When Should I Trade In My Old Car?

by Miranda Marquit · 89 comments

We have two cars. One of them is relatively new; we bought it used two years ago. The other, though, is a 2001 that we bought in 2003. We’ve had it for eight years. It’s paid off, and it still runs reasonably well. I recently had to get some repairs done on the car, replacing brake shoes, and getting some regular maintenance taken care of, but it really wasn’t overly expensive. Sometimes I am tempted to buy a different car to replace it, but then I stop once I start adding up the costs. We haven’t had to make any major repairs on the car, so it is still worth it financially to keep it.

Part of the reason our car has lasted as long as it has is due to us taking care of it. Some of the things we do to keep the car running as well as it can include:

  • Regular maintenance (oil changes, fluid flushes, etc.)
  • Regular car washes
  • Sane driving: No fast acceleration, gentle braking, and little lane-hopping
  • Proper care of tires
  • Storage in a garage
  • Not driving when I don’t have to: Walking or taking public transportation when practical

Because we have done our best to take good care of our car, it has lasted quite a while, and I still feel comfortable driving it on the freeway if necessary (although the newer car gets much better gas mileage). Additionally, having the car available to us means that we have a “back-up” — just in case something happens to the other car.

Trading It in for Something Newer?

Eight years, to a true frualista, doesn’t seem like very long to have a car. After all, with proper care, it is possible for a car to last a loooong time. My brother is driving a car from 1983 that is older than he is. However, in today’s society, it is odd to have such an old car. There aren’t many in our neighborhood choosing to drive a car that is as old as ours. We seem to think that there is a need to keep “trading up.” And, while that might help the local car dealerships, it isn’t always the best idea financially. Here are some of the increased costs that come with buying something newer regularly:

  • Cost of buying
  • Cost of interest if you buy using a loan
  • Cost of car insurance if you have to boost your coverage for the newer car
  • In my state, property tax is charged each year with registration; as the car depreciates, so does the cost of my registration

If you are constantly repairing an old car, it might be worth the cost to buy something newer (although we would still buy used — a lease return). The costs of constantly having the car in the shop can start to add up. However, if your old car runs fine, and if you have it paid off, and only pay for regular maintenance and care, there is rarely a reason to buy a replacement.

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Bill Kay says:

    Have a 560 SL Mercedes Benz 1988 , apx 2 years now no major expense so far I use everyday , repairs could be expensive yet the car is 27 years old wondering if the long term cost is going to make sense ? I am not rich.ha. just truned 115K miles , had 105 K at purchase . invested apx 15oo, so far teres brakes small items.

  • Lon Smith Roofing says:

    When Should I Trade In My Old Car?

  • Brandon says:

    BMW’s are absolute junk. Not only does Consumer Reports rank them as one of the worst used cars on the road, I can personally attest that they are crap. My uncle bought a brand new 1993 325i. Beautiful car. Within months, he started having problems. He ended up bringing it back to BMW for repairs so many times they knew him by name. Once his warranty ran out, the problems continued. The problems that I remember him having were: speedometer backing peeled causing speedometer to stop at 40mph necessitating a complete dash replacement, headlights peeled, interior trim and molding deteriorating to the point that it became a goo, radio stopped working, clutch stopped working right, tail lights failed. I know it was dozens more things that went wrong. And before you say this car was mistreated, it’s under a carport, with a car cover on it. The vehicle has about 10,000 miles on it since new. The paint looks factory new. Like he said, the ONLY thing that never gave him trouble was the actual engine or transmission. My cousin bought a used BMW 325i. She is a nurse. She sold it because she couldn’t afford to keep it on the road, it gave her tons of trouble as well. Just read reviews of BMW’s. They are junk. Here is just the tip of the iceberg: http://forums.motortrend.com/70/6758615/the-general-forum/2002-bmw-325i-certified-pre-owned-piece-of-junk/index.html

  • Dave H says:

    I buy old luxury cars and maintain them myself. I figure I save a ton that way, plus they protect better in a crash. My current car is a 1997 BMW 328i. After 10 years of rust, a rear shock bolt failed on the car and sent the car flying into a concrete wall at 55 mph. The old thing suffered a broken headlight, bent wheel, and dented hood. Even with a bent wheel, I was able to drive to a local shop to find a replacement bolt. A collision shop wanted $4K to fix the damage. I just tied up the bumper with climbing rope and kept on driving. BMW used to build airplane engines, and it shows when it comes time for maintenance. The oil filter canister is right in front of the engine at the top. There is no need to crawl under the car. Those inline 6 engines will run nearly forever with proper oil and cooling. I regularly get 30 MPG, even while cruising at 75 mph. Buy a solid, well-engineered car and you can keep it forever.

  • STANLEY says:

    I have a 2003 Mazda MPV, runs like a Swiss clock, never have any trouble, have it serviced all the time, change the tires when needed. When I go on any long trip, I have it checked before leaving. I rather be safe than sorry, and I don’t intend to spend money on another new or used car. This fine Mazda should last another ten years. Like anything else, a lot of TLC will extend a car’s life.

  • AD says:

    Hi America! Here in England, UK, I drive a 2000 Suzuki Alto ( a 1000 cc small town hatchback car). Bought it for £900 with a years MOT and 6 months road tax (£70) with 83,000 miles on the clock. Now over 1.5 years it has 106,000 miles on the clock and cost £290 the last MOT 5 months ago. Great little car and gets us from Reading down to Lyme Regis in Dorset on a regular basis, though very slowly since we don`t go on the motorways.
    Think I`ll hang on to it as it was a really basic car in its day-no fancy electrics, no electric windows, no air bags, no nothing really which is good as there`s less to go wrong. The plan is to try to get 200,000 miles out of it in total without it costing the Earth; if it looks as though it is going to go pop I`ll just buy another second hand old car for less than £1000 and take it from there scrap the Suzuki and get the £200 scrap value or buy another Suzuki Alto and use the old/present one as spares for the latest one.

  • CC says:

    I am more fortunate than others and have the tools and knowledge to repair my own vehicles. A new car is no longer a priority and I put in about $10K into my old Jeep Grand Cherokee. New Engine, Transmission, tires, brakes, wheel bearings, u-joints, half axles etc etc. I did all the work myself and is ready for another 150,000+ miles of trouble free driving. Im not worried about “depreciation value” because it only means something when you play the “new car game” with the Car Dealership. If I do buy another car in the future I will pay cash for it from the money I stash away monthly (saving as if I had a car payment). An equivalent replacement Grand Cherokee like mine would cost nearly $50K so im not sure that I want to give up that much money with retirement coming up in 15 years.

