Buying a car should never be considered an investment, partly because putting miles on it will only drop its value.
But with proper maintenance, a good mechanic and less stop-and-go driving, owners can keep their cars running well for years and get the most mileage for their money while delaying buying a new car.
A recent study by iSeeCars.com found the top 12 cars most likely to reach 200,000 miles, based on data it had of vehicles for sale with that many miles or more on the odometer. Pickup trucks were found to be driven longer, at 90,000 miles on average per listing, compared to 75,000 average miles for a car.
The top 12 vehicles reaching 200,000 miles or more are:
Ford F-250 Super Duty
Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD
GMC Sierra 2500HD
GMC Yukon XL
How to get to 200,000
Getting to 200,000 miles in today’s vehicles is equivalent to getting 100,000 miles in the 1990s, mainly because cars are built so much better today, says Daniel Smyth, sales account specialist at Smyth Automotive, an auto parts store in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Preventative maintenance is the best way to increase mileage, Smyth says. This includes replacing belts, timing belts and transmission clutches at recommended mileage levels, and checking fluid levels and their colors to ensure that dirt or water doesn’t contaminate them, he says.
“I think most of the time your average person isn’t checking fluid levels or checking oil,” Smyth says.
Fluids to check include the oil, power steering, transmission and brake, Smyth says, either by a mechanic or following the recommended mileage checks by the manufacturer.
Top cars not on the list
Since the iSeeCars list is mostly trucks, there are plenty of cars that didn’t make the list but still get plenty of miles driven on them. We found some people who have driven more than 200,000 miles in their cars, and asked them how they got there. Here are some of those cars:
Toyota Camry: John Wetmore, a TV producer, says his 1994 Camry had 366,000 miles before he got rid of it. Wetmore did basic maintenance according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, such as oil changes every 6,000 miles. He says he also drove it gently with no jackrabbit starts, and drove the speed limit.
Lincoln Town Car: Sharon Steele, an account manager at BidAbove.com, says her husband worked at a limousine service and saw two cars reach 300,000 and 400,000 miles. Synthetic oil was used in oil changes every 3,000 miles, Steel says.
Lexus ES 300: After driving a 1997 Nissan Maxima to 186,000 miles, David Mizer, founder of LookatUsedCars.com, says his 2003 Lexus is at 208,000 miles, partly because he follows routine maintenance guidelines and asks his mechanic “how everything looks.” Mizer plans on giving the car to his son in May.
Toyota MR2: Gary Kozel of Sonoma Valley in California says he bought the car new in 1986 and now has 280,000 miles, thanks regular oil changes and routine maintenance. “A compression test was done recently to test the status of the engine, and the mechanic said it operated at nearly the level of a new engine,” Kozel says.
Nissan XTerra: With 236,000 miles on it, Kelly Cooper says that she and her husband drive the XTerra between homes in the Bay Area and near Las Vegas, not doing much beyond regular oil changes and scheduled maintenance.
Nissan Maxima: The 1997 Maxima that Ramon Khan, who works in business development at the National Air Warehouse, drives has 245,000 miles. Khan, who lives in Spring, Texas, says he keeps it running partly so he can save money by not having car payments every month. Regular maintenance and repair bills are far less than buying or leasing a new car, he says.
“I am a user who uses products until the end of its life cycle,” Khan says. “While you could make the argument that a newer car might be better for the environment, the demand of buying a new car creates a large environmental impact itself. I plan to use my car until it no longer performs well, has reached the end of its life cycle or I decide to upgrade to something more fuel efficient.”
Nissan 350Z: The 2003 Nissan that Julie Acevedo owns has 220,000 miles, and she recently replaced the engine that she expects to last for five years or more. The $2,600 engine is worth it, Acevedo says, because it’s cheaper than a car payment for years.
Infiniti I35: Stan Markuze founder of PartMyRide.com says that up until a few months ago, his 2002 Infiniti had must over 200,000 miles on it, which he had serviced by the dealer for much of its early life, along with regular oil changes at a local mechanic. The only major component he had to replace was the radiator. In December 2013 a truck ran a stop sign and his car was damaged beyond repair.
Honda CRV: The 2005 CRV that J. Kim Wright owns has almost 200,000 miles and has never needed a major repair, says Wright, of Taos, N.M.
Honda Civic: Alisa LeSueur owns a 1990 Civic with 352,000 miles that she gets oil changes for every 4,000 to 6,000 miles. LeSueur, a marketing director at DocCost.com, says she doesn’t like car payments and is aiming for 500,000 miles.
Those are some of the best cars we found to get to 200,000 miles. How well is your car doing and how did you get it there?