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Old cars that are still alive

How do people manage to keep their cars for thirty or more years with driving it and using it as their everyday car?

They select one with a reputation for longevity and then keep it well maintained… and they don’t abuse them.

What my car needs it gets.
I wonder… If I’d have taken that good a care of myself, would I have had those two heart attacks?

There are quite a few as a matter of fact. In my area there is a military veteran who bought on retirement a new 1976 Chevy Impala, a really large boat, and still drives it regularly! It has no rust and still gulps the same amount of gas with its 400 or so cu inch engine. He’s aging along with his car!

Back in 1984 I was camping on the West Coast and beside our camp spot was a retired aerospace worker with his 1958 6 cylinder Mercedes. He even had a vanity plate that said LVR58 or something like that.
Yes, may folks buy good cars and maintain them well and treat then as part of the family. You won’t find any 1957 Chrysler products in that category!

A lot of tools and late night work.

Well I am on 14 years for my current car, had my a nova and truck from 72 till 1990, then needed a better vehicle for a 90 mile a day commute, traded them both in on a 1990 pickup. Maintenance and repairs is how you keep a car that long. 188k on my 03 trailblazer, doing the 1000 mile commute twice this summer, a new boat launch put in on the lake, used to drag the boat to and from, but critter growed up, and no longer need a boat down here. When My loyal friend dies, currently 188k miles, I will get an econobox and rent a uhaul pickup truck to put the boat in and pull it out.
We have the cargo carrier and 2 dogs, so t works out well, down 2 cats for the family circus trip, but no dogs we will be ok, for now we need the space and capacity for luggage rack, towing, dogs, etc.

We have a 16 year old, a 13 year old (both past 100K) owned since new and a 4 year old bought used in the driveway. I can’t see any of them getting to 30 years old but proper maintenance has got them this far. And proper maintenance will get them much, much farther. Simple.

Spend the $$ to do it right. Often we don’t “kill” cars, we just let them die because we no longer want to spend money on them.

Maintain it to a schedule, fix things when they start to fail, if possible and when they fail immediately so no other damage occurs.

To the other accurate replies I will add that keeping a car for 30 years as a daily driver also involves living in an area where road salt is not used in the winter. Even if someone is meticulous with maintenance, the inevitable rust after a decade or more in “the snow belt” means that even a well-running car must be discarded at some point simply because rust damage to the chassis makes it dangerous to drive.

+1 a dozen times to @VDCdriver for that one. Rust prevention on even the best cars with the best of maintenance, succumbs at some point to the “tin worm”

It’s possible, but several factors can prevent that.

  1. Not a lot of miles per year. At one point in my career I was driving 35-40 thousand miles every year. For 30 years that would be over 1 million miles.

  2. Living in the north. Vehicles these days don’t rust out like they use to. Driving in the North East for 30+ years the vehicle will start to show signs of rust. Depending on the vehicle - major signs of rust.

We try to keep our vehicles to 300k miles. For us that’s anywhere from 8-12 years.

Not many 30 year old cars I’d want to be driving today as my ‘daily driver’, even if they were in great shape.

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However, there are some people (very few, I think) who are of the opinion that drum brakes are superior to disc brakes, and they may even believe that their 30 year old car corners and handles better than a modern car. And, some people may delude themselves into thinking that their old cars were safer. Some folks may also yearn for the days of non-air conditioned cars, although I have almost as much difficulty with that belief as with the aforementioned ones. To each his own…

IMHO, those old cars are nice to look at, and are nice to reminisce about, but driving them is…not so great.


Conservative driving habits and keeping the routine maintenance jobs up to date helps. Still an older car will never be the same as a brand new car where every part is right off the assembly line. My vehicles are 25 and 40 years old, but if I had a 50 miles to and from commute every day on crowded Bay Area freeways to get to work, neither are reliable enough for that imo. But I don’t have to do that, and for my daily driver either of my cars is reliable enough for what I need. Especially with the two combined, if one is on the fritz and on jackstands in the driveway, the other is almost always good to go.

You’ve raised an important point. Some driving environments are simply far less hard on a car, enabling the owner to keep the car in good shape far longer. 150,000 miles of city driving in NYC can be the equivalent of 600,000 miles (more?) in Arizona. Between the traffic, the horribly torn up roads, and the weather… I refuse to even drive in NYC anymore. Or Miami. Or Chicago. I’ll drive in Boston if absolutely necessary only because I know where I’m going in Boston.

Which is why your inflexible attitude about automatic transmissions, air conditioning and enjoyable Gadgets is annoying.