Life after 200K miles: People keeping their cars longer

By John Toth / Editor and Publisher

I took one of my cars into a dealer a while back to get some repairs done on it. It’s an older car. I hang on to these things for a while.

The repair was fairly simple, but trying to convince the dealership people that I do not need a new car was a little harder.

It’s really not worth fixing it, the dealer guy said. He could put me in a brand new model for this and that much per month. The car is really getting up there in age, he told me.

But it has just over 200,000 miles? It’s still a dependable car. Plus, I like it. I’m used to it. I didn’t bring it here to have my car insulted. I just needed a very simple thing done.

I drove a 1968 Buick Skylark for a long time until I finally sold it for $400 in Victoria. I wish I would have kept it. I replaced it with a brand new 4-cylinder economy car. That was a mistake.

I like my cars big and old. I like the character of an older car. I like the fact that I can buy it fairly cheaply and bring it up to par for what a few payments would be.

I get mailouts every now and then letting me know the value of my older car, and how much less it will be worth in a few more weeks. So, come on in, and trade it for a brand new one, the junk mail urges.

No. This one doesn’t come with car payments, and I have a couple of pretty good mechanics who are affordable and can fix whatever is above my paygrade. Plus, how can you predict how much the car will be worth in a few weeks?

We all have our sales pitches, and this is a pretty good one. I’m sure it is quite effective, except on someone who thinks that a couple of hundred thousand miles on a car is no big deal. To me, the miles are not as important as the car.

Two of my gently used vehicles still have working cassette tape decks. I have some cassettes I take with me on longer trips and play them when I can’t find a decent music station or sports talk radio.
One of the advantages of driving older cars is that nobody can commandeer them remotely by patching into their computer systems.
“As vehicles grow increasingly connected through wireless networks and become more dependent on sophisticated electronic systems, Congress and federal regulators are worried about the potential for hackers to interfere with vehicle functions,” wrote the Detroit News.

I dare anyone to try that on my cars. Better bring a long extension cord.

A friend recently asked how much money I spend on repairing my cars each year. That depends on what goes wrong with them. Air conditioning problems can drive up the total pretty quickly, I said. Then I asked him how much is his car payment each month. Multiply it by 6. That’s about what I spend in a bad year. This will be a bad year. But that total covers six cars.

I know, I’m crazy, but they all have memories. I’ll probably get rid of a couple of them down the line, but for now, I enjoy driving them.

Apparently, there are more and more people like me who drive cars for a long time. According to the data research group R.L. Polk, people are holding on to their cars longer today than ever before.

Polk said the average age of all light vehicles on the road now stands at a record high of 11.4 years. That’s up from 11.2 years last year, and 10.9 years in 2010. The number of vehicles older than 12 years increased by more than 20 percent.

So, it’s not just me who thinks that there is nothing wrong with older cars. They work just fine if properly maintained and take you from point A to point B, just like that fancy new car that costs almost as much as my house, back in the day.

“Breakfast in America” by Supertramp is playing on the cassette in the old car. The A/C is blowing 32, and we need all of it today. Yes, dear reader, there is life after 200,000 miles (and counting).