If there was a definitive answer to this, certain cars would never be sold and others would sell so fast that manufacturers wouldn’t be able to keep up. Even if that were the case you’d still never know what car to get, because everyone’s got a different story about how their RX-7 went to 300,000 miles before it needed an oil change, and how their Civic went to 80 before it croaked.
When trying to figure out how long your car will last, you need to consider many factors:
How you drive a car and, of course, how you maintain it makes all the difference in the world. Some cars can get by without oil (1980s diesel Suburban), others have engines that seize the moment the oil becomes 3,001 miles old. When you get a car, knowledge is king. So researching materials that the engine is made from can help determine the potential longevity.
Tuners especially need to pay attention to this. Forged pistons can mean the difference between an engine blowing up or lasting for several hundred thousand miles. According to some tow truck drivers, they pick up broken down Mercedes cars more often than any other brand, yet the 80s diesel Mercedes have been known to go past 500,000 miles.
So how do you know how long your car will last? Frankly, you don’t. However, you can count on your car lasting as long as possible by taking necessary precautions, keeping up with regular maintenance, and driving conservatively.
What some car owners don’t understand is that by performing regular checkups on essential parts of your car, you can predict a problem before it happens. Keep a checklist that you consult periodically that includes:
That last one is deceptively important. If your weatherstripping is degrading or coming apart, replace it or have it fixed because if water gets into your car, it’s detrimental.
Cars can be fickle creatures and drama queens. Keeping a close eye on the elements of that aforementioned checklist can help you keep up with regular maintenance, which should include:
Some motorists won’t consider brakes as regular maintenance, however, you should be looking at them regularly. Oil change intervals should stay consistent with whatever it says in the manual, and the tires will have all the information you need on how to preserve them printed on the sidewall.
This is a very tough thing to do and is an element some drivers don’t appreciate as much, or in the necessary degree, as they should. When driving, be attentive to:
If you’re mashing on the throttle all of the time, it’s going to take a toll on your engine. The rev counter, or tachometer, tells you how hard your engine is working and big surprise, the harder it works over long periods of time, the shorter it’s going to last. Modulate the throttle to keep speed and RPM consistent. If you’re going up a hill, don’t pin the throttle but add just enough to keep your speed. If traveling downhill, let off the throttle in increments but feel it out. If you follow these practices in tandem, one will complement the other.
RPM, speed, and gearing are all related to each other. If you drive a manual transmission car, staying in higher gears helps the engine to stay at low RPMs, but you need to choose the appropriate gear for the speed and RPM that you want.
Braking is a difficult skill to master and shouldn’t be taken at face value. Every time you brake hard, you need to bring the engine back up to speed again afterward, so then you’re getting into high rev territory. Assess your situation when under braking, and decide if it warrants a hard brake or slow and smooth braking. It’s all about keeping your RPMs and speed consistent.
Also, don’t ignore the milestone maintenance. Manufacturers will recommend a 40,000-mile checkup (then 70,000, up to 100,000) when they check timing chains, valves, brakes, and all kinds of other aspects of the car to make sure everything is operating as it should.
Completing these practices, consistently, will ensure your car lives as long as possible. At that point, is a specific number of miles really important? As long as you know you’re doing all you can, the rest is unpredictable.
Avid Formula 1 fan and motorcyclist, I enjoy chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream and long rides to the beach.