The Car Geek: Keep Your Car In Good Shape

The Car Geek

Monday, November 05, 2007

Keep Your Car In Good Shape

Keeping my cars in good shape gives me the assurance of longevity. So to preclude my self from purchasing new cars too soon, I see to it that my cars are well maintained. Toyota engine, Volkswagen A/C compressor, Porsche suspension and other auto parts, needs regular maintenance.

According to a Consumer Reports survey, with proper care, many cars now can last 200,000 miles or more with few if any major repairs. The annual survey found 6,769 readers with 200,000 miles or more on their vehicles, including 488,000 for a 1994 Ford Ranger pickup.

When comparing the costs of purchasing and keeping a car for 225,000 miles over 15 years to buying and financing an identical model every 5 years, Consumer Reports found savings could be more than the original purchase price, and even greater if the savings are invested.

Purchasing a car with a good track record is pretty much essential, and Consumer Reports, which does not accept advertising and is published by the non-profit Consumers Union, names several Honda, Lexus, and Toyota models as good bets. But the magazine article and a Consumers Union release also emphasize the make-them-last strategy.

Consumer Reports worth-noting information tidbits include:

- Follow the maintenance schedule in the owner's manual (skipping even one oil change can damage the engine and accelerate wear).

- Use only parts and fluids meeting manufacturer specifications (we do, but also shop around for the repair and maintenance shop with the best combination of price and service).

- Check the car yourself from time to time, looking for fraying or cracks in belts and cracks or bulges in hoses.

- Wash the car regularly, not just for looks but also to help preserve the paint and keep the sheet metal below it from rusting.

Humberto Cruz of writes:

Our mantra: Buy only cars we can comfortably pay for with cash, keep up with the maintenance, and follow common-sense steps to make them last. The Volkswagen Beetle, alas, was going strong after more than 130,000 miles before copious rains that flooded our street to knee-deep ruined it beyond repair. Our cars routinely better 100,000 miles, except a Toyota Corolla we donated to charity in 2003 when we realized that, working part-time from home, we did not need two cars.

Along with home ownership costs, buying or leasing more car than you can afford or need can derail your finances. Nancy Howard of Dodgeville, Wis. writes:

Our family has withstood some potentially damaging events because we had lower expenses and higher savings than we would have had if we had bought the bigger house and the new cars throughout the years.

After paying off a car loan, the Howards kept their car a few years while regularly saving an amount equal to the car payments. They were able to make a bigger down payment on the next car and eventually buy one for cash, the report said. True, keeping cars in good shape is financially rewarding.