Author Topic: Road trips with high mileage vehicles  (Read 4860 times)

MoStache

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Road trips with high mileage vehicles
« on: March 27, 2018, 03:13:45 PM »
And when I say "high mileage" I mean over 250k.

Anybody out there do road trips with a vehicle like this?  Is it a crazy idea?  If you do, any tips/tricks you can pass along?  What do you do if you break down?

Altons Bobs

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Re: Road trips with high mileage vehicles
« Reply #1 on: March 27, 2018, 03:17:55 PM »
Yes, crazy.

2Birds1Stone

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Re: Road trips with high mileage vehicles
« Reply #2 on: March 27, 2018, 04:10:05 PM »
Not crazy at all.

Brother had a 2003 Pontiac Vibe GT (Toyota engine), and regularly drove it to FL and Canada till it hit ~300k miles.

The most important thing is to have good roadside assistance on your insurance or something like a mid tier AAA membership.

I believe it's 24/7 towing up to 100 miles, up to something like 2X per year.

Other than that, make sure fluids are topped off, no known leaks, tires are good both pressure and tread wise, and no other visible or audible red flags.

ClovisKid

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Re: Road trips with high mileage vehicles
« Reply #3 on: March 27, 2018, 04:22:09 PM »
Agreed... not crazy.  Any successful road trip is highly dependant on the condition of the car, regardless of mileage.

I have a 1999 Toyota Avalon with 305K miles on it I don't have any anxiety about taking it on roadtrips.  As long as you keep everything well-maintained, your risk will be as low as with any car.

I've never subscribed to AAA or any other roadside assistance and I've never needed it either.  I have had two flat tires in my 34 years of driving and I changed them both myself.  Of course, if I was a single female who traveled alone through the desolate Mohave Desert of California (as I often do), I wouldn't hesitate to sign up.  But, in the meantime, I've saved $75 x 34 years = $2,550 to essentially self-insure for a tow or breakdown.


405programmer

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Re: Road trips with high mileage vehicles
« Reply #4 on: March 27, 2018, 04:26:31 PM »
I do road trips with my 2001 GMC mini van that will almost certainly break down while I own it. It has done 7 state road trips of ~1800 miles and tackled mountain passes all with >150K miles.

The trick to doing a road trip with a high mileage vehicle is mostly the same for a younger car, make sure maintenance is up to date and make sure you prepare for the conditions of your trip. (ex. mountain trip in the winter better bring some chains and know how to put them on). I also carry some basic fluids with me should I develop a slow leak of coolant or oil and I check the fluids before the start of the trip and before the ride home. The only thing I would recommend is realize that the chance of being broken down on the side of the road is a little higher than on a newer car with fewer miles. Make sure you keep your phone charged and understand that if your car breaks away from home you might be stuck somewhere waiting on repair / a rental and if you're on a time crunch you will have to pay dearly for convenience.

I would say go for it if your travel dates have at least a 1 day buffer each way and or you're able to comfortably throw money at the problem to resolve it faster.

You can't wear a car out if you don't drive it!!

The big caveat here is if the vehicle ever becomes less safe due to the age (cracking tires or failing brakes) then absolutely never drive it and either fix it or scrap it immediately. My car will probably just suffer a transmission failure sometime in the next 50K miles. Could be a camping trip or a trip to the lumber yard. I won't know until it happens but in the mean time I don't lose sleep over it!

What to do when you break down is either fix it or scrap it. Kinda depends on what breaks. If your starter goes out in a parking lot well just figure out how to get a new starter installed. If you crack the engine block then find a local scrap yard!

RyanAtTanagra

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Re: Road trips with high mileage vehicles
« Reply #5 on: March 27, 2018, 04:46:18 PM »
I drove my Accord with I think 260k miles on it from Cleveland to SF when I moved, which was about 3000k miles due to the route I took to visit family along the way.  I didn't think anything of it because I trusted the car, till someone said 'what you're DRIVING your car out there?  how many miles does it have?'.  'Oh yea, I guess that's outside the norm, cool, even better!'

I wouldn't do it if I didn't know the car well.  Or maybe I would, just depends on your mindset.  Get AAA and know you might break down at some point and have to wait for the car to get fixed.  I had a car in college that was such a POS I honestly never believed I was going to get where I was going... every time I got in the car.  That lasted a year til it finally happened.  It was actually a pretty freeing feeling having a car like that.  It's all in the mindset :-)

Gone Fishing

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Re: Road trips with high mileage vehicles
« Reply #6 on: March 27, 2018, 05:40:09 PM »
AAA hack: Benefits become available immediately upon membership.  Keep the membership number on you.  If you breakdown, call it, ask for a new member deal, take it, pay with CC.  Hang up, call back and ask for a tow. Enjoy small discounts on hotels and tourist attractions for the following year.

Eric

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Re: Road trips with high mileage vehicles
« Reply #7 on: March 27, 2018, 05:55:58 PM »
The total mileage is less important than how it's running.  Everything running good?  Fluids not leaking (much)?  Have at it.  Runs like shit and burns oil and leaks coolant?  Maybe rent one instead.