  • JR says:

    I have a 1974 Chevy PU with 7.4liter (454) engine i bought for myself on my 18th birthday in 1998. at the time it had been sitting in a feild since the mid 80’s. we put a battery in it and it fired right up with the old gas, and drove it home over 50 miles straight out of the feild. the tires were pretty rotten but still had air in them by the time we got it home. it had 104,000 miles on it and it now has over 440,000 in 2012! uses oil and only gets 8MPG but still runs and drives like a champ. i did rebuild the A/C in 2002 but have done nothing but maintnence otherwise…and yes Chevy rust is also present but only for character.

  • arnel says:

    Many thanks for this article! It enlightened me big time. I was thinking to sell my Toyota Corolla model 2000 ( I have it since 2003), and planning to buy new car early next year. But I kept on thinking, do I really need a new car? My Corolla is ever dependable, just a minor A/C problems (already fixed) and clutch (done too!), but I have this itch to buy brand new because, well, it’s brand new.

    So why replace/trade when it ain’t broke?

  • GG says:

    For a big savings on repairs, try looking into your local colleges / trade schools that have mechanics programs. The students use them as projects to train on, and the work is inspected and signed off by a certified trades mechanic before it goes on the road. Typically you pay a shop rate and the cost of parts (plus %10).

    It takes a bit longer than at the mechanics shop, but there are big savings! I have had about $1,500 worth of retail work done on my car for about $200.

  • Robert says:

    Most of the people I know who are really well off got that way by handling their money well. There is no worse investment than a new car, guaranteed to lose every time. Drive your old car proudly.

  • Allyson says:

    I love cars and enjoy buying a late model car every 2 or 3 years. I often buy the executive demos of makes and models with high retention value.

    I pay cash and don’t finance a penny of it (given what interest rates are like).

    Because I rotate them every few years and take good care of them, I usually have a lot of value still in the car so I get to indulge my hobby while coming out OK.

    On the other hand, I have old clothes 🙂

  • Dr. J. A. Jaar says:

    Excellent article and we do agree completely.

    We have a 1996 Z28 Black Camaro we bought brand new and keep it for 16 years. We take good care of it all the time. People ask how can you keep a car like this in such a top conditions. Answer: do all my own maintenance and repairs. We have been offered 5 times the original price. We will keep it for 16 more years, it is true: with proper maintenance today’s cars seem to last much longer.

  • w124gogo says:

    I am lucky enough to live in Germany. I bought a year ago a used MB w124 1991 for a 1300$ with 300 000 km behind it. Repairing costs around 2000$ which was not really needed, the car could have run with the defects at least another year or two, but I want everything to be in order. Now I have a car that would probably last another 20 years. Those are still used as taxis here. Many of them have over 1 000 000 km behind them already.
    My last car was a MB 190, 1991 – it had 240 000 km and it was in pristine condition. I had to sell it when I moved to Germany because it was cheaper to get another one instead of taking it with me. The guy paid 1100 $ for it and it was the best deal in his life.

  • Brandon says:

    I don’t know if I agree with a used car being a good deal. The prices of used cars have gone through the roof. I get piece of mind knowing someone hasn’t dogged the car out, it hasn’t been underwater, it hasn’t been in a wreck, etc etc. Yes, I might take a hit on the depreciation value, but that’s only if I sell it. I got a 1997 Nissan pickup as a high school graduation present brand new in 1997. I still have that truck and it is my trailer puller if I need one. It just turned over 35,000 miles and I always get requests from people who want to buy it because it has spent its life under a carport and is washed regularly and waxed every 6 months so it looks showroom new. It also runs showroom new. I don’t plan on ever selling it, so I didn’t ever take a “loss” on its value. I just bought a new 2012 Ford Fiesta that gets almost 40mpg. I only paid 17K for it fully loaded to the hilt. I plan on keeping that car possibly forever as well. I didn’t finance the Fiesta, I cut them a check and walked out the door so I’m not saving any finance charges by buying used, I’m saving them buy buying new. I waited 16 years to save up enough to buy a new car outright, and the savings are being realized now. There is a new car in the carport and no monthly note. I don’t think I’ll ever buy used. I don’t see the point. Not knowing how it was driven scares me. I see how people drive, no thanks. I’ll just eat the depreciation for the value of piece of mind.

  • Kim says:

    Great article and I completely agree! Both our vehicles were bought used. We have a 99 Explorer and an 01 F150. We have kept both up with maintenance and replacement parts, tires, etc. Both are paid off, insurance is reasonable, registration is doable. We just had the first work done on the F150 in MONTHS and it only cost us $93. We have a friend who helped my husband replace the brakes on both vehicles not long ago. Both have new tires. We’d like to get paint jobs done on both but that’s something to save for. Yes, gas is pricy but it is with any vehicle. The Explorer is 4X4 so it’s a gas hog, but I work up where it snows so we need to have the 4wd. We plan to keep both cars as long as possible, but when we are forced to replace one or both of them, we’ll be getting used vehicles again. Buying brand new is a waste!

  • Teri says:

    I’ve never garaged one, but don’t live in a harsh-climate area, either. The only car I’ve ever financed was my very first one that I bought at age 20. The payments on it were $175/mo. Once it was paid off, I started saving that $175/mo into a special account for my next vehicle. Over the years, that monthly amount has increased to $250/mo because I wanted to cover ALL of my vehicle expenses, not just the purchase price. So, it not only includes the purchase price/tax/fees of the next vehicle (and our taxes are 9.75% on a vehicle purchase – talk about feeling ripped off), but also covers insurance/maintenance/repair/annual tags/annual full detail on the current one. Each time I purchase a new one, I evaluate the amount saved each month and see whether it needs to be adjusted due to inflation, etc. So far that has worked well and I’ve always been able to purchase a vehicle along the same lines of what I had, with maybe a small increase in “nicety.” But, no jumping from a Ford to a Mercedes for sure. When it starts costing more than $200/mo to own, I go ahead and trade. I also always buy used – preferably 2-3 years old at the time of purchase. With that all said and done, my total vehicle expenses – from purchase to insurance to steam cleaning the interior once a year will never exceed $250/mo total. A far better budget, IMO, than paying $300-$500/mo just for a payment and then having maintenance/insurance on top of that.

