When is a car too old to drive?

When is a car too old to drive? When it comes to a car's age, there are more important categories than mileage or model year. With proper care your vehicle can be safe to drive well over 200,000 miles. Routine maintenance and accident avoidance will prolong the life of your car, as will paying attention to the weather and road conditions your vehicle faces.

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Chris Tepedino is a feature writer that has written extensively about auto insurance for numerous websites. He has a college degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and has experience reporting, researching investigative pieces, and crafting detailed, data-driven features. His works have been featured on CB Blog Nation, Flow Words, Healing Law, WIBW Kansas, and Cinncinati.com. ...

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Rachael Brennan has been working in the insurance industry since 2006 when she began working as a licensed insurance representative for 21st Century Insurance, during which time she earned her Property and Casualty license in all 50 states. After several years she expanded her insurance expertise, earning her license in Health and AD&D insurance as well. She has worked for small health in...

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Reviewed by Rachael Brennan
Licensed Insurance Agent Rachael Brennan

UPDATED: Feb 24, 2022

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Can't-Miss Facts

  • The age of the car in years or mileage is not as crucial as its maintenance history and condition
  • With regular maintenance and careful driving, cars today should last longer than 20 years, and we have the methods you can use to keep your car going
  • When it becomes prohibitively expensive to maintain your vehicle, it is likely time to consider other options

When is a car too old to drive? That depends. As long as your vehicle is well maintained and all safety systems are up to date, you should have no problem keeping it running long after it has passed its prime. Identifying the signs of impending breakdowns, promptly taking care of routine issues, and evaluating the cost of keeping your car going will keep you putting rubber on the road for years to come.

We’ve put together a list of tips and tricks you can use to keep your vehicle running smoothly well into its golden years and beyond. It’s also helpful to know that your car’s age is one of many factors that affect car insurance.

Whatever the age or condition of your vehicle, you need to make sure it is insured before you take it out on the road. If you’re looking for the best car insurance rates in your area, enter your ZIP code here and get started.

How far can an old car drive?

On average, cars are lasting longer these days. According to the Bureau of Transportation, a standard vehicle today is expected to go well past 100,00 miles, with many lasting twice that long. Of course, as we’ve mentioned, the number of miles driven is but one piece of the puzzle when it comes to determining a car’s proper age. If you really want to see how far your old car can drive, you have to take excellent care of it.

The key to determining if your car is too old to drive will be the cost of maintenance and repairs. Eventually, it will become too expensive to keep your car running safely and smoothly. If it becomes too difficult to find affordable parts or keep up with regular maintenance becomes prohibitively costly, you may have a too old car to drive.

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How to Keep Your Car Running Longer

Once you’ve paid off a vehicle, it can be tempting to hang on to it for a while. It’s nice not to have a car payment, and it’s comforting to be familiar with all of your car’s personality and quirks. You can often find cheap auto insurance rates for a paid-off vehicle that doesn’t boast complicated modern features. Whatever your reason, you don’t want to have to worry about the safety of your vehicle or whether it will stop running.

Your car may have been made in the last millennium, and your odometer may have crossed into six digits long ago. You may be thinking it’s time to trade that old clunker in, but that may not be the case. When it comes to determining when a car is too old to drive, model year and mileage are not the only indicators of its age.

If you want to keep your vehicle roadworthy well past its prime, you will do well to pay more attention to its condition than its age. There are several steps you can take to keep your car in tip-top shape, even if you don’t have any mechanical skills. 

Keep up With Regular Maintenance

If you want to keep your vehicle on the road longer, perhaps the best way is to follow routine maintenance guidelines. Most people know to get the oil and filters changed regularly, but it can be easy to fall behind on the schedule. In addition to oil changes, getting timing belts changed, rotating and replacing tires, and monitoring brake pads and rotors for wear and tear will go a long way towards keeping your car running smoothly.

Your car’s manufacturer has determined how often each procedure is needed, so hang on to your owner’s manual. If you bought your car used and the manual is missing, there are plenty of resources online to find the information you need. When your vehicle begins to show signs of wear or breakdown, address the repairs as soon as possible. Saving money on maintenance in the short run can end up costing you much more down the road.

Taking these steps means spending money now rather than later. Usually, auto insurance will not cover non-accident repairs. However, regular maintenance prolongs the life of your car and prevents major breakdowns, which will save you money in the long run.

Keep Your Whole Car Clean

While it feels good to drive a shiny, freshly washed, and waxed vehicle, we don’t always pay attention to the whole package. Your car’s undercarriage is constantly bombarded with rocks, salt, and roadway debris, which often leads to rust, cracks, and other damage to your vehicle’s chassis. Get your car professionally detailed regularly to keep its outside matching the inside.

Keep Your Eyes on The Road

Watching for potholes and cracks, as well as avoiding curbs and other obstacles, seems like common sense, and it is, but it’s still important. Reducing the stress on your vehicle now will pay dividends in its longevity. While you’re at it, take a regular look around your vehicle before getting in. You can notice low tire pressure, window cracks, and headlight or taillight issues before they become a bigger problem.

Keep Aware of Your Surroundings

Listen to your car as you drive. Every so often, turn off the music, roll down the windows, and listen to the sounds your car makes. Get to know what sounds normal and what sounds like a problem. When you hear something out of the ordinary, get it checked out. And do so sooner rather than later.

Keep Your Foot Off the Gas at First

When you start your car, give it a few moments to idle. You want all those protective fluids and lubricants to have a chance to do their jobs before you start working the engine. Once you have let it idle, put it in drive, take it easy on the accelerator. Doing this lets the various moving parts to warm up to operate smoothly.

If you take care of your vehicle now, you will have a great chance of seeing your car age gracefully and safely. And, once you do get that odometer into six figures, you can feel confident your vehicle will take care of you.

Is it safe to drive a car with 200,000 miles?

Drivers keep cars longer, and there are older automobiles on the road. According to NBC, as of 2021, the average age of a vehicle still on the road in America was more than 12 years. Plenty of owner drive conventional cars well over 200,000 miles, with the newest round of electric cars expected to easily surpass 300,00 miles on a regular basis. Any vehicle that receives regular maintenance and care during its lifetime will be safe to drive no matter the mileage.

If you wonder if your car is too old for a road trip, you need to do some prep work. If you know its maintenance and accident history, you can make an informed decision as to whether driving your older car a long distance is a good idea. Even so, get your car checked out by a professional before you leave. It’s always a good idea to be prepared for a breakdown, but even more so on a road trip. Make sure you have first aid, jumper cables, tire change tools, etc.

A Final Word on Driving an Old Car

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to how long a car lasts. You can’t just read the statistics and determine when it’s time to put your vehicle to rest. Take good care of your vehicle with regular maintenance and timely repairs, and it will be around to enjoy for years to come. You may even find car insurance discounts available that make it worthwhile to keep your car running.

Whether your car is 20 years old or brand new, you will want the best rates around. Enter your ZIP code here to compare the lowest rates near you.

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