Owning a high-mileage car has advantages. For some, it’s no car payments and low ownership costs. For others, it’s the satisfaction of making a durable piece of equipment last beyond the expectations of most owners. The number on the odometer is a point of pride. The journey to 200,000 miles is an adventure, complete with triumphs and challenges.
Your adventure may begin with a brand new car. Drivers starting from scratch have a long way to go to reach a 200,000-mile goal, a distance equivalent to 36 round-trips between New York City and Los Angeles. But new-car owners have an opportunity to maintain the vehicle meticulously from the start, which better ensures reliable performance. Not only is a well-maintained vehicle more likely to reach 200,000 miles, it’s less likely to give you problems on the way there.
The new/used decision is a tradeoff. You pay a premium for the new car up front, and in exchange get peace of mind and, in most cases, a warranty to cover problems in the first few years. If you own the vehicle for a long time, that premium may be an easy hurdle to overcome.
Perhaps you don’t have the budget for a new car, or you find the tradeoffs for a used car – like lower purchase and insurance costs – more favorable. Used-car owners and buyers with a goal of joining the 200K Mile Club should go beyond sticking to a strict maintenance schedule. Whether you’re at 60,000 miles or 160,000 miles, start with a thorough vehicle inspection.
Those with the necessary do-it-yourself automotive skills can look a vehicle over carefully to find any issues and prioritize repairs. But even DIY mechanics may choose instead to rely on a professional service technician for an inspection. A professional shop has a lift, so techs can get a good look at the vehicle’s undercarriage. Experience and broad knowledge help the pros find potential problems before they become major, saving owners money in the long term.
As the mileage stacks up, it may be tempting to follow the philosophy, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Sometimes this is true. It is not necessary to replace a starter motor that works every time you turn the key. But in other cases, replacing something before it fails may be smarter. A worn suspension component, for example, could cause excessive wear or damage to other parts before failing completely and catastrophically.
Other, often-overlooked services can help your car make it to 200,000 miles, too. Flush and replace antifreeze (or coolant) to minimize oxidation in your radiator and cooling system. Replace brake fluid to keep that essential system clean and functioning properly. And for vehicles equipped with a timing belt, follow manufacturer’s recommendations for replacing the timing belt at the proper time or mileage interval.
Of course, if you lack the time and patience to legitimately qualify for the 200K Mile Club, you can always buy your way in. Finding a well-maintained used vehicle with more than 200,000 miles will more time than buying a new car off a dealer’s lot. But the savings are significant since higher mileage typically translates to lower price. Plus you’ll immediately become a member of the 200K Mile Club. Continue to carefully maintain the vehicle and you may some day reach 300,000 miles or more.
Nick Palermo is a freelance automotive writer and NAPA Know How blogger. Since becoming an auto news and reviews contributor at AutoTrader.com in 2011, he has broadened his coverage of the automotive industry to include topics like new car technology, antiques and classics, DIY maintenance and repair, industry news and motorsports. A committed advocate for automotive media professionals, Nick is a member of the Greater Atlanta Automotive Media Association.