CarTalk.com Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Keeping a car for 300k +

I like my 99 Accord with 174k, I’d like to see 300k out of it. Any tips (from people who have kept a car this long) on how to help get her there? I change the oill every 3k, the transaxle fluid every 20k, have the brakes checked periodically, tires rotated, coolant changed every 30k, air filter, spark plugs etc. and all issues big or small, get taken care of as soon as practical even if it’s something like a burned out bulb. Really all the maintenance in the o-manual gets taken care of. Timing belt is due around 215k or 3 yrs from now. It gets waxed twice a year and i’m an OCD neat freak so the interior is in pretty good shape.

When I worked at the hotel and did valet in college, I always admired the high mileage, older vehicles that were in good shape you could just tell that the owners took good care of them, it was a classy touch. I want to be one of those people.

Accordion

You sure are on top of maintenance - only thing I didn’t see on your list was new brake fluid every 30k. Also, you might see if your shocks/struts might need replacing, it’ll creep up on you.

Keep doing exactly what you’re doing. The maintenance you’re doing is on par with or more frequent than the manual calls for. And, attending to repairs as soon as they crop up is preventing more parts from getting compromised and adding to the bill. I’ve got a 20 year old car at 365,000 miles and a 12 year old truck at 226,000 miles doing what you’re doing, and that is the secret. I also had my previous truck at 18 years and 325,000 miles that was lost in a car accident and a previous car that had nearly 400,000 miles on it before rust caused us to give up on it. They all just received proper maintenance and prompt repairs.

My Riviera had 530K on it when I dumped it, 240K on my Olds cutlass, 480K on my Olds 88, 350K on my other Riviera, etc. Usually engines and drive trains are pretty sound these days and have no problems getting the higher mileage. Its the rust, accessories, electronics, etc. that can cause a problem. So as long as you keep doing what you are doing and the repairs are not unmanagable, you should have no problem. I’m to the point now though that I want a bumper to bumper warranty and just don’t care to mess with repairs any more. I did my time.

Bing, you’re reading my mail. Right on. You can keep a car indefinitely with mechanical maintenance but “rust, accessories and electronics” become too expensive to find or maintain as time goes on. These are built ins to keep the auto industry moving and profits flowing. As much as car companies like to tout how long their cars last, in practice, it’s bad for business and you and I need to do our part to boost the economy. Buy new frequently…;=(

Might be a little overkill on the frequency of fluid changes. But keep what you’re doing…and good luck.

If you have a little problem…attend to it as soon as you can before it turns into a big problem.

We gave my wifes 96 Accord to our niece when it had about 280k miles. She drove it all 4 years of college. When she graduated she bought herself a new car (2011 Accord)…and gave the 96 Accord to her younger brother when he started college. He’s still driving it…last I knew it had over 320k miles and still going strong.

I don’t think rust is a built in to keep business up…When you have an object that is made largely of steel, sits outside year-round, and gets dragged through salt water several months out of the year…I think it is remarkable that todays cars last as well as they do!

I don’t think there are any real “built ins” to keep the auto industry moving. Just it’s not practical cost-wise to engineer something to last forever, unless you’re building for the military perhaps.

With the exception of occasional poor design and a bad batch of components once in a while, electronics that have no moving parts can theoretically last forever. It depends a lot on the skill and foresight of the engineers I think. Look at the Voyager I and II space probes for example. Constant expansion/contraction from heating and cooling can take its toll on solder joints and other connections though, and parts like mechanical relays get eaten up by arcing when contacts open and close.

Of course there is a big difference in quality between a 4th-generation PCM that’s been exhaustively tested, upgraded, and protected against almost any foreseeable situation, and an el-cheapo stereo made in China by what are basically indentured servants, using the dirt-cheapest components available, and engineered quickly to just get it out the door for maximum profit.

Look at cars 30 years ago (especially Asian)…when I live in upstate NY…it was rare to see a car that was 5 years old that didn’t have major rust problems. Vehicles that were “PROPERLY” rustproofed did very well…but others…not so well.

Now…most cars can easily reach 5 years with little to no sign of rust. If vehicles are designed to rust out to keep the public buying newer and often…the auto industry has been heading in the wrong direction for the past 30 years.

The weak spot of Accords/Honda are their automatics. They literally do run a long time with manual transmissions with some upkeep along the way. Automatics seem to drop put out somewhere between 100k-200k.

I regret not buying an 95 Accord LX over my 95 Civic EX. I know I would have driven another 100-150k in the Accord due to comfort and those Accord’s seem to be better built. I did 225k in my Civic and sold it running perfect and in I would say excellent interior condition and good exterior.

The weak spot of Accords/Honda are their automatics. They literally do run a long time with manual transmissions with some upkeep along the way. Automatics seem to drop put out somewhere between 100k-200k.

There was a 2-3 year stretch where Honda was having problems with their Automatics…Our 87 and 96 Accords went well past 300k miles on the original transmission…Last I knew the 87 Accord was approaching 500k miles…still with the original tranny.

