Author Topic: Ideal car washing frequency to avoid rust - cold climate or otherwise  (Read 10357 times)

J Boogie

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I recently found a gas station that offers a free car wash with 10 gallons of gas purchased.  That's my new go-to for filling up as its right near my work.   I would rarely pay for a car wash, and I gotta say it's nice to have a clean car.   But the promotion might not last and I've occasionally thought about car maintenance and what is the most optimal way to avoid rust and paint job deterioration.

What's your strategy on car washing for vehicular longevity?  Interested in hearing a mustachian approach.  Also, please keep renters in mind - not everyone can whip out the stereo and start gyrating on their vehicle in slow motion as warrant belts out cherry pie.

MLKnits

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Re: Ideal car washing frequency to avoid rust - cold climate or otherwise
« Reply #1 on: March 04, 2015, 08:22:40 AM »
This is my question! My situation is compounded by iffy wash options: basically, either you pay $9 for one wash (um, no thank you) or $180 for 90 days of wash-every-day-if-you-want, which is obviously better bang for the buck but ... does my car really need to be washed every day? Not to mention the water waste of daily washing.

Now it's getting slightly closer to freezing (ah, warmth!) I may switch to a coin wash on the weekend, but during the death-cold season, I'm still torn on the above cost comparison. I think finding out the answer to your question (how often is the right amount?) may help me decide for next winter.

(Renter, no hose to call my own)

J Boogie

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Re: Ideal car washing frequency to avoid rust - cold climate or otherwise
« Reply #2 on: March 04, 2015, 09:12:35 AM »
Your situation is exactly what I am thinking of.

$9 seems like kind of a ripoff, but do 6 car washes at $54/yr ward off rust successfully enough? If so that's not a bad price to pay if its the difference maker.

I've checked out a few car forums on this topic but very few seem to have a mustachian mentality, so I figured I'd float it out here.

And yeah, washing a car by hand outside in the freezing cold is a logistical snafu to say the least.  Even hose owning northerners have their outdoor pipes water shut off in the winter, so I'd say we're all in this together come thanksgiving.

mak1277

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Re: Ideal car washing frequency to avoid rust - cold climate or otherwise
« Reply #3 on: March 04, 2015, 09:20:59 AM »
How much does salt take away from the life of a car if you never wash it?  I have a hard time believing there is any real value in regular car washes....I just don't believe the useful life of my car will be materially affected.

Exflyboy

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Re: Ideal car washing frequency to avoid rust - cold climate or otherwise
« Reply #4 on: March 04, 2015, 09:43:54 AM »
Ok so I can categorically tell you that the life of your car rust wise matters on one thing only .. That is, is salt used on the roads or not.

In Oregon we don't use salt (due to the number of steel bridges we have) and cars literally NEVER rust. In fact if you want an older car that is guranteed rust free, come to oregon to buy it.

I am currently breaking a 97 Neon in my shop that has not rust whatsoever. That same car probably wouldn't exist in a salt using State.

For a hobby I paint cars (actually I started by painting airplanes), about the only thing NEVER washing your car does is perhaps a little more oxidation on the clear coat (clear covering over the top of the paint). This can be brough back to as new condition in aboyt 20 minutes with my harbor Freight buffer.

Bottom line.. Car washes do nothing but scratch the clear coat IMHO and should be avoided.

Frank

TN_Steve

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Re: Ideal car washing frequency to avoid rust - cold climate or otherwise
« Reply #5 on: March 04, 2015, 10:07:50 AM »
Our family's first new car, a 1992 toyota minivan, was washed maybe 10 times over 17 years and 360,000 miles (most of which was in STL area, with road salt).  It had some rust at the end, but not bad.

My present car (and our family's second new one), a 2013 fit with 48,000 miles, has not been washed yet, despite living on a gravel road.  We have occasional salt on our roads here.  I doubt that this one will rust prior to dying of other causes.

DW washes her Civic a couple or three times a year for looks....

The materials in mass-market cars today really don't require much care. 

wtjbatman

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Re: Ideal car washing frequency to avoid rust - cold climate or otherwise
« Reply #6 on: March 04, 2015, 10:21:48 AM »
If you live where they salt the roads (hello me) I would recommend going through a car wash with underbody wash at least a couple times a year. Probably in the middle of winter and again when winter is over and the roads have been cleaned.

I have no scientific study to back up my claims. Just 31 years living in the upper Midwest and watching cars that don't get washed start rusting from the bottom up.

