I own a 2000 Honda Civic, which I bought with four original miles in July of 2000. Today, it is still my every day driver, with over 320,000 miles, and it runs great. Friends often ask for car longevity tips. I am sharing with you how my car has been a workhorse for almost 15 years. This article assumes you are looking to buy a new or low mileage vehicle and want it to last. By the way, the most extensive repair involved my air conditioner.
There are 3 main things which has allowed my car to keep ticking:
1. Listen to advice from those with experience
2. Research the purchase
3. Take action
Listen to advice
There have been more than a few instances where I have received advice but did not take advantage of it. I will chalk that up to youthful exuberance. When it came to my first new car purchase, I listened. I had two people offer some solid advice when they heard I was looking for a new vehicle. The first person was my grandfather and the second person was a trusted friend from the auto business. There are three pieces of advice I took to heart and applied.
1. Know the risk when buying the first major model change/redesign from any manufacturer. The logic behind this advice has to do with the unknown. There is no history or recall information until people drive the specific model. A J.D. Power report validates this notion with the following finding: most vehicle issues reported within the first 90 days of purchase relates to design, or redesign. Therefore, it is wise to evaluate a purchase with known results.
2. Change the oil regularly. My friend in the auto industry has over 40 years experience in several capacities. His experience told him automobiles seemed to last longer when they had regular oil changes. I spoke to several mechanics and other folks and most agreed oil changes indeed impact the life of a car. Now, one thing to note here, I do not change my oil based on mileage because my car sees about 150 miles a day on the road, thus impractical. However, I change it about every 3 months. Most groups report oil changes at 3,000 miles are a way of the past, so check your manufacturers recommendation. Do make sure you are checking oil levels more often than 7,500 miles.
3. Inspect tires regularly. This was more advice from my grandfather. Over the years I have been very thankful I heeded this advice. In a sense, tires are like feet. Feet do not get a lot of attention until there is a major issue, but feet affect many aspects of your health like your back. Tires are similar in the fact that many people ignore their tires until they have one of several problems like a blow out on the highway, shaking car, or other similar maladies.
In addition to these items, I take my car to a mechanic about once a year. The mechanic and his team will give it a 20-point style inspection. These inspections look at belt wear, hoses, fluid levels, shocks and the like.
Research is a must when considering any big-ticket item. If you are going to hand over your hard earned cash, then make sure you make the best decision. In a future article, I will delve deeper into researching big-ticket purchases. For now, I will keep this section to a minimum. You need to know what others are saying about the vehicle you want to buy. Pay attention to any must have accessories because you want to compare apples to apples. Review sites are a great way to see how other shoppers, like you, enjoy the product. Consumer advocacy sites, like Consumer Reports, are other great place to find reviews. Also, look at current recall lists to see if the model is having any known issues. Test-drive the car. Personally, I like to rent cars as a test-drive during my next trip or around town for a week to see how it performs. I do this instead of test-driving a car, for the first time, at the dealership. Price matters to most folks, so make sure you know the price you are willing to pay and stand firm. There are several fine sites that show asking prices for most cars, including the dealer sites.
Finally, for your car to last you will need to take some action. There are several advertisement catch phrases coming to mind about taking action, but I will not go there today. Listening to the advice I shared is taking action. Researching your dream vehicle to avoid the lemon is an action. Be proactive with the health of your car once it is purchased. Then drive your car to the moon and back.