  • Norman Speight says:

    My wife bought me for a few poultry pounds in 1958. Many of my parts are no longer working and I creak in the obvious places, also have water problems and no longer much in the way of horse-power. She might want to trade me in for a Brad Pitt, or perhaps a George Clooney but they are all flash and go and certainly not as lovable as I am, besides, I’m now at the age where antique value comes into play.
    I may be of recyclable age, but certainly not of recyclable quality and anyway, the grandchildren (whose main job is to ensure that I have no burden of surplus money – another of my hidden uses) would not vote for the replacement newer model. So I’m secure and still in use – for now! The only servicing expenditure has been on heart bypass, the original oil in the veins is still circulating, admittedly with difficulty, but suffices for the present. I do smell a bit, but what do you expect at 78.

  • aryton senna says:

    Hi Geek,
    My 2002 (purchased new in early June 2001) Subaru WRX Sport Wagon will probably live longer than I.

    ret expat

  • geek says:

    I cannot easily remember how many cars I have owned in the last 40+ years, almost always new until 4 years ago when I could not stand the thought of going to a new car dealer. My current cars are off lease high end vehicles, significantly less than new ones. The repairs have been zero and I consider brakes and things like bulbs normal maintenance. An off lease car makes sense for me given the savings based on depreciation and the lower taxable price.

  • douglas says:

    55 years of riding bicycles….

    stilll gas free after all these years…

    all my bikes, made in the USA !

  • Zil says:

    I have a 1995 acura integra sports coupe with 187K+ miles on it. Because of a disability, I couldn’t drive it for a while so it sat in my driveway for 3 years. When I was able to drive it again, we got it serviced, replace the tires, etc. and it’s been going strong. It’s not the prettiest looking thing but I get offers to buy it all the time. I love that stupid little car!

  • aryton senna says:

    My 2002 WRX Wagon (purchased new in early June 2001 ) just clocked 35K miles on the way home from Zihua on Christmas Day – last time I filled the gas tank, and still have 1/4 tank of premium fuel.
    Just paid my 2012 annual auto insurance premium US $250.84 – not due until 18 April, but I’ll be traveling internationally and did not want to deal with it.
    Probably my last car.
    ret expat MD

  • 1997 Pontiac Grand Prix says:

    I can’t believe I didn’t read one word about GM’s 3800 bulletproof engine in the comments! Mine has 280k+ and runs amazingly well. After reading the joys of the low costs of ownership of used cars, I now just might run it to 300k (8-9 months away). I too cringe when I think of sales tax, increased insurance, and dealing with slimy salesmen. GM 3800 forever! 🙂 Now only if they made cars like they used to…

  • Don Kneip says:

    I owned a 96 Town and country for 9 years. Ran it up to 300,000 miles and dont know how far it would have gone . Hit my third deer and totaled it out. Zero repair on the engine. Changed oil every 3000 to 3500 miles and never even added a quart of oil to it. Now bought a 2001 T & C for 3000.00 with 145,ooo on it and hope to use that for 9 years. I dont want a new car.

  • Eric says:

    Anytime I need to do some repairs on my old car and faced with the dillema of whether to dump my old car and buy new one I only need to remember that sales tax alone on new car will cost me more then repairs, and I stick with the old. The temptation to buy a new car always passes once sales tax plus insurance costs plus dealing with the dealer come into equation.

  • Dea says:

    My first car, bought used, lasted 20 years and my “new” one celebrated its 12th birthday. I don’t use cars much so the mileage was low, but had it serviced, including replacing the brakes, before a trip. Then, on a dark mountain road in the middle of nowhere, the brakes suddenly gave out. After gathering speed, the car didn’t make a corner, went over a cliff… how come I can tell the tale? A huge tree happened to be just over the side… My Dad and I were shaken but fine as we had both fastened our seat belts but my Mom needed an ambulance. It was lucky we had not only a cell phone but also a flash light so the police could find us (I flickered the light on the tree top.) She pulled through. I was without a car for a full year after that.

  • Paul says:

    Cars hold up very well today. I only buy used, am anal about maintaining them and do all my own maintenance and repairs. I typically spend under $750/year on repairs including oil, tires, etc. They typically last past 200,000 miles, reliably. I’m headed to Florida in 2 weeks, a 1100 mi. drive, towing, with my 130,000 mi. Mercury.

  • EJW says:

    I have Volvo S60 from 2003. I keep it outside in the cold of winter and the heat of the summer. It runs beautifully and looks like new. No rust. Gentle braking is not an option that lengthened the life of my car. In fact, it caused uneven wear of the brake rotors which all had to be replaced for some big bucks. I was told to brake hard occasionally to make them last longer, so I have changed my habits. Sometimes when we think we are doing the right thing, it is all wrong.

  • terry says:

    I traded my 1999 toyoto tacoma for a new 2003 toyoto tacoma. Both were good and run good Heavy use so I use to trade every few years. Last year I ran into the man who owned my 1999, had over 300k. [not a dimes worth of difference]
    We figured out he saved 12k. We became friends and much alike take care of our cars. I think he owes me at least half.$6k. Mine is 4 yrs yonger and has 150k less miles.[ready to trade]

  • Brenda says:

    My trusty Toyota creampuff Camry was bought used and is now 10 years old. I change the oil and filter every 3,000 miles and meticulously keep up on maintenance. Runs like a charm. I drive Toyotas until they’re a bucket of bolts or until someone makes them that way (the last one at 14 years was totaled by a red light runner–it had been previously hit, STOLEN, vandalized, and hailed on–IT NEVER FAILED IN 14 YEARS!!). People can say what they want about Toyota and Honda. I will always buy Toyota! The tech working on my car is ranked #1 in the world for Toyota and is one of the most honest people I have met. My oil changes have never cost over $19–at a dealership. Low maintenance costs, great product, company extraordinaire!! WHAT A FEELING!!!

  • doozie says:

    Points NOT to keep your old car:
    New ones get better gas mileage and have fewer emissions.
    New ones have better safety features.

