Thinking about buying a used car but aren’t sure if it has much life left in it? Are you planning on buying a new car and want to get an idea of how long it will last? Already own a car and want to make a plan for when to replace it? How many miles you can put on a vehicle before it dies varies by car — and owner. But there are some general rules of thumb. Most modern cars will make it to 200,000 miles. We have all the details.
How Many Miles on a Car Before It Dies?
A well-maintained, modern (think: cars built within the last two decades) vehicle can, on average, make it to 200,000 miles before it dies. At this point, something major usually fails, like the transmission, engine, or the body/frame. Repairs can theoretically extend the life of your car indefinitely, but, at some point, it’s no longer cost-effective and most people will look for a new vehicle instead. Once the quoted cost of repairs starts to match or exceed your car’s value, you might opt to sell it, part it out, or send it to the junkyard for scrap.
That being said, there are some makes and models that are well-known for easily getting to 200,000 miles and beyond without costing a fortune in repairs. Virtually everything built by Honda, Toyota, and Subaru within the past two decades will make it to that milestone without breaking a sweat. Some will even make it to 300,000 without much difficulty. If you’re looking for a truck, the Ford F-150 is a fairly reliable option; most will make it to 200,000 miles without any major issues.
Car brands reported to be consistently unreliable include Mini, Jeep, Dodge, Chrysler, and Volkswagen. You may also want to avoid brands that are expensive to maintain, such as BMW, Mercedes, and Cadillac.
Fun fact: There are a few makes and models that became famous for going over 1 million miles. Mercedes diesels from the ’70s and ’80s were so reliable the company started an owner’s program to reward drivers whose cars made it to the million-mile mark. One even went for almost 3 million miles before Mercedes bought it to put it in one of its museums. Older Volvos were known for extreme mileage as well. However, those cars were the exception, not the rule. Most cars built before 1990 were only able to get to around 100,000 miles before requiring major repair work.
Tips for Getting More Miles Out of Your Car
You can help extend the life of your car with regular maintenance and careful driving. Here are some things to keep in mind when trying to get your car to last as long as possible:
This is the No. 1 thing to remember in order to get the most life out of your car. Follow the manufacturer’s scheduled maintenance list found in the car’s owner’s manual. Do everything on it and don’t put off even small things like oil changes or new spark plugs. A specific replacement to keep in mind is the timing belt. If your car has a timing belt, know when to change it. Another thing to keep an eye on is the type of oil your car uses. Don’t switch to synthetic oil if you’ve always put regular oil in it, and vice versa. Follow all of the manufacturer’s recommendations and you’ll be well on your way to 200,000 miles.
Your Driving Style
Racing through traffic lights, taking corners too fast, and braking hard are all driving behaviors that add unnecessary wear to your car. Driving in a calm, cool manner will help you get the most life out of your car. Your fuel tank will thank you too (as will the other drivers sharing the road).
Where You Live
Most people can’t easily pick up and move just to keep their cars running longer, but, you should know that some locations are better for cars than others. Snowy climates where roads are salted tend to cause rust damage. Likewise, rainy climates and even beach areas with salt spray can cause premature rust and corrosion. Vehicles thrive in sunny, dry, unsalted areas, so, if you live in Southern California or Phoenix, for instance, consider yourself lucky.
To a certain extent, how many miles your car will take you before it dies depends on how well it’s cared for. Most modern cars will easily make it to 200,000 miles, as long as you stay on top of your car’s maintenance and practice safe driving habits. It also helps to live in a climate without inclement weather.
To learn more about maintaining your car well, see our articles: CarMax Oil Change Prices, When Is It Too Cold to Wash Your Car? Car Wash in Cold Weather Tips, and Powder Coating vs Painting & Other Protective Alternatives.