Forcus

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Re: Ideal car washing frequency to avoid rust - cold climate or otherwise
« Reply #7 on: March 04, 2015, 10:41:06 AM »
I think this has been said but if you live where there is substantial salt or cinders used, a good underbody wash is IMO a very good idea. If the car wash doesn't have the underbody sprayers (assuming you are using an automatic... even I puss out and use automatic most of the time during winter) then it's not doing any good. Also I drive as slow as possible over the sprayers so they have a chance to really get at stuff.

Always go touchless too. None of those fabric beaters. They just scratch the paint and rip off license places and antennas.

Modern paint really doesn't need a whole lot of maintenance to look good. It's the underside that gets rusty. That being said modern cars also don't really rust out the unibody / frames any more, it's generally suspension components and adjustment bolts / bushing sleeves that get rusty and seize. But it's more annoyance and aesthetics than a failure waiting to happen.

FarmerPete

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Re: Ideal car washing frequency to avoid rust - cold climate or otherwise
« Reply #8 on: March 04, 2015, 10:44:43 AM »
I normally like to get mine washed a few times each winter.  I don't do it for the underside (it will just get dirty again anyways), but I do it to get the salt off the sides.  It's annoying when anything that touches your car gets dirty.  Speaking of which, I really need to take a wash.  There is a place that does $3 washes.  I normally just go through there.

MsPeacock

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Re: Ideal car washing frequency to avoid rust - cold climate or otherwise
« Reply #9 on: March 04, 2015, 10:55:52 AM »
I take mine in about once a month in the winter - or when it is completely filthy and gross - because I live in an area that uses salt on the roads.

rockstache

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Re: Ideal car washing frequency to avoid rust - cold climate or otherwise
« Reply #10 on: March 04, 2015, 11:19:04 AM »
I'm in the northeast, lots of snow and salt. I have never washed my car in the entire time that I had it (12 years), although it did spend about half of that time living in Virginia. When I finally did get rid of it, the body was in pretty much perfect condition. I will probably never wash a car.

JLee

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Re: Ideal car washing frequency to avoid rust - cold climate or otherwise
« Reply #11 on: March 04, 2015, 11:48:34 AM »
I'm in the northeast, lots of snow and salt. I have never washed my car in the entire time that I had it (12 years), although it did spend about half of that time living in Virginia. When I finally did get rid of it, the body was in pretty much perfect condition. I will probably never wash a car.

The body might have been (what's protected by paint), but I'm guessing you didn't do any work on it yourself.  Try removing exhaust hardware, suspension hardware, etc, when it's sat in salt for a decade or more...

jmusic

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Re: Ideal car washing frequency to avoid rust - cold climate or otherwise
« Reply #12 on: March 04, 2015, 11:57:10 AM »
Washing a car is mostly for cosmetics and potential resale value down the road.  Once a car hits about $2500 in value it's probably not a huge difference though.  Anyway if these are things you care about:

Bird poo is highly corrosive to paint if left for a long time.  As mentioned, drive-thru car washes scratch the clearcoat.  Also, the sun can damage the paint over time (why many older cars have peeling paint on "up" facing surfaces).

If you care about the appearance/paint: 
1.  The single best thing you can do is to garage your car when it's home.  It's amazing to me that most non-mustachians keep their garage filled with worthless trash, yet their $30K cars sit outside.
2.  As mentioned underbody washes during/after winter works wonders to prevent rust.
3.  Again, if you're concerned about resale, then wash, and more importantly WAX the car ~2x per year. 



I find that taking pride in my vehicle helps me to enjoy it more, and it helps to reduce the new-car lust.  While it may not be 100% optimal from a frugality point of view, it's much better than the alternative.  It's also why I replaced my brakes before I technically needed to (rotors were warped, pads still had some life). 

JLee

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Re: Ideal car washing frequency to avoid rust - cold climate or otherwise
« Reply #13 on: March 04, 2015, 12:15:52 PM »
Washing a car is mostly for cosmetics and potential resale value down the road.  Once a car hits about $2500 in value it's probably not a huge difference though.  Anyway if these are things you care about:

Bird poo is highly corrosive to paint if left for a long time.  As mentioned, drive-thru car washes scratch the clearcoat.  Also, the sun can damage the paint over time (why many older cars have peeling paint on "up" facing surfaces).

If you care about the appearance/paint: 
1.  The single best thing you can do is to garage your car when it's home.  It's amazing to me that most non-mustachians keep their garage filled with worthless trash, yet their $30K cars sit outside.
2.  As mentioned underbody washes during/after winter works wonders to prevent rust.
3.  Again, if you're concerned about resale, then wash, and more importantly WAX the car ~2x per year. 