    • Brenda says:

      After being broadsided on my side, my Camry took the hit and dispersed the energy throughout the car just as it was designed to do. A fellow in an Intrepid was in the same type of accident and the same speed. He’s 5 feet under. My old Camry had a 5-star driver’s side rating, just as my current Camry. Toyota doesn’t take safety lightly. My Camry gets 26 in town and up to 35 (with cruise control) on the highway. Not too bad. Overall, I think I get excellent value for my money. A bumper sticker on a Corolla states it best: “300,000 miles and still going-I got my money’s worth!”

  • Tom says:

    I used to buy new but not any more. Cars now can last well over 200k with maintenance. I only buy stick shift because the most usual thing that can go bad with them is the clutch and once its replaced the transmission is like new. The other normal things that go bad are shocks (usually the front in front wheel drive), brakes, exhaust, and lines (power steering, brake, and gas). If you can diagnose and fix those yourself the cost of maintenance is easily a fourth of what you would pay a mechanic. Granted not everyone can do it themselves; I wouldn’t do it either if I didn’t have a garage that I could work in.
    Oh, and cars don’t last forever. So when they get too rusted or have too much wrong with them I call the junk yard; they give me $300 and tow it away.

  • Tom says:

    Hey I have all of you beat as to run them into the ground, but STILL going STRONG! I have a 94 GMC Sierra 4×4 PU Z71 with a 350 engine and automatic transmission with over-drive that I got from my son. He ran the be-jesus out of it, after all, it is like a hot rod PU since it is a Z-71, she still sounds great, love that engine growl and still fast as all get out and all and even after he owned her a couple of years. I got her from him in 1997. She had 113,000 HARD miles on it when I got her from him in ’97. I figured she would need a new engine soon (which I have upstairs in my garage, a NEW GMC Crate engine I bought in ’97 so I have it to change but wanted to get all the life I can out of the engine in the truck) from as hard as he was on her, boy was I wrong, I have NEVER even changed the oil (good old Castrol Oil) in her figuring I would have to replace the engine in her due to the hard life she had with him, well guess what, here it is 14 years later, over 1,257,000 miles (YES that is correct, over one and a quarter million miles) and no oil change since 1997. I have only had to add a few quarts of oil to date due to changing the filter and I only use Fram HD filters. I still have the same air filter, I just blow it out with my air compressor. She still has the same original Prestone anti-freeze in her even. She still does not loose oil between oil filter changes. I may have never changed the oil but I do change the oil filter every 7500 to 10,000 miles if she needs it or not. I had to replace the alternator, several batteries, an A/C clutch unit, an electric door window motor, several sets of brakes and new rotors last year and a new ignition switch because I lost my keys and so far only 16 sets of Michelin Tires load range E, always use this brand as they last forever, average over 75,000 miles per set, GREAT deal for an average of $400 per set. Oh yea, I forgot, I changed the tranny filter and fluid about 5 years ago and I had to replace the back cab window in it about 6 years ago due a stone thrown by my neighbors riding mower. My ole girl still averages over 21 miles per gallon and is just now starting to smoke a little (I guess she is old enough to smoke now) when I first start her in the morning, goes away within minutes so she will be pulled off the road if she fails inspection in 6 months when my current tags expire and will then be used as a beater on the farm but only if she fails inspection and will cost too much to fix and retag. If she passes inspection, I will retag her and keep on going with her. I have always used seat covers until last year and my seats still look like new even. To date, she has always passed state inspection as we have to go thru inspection including emissions in our state every 2 years. Everything in my truck still works fine and the paint still shines enough to see yourself in her even. This truck has pulled our camper, our utility trailer, a cargo trailer and our car trailer loaded all across the USA and I would still trust her dearly if I had to run anywhere. My good old red GMC has never left me stranded and she has pulled many a people out of ditches in the winter. My neighbor is a contractor and he can not believe my truck is still going strong. He himself said she was one in a million and he thought for sure I would have to replace the engine when I got her from my son due to the way my son was on it. Heck she will still light up the tires and do a great burn out!
    Yea, I am sure you can tell, I love my truck, she’s a good ole girl and when she finally does die, I will not be getting rid of her, I may park her by the barn until I die too and then it will be up to my wife or boys as to what they do with her.

  • S demauro says:

    I have a 2000 tundra with 167,000 miles, runs like a champ, everything works and it still looks pretty good. Take good care of it and it should last another 1000,000 miles.

  • M L. Sanders says:

    We bought a 2006 Toyota Solara in 2006 new. Then we bought a 2006 Pontiac Torrent in 2009 used. For the first three years, we had no problems with the new vehicle. The Pontiac when we got it needed tires, battery, wipers, thorough car wash, inspection with about 28,000 miles to start. The new vehicle seems cheaper to maintain over the first three years than the used vehicle of the same year. Now that we got two vehicles, neither is driven hard and the mileage is kept low. If both vehicles are kept for 10 years, which would be the better value?

    • Wiseguy says:

      (Is this a rhetorical question?)

      It depends largely on purchase price. If you spent $1000 more to service the Pontiac but spent $10,000 more to buy the Toyota in the first place . . . . Also, what is resale value of each after ten years?

      • Krysmarine says:

        I was actually wondering if it was a thinly veiled mathematical word problem, as it made my brain cringe as it did all those years ago in school…

    • Tom says:

