My very first car was a metallic green Geo Storm. The day before my three-year warranty ended, the transmission literally fell apart. I remember the mechanic at the Chevy dealer shaking his head and saying, “I can’t tell you what happened, but the transmission is in pieces.”
Fortunately, my dad stepped in and negotiated a 50 percent discount on the price of a new transmission, but I was scarred forever. I vowed to always buy the most reliable car I could afford.
I drive cars for a long time which is why I have only owned three cars in my lifetime. The last one — a Saturn SC2 — lasted 11 years and 180K miles before I kissed it good-bye.
Last month, Consumer Reports also gave some tips on making your car last 200,000 miles. Much of it was common sense, but it was nice to see it all summarized in one place along with a list of cars that are likely to last and the ones you should avoid.
Buy a safe, reliable model. Cars with a reliable track record are more likely to last and Consumer Reports.org issues that type of information on a regular basis for subscribers. You also want to pick a car you can stand driving for a long time. Research features and safety of the cars you are interested in and if you’re considering a used car, it may be worth spending $100 – $150 for a diagnostic inspection by an independent mechanic.
Follow the maintenance schedule. BUT make adjustments for your lifestyle — city drivers, drivers who take many short trips or anyone hauling a trailer may need to follow the extreme-use or severe-use schedules which can differ significantly from the regular maintenance schedule.
Don’t skimp on parts. We all love a good deal, but when the deal involves substandard parts it is not worth it. Make sure the parts being used in your car are approved by the manufacturer. And if your car requires premium fuel, use it.
Catch problems early. Don’t ignore strange smells, sounds or sights. Make a habit of opening the hood or find a good, honest mechanic — does anybody have one? — to do it for you. Taking care of minor repairs can help you avoid more expensive ones later.
Know when to fold ‘em. It’s time to let go when repairs cost more than the car is worth, when rust is taking over, after a flood or major accident or when the only thing you can rely on is having to do yet another repair.
A sample of cars considered great all-around cars: Toyota Corolla, Nissan Altima, Infiniti G, Honda CR-V, Acura MDX and Subaru Outback.
A few to avoid: Mini Cooper S sports car, BMW X5 SUV (turbo 6 cyl.), Chrysler Town & Country minivan, Jaguar XF sports sedan and Dodge Journey SUV.
What is the greatest number of miles you’ve ever had on a car? What was the make and model and how did you make it last?
– Nedra Rhone, for the Atlanta Bargain Hunter blog