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Should you hang on to your high-mileage car? Life begins at 150,000 for this 1997 Mustang GT!

All About Maximum Use

Larry Jewett - October 10, 2011 10:00 AM

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It was never really a goal when I got the car six years ago. It already had a bunch of miles on it, but fewer than the car I sold to get it. If you’re not paying attention, though, the miles can start to creep up on you.

My ’97 Mustang GT has eclipsed the 150,000-mile mark. I noticed it was coming about 10 miles beforehand, so I was ready. I was going to record this “historic” event by taking the picture on the odometer. It wasn’t something I thought I would ever see on my car.

While there is a case to be made for keeping miles off a car, it doesn’t apply to all cars. I’m sure there is someone who has squirreled away a 1997 Mustang, limiting the miles to the point it will likely never see 50,000, let alone 150,000. That’s fine, but for those of us who choose to use these cars as daily drivers, high mileage goes with the territory.

Recent studies have found that people are holding onto their daily drivers or main sources of transportation longer than ever before. Unless you’re in some kind of lease program, the odds are good you’re following that trend. My dad used to exchange cars every two years. Nowadays, we drive them until they drop, and when they drop, we fix them. This one has had a new transmission this year, so I think it’s good for another 150,000, as long as the maintenance schedule is there.

Yes, parts are more likely to break on higher mileage cars. Things tend to wear down or wear out. Even if you add it all up, you find that repairs and maintenance don’t come close to what an average monthly car payment would be, not to mention the increase in the insurance rate that you are likely to feel. Yes, there are some indisputable points to keeping a car for a longer period.

Product manufacturers are recognizing the trend and the need for products suited to that trend. You’ve heard about the oil companies who offer the special oil for the high-mileage vehicles (some set the standard at 75,000). In fact, there are carmakers who offer limited warranties on some elements of the car up to 100,000 miles. That would have been unheard of not that many years ago.

When you have an older, high-mileage car, you just have to accept it and understand all sides of it. You grow accustomed to having something. You get used to not making monthly payments. You deal with the idea that it could quit on you at any time, knowing that even those who own new cars face that fear. The last new car I had (the one I sold before getting the Mustang) suffered a transmission failure at 17,000 miles. Granted, the warranty took care of it, where the similar problem on the higher-mileage car did not. But again, repair was equivalent to about a half-dozen car payments and everything is “new” again. If you do have a high-mileage car and want some peace of mind, there are companies that offer warranties on vehicles like that.

I didn’t put all of the miles on this car … I don’t have the memories someone who had their car for the full term would have. What I do have is the satisfaction of knowing I’ve had some fun and, for the most part, reliable transportation so I could pick up and go to enjoy the ride.

It’s like going through your 40th birthday (or 30th, in some cases). It represents a number that has a stigma to it … I don’t want to get that old. Age is just a number and so is mileage. There’s a lot left. Life begins at 150,000.

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