      M L Sanders, How’s Ricky doing? Just a shot in the dark, maybe your are married to Ricky that grew up in New Castle, DE. When you compare the 2 cars side by side as new, the residual value (expected resale value at 10 years of age at 10-12,000 miles driven per year) for the Toyota will keep and maintain the higher residual resale value. The Pontiac is expected to hold apx 22% of original sticker value in 10 years where as the Toyota is expected to maintain apx 39% at 10 years. This is based on the the sticker price when new, not the price you paid when purchased the Pontiac used. Considering you bought the Pontiac used in ’09, you should have only paid apx 51% of the original sticker value therefore meaning you already saved the largest chunk of the loss in value for that car so for you personally, the Pontiac should end up as the better value for the money you spent. But if they were both bought new when compared side by side, the Toyota has a lot cheaper maintainence cost factor over 10 years also by another 15%. This is the main reason if they were both leased on the same day when new with the same dollar amount applied as downpayment for the same term, 10 years, the Toyota would have had a lease cost of apx $200 less per month to lease even as the lease company would have had a higher return on the resale of the Toyota as compared to the Pontiac. This is not even taking into consideration that the Pontiac is now a discontinued brand even which now pushes the residual value even lower down then was expected in ’06 when it was new. Also the Toyota also has almost a twice the expected miles life than the Pontiac. If you spend the little extra for high quality tires like Michelin tires as compared to the $50 cheaper quality like Goodyear of Goodrich, you will get almost twice the miles out of the better tire therefore making them actually a lot cheaper in the long run also. Also, consider changing only the oil filter at 3500-4ooo miles and change the oil at 7500 miles, me myself, I do NOT change oil. Unless the oil has been overheated, it does not loose its lubricating factors, and it is actually a huge waste changing oil as often as people do, the change oil at every 3000 or 5000 miles is an old rigging deal between the big 3 and the oil companies. Just like the low miles per gallon a normal vehicle gets, I was getting extremely higher then so called expected MPG as far back in the sixties and still do with a little adjusting and tweeking on the engine and intake systems. When Datsuns (Nissans) and Toyotas first came over to this country, they did not have the deals with the oil giants and they would boast that you only had to change oil every 25,000 miles but recommended changing ONLY the filter every 5000 miles. I still have an old manual around from an old Datsun PU that they never even put their name on when it came over to this country. They had a lot higher RPM engine that would make you think they would require oil changes sooner but as long as the oil is not burnt from overheating, the oil does not break down, it only gets dirty. The main process for reusing old oil is cooking it down to clean it as it still maintains its lubricating factors. Then when it would loose its lubricating viscosity, the oil recycling plant would add a parifin base to restore the lubricating factor. I can prove this by the fact that I do NOT ever change oil in my vehicles unless I had an over heating problem. My truck has over 1,257,000 miles on it and I have not changed to oil in over 1,115,000 miles. I also have an Olds Alero with over 400,000 miles on it and I only changed the oil in it once at 157,000 miles because it sprung a leak in the radiator and I changed the oil just in case it got over heated. I do change the oil filters at 7500-10,000 miles weather they need it or not. The oil in both my vehicles still looks and feels like new too and to prove my point, the last time I was at college, I had a comparison test done on a sample of oil from my truck, a sample of oil from my car and a sample from a new quart of oil and they were all within a very few degrees of the same for all factors tested proving my point to many people that the oil change thing is just another way our country wastes money every day and just lines the big oil companies pockets with money. As a matter of fact, the oil from my car had higher quality ratings than even the new quart of oil. If you do not end up with a mechanical problem that lets water into your oil, like a blown head gasket or cracked block, or ever let your vehicle overheat, the oil would last forever, just change the filters to help clean out impurities and dirt. I also have a Class 1 farm tractor, a huge tractor, that gets used year round hours apon hours almost every day and it was new in 1976, it has only had 1 oil change in it even since it was purchased new also, but it too gets regular oil filter changes. People told me, well in essence, you are changing the oil by changing the filters and adding new oil, ECH! Wrong answer, I drain the oil out of the old oil filters, run it thru a coffee filter and then use it back in the engine, it is not lost or wasted or replaced. I add very little new oil at a filter change, maybe less then one tenth of a quart. Oil does not break down, it only gets dirty or at most burnt. Parts of our country has been recycling used motor oil as long as we have had cars on the road. Our country has been and will be a throw away country, Things are only built to last a very short time so people have to keep replacing and buying new. Just like every vehicle I have ever owned, it has not been due to the engine or mechanics of the vehicle that made me replace them, it was the poor quality metal used in making them that they have rusted away. I have a ’53 Ford PU and a ’52 Chevrolet car that has less rust issues then my neighbors brand new cars and trucks, he keeps his in the garage, mine has never seen the inside of a garage except when it is brought in for repairs. They still have tighter suspensions and everything. Back then, things were built to last. Today vehicles are made to crumble in an accident to absorbe the impact to help save the lives and injuries to people. Yes more people get hurt in accidents today then years ago. Compare apples to apples, numbers to numbers, the old vehicles outlasted and protected more people, just you have more vehicles on the road and our entire system is a throw away society, the more that needs replaced, the more people work to make replacements. If things and vehicles were built like they used to be, we would have less people working to make replacements. They say it is economics! But also consider, we are no longer a manufacturing country, haven’t been over 40 years, we are a service nation, most manufacturing jobs are out sourced to other countries because the average American is too lazy and want too much for their time to build things in our own country. I could go on and on as you can tell but that is a whole new issue then the one at hand. Dollar for Dollar, the Toyota is by far the better deal on the vehicle and should outlast your needs, you will end up replacing it sooner then needed due to keeping up with the Jones rather than getting the most bang for your buck!

      • Karen says:

        Thank you Tom! My Father maintained all of our cars and as a kid I was his fetch-it girl, wish I had the wisdom back then 50’s to learn how to maintain them as well but that is a story for another time. I bought a used 95 Mitsubishi Montero LS with about 13 k it now has over 108k. I stopped at a local repair shop to have them check why my electrical had started to flicker, sadly they were idiots and though I was one too. While I was waiting to be picked up I notice the young mechanic was not putting the screws, nuts etc in a box/tray but placing them around the edges of the engine compartment my gut said speak up but I didn’t. The next day I got a call to come down, I’m thinking to pick up. Oh no, they started up my car and the engine sounded like two cast iron skillets being banged together I yelled shut it down! Then I got the you’ve got to replace the engine lady story and I said no your guy must have dropped a nut/bolt or screw into the air filter he had open while dismantling because I did not drive in with this issue. Well nearly 4 months later I have taken my car back and walked away (every time they touched it something else didn’t work properly). The shop is now closed and I am debating if I should pay to have humpty dumpty put back together again. Again dollar and sense must prevail. I have spoken to several other shops and for the most part they suggest replacing the vehicle, 95 discontinued model who knows what else may be wrong. One shop suggested 96-98 Toyota 4runner another Lexus 350. I love this car and to replace the features I like with a used ? looks like $15k plus added insurance and DMV increases. I’d like to buy something that will be my ride for another 20+ years. Yikes, what’s a girl to do?

