towser (or something to that effect) and that booklet could be invaluable to you. It is even possible that the list is available on their website.


Well, you could look at this way. The car has made it 200k miles so do you think it will make it another 3k doing the exact type of driving you’re doing now?

My guess is that it would with no problem and 3k miles cross country would be easier on the car than 3k of stop and go.

Just check the oil on a regular basis and if you happen to experience any overheating, stop then and there. Do not continue driving.
As a matter of fact, I would consider replacing the thermostat now if it has not been done in recent memory. A T-stat is cheap, easy to do, and should be changed on a regular basis IMHO since it’s one item that is overlooked until it instantly screws up and roasts an engine.

For what it’s worth, many years ago I drove a car that I paid 10 bucks for across country and had no problems.


Hondas are very reliable cars. My brother owns a 1987 Honda Accord with 260,000 miles on it. He has driven this car across the country 5 or 6 times without any problems. I would not hesitate to do the same. In 1977 out familily took a cross country round trip of 7000 miles in a 1966 Buick wagon with 100,000 miles on it, pulling a vacation trailer. Our only problem was a shorted out spark plug wire which was replaced for $15.

Steps to prepare for your trip:

1.Have a mechanic give the car an inspection. Do this well in advance of your trip.

  1. Correct things that might give trouble. like coolant leaks, wheels out of balance, bald tires, etc.

  2. Change oil & filter with the right grade , such as 5W30, for the trip.

  3. As stated before, highway driving is very easy on a car, and with a cell phone and AMA card, it will be a surprise-free trip. Almost any garage can fix your car, should you have a problem.

A friend of mine from Texas inherited a Jaguar XJS from his late father-in-law in Chicago. He decided to drive it back to Houston, but encountered some major breakdowns and expensive repairs. This is the type of car (unreliable, hard & expensive to service) that you should NOT take on a cross-country trip.


My 98 pathfinder which my daughter is driving now has just over 310k miles on it…And I wouldn’t hesitate to drive it cross country and back. I’ve kept it well maintained and I don’t worry one bit about how well it will hold up.


Have a great trip. 3,000 miles isn’t that much.

I recommend that you bring a AAA card, a cellphone, and a credit card just in case of an emergency. I’d recommend that even of the car were brand new.