I find that taking pride in my vehicle helps me to enjoy it more, and it helps to reduce the new-car lust.  While it may not be 100% optimal from a frugality point of view, it's much better than the alternative.  It's also why I replaced my brakes before I technically needed to (rotors were warped, pads still had some life).
Touchless car washes should be a bit more friendly to paint than the kinds with dirty brushes that run over your car.

ENL

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Re: Ideal car washing frequency to avoid rust - cold climate or otherwise
« Reply #14 on: March 04, 2015, 12:45:26 PM »
I don't have anything to say if it is ideal or not, but my personal rule is to wash once a year.  I make sure the wash is for the underside of the car as well.  This happens after I am reasonably sure winter is done and there won't be any more salt on the roads.  (I live in Michigan and we have to salt like crazy here to minimize the inevitable ice-related accidents.)

wtjbatman

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Re: Ideal car washing frequency to avoid rust - cold climate or otherwise
« Reply #15 on: March 04, 2015, 01:26:50 PM »
I'm in the northeast, lots of snow and salt. I have never washed my car in the entire time that I had it (12 years), although it did spend about half of that time living in Virginia. When I finally did get rid of it, the body was in pretty much perfect condition. I will probably never wash a car.

The body might have been (what's protected by paint), but I'm guessing you didn't do any work on it yourself.  Try removing exhaust hardware, suspension hardware, etc, when it's sat in salt for a decade or more...

Exactly. Last year you could walk around my 2004 Mustang and the only thing you would see is some paint chips on the hood. Otherwise in pretty damn good condition, you couldn't see a spot of rust or anything. It was also loud as fuck because the exhaust had rusted out. The mechanic also warned me about a couple other spots of rust forming that could be potential problems down the road. If I had been more diligent washing the road salt off the underbody I may have been able to avoid this problem.

MLKnits

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Re: Ideal car washing frequency to avoid rust - cold climate or otherwise
« Reply #16 on: March 04, 2015, 01:45:50 PM »
I'm in the northeast, lots of snow and salt. I have never washed my car in the entire time that I had it (12 years), although it did spend about half of that time living in Virginia. When I finally did get rid of it, the body was in pretty much perfect condition. I will probably never wash a car.

The body might have been (what's protected by paint), but I'm guessing you didn't do any work on it yourself.  Try removing exhaust hardware, suspension hardware, etc, when it's sat in salt for a decade or more...

Exactly. Last year you could walk around my 2004 Mustang and the only thing you would see is some paint chips on the hood. Otherwise in pretty damn good condition, you couldn't see a spot of rust or anything. It was also loud as fuck because the exhaust had rusted out. The mechanic also warned me about a couple other spots of rust forming that could be potential problems down the road. If I had been more diligent washing the road salt off the underbody I may have been able to avoid this problem.

This is my concern. There's salt on the roads here for six months of the year, and I can't see that washing two or three times in that six months is enough to prevent rust. It was drilled into my head as a young driver: wash as much as you possibly can, two or three times a week, or the car's going to suffer very serious effects from all that salt corrosion. I just don't know if 2-3 times per week is actually the right number--but I know once a year isn't, in this climate.

Forcus

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Re: Ideal car washing frequency to avoid rust - cold climate or otherwise
« Reply #17 on: March 04, 2015, 01:58:35 PM »
If I had been more diligent washing the road salt off the underbody I may have been able to avoid this problem.

Don't be too hard on yourself, you may not have been able to avoid it depending on where it is. I have noticed that 99-04 Mustangs rust out from the inside out on the rear wheelwells. The big 3 still haven't figured out how to make a truck not rust from the inside out - all 3 2000's models are bad at cab corners and rear wheelwells along with the seams / pinch area on the bottom of the doors. They all rust from the inside out. My wife's 2009 Escape has particularly bad (no holes, lots of scale) rust on the hatch seam (which it had at ~30k miles and 3 years old) and now on the door seams (these areas not visible unless you are looking for it). Short of drilling holes and removing panels and drowning these areas with a water repellent, sealant, rust converter, etc., there's nothing you can do in these cases. By time you find out it's already rusted through from the inside, usually showing as a small bubble in the paint which is really a hole from the backside going through. We have a double whammy here in IL. Lots of salt for much of the year, and high humidity the rest of it (humidity will rust unprotected metal as well).