      • Josh says:

        You are partially correct. While the oil itself does not lose its lubricating qualities, the additives in the oil do break down and drop out of the oil. Mostly dispersants and cleaning additives. I am an ASE certified automotive technician, only one certification shy (manual trans/axles) away from master technician status. While I agree that 3k miles is entirely too short an oil change interval even with conventional oil, regular oil changes are still the best way to keep engines running better longer. Older (pre 1990) engines have looser tolerances and generally require higher viscosity oil which generally last longer than lower viscosity oils. You pay for it at the pump. Consider this. Take two syringes. Fill one with baby oil. Fill the other with petroleum jelly or molasses. Which plunger will be easier to depress? This is why newer engines use thinner oils. The most common is 5w30 nowadays, with many manufacturers requiring full synthetic oils. GM has gone to 5w30 synthetic meeting their Dexos 1 certification. Toyota requires 0w20 in the vast majority of their lineup, which is only available as a synthetic oil. I just recently replaced an engine in a 2000 Toyota Tundra due to a bottom end knock caused by low oil pressure. It had 300k miles on the original engine. Cause of death? The pickup tube screen was clogged due to metal particulates that found their way to the oil pan from normal engine wear. This was caused by lack of regular oil changes. These particulates never made it to the filter to be removed from the oil. This caused the low oil pressure concern that eventually wore down the crankshaft main bearings, causing the engine noise and lack of power
        If you removed the valve cover from your million mile engine(which I am not discrediting in any way) I would be willing to bet there would be a half inch of sludge built up. I don’t want to think about what’s in the oil pan. Don’t drain it now though! The sludge is probably the only thing holding that engine together.
        I currently drive a 1995 GMC Sonoma with 170k miles on the chassis, and maybe 5 miles total on the rebuilt engine and transmission. It’s so much cheaper when you can do the work yourself. My fiancé drives a 1993 Suzuki Sidekick which will be taken out of service soon due to parts availability issues. It still gets 30 mpg but the power steering pulley is bent and a replacement is not available anywhere, the a/c doesn’t work at all, and the power windows are starting to fail. Enthusiasts for these little cars have resorted to machining their own parts or doing engine swaps just to get a more serviceable engine. She will be driving a 2000 model Suzuki Grand Vitara her dad found for four hundred bucks. It was wrecked, but nothing structural was damaged. We put a headlight and a tail light in it, put tires on it, and I did a brake job on it. It’s ugly as sin and smelled of wet dog when we got it, but it’s reliable and it’s a billy goat off road. Which is an occasional requirement for at least one vehicle we own.

        • oknahs says:

          I have always used motor flush once my cars hit 50000 miles. The sludge build up is amazing even with synthetic motor oil usage since new and changes every 5000 miles. You can see it when I transfer the oil into a old container. I have never had a vehicle that burned oil and that includes my 150k 2002 Hyundai Elantra. I may be lucky or maybe my maintenance routines are working. I then use motor flush every 20000 miles intervals for three minutes. I always have the engine at normal operating temp. before I change the oil. I did switch to the Mobil 1 high mileage car synthetic. For $35 bucks I change my oil and filter which a dealer charges $80 and Walmart charges $55. I have 5 cars all different makes and models so keeping up with all the stuff needed is a labor of love.
          Retirement makes it much easier.

  • Dan says:

    Some of what the author says is just silly. Walking instead of driving….I can see most people walking 100,000 miles. As most modern cars easily last 300,000 miles unless crashed. Use the car, drive it, and don’t automatically say yes with drool when your mechanic says you need something.
    If you have a car that is identified as a lemon, offload it. If it is considered sturdy then keep it.

    On my 10 year old truck 100k miles, oil change, fuel, and next year new tires.
    on my 10 year old jeep, water pump (due to someone being too cheap for antifreeze, which is a water pump lube) tires, battery, and oil change.

    The big things are to change the oil regularly with good oil, and brand name gas… and don’t crash the car.
    the other fluids rarely need replacing, coolant every 5 years, others no more often then the FACTORY schedule (Shops and dealers often inject their own schedule to maximize profits)
    Replace airfilter tires wipers brakes and battery as they wear out (mileage on the first set of brakes is a good indication of how long the following sets will last), only pads/shoes/turning drums/rotors are needed, the rest is often expensive up sell.

    Saving on Registration, Insurance, car payments, …..

  • Billy says:

    I’m driving a 1991 Mercedes-Benz 300SE that I inherited from my mother. It has 206K miles on it, and while it’s expensive to repair, those moments don’t come up all that often. Find a mechanic you can trust, that doesn’t think he’s working for the MB Dealership, and it’s way better than a car payment!! I don’t drive it every day, and she needs some freshening up (paint, upholstery, carpet), but still rather drive this old workhorse than pay for a new one!! Driving a 1995 Geo Tracker with 135K miles as my go to work car!!

  • Terry says:

    I currently drive a 1996 Buick Regal that has 214,539 miles and counting. The car gives me occassional electrical problems but not enough to justify the purchase of a new car. I have asked myself why I would want to buy a newer car and I just cannot come up with a good answer. I give the car regular maintainance it has good Michelin tires all the way around and very minimal rust. I drive the car like it is a 1996 and it runs beautifully on local streets and around the interstate loop. The car also looks good. It will very difficult to give this car up before its time. It is a good ‘problem’ to have.

  • Steve K says:

    With proper maintenance today’s cars seem to last much longer especially in upstate NY where the winters used to do havoc with the rusting of the vehicles. Trying to get my daughter to trade in her over 100 K subie forester from way back is impossible and putting 300 to 500 a year into it for brakes etc seems like a deal since it is not worth much in trade in now…She will probably drive it until it can’t be driven and then cry forever when it is gone, but she also may have only 4 or 5 cars in her 60 to 70 years of driving…whereas good old dad has thrown away a ton of cash every 4 or 5 years trading in and up…I wish I had her attitude about $100,000 ago….

  • Todd in Tennessee says:

    I daily drive 90 miles round trip in my 93 S-10 pick-up that I bought new.
    It has 340,000 miles and has its silly little quirks but has always been very dependable and still doesn’t use any oil to speak of with good 24.5 mpg.
    As far a babying it, I have really used it and from time to time been very unkind to it.
    I keep wanting a new one as my S-10 looks terrible with peeling paint, bent front bumper and busted grill plus getting a little ragged inside.
    It has cost me very little and a few years back my brother blue booked it for fun and the value came back as $0.
    It now has a value of $500 so I figure every day I drive it is pretty much a freebie.
    I do have a much better looking vehicle for when I want a nice vehicle to go out in but I just don’t see the sense of trading when this one does everything I need and want it to do.
    It has been so good I intend to do a total restoration on it when it finally does quit running.
    Recycling at the home level.

