How to Make Your Car Last Longer

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  • Get a reliable car
  • Don’t skip maintenance
  • Avoid cheap parts
  • Unexpected issues
  • Watch for rust
  • Keep it clean
  • When to let the car go
  • Cheap car insurance
Buying a reliable make and model, sticking to a regular maintenance schedule, and keeping a close eye out for rust can help prevent unanticipated (and expensive) issues and make your car last longer.
New cars can be expensive, so keeping an older vehicle in good condition can be an intelligent money-saving decision. But as the mileage creeps up, knowing how best to take care of your vehicle can be daunting.
The car insurance comparison shopping and broker app Jerry has compiled some helpful tips on how to make your car last longer.
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Purchase a reliable, safe vehicle

Buying a car with a good reliability record is the perfect place to start if you want to keep it running for a long time. Start your research with online resources like Consumer Reports or Edmunds and look specifically for predicted reliability information.
Safety is a huge factor in a vehicle’s longevity. Modern cars have active accident-avoidance features to prevent fender benders and give you and your car the best chances of staying safe. Look for cars with active safety features like automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, and blindspot monitoring.
If you’re buying a used car, look carefully for signs of abuse or neglect. Rust, dents, and mismatched body panels are all easy things to catch. Discolored carpeting, a musty smell, and damp areas in the engine are harder to spot but are red flags for past or current issues that may see you replacing the vehicle sooner rather than later.
Key Takeaway Reliability information is easy to find for new vehicles, but you’ll have to pay closer attention when inspecting used ones to spot potential problems.

Stick to the maintenance schedule

Your owner’s manual explains when to perform all suggested and necessary maintenance—things like oil and filter changes, tire rotations, fluid replacements, and more.
Most modern cars can go about 10,000 miles between oil changes. Oil changes play an important role in the longevity of your car, and missing even one can cause serious issues down the road.
If you live in an extreme climate like the desert or the mountains, check your manual for specialized severe-use or extreme-use maintenance schedules. Under mechanically strenuous conditions, some vehicles may require a different oil weight or time interval between changes.

Don’t buy cheap parts

Buying and using manufacturer-recommended parts and fluids is key if you want to keep your car running for a long time. Discount oil isn’t the same quality as name-brand oil and cheap, no-name parts won’t do the same job as those sitting at the dealer’s service department.
Using the incorrect parts or fluids can even void your warranty. The manufacturer won’t honor a warranty claim if your vehicle malfunctions due to low-quality (or even incorrect) products.

Watch for unexpected issues

Despite following manufacturer-recommended maintenance schedules, unexpected issues may still arise.
Anything that looks weird, sounds weird, or smells weird should be addressed. If you can’t identify the source of the problem, take your car to a mechanic to get a professional opinion and diagnosis.

Odd sounds

Sounds are a big indicator that something isn’t right. If your car makes abnormal noises while you’re driving (or while you’re stopping), don’t ignore them. Promptly taking care of potential issues is a surefire way to make your car last longer.

Visual inspection under the hood

A visual inspection can help identify small issues that, left unchecked, can become big ones. Check that all the belts look solid, the hoses look normal, and nothing seems to be leaking. Doing this regularly can help you avoid costly issues down the road.


A tire blowout is a serious safety hazard and isn’t great for your car, either. Get in the habit of checking your tires regularly to ensure they’re in good condition. Here’s what to look for:
  • Adequate tread
  • Adequate air—both underinflated and overinflated tires are a concern
  • No foreign objects
  • No cracks or bulges
Key Takeaway Pay attention to anything that looks, sounds, or smells strange—it could indicate a serious problem that needs attention before it gets worse.
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Watch for rust

If you want to find out how to make your car last longer, rust is a big thing to watch for. It’s a common culprit that forces owners to junk their cars before it’s mechanically necessary. A rusty car quickly becomes a massive safety risk and causes the value of your car to plummet.
Check low on your car for signs of bubbling paint or other evidence of rust. If you find rust, try to cover it with touch-up paint to seal the spread of it.

Rust in cold and wet climates

In cold climates, road salt finds its way into every crack and crevice under your car. If it isn’t cleaned properly, it can cause premature corrosion of metal components. Extreme moisture can do the same thing.
If you know your car will face the elements frequently, rust-proofing can help it go the distance. This process is relatively inexpensive and prevents corrosive substances like water and salt from sitting on vulnerable parts of your car.
Key Takeaway Rust can make a mechanically sound car undriveable, so taking care of rust before it becomes a more significant issue will help prolong the life of your car.

Keep your car clean

Keeping your car clean seems like a silly way to make it last longer, but sometimes the simplest solutions make the biggest difference.
If possible, try to keep your car in a covered space like a carport or a garage. This preserves the paint, minimizes unnecessary exposure to the elements, and contributes to a longer vehicle lifespan.
Frequent washes and occasional wax jobs help to protect from rust and keep the paint in good condition so the vehicle retains its value. They also help keep road grime from building up on the underside of the vehicle—another culprit that causes rust.
Vacuuming your interior helps prevent premature holes from forming in the carpet and floor mats. It also encourages you to check in crevices for signs of water damage inside the vehicle.
Minimizing heavy clutter inside your vehicle reduces unnecessary stress on suspension components—and bonus, it also increases your fuel economy!

When to let your high-mileage car go

Vehicles live a tough life, and there will come a time when you need to let your vehicle go. If any of the following creep up, it may be time to take your vehicle off the road.

Structural rust issues

Rust damage to the structure of your vehicle is a sure sign that it’s got to go. Rust dramatically reduces the structural integrity of the metal that it affects, creating a huge safety hazard.
Structural rust can appear on the chassis underneath your car or in certain places under the hood. Keep an eye out for signs of rusting on parts that seem structurally integral.

Repair costs that outweigh the resale value of the vehicle

Even preventative measures to keep your high-mileage car in good condition can’t always ward off expensive, unforeseen issues.
Repair costs for small issues are usually negligible if you can avoid a new car payment—but if repairs start costing more than the car is worth, it might not be worth it. The timing belt is a common big-ticket fix for cars over 100,000 miles and can cost upwards of $1,000.

Accident damage

Regardless of how well you maintain your car, you can’t control the actions of other drivers—and it takes a lot less to total an old car than a new one. If your insurance company deems your high-mileage car totaled, it’s a good time to lay your old faithful to rest.
Key Takeaway While extending the life of your vehicle is great, structural rust, extensive (and expensive) repairs, and serious accident damage may not be worth fixing.

How to find cheap car insurance

Whether you’re insuring a brand new car or one that’s been around for a while, it’s important to have the right coverage. And if you can save money on your premium, even better.
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