Bob W

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Re: Ideal car washing frequency to avoid rust - cold climate or otherwise
« Reply #18 on: March 05, 2015, 08:48:56 AM »
Hand wash it at the end of winter.  Put 2 coats of wax on.   Repeat in fall.   Did you know you can wax your windows too?   Makes them shin and repels rain and ice.   

Mine is pretty grungy right now but there is little point in washing since the next snow storm is always just around the corner.  Probably April 1st will be my wash and detail day.  Car will look stunning for a few weeks.   

If I want to spruce it up later it is a quick $3 at a DYI wash or a quick rinse and soap job at home on a warm Sunday with nothing to do but smoke ribs. 

Would never pay $9 for a car wash!   

ohana

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Re: Ideal car washing frequency to avoid rust - cold climate or otherwise
« Reply #19 on: March 05, 2015, 09:18:12 AM »
I just never see any cars that are particularly rusty, even here in Maine.  Not like in the 70s.  I almost never wash mine and they last forever (albeit, in a very dirty state).  I think modern cars are pretty resistant to rust, although maybe not the exhaust system.  I'm not sure the money involved with washing is less than an occasionally muffler though.  Interesting discussion!

J Boogie

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Re: Ideal car washing frequency to avoid rust - cold climate or otherwise
« Reply #20 on: March 05, 2015, 09:32:31 AM »

If I want to spruce it up later it is a quick $3 at a DYI wash or a quick rinse and soap job at home on a warm Sunday with nothing to do but smoke ribs. 


Right on Bob W, you smoke those ribs.  One thing I enjoy about a good weekend bike ride is the occasional smoker I'll pass by, catching whiffs a good football field away.

FarmerPete

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Re: Ideal car washing frequency to avoid rust - cold climate or otherwise
« Reply #21 on: March 05, 2015, 10:19:06 AM »
I invested in a power washer.  Makes summer washing real quick.  Sure, it still needs a quick scrub to get the dirt off, but I save a ton of time.  Pressure washer was bought and shared by a few relatives (I keep/store it) to cut the cost per person down.

frugal_engineer

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Re: Ideal car washing frequency to avoid rust - cold climate or otherwise
« Reply #22 on: March 05, 2015, 01:58:06 PM »
Auto makers have made great strides in corrosion prevention technology.  BUT road salt and even worse, brine, WILL shred your car if you aren't diligent in keeping salt off of it.  On a brand new car with a factory perfect underbody paint, less washing may be survivable.  Keep in mind however that the rust that actually causes vehicle damage might not even be on the body.  Fuel lines, brake lines, ball joints, u-joints, springs, steel gas tanks, gas tank straps, exhausts, steering components, etc (list goes on forever) are often steel and susceptible to rust.  Even aluminum parts aren't immune to salty water.

Long story short, if you're concerned about your vehicle rusting, you can't wash it too often.  If you do it at least weekly it'll significantly slow but not stop the losing battle with corrosion.

libertarian4321

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Re: Ideal car washing frequency to avoid rust - cold climate or otherwise
« Reply #23 on: March 12, 2015, 05:16:11 AM »
I last washed my truck in 2006 or so.

The dust and dirt are protecting the paint.

alsoknownasDean

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Re: Ideal car washing frequency to avoid rust - cold climate or otherwise
« Reply #24 on: March 12, 2015, 06:01:52 AM »
Whilst snow where I am is rare, I used to live in an area near the coast (so there was salt in the air). I didn't need to take any special precautions, I probably washed my car once a month or so.

Now I still wash my car about once a month (with the handheld hoses at the carwash, $3-4 to do my car), mainly to blast off the bird crap and clean the dust and dirt off the windows.

As my car is usually parked under a tree, birds tend to use it for target practice. What's more, it's a black car, so dust and dirt shows a lot. If I was all fussy about having it look pristine, I'd probably have to wash it twice a week. Far too much effort for a 13 year old beater.
« Last Edit: March 12, 2015, 06:04:15 AM by alsoknownasDean »

thedayisbrave

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Re: Ideal car washing frequency to avoid rust - cold climate or otherwise
« Reply #25 on: March 12, 2015, 06:51:00 AM »
I used to hand wash when I lived at home, but now that I'm at an apartment complex I usually go through the automatic washes. 

Besides the fact that I like my car to be clean personally (gives me satisfaction), I'm a real estate agent so really should not be driving clients around in a dirty car. 

It used to be every other week while at home, now it's more like 1x a month or more frequently depending on weather.

2Birds1Stone

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Re: Ideal car washing frequency to avoid rust - cold climate or otherwise
« Reply #26 on: March 12, 2015, 07:23:27 AM »
My only car wash is rain.