    • Edward Ayres says:

      “peeling paint, bent front bumper and busted grill plus getting a little ragged inside.” Well, Todd, I guess you won’t be part of any funeral processions anytime soon. 🙂 Quite amazing how long your S-10 has lasted.

  • Michael in Florida says:

    The average monthly payment on a new car is between $380 and $460. If that’s what you are paying to keep your present car on the road, even if you’re spending half that amount to keep your car on the road, it’s time to consider a trip to the dealer. Odds are you aren’t forking over that kind of money, however.

    Major repairs require an immediate out-of-pocket expense. Those who don’t have or can’t spare the cash are often forced to purchase a vehicle simply because it can be financed. But there’s an alternative.

    It takes discipline and nobody is going to send you nasty collection letters if you don’t, but making payments to yourself – about $50 each month if you can spare the money – into a cookie jar rainy-day fund can allow you to keep the old car on the road. And it’s cheaper than buying new – or purchasing someone else’s problems with a financed and over-priced used car.

    If you have $600 set aside, this amount won’t buy you a new transmission. But it’s going to jump start your chances of keeping the vehicle on the road for a few more years. I put aside $100 each month, still not even close to what my payments would be on a new car.

    Once a year I dip into the fund to have the car detailed. When the urge to buy another vehicle recently hit, I had the car professionally painted instead. And if you want that new car ride, replace the shocks and struts – and invest in a new set of tires. I recently went online and bought a carpet kit and two new front seats for my Jeep rag-top when the originals began to show their age. It’s a classic that gets younger with each passing year. And it’s starting to turn heads – in a good way.

    The day may come when a piston will shoot through the hood and I’ll be forced to put the Jeep to sleep. But those 3,000 mile oil changes – courtesy of the cookie jar – are hopefully going to pay off in the form of many more years without a real car payment.

    (My mechanic says to bring him the piston. “We can always get a re-built engine for you.”)

  • Max Ramirez says:

    Amen. I drive a 2001 Chevy Suburban that I drive H-A-R-D. 75-80 mph everywhere everyday. 5 kids to trance around to practice, games, school, etc. Finally replaced a radiator a couple of months back and brakes a month before, but other than that….oil, gas and go.

    • Taliesin says:

      Wow, sounds like the safety of your family’s not very high on your priority list. Nice. Thanks for endangering all the rest of us, too.

  • Karen says:


    Can I be your newly adopted daughter, Karen?


  • David says:

    The last car I purchased, I took delivery in Germany. A 1997 540i BMW, 14 years ago in September, just when the new models were available. I just fell in love with the car. I must say I did all the required maintance required. My friends would say David, are you ever going to get a new car?

    I said why as I feel great every time I drive mine. I kept it looking like new and you would think it was today. Then came the time to deal with the trans, and re-do the bottom of the engine. I had not really spent a lot of money on the car prior to my new problem. At the time it was needing this work, the BMW had
    323,000 miles. I decided if it can give me that kind of service then, I should take care of the problems.

    I did repair the car and it now has 367,437.00 miles on it and running like a top. I am 71 years old and I would like new one for what reason I do not know, just do. OH. I am not going to sell my BMW, what I plan on doing is buying a new one and driving it for a couple of weeks, and then giving it to my Son Craig. It will be a surprise to him.

  • Jennifer says:

    This is interesting. Cathy Coulter

  • Krysmarine says:

    My parents are still driving the first cars they ever bought – a 1957 Chevy Bel-Air and a 1968 Chrysler 3000, the latter being the one they brought me home from the hospital in. Talk about longevity. While they’ve been blessed to “inherit” a Cadillac Fleetwood from the 90’s, there are family members who believe they must be “so rich to have those old cars.”

    • Uncle Michael says:

      We have some family members say the same thing about being “well off”. I simply tell them that because we do not buy a new car every 3 or 4 years, we don’t lease cars and we hang on to well running paid off cars until they can’t be repaired. It’s amazing when you do not have a $350 a month car payment how fast the stock saving account builds by putting that “car” money into dividend paying stocks.

  • CREATIVITY says:

    I just put $1,800 for repairs in my 1996 Honda, it has 155,000 miles. Went to the Honda dealer for a check up and it was a great experience, I have been going to the store front mechanics and I have paid the price. I will now start to look for what I want in my next car and will be returning to dealerships where they know the car, I will probably pay more, the peace of mind is worth it.

  • david says:

    Stop telling people this. Everyone needs to trade in there cars every two years. Before 2008, 3 year old cars were almost free in my neighborhood. The more expensive the car the better the deal. Now everyone is cutting back and used cars just aren’t a steal anymore.

  • gift oloko says:

    i have been using a 1998 model peogeout 406 that was sold to me by my former company for 1,300 dollars in 2005 and a toyota corolla 2000 model that i bought in 2005 at 10,000 dollars all in nigeria .After almost 6 years of driving BOTH CARS, The cars are still runing ok because of regular maintenance inspite of the bad roads in nigeria.
    i keep a note book of all repairs and replacement of the vehicles like tyres, radiator, various fluids, changing of oil, oil filter, rediator coolant, plugs and at a given milage.refill the A/C gas and spraying of the car every 3 years.

  • Jenna says:

    @Wiseguy / Yeah. That is what my dad did with our old Volvo. Looks like I’m following in his steps now.

  • Stephen says:

    My truck is now 30 years old and has over 1 million miles on it. I purchased it used for $500. To date i have invested about $6000 into brakes, tranny, rear end, rad, propane system. This truck is used as an ice cream truck, it is an 81 Dodge cube van. I considered a new Dodge Sprinter van but at a price tag of $64000 plus i figugered the old one could last just as long as the new one before repairs. Also the thought of replacing an engine on mine rebuilt is only 2000 where as an engine for thr Sprinter is 13000, my truck has an aluminum body there i dont worry about rust. I figure this truck will give me another 5- 10 years of service.