Prior to my 86 Rivera, rust seemed to be a problem. I know it was a premium car but just about the whole dang thing was galvanized or stainless. Rust was not a problem in Minnesota for years. About that time GM at least really started taking rust proofing seriously. Last muffler I put on was about 20 years ago. They’re all stainless now.

The only thing I would do differently is learn how to do my own brake work. I’ve asked mechanics to inspect my brakes, only to follow-up with my own inspection and realize the pads need to be replaced. I don’t think many mechanics actually remove brake pads on disc brakes to inspect them. They just look at the outside pad and assume the inner pad is the same thickness. For some reason, the inner pads on my 1998 Civic seem to wear out faster than the outer pads, and once you have the pads out for inspection, putting new ones in is pretty easy.

Great, thanks for all the good advice / info.

Accordion

My '89 Accord has 540,000 miles on it . . . still runs great. Sounds like you’re on the right track . . . just keep up with everything in the owners manual . . . you’re doing everything that I do. One more thing . . . watch the way you drive. Start off easy, shift gently, don’t flog it, just be careful when driving the vehicle. So many folks beat the bejesus out of their cars when they could just as easily take it easy. My old '89 is now getting kind of funky, starting to have smells, but it starts first crank, uses only a little oil every oil change, runs and drives great, and gets good mpg. Good luck! Sounds like you’re doing it right! Rocketman

Sounds like you’re doing about everything that needs to be done to keep it on the road for a long time. I too always try to take care of problems before they turn into something huge. My '88 Escort has 518,700 miles and still going. Biggest repair to date on it has been replacing the clutch. The engine is now using quite a bit of oil, but the body and interior are getting in poor condition so I just plan to drive it until it stops.

It was a bit longer than 2-3 years, @MikeInNH… The Accord suffered from 98-02, with some years worse than others. The V6 was particularly bad… other models (civic, for example) had different years where they suffered. Unfortunately the OP doesn’t have a 96 - those were mighty fine automobiles (except for the fact that I don’t fit in them). The OP has a 99 and the transmission is a serious question mark. However, they are doing absolutely everything right to minimize likelihood of problems.

FWIW, @Accordion, I think that your biggest issue to hitting your target is likely going to be rust. You’ll be able to replace the transmission easily enough for a few thousand $. Rust, however… well, at the rate you’re driving, that car will be 22+ years old by the time you hit 300k. That is a LONG life for any vehicle. To hit that, you’re going to have to take extra care to stop and repair rust ASAP… because while you can swap out a transmission, you won’t be swapping out a complete underbody…

Whoever mentioned it, yeah not changing brake fluid is oversight on my part, it hasn’t needed any brake work in the 3+ years that i’ve owned it and my regular mechanic ( I go to a real mechanic, not a quick oil change place) has never suggested changing it. I guess it will get changed when the brakes are worked on.

@eraser Fortunately I live outside the “rust belt.” Here in KY we get a little snow in the winter but it’s usually uneventful. Interestingly, my first ever Honda, an 87 Accord was 20+ years old when I had it in college, it had a little rust, but wasn’t a significant problem. I sold it cheap to a buddy when I bought the 99, and he ended up balling it up on a country road one night, a real shame.
Thanks,

Accordion

If you’re going to keep a car forever, why not upgrade and drive a luxury car forever? The ownership costs will average out in the end. Buy a BMW if you’re going to keep it for 10 years.

If you're going to keep a car forever, why not upgrade and drive a luxury car forever?
Ooh! Ooh! I have the answer!

The ownership costs don’t “average out in the end” because you can get high quality economy cars. Luxury doesn’t necessarily equal quality, and luxury cars frequently have worse reliability, as demonstrated by your repair costs.

With a luxury car, maintenance expenses are higher. Luxury car dealerships always charge higher rates, but even if you go to your own mechanic, the parts are more expensive, and there are more “extras” to break, like seat heaters, more expensive sound systems, etc.

You see, an economy car is called an “economy car” not just because it is cheaper to buy, but because it’s cheaper to own, cheaper to maintain, and cheaper to repair.

@UsedEconobox2UsedBMW, you’ve lost all financial credibility here by giving some very bad advice. It’s depressing to see the trend continues, but at least you’re consistent.

You should also take fuel into account. Luxury cars are more expensive to drive because (a) they are almost always less fuel efficient, and (b) they are a lot more likely to require high octane fuel.

I would like to offer some evidence to support my position by comparing a 2012 Lexus LS 460 to a 2012 Toyota Camry. First, there are the fuel economy numbers: 16 MPG city/24 MPG highway versus 25/35 respectively. Then there is Edmunds’ true cost to own estimate: $96,070 versus $39,210 respectively. That’s a difference of $56,860! Maybe UsedEconobox2UsedBMW doesn’t consider $56,860 significant, but I think the rest of us probably do.