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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.

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.

I could go back further but our car buying binge began in earnest in 1978. We bought new a 1978, a 1981, another 1981, 1982, 1984, 1986, another 1986, 1987, 1989, 1996, 1999, 2003, 2005, 2008, 2009. A couple of them got to 160,000 miles but they were mine. My wife was trading cars too often I thought, so I told her to do a better job of choosing a car; one that she would like to keep for a while. She did just that in 1989, ran it to slightly over 100k miles and then resumed her car buying binge. What could I say? She had a job.

My daily driver is an '88 Ford Escort that I bought in '93 with 146K miles on it, it now has 515K+ miles and is still being driven anywhere from 20-200 miles per day. It’s still got the original engine (never rebuilt) and 4 speed manual transmission (never rebuilt) and still running good. I do all my own service and most of my own repairs so mechanics don’t eat me alive and most of the normal wear parts on it have been replaced with lifetime warranty parts from Advance Auto Parts or Auto Zone so it costs me very little to keep it going. Besides gas, tires and oil changes I’ve probably spent less than $1000. on it in the past 200K miles. As a matter of fact I just replaced the rear struts on it today, I did the work myself and the parts were covered by lifetime warranty, so the only cost involved was my time and the gas to go exchange the parts. I plan to keep this car until it either quits or a major repair comes up that I can’t do myself. The best thing of all about the car is that it gets anywhere from 39-45 mpg of gas.

I have several other cars besides the one listed above with my best car being a '97 Escort that I bought new and is used mainly for longer trips. It’s 14 years old, got 30K+ miles and never needed any repairs. Since I’m 51 years old at the rate I’m putting miles on it I’ll be over 80 years old when it gets to 100K miles.

As a normal rule I try to keep at least one car where I’m familiar with it’s background and how well it’s been serviced with less than 150K miles, but I don’t trade them when they get to that mileage I just keep them and drive them for beaters to keep the miles low on the car I’m going to be doing most of my long distance traveling in.

I guess the answer to your question is " I drive them till they can’t be drove anymore." If I were you and the car is dependable and isn’t giving any major problems I’d drive it until it had a problem that was going to cost more than the car is worth to you.

"My daily driver is an '88 Ford Escort that I bought in '93 with 146K miles on it, it now has 515K+ miles and is still being driven anywhere from 20-200 miles per day. "

Now that’s an encouraging story. I’m impressed. Thanks.

I used to keep them for 3,000 miles or ten months. These days it’s looking like I get them at 45,000 miles and get rid of them at 150,000 miles. I might get back to junkers some day when I move back to the Central Coast area of Ca. There will have to be no ice or snow before I go back to the old way.

Most of my vehicles I’ve traded or retired because my needs changed. If my needs don’t change I keep a vehicle until it falls apart in the middle of the street. I had one due that due to rot.

I’m keeping my tC forever. I plan to be immortal.

Your friend apparently considers reliability to be a top priority, enough to accept the cost of trading the car every 5 years. I take the opposite approach, I consider keeping a car forever to be a badge of honor. The one thing that would cause me to moveon to another car would be if it became unsafe. My first new car, my '72 Vega, I got rid of after 4 years when the rear axle came apart and the wheel w/axle came off as I was driving. Slid right out of the housing. Scary.

Everyone has different motiviations.

My current car is the only car I have ever purchased for myself. The rest were hand-me-downs from my parents and my grandmother.

My car (a 1998 Honda Civic) has about 204,000 miles on the odometer, and I frequently take it on long road trips. This puts me in the 20 years/300,000 miles camp.

One other bit of info: I am single, I live in Florida, and I also have two motorcycles, so if my car ever breaks down, I will have other transportation handy.

I appreciate all the encouraging stories from people who have kept their cars for the long haul. Given that I only drive about 10k miles are year, and given that rust and rot are not a concern where I live (Austin, Texas), it sounds like my Lumina is still just getting broken in. :slight_smile:

I take good car of her and I have to admit, rather than getting bored with cars I’ve owned a long time, I get sentimentally attached to them. I don’t do my own work, but I have a good, independent mechanic nearby.

The bottom line is that if you can live with the same car for a long time you should drive your current vehicle until the monthly repair bills exceed a car payment or the vehicle falls apart in the driveway. The last couple of vehicles I owned I have sold with over 200,000 miles on them due to growing repair bills. My current vehicles have 189,000 miles, 120,0000 miles and 80,000 miles.

Years are about 8-12 years…but within that period I usually rack up more then 300k miles. Only one vehicle did we give away ( to my niece in college) before it was due.,…Wife had a nice bonus at work and took the money to buy herself a bigger and quieter car (07 lexus). The car we gave away was our 96 Accord with 230k miles…Niece graduated from college bought herself a new car and now my nephew is driving it…I think it has over 300k miles on it now.