Can Linda make it all the way to 300k in her '97 Honda Accord?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Mar 01, 2008

Dear Tom and Ray:

My 1997 Honda Accord has 270,000 miles. It still runs great, and doesn't use any oil. There are some problems I could take care of, like a clicking from an axle, struts that are pretty worn out and a pitted windshield. But overall, it runs well. My brother says I should get a new car. He cites safety concerns, and says that things like tie rods could break and lead to an accident. Since I'm adopting a 1-year-old child soon, I don't really want to break down anywhere, but I've never been too worried about it before. Anyway, I'm thinking of trying to go to 300,000 miles and then give her up. What do you think? -- Linda

RAY: Ah, the endless mileage contest. I have other customers like you, Linda. You say you just want to get to 300,000. And then when you get there, you'll say, "I just want to get to 325,000." I know your type.

TOM: Me too. You have my full support, Linda. As long as the rust hasn't diminished the structural integrity of the car, the safety stuff can be addressed pretty easily. You take the car to a mechanic you trust, and you ask him to look it over, stem to stern, as if you were thinking of buying it as a used car.

RAY: Once he gives you the full report, you ask him which of the problems are safety-related, and you fix those first. And, by the way, the worn struts and pitted windshield should be on that list.

TOM: You're almost always better off, economically, keeping an old car rather than buying a new one. So if you address any safety issues, you have our blessing to keep driving this heap.

RAY: The primary drawback of an old car like this, aside from its lack of the latest safety features, is that it's not as reliable as a newer car. When you have 270,000 miles on a vehicle, at any moment the fuel pump could have "the big one" and go to join Elizabeth. That WOULD leave you stranded.

TOM: And sure, that could happen with 70,000 miles on the car, or 170,000, too. But the likelihood of breaking down and getting stuck increases with every mile you put on the car. If you travel far from home with a small child, that becomes a consideration.

RAY: Right. If it was just you, it'd be no big deal. You call for help on your cell phone and wait around for a while. But if it's a hot day, and your last diaper is soiled, waiting a couple of hours for AAA to show up could be a grave crisis!

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