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Long Commute - Can My Car Handle It? The Long and Winding Road

It’s possible I’m going to have some lengthy commutes for graduate school in the coming two years, logging 500+ miles a week.



As such I want to ensure as much as possible in the onset that I am going to be entering this routine with a solid automobile that won’t be needing any work outside of the regular oil changes and such which I do myself. At least that would be my hopeful plan! On to the details…



I am currently driving a 1999 Subaru Impreza L 2.2 liter four dour sedan.



It’s at 162,000 miles with no serious mechanical problems in it history, and I would say that 66% of those are highway miles. I believe it is a late 1999 phase two engine, and has been taken care of.



1. Is my 1999 Impreza 2.2 up to this task without suffering any major issues in the future? 500 miles+ a week for a year.



I am wary of putting so much added distance and stress on the car on a regular basis, given it’s age, though it’s been a game-day player so far. I feel low questioning it’s integrity!



2. As my car is clearly in middle to approaching old age, I have considered going the route of a more fuel efficient entry car for this endeavor. Something along the lines of a Ford Focus, Hyundai Accent, or Honda/Toyota compact.



If you have any suggestions or experiences with these (positive or negative) please give a shout!



3. If money is not a factor, would you recommend sticking with my current ride and playing it out, or finding another ride that might get somewhat better mileage in the years ahead, and a car that has faced less stress and use.



I should mention I am somewhat of a Subaru loyalist, so if anyone can chime in on how the mid year Subaru Imprezas have performed (non-turbo) for them in long commutes that would also be a welcome point.



*Will be New England weather driving year round

*Wants best combo of quality/mileage/affordability

*Curious for other mid year recommendations that would be affordable and efficient

*How radical would the mileage difference be from a mid year Impreza 2.5 to a mid year Accent 1.6?



I hope that’s a decently clear explanation of my line of thinking, and thank you in advance for taking a look at this conundrum.

Stick with your car. You know the history. If you buy a used car you are getting into the “unknown”. If you have the funds you might consider a new car.

Can your car handle it? Certainly, but you have to figure on some extra wear and tear. To expect it to go along with only oil changes for the duration is where your plan falls short. Perhaps you’ll get by with just the oil changes. With 162K miles and a 10 year old car something is likely to come up that needs repair. If you bought a 5 year old car with 50K miles it is still very possible you will have a repair bill somewhere down the road.

Keep the Subaru. Make sure all the maintenance is done on everything, oil changes is not everything. Get AAA or some kind of road service contract and happy commuting.

Thanks very much for the pointers. That seems to be the direction I’m likely going, as I do love my car and it’s been a solid auto.

Also appreciate the advice on going new. Probably the other most likely scenario, barring a miraculous find of a slightly used low mileage car. It would be the best bet for a smooth couple years of driving.

Bear in mind that we get posts on this thread with some regularity from people who bought what was purported to be a “low mileage slightly-used car”, and those posts are not singing the praises of that car. Things are frequently not what they seem to be–especially when it comes to selling used cars.

If your Subie is up to date with its maintenance–ESPECIALLY the timing belt and automatic transmission fluid/filter change–then it should be up to the challenge.

No joke, I have a timing belt on my desk right next to me I’m waiting to slap on. Just need a warm and decent day to do it! Thought that might have been around the corner…and will make sure to double check the auto tranny fluid as well.

Thanks for the pointers. Maybe, if I can get that solid two years of heavy commuting out of this baby, it’ll be a fun mechanical chore and job well done.

It doesn’t hurt to have a plan for replacing the Subie. But it runs well now, and you should not do more that maintenance an whatever repairs come up until you can’t afford to run it any more. If it does become too unreliable for every day use, you might buy an inexpensive, used car to supplement the Subaru. You could drive both. That might be cheaper than buying a car that you could use every day. The downside is that you have to insure 2 cars and pay for repairs while you are in graduate school. Then there is the extra time to repair or coordinate repairs. That’s why planning ahead might make sense.

Whatever you go to look at when buying used, pay a mechanic to inspect it before you buy it. $100 inspection can save you thousands if they find that the owner has some sludging problems with the oil or transmission fluid due to them not even considering to change them. There are owners who do that too, drive it for 20~30k miles then dump the car because the engine seized due to lack of oil changes

If you have a good car to start with, like it, and it has been well maintained, I would just keep driving it, and be prepared to do some repairs in the next few years. Highway driving is easy on a car, and many reach 300,000 miles with all major components intact. The least expensive car ownweship is nearly always driving the car to the end of its design life. For a Subaru that is a long time, and in excess of 250,000 miles…

Buying a new car will set you back significant dollars and a used car will be a bigger risk than what you have now . Five hundred miles a week is 100 miles per working day, and an econo-box like a Hyundai Accent won’t have the comfort you need to be functional. The Accent is a fun car around town and quite reliable, but I would not want one for long distance commuting.

If money is no object and gas prices will surely rise again, a 1.8 liter Toyota Corolla will give you the best non-hybrid mileage/reliability/comfort combination, giving 32 mpg for mixed driving. It’s quieter than the Impreza.

Gas mileage for the Accent is 28 mpg for mixed driving and it is 23 for the Impreza with the smallest engine. For that small a difference, stick to your Impreza.

I currently drive about 100 miles a day to work and most days I do it in my 1999 Mercury Mystique that has 228000 miles on it. I haven’t had any problems with it and have just performed normal maintenance. It was paid for long ago and it has no resale value so as long as it remains relatively trouble free I am better off keeping it than putting miles on a new car.