Car longevity

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Car longevity is of interest to many car owners[1] and concerns several things: maximum service life in either miles or time (duration), relationship of components to this lifespan, identification of factors that might afford control in extending the lifespan. Barring an accidental end to the lifespan, a car would have a life constrained by the earliest part to fail.[2] Some have argued that rust and other factors related to the body of a car are the prime limits to extended longevity.[3]



An automobile is a highly engineered collection of complex components, each of which has its own lifespan and longevity characteristics. The MTBF of some components is expected to be small, as the easy replacement of these is considered part of maintenance. Other components, many of which have high replacement costs, are expected to have a longer life; however, a large longevity may very well require replacement of several of these, raising issues of economics.

The motivation for pursuing longevity can vary. The economic trade-off of purchase versus repair will be part of the equation. Of course, many factors, such as whether the car is classic, outweigh pure economics. The desire to extend the life of an auto that is paid off, by fighting "Planned obsolescence", is often important for drivers.

The life of the auto, as the collection, follows, according to a very common model, a bathtub-like pattern. After an initial phase where failure may be likely (hence the offering of the warranties by the dealer), there may be a long period of unlikely failure, as the probabilities will be low. Given that the auto has been around for a little over 100 years, what cars become, and remain, classic and the maximal lifespan for any car are open-ended questions. Interest in longevity beyond that related to purchasing used vehicles will improve the science of predicting car life, with such things as a life table for cars.

High mileage

Some car manufacturers support a "high mileage" club. For example, Mercedes-Benz has a "High Mileage Award" program in which owners who drive 250,000, 500,000, 750,000, and 1 million kilometers are awarded with a certificate and a radiator grille badge.

Many non-commercial vehicles (both auto and truck) have exceeded one million miles. For instance, in 2011, Irv Gordon had accumulated 2.9 million miles in his 1966 Volvo P1800. [4] In 2006, a 1995 Dodge Ram was reported to Chrysler as having gone 1 million miles.[5]

A very long running car is a 1976 Mercedes-Benz 240D in Greece of Gregorios Sachinidis that has reached 2,858,307 miles[6] before retiring to a Mercedes-Benz museum in Germany.

Another was the 1963 Volkswagen Beetle belonging to Albert Klein of Pasadena, California that had racked up to 1,442,044 miles on 25 Jan 1993.[7]

AARP Magazine featured several long-running cars (over 200K miles) in its July 2009 Issue.[8]

Factors related to longevity

Sikorsky, and others, have developed lists that itemize steps that a car owner can take, or identified operating and maintenance rules,[8] to ensure maximal longevity. Yonger provides the following list, "10 secrets" for long car life.[9]

1. Regular oil changes
2. Monitor the key fluids
3. Maintain the transmission
4. Change the plugs as needed
5a. Watch and care for the timing belt (if applicable)
5b. Watch and replace timing belt (though they should last at least 100,000 miles)
6. Do not forget the radiator
7. Remember the filters
8. Fight rust
9. Know and use your maintenance manual
10. Drive with habits that don't take years off the car

In a public economics sense, Kasmer argues that retrofitting autos with a newer transmission would extend the lifespan while at the same time increase fuel efficiency, reduce carbon emissions, and prevent the sudden influx of discarded vehicles into the waste bin as cars are junked to be replaced by a modern vehicle.


  1. ^ Hoffman, Gary (2010) Is 200,000 Miles the New 100,000 Miles? (via Aol Auto)
  2. ^ "Report: Cars, trucks racking up more miles" USA Today 28 January 2006
  3. ^ Bob Sikorsky "Family Car can last 1,500,000 Miles or a Lifetime The Auto Channel
  4. ^ [ - The First Car to 3 Million Miles?
  5. ^ 1 million mile, Dodge Ram
  6. ^ 2.8 million mile, Mercedes
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b A Keeper is Cheaper - several cars featured by AARP Magazine
  9. ^ Joseph D Yonger "How to keep your car going ... and going" AAA's Car & Travel Magazine

See also