MLKnits

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Re: Ideal car washing frequency to avoid rust - cold climate or otherwise
« Reply #27 on: March 12, 2015, 03:25:18 PM »
My only car wash is rain.

Do you live in an area that doesn't put salt down? Rain doesn't touch the underbody of the car.

2Birds1Stone

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Re: Ideal car washing frequency to avoid rust - cold climate or otherwise
« Reply #28 on: March 12, 2015, 03:28:07 PM »
I never thought of it like that =D

otter

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Re: Ideal car washing frequency to avoid rust - cold climate or otherwise
« Reply #29 on: March 13, 2015, 03:46:56 PM »
If you live in an area that salts the roads in the winter, then washing your car regularly will certainly help keep it in better condition - both the body (lower body, mostly) and chassis and drivetrain components. If you drive every day or something like that, washing it once a week is probably fine during the winter. I live in Chicago but hardly ever drive in the city, so my Beige Transportation Appliance spends a lot of time in the garage (I haven't driven it since January) and I wash it before it is going to spend a lot of time sitting. Outside of winter, I am not so worried.

Washing the undercarriage is what is most important. Irv Gordon, the owner of the 3-million-mile Volvo, street-parked it on Long Island for decades but washed it religiously. It does not have rust-through.


I recently found a gas station that offers a free car wash with 10 gallons of gas purchased.  That's my new go-to for filling up as its right near my work.   I would rarely pay for a car wash, and I gotta say it's nice to have a clean car.   But the promotion might not last and I've occasionally thought about car maintenance and what is the most optimal way to avoid rust and paint job deterioration.

What's your strategy on car washing for vehicular longevity?  Interested in hearing a mustachian approach.  Also, please keep renters in mind - not everyone can whip out the stereo and start gyrating on their vehicle in slow motion as warrant belts out cherry pie.

17oclockshadow

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Re: Ideal car washing frequency to avoid rust - cold climate or otherwise
« Reply #30 on: March 13, 2015, 09:31:16 PM »
I have had a 2001 camry for about 10 years; i rarely wash it; maybe once every few years.  It has been in the midwest for most of those years; lots of salt on the roads.  I have never observed any rust on the body of the car.  I don't drive it all that much; maybe 5000 miles/year, 10 tops; maybe it gets exposed to less salt?

Washing the car always seemed stupid to me; it gets salty, you go get it washed in the winter, and then right after you drive out of the carwash you get a new coating of salt on the car; during the winters, most of the roads in the midwest are totally coated with salt.

use2betrix

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Re: Ideal car washing frequency to avoid rust - cold climate or otherwise
« Reply #31 on: March 14, 2015, 06:28:20 AM »
I find it odd that so many members are likely not washing due to the cost, yet when they do wash they go through the automatic washes which are exponentially more than the self serve washes.

Most self service washes I've found, which I use at least bi monthly, start at about $2 for a few minutes. This Is enough time to clean up most regular car. The brushless laser wash by my house is $9-$12 per wash in comparison.

Even bi monthly at $2/wash is about $50/yr. Your paint and underside will thank you, especially if you live somewhere there's salt. If you live somewhere there's salt and don't wash it, I'd imagine you've never done work or crawled underneath your car. There will be stuff rusting and corroding.

bmcewan

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Re: Ideal car washing frequency to avoid rust - cold climate or otherwise
« Reply #32 on: March 15, 2015, 11:46:14 AM »
The rate of metal oxidation from salt is relative to the temperature. If you drive on roads where rock salt is used, you should wash your car once in the late winter/early Spring as it starts to warm up. About the worst thing you can do in winter with a salt-covered car is park in a heated garage.

rockstache

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Re: Ideal car washing frequency to avoid rust - cold climate or otherwise
« Reply #33 on: March 16, 2015, 01:15:27 PM »
I'm in the northeast, lots of snow and salt. I have never washed my car in the entire time that I had it (12 years), although it did spend about half of that time living in Virginia. When I finally did get rid of it, the body was in pretty much perfect condition. I will probably never wash a car.

The body might have been (what's protected by paint), but I'm guessing you didn't do any work on it yourself.  Try removing exhaust hardware, suspension hardware, etc, when it's sat in salt for a decade or more...

Actually no, the whole thing was in very good condition, and we did most of the work ourselves. We ended up with an extra car, and this just ended up being the best one for us to get rid of at the time. I am sure that whoever has it now has quite a bit of life left.