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benchmark - how long/far can you reckon with a car running for?

(13 Posts)
ThresholdMum Sat 13-Jul-13 17:33:32

Aim to be buying a second hand car in next few weeks, probably Ford focus or similar, probably around 5 years old. But once I have something, how long can you assume a car lasts for, if serviced, treated reasonably, - before the stage when repair bills get bigger and bigger. I know its as long as a piece of string, but whats the rule of thumb in terms of years or miles....
(Would be using it for short trips round town to cart the children, maybe 5 longer trips a year, probably around 5000 miles a year (assuming I carry through on the longer ambition of getting on my bike more....)

WMittens Sat 13-Jul-13 22:37:45

There's no reason a properly maintained car won't run forever (availability of service parts notwithstanding). Some cars have managed a million miles, the highest I've heard of is nearly three million miles.

A lot of people in this country seem to believe cars hit a brick wall at 100,000 miles, or 8-10 years (sometimes less). I've read of someone describing their 5 year old car as 'knackered'.

A lot of this problem is stupid mathematics (or rather, lack of thinking altogether), e.g. "the car needs a new exhaust for £150, it's too expensive to run, I'm going to get a new [insert boring hatchback] on finance at £175 per month" - £150 is too expensive, but £6000 or more of depreciation is absolutely fine hmm

I think there are two main contributing factors becoming increasingly prevalent:
1: [Cynic mode on for this first one] Car manufacturers don't design or make cars to last so long any more - anything that fails on the car in less than 3 years (or whatever the warranty period is) costs them money; anything that fails after 3 years makes them money. Also, if their cars lasted forever they would sell fewer new cars.
Increasingly, replacement parts have to be bought as an entire unit rather than just replacing a small failed component pushing up repair costs.
2: Fewer drivers give a shit about their cars, drive with little mechanical sympathy and don't want to spend money on proper maintenance; the car is nothing but white goods to them like their washing machine or fridge freezer.

Simply put, if you want to keep your car for a long time, budget for service costs and realise it generally costs money to keep any car on the road - preventative maintenance is usually better than post-failure repair (i.e. a £50 oil change is better than £3000 for a new engine).

My Skoda Octavia at 9.5 years/125,000 miles burns a little oil. Other than that reliability and running costs aren't giving me any more cause for concern than when I bought it at 3.5 years/45,000 miles. I don't expect to keep it much beyond 150-160,000 miles, but there's no reason I can see why it shouldn't keep going past 200,000 miles.

I would expect a focus to last a similar length of time, if it's reasonably looked after.

elliepac Sun 14-Jul-13 10:12:53

We have just got rid of our beloved S reg Astra which had done 185,000 miles. It was still going though starting to cost a bit in repairs. It had been serviced and looked after and in it's later years mainly been used for bobbing about town and work (only 3 miles from home).

I think the key is looking after your car with servicing etc. Our last 3 cars have all done over 150,000 miles. Luckily we are not the type of people who are bothered about having a new car for the sake of it. We tend to buy with lowish mileage and run into the ground.

thereinmadnesslies Sun 14-Jul-13 10:24:34

I think it depends on the mechanic you use as well. I go to an independent garage with my 11 yr old VW Beetle, and the mechanic is positive that I could keep running the car for several years yet. But the VW dealer garage told me after 7yrs that the car was going to get too expensive to repair.

lljkk Sun 14-Jul-13 10:30:45

I would plan on 5-8 yrs on OP's situation, starting with a 5yo Focus petrol engine with what... 45k miles already? And assuming I looked after it. After that I would expect its problems to start mounting up. Could easily be longer if diesel, kept indoors and definitely used for the relatively low mileage OP expects.

WMittens Sun 14-Jul-13 11:02:36

Could easily be longer if diesel, ... and definitely used for the relatively low mileage OP expects.

Exactly the opposite with modern diesels - low mileage clogs the DPF and they don't get the opportunity to run a regeneration cycle. Injectors can get gummed up as well, and are not cheap to fix. There's now more complexity in diesel engines with associated costs to keep going.

WMittens Sun 14-Jul-13 11:04:39


That is where it's in VW's interest to convince someone to buy a new car, and an independent arage's to keep your existing car going.

Damnautocorrect Sun 14-Jul-13 11:07:49

I've a 202k mile diesel bmw a 185k mile Diesel Audi and a 250k mile vw diesel.
If its maintained a long long time!

Damnautocorrect Sun 14-Jul-13 11:08:35

I second the dpf comment, truly shit for short journeys

DameDeepRedBetty Sun 14-Jul-13 11:15:05

I do a lot of stop/start in an '03 Renault Scenic (petrol). She's just passed her MOT at 104,000 miles, needing a new tyre, windscreen wipers and one bulb. There's an advisory for brake pads, but I was expecting that. I get her serviced regularly by a good local independent garage, and see no reason to not keep her a couple more years at the moment. I usually run cars to death, as I use them to carry dogs around and the insides get trashed, and 130 to 150 thousand seems to be the point where electrical things go too wrong to justify spending the money.

ThresholdMum Sun 14-Jul-13 13:46:59

Thank you all, that's really helpful and very reassuring. Now to find a good independent garage.....

The last car that I got rid of was a Toyota Corolla that had done 120,000 miles with no major repairs, just expected wear and tear, I only got rid of it because I got to the point where I fancied something else and we could afford it, it could have carried on longer I'm sure. I'd definitely look at Toyotas if you are after a long lifespan. Service regularly - I have always stuck with Toyota dealers for my Toyotas and had good service at reasonable prices, but we use a local independent for DH's car and are very happy with them too.

I'm not expert, but I thought that diesels needed a regular good run out to keep them in good nick - although that is supposed to be good advice for all cars. I think one reason my Corolla lasted so well was that I drove 25 miles to work and back every day on country roads at about 50 mph.

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