    • Dan says:

      Wow, I say keep the truck….even if the sprinter gets better gas miledge…how long to pay off 64000 plus the annual interest of 7000 (that is $600 a month in gas for your truck just in interest)

  • CREATIVITY says:

    Thank you for having this article, I’m always trying to figure out, “should I get another car”. All of this input has helped me, I have a 1996 Honda Accord with 155,000 miles, it runs very well and I just do maintenance regularly. The thing is when I have to buy another when my expense gets to be too much, how do I figure out what car would be best for me? What questions do I need to ask myself, as you can tell, I am inexperienced in buying a car.

  • Michael Real says:

    Actually, you need to trade in your car if you are already spending more on maintaining the car in good condition. If the car has a lot of defects already, better say bye bye and hello to a new car.

    • Edward Ayres says:

      I’m with you on this. In my experience pouring money into older cars is as expensive as paying off a new one in the long run. No matter how well you maintain a car, it is comprised of many, many, mechanical and electronic systems that have a certain life span. The problem with the old car is also one predictability. You never know when the lifecycle of the thousands of parts is over and you find yourself unable to get to work, disabled on the roadside, or whatever. Some people are low milage drivers and can get more years out of a car, I admit, but sadly, I am not one of those low-milage drivers.

      • Dan says:

        You cannot say this across the board…
        If you learn to say “no” to the mechanic, cheap to keep…they wouldn’t pay to do it on their wife’s car, they are just generating revenue half the time.
        Some mechanics do not recommend UNNEEDED work, or upsell. Most do. So this is problems with your mechanic not the car.
        Lots of cars including Cherokees and Nissans, Toyota s, some fords and chevys last up to 300k miles, and at least 200k miles. But other cars don’t last 150k miles…if you own one offload it.

      • Cherokee dude says:

        I have a 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee with 167,000 miles on it. I almost traded it in at 95,000 but I hung on to it. I spend around 1,300-1,500/year on maintenance/repairs. Sounds like a lot but a lot cheaper than a 250-300 car payment.

        I heard the same thing about Cherokee’s too from my mechanic, with their in line v-6, he said that they can last up to 300,000 miles.

        • Jeff says:

          “in-line V-6”? You know that is an oxymoron right? I think I’d get another mechanic if he started talking about inline v-sixes.

  • Wiseguy says:

    @Jenna I did just that. In high school, I bought a rebuilt ’92 Volvo. It treated me very well with minimal repairs in the eight years I’ve had it. I just bought a new car a few months ago and am donating the Volvo if I can’t get more than a couple hundred bucks for it.

  • The Prudent Planner says:

    I did a couple things to my old Toyota instead of buying a new car. I got a new paint job, new gps system, radar detector, tinted the windows, etc. Basically I put all the bells and whistles into my old car that many of the new cars today have. This way I’m not missing out on any new features all my friends have with their newer cars. This saved me a ton of money and I get to play with all the new gadgets, win-win for me.

  • Jenna says:

    I just bought a new (to me) Volvo and plan on driving it until it won’t go anywhere then donating it to charity. Seems like a good plan for someone who doesn’t care much about how cars look and wants to live the frugal life.

  • Determined says:

    Great article. I especially like the last paragraph- If you aren’t putting money into a car that is paid off, there is no reason to get rid of it. Unfortunately, we have a 15 year old car that we have paid about $5,000 in repairs in the last 5 years. Sigh. I’d love to get rid of it and get a new-used car.

  • Gregg Pechmann says:

    Great Story David…….love to hear it

  • David says:

    Thanks for the post. I’m a drive-it-into-the-ground-never-buy-new proponent myself. I let other people take the big depreciation hit on buying their vehicles new. After all, I’ve got better things to do with my money than flush it away on car payments.

    7 & a half years ago my wife & I paid three grand cash for a ’99 Escort that was our family car until we finally outgrew it Christmas of ’09. It then became my commuter car and still runs great today at 113K miles. I agree that regular and proper maintenance is key to the longevity of any car.

  • Gregg Pechmann says:

    Thanks for sharing Miranda….
    Drives me nuts that people feel they need a new car sometimes…… Instead they should take those payments from today and compound the interest/return over the next 20 years, then see how much the car actually cost.
    Changes the perspective big time

  • Dr. Timothy Lawler says:

    Great info. I have a 98 S-10 that I have had for 8 years, and it is still running strong. I agree to keep using your car if it is running well. Yes, you might have to do maintenance occasionally, but you won’t be forking over $250+/month in car payments for 5 years. Keep up the awesome posts.

  • Emily says:

    I wish I had tried to talk DH into having his Maxima’s transmission repaired when it went out last year, instead of buying another car. $2,000 is a lot less than $13,000, and it probably would have lasted several more years without too much hassle.

  • marci357 says:

    My kids’ dad bought a Dodge truck (before we met) in 1972…. it was still running in 2000 when he died… When the tranny went tho, that was it. 28 years on a farm use truck is a lot of hard miles.
    The 1993 Dodge truck we bought new is still in daily use on my son’s dairy farm – May will be 18 years for that one.
    I did trade up my 1972 datsun pickup last year tho – for a full sized 2004 Chev pickup… but the 72 Datsun is still in use on my son’s farm for fencing supplies and a little get around on the farm…. that’s 38 years…. 🙂 I was no longer confident that the old datsun would go off road safely and back, where I get my firewood, and the full sized Chev would haul more firewood.

    And my Subaru is now 11 years old….. and has at least that much still in her.
    I have a 10 year old granddaughter who is expecting that as her car in 6 years. haha.

    So yes – Run ’em into the ground is our motto…. haha – but like you said, the secret is maintenance, mainly the routine oil changes. NONE have EVER been garaged, so I’d say that’s not a necessity…… Altho the boxes on the two Dodge pickups rusted out and were replaced with flat beds more suitable for hay bales etc.

  • Car Negotiation Coach says:

    Hey Miranda, I’m like you….I’ll drive a car to the ground as long as it doesn’t cost more to repair than the value of the car.

    • Doug S says:

      I own a 2002 Elantra that looks new from top to bottom including the interior. Its our run around town vehicle. The number one rule is when the car is paid off place three months of payments for maint.every year. The money goes for maint including body touch up every year by a local body shop. Many schools that teach body work and paint will do it for material. Best tires will last 50000 miles Micheln have the best warranty and get lifetime tire balancing and rotation at Walmart for $30. Find a home mechanic for plugs plug wires fluid changes and keep your vehicle cleaned at least once a week inside and out. Always spend the money saved on your car and like me it will look and perform new after all these years.

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