MissNancyPryor

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Re: Road trips with high mileage vehicles
« Reply #8 on: March 27, 2018, 06:05:25 PM »
My daughter just drove a 300 mile road trip today in a 2005 Honda CR-V with over 250K on it.  Yes, I was worried.  She had the oil changed before the trip to make sure it was topped off and nothing major was going on.  I guess if it was my only mode of transportation I would have made the same trip, and of course there is no telling your adult kids what to do. 

Cars today go much farther than the 1975 Nova that was my first car, those vintages were far more used up at that mileage.  And today having cell phones makes good old AAA so handy and easier to take the risk of a breakdown.         

pecunia

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Re: Road trips with high mileage vehicles
« Reply #9 on: March 27, 2018, 06:21:32 PM »
High mileage vehicles are statistically more likely to have problems.  It is similar to a high risk investment.  It's a bit of a gamble.  But then, isn't life always a gamble?  You will not get the reward of the trip if you do not go.

Fear can always paralyze you.

MayDay

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Re: Road trips with high mileage vehicles
« Reply #10 on: March 27, 2018, 07:23:45 PM »
Our oldest car has ~210K so not quite "high mileage" by your definition.

It has started to worry us a bit.  I probably wouldn't take it anywhere too remote.  I figure the biggest risk is you break down in the middle of the countryside on a Sunday morning, with no open repair shops or car rental places within 150+ miles, and you are stuck there until Monday morning.  Or something like that.  That could get pricey.  We are likely to just rent a car for a major road trip vacation if we are going at all remote.

When I was a kid we were on a vacation to the western US mountains.  On a Saturday morning, just as we were really getting rural, our Ford minivan started doing something funny.  We stopped in a tiny town with only a Ford dealership, that closed at noon on Saturday.  The man had the part in stock, and we were back on the road by noon.  We would have been so screwed if we had broken down in a really rural place with no mechanics nearby, plus my parents had no money, so towing the van hundreds of miles and paying for hotels would have really been bad for them. 

But currently we still drive our van to my In laws, a 12 hour drive, as it is all freeway driving and never too far from a city.  We also have roadside assistance through our car insurance (Costco- still the cheapest by far even with roadside assistance).  And we have gotten good use out of it- we have gotten jumped, gotten keys unlocked from inside the car, gotten towed, etc. 

Trying2bFrugal

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Re: Road trips with high mileage vehicles
« Reply #11 on: March 28, 2018, 08:00:21 AM »
Dodge stratus 1998 model with 120K miles on it, drove it 1100 miles.

Prior to trip, I just took it to a mechanic to see if there are any issues to be fixed immediately.

If the car is old, worst thing that can happen is tranny/timing belt. So when on travel in old cars, i would count half day buffer, food, AAA. Thats all.

Stachetastic

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Re: Road trips with high mileage vehicles
« Reply #12 on: March 28, 2018, 08:08:18 AM »
We have a car with 263k miles and I drive it everyday for work, which takes me to home visits across 25 counties. I often drive 200+ miles in a day. I've never given it any thought, aside from asking for a AAA membership for Christmas starting a couple years ago. I go through some pretty remote places, but I always seem to have cell reception, plus I'm always traveling during business hours. If we were to road trip across several states, we would likely borrow a vehicle from one of our parents or rent one.

HipGnosis

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Re: Road trips with high mileage vehicles
« Reply #13 on: March 28, 2018, 11:30:38 AM »
My answer is: it depends

Have you always done scheduled maintenance on the car?
Do you check fluids and tires, etc.?
Are you familiar with the car enough to notice when things aren't quite right?
Are you mechanical?  Do you have at least basic tools?  Do you have a roadside assistance membership (note that if it's through your auto insurance, using it often is treated as an insurance claim)?
Are your trips through any unpopulated areas?

It's very rare for a car to 'break down' while going down the highway.

I once changed alternators in a beat-up Corolla under the parking lot lights of a truck stop.   I knew the alternator was weak, as I was having to charge the battery every week.  I got an alternator from a 'junk yard' (now called auto recyclers) for the trip but didn't have time to change it, so I brought tools.  I was Okay until it got dark and I had to turn on the headlights.  I had to turn off the radio or the headlights would dim...



swinginbeef

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Re: Road trips with high mileage vehicles
« Reply #14 on: March 28, 2018, 12:37:30 PM »
think about what the worst case scenario would be and then figure out what your plan of action would be. Things are a lot less scary if you think them through and then have a plan. My wife used to worry about "what if the van breaks down on our trip" type things until I told her EXACTLY what we'd do if the van (+260k) broke down on our trip. same thing we'd do if it broke down in our town while running errands. We'd have it towed to a shop and get it fixed and then continue on our way. If it needed a major, time consuming repair, we may rent another van and continue on our trip, returning for our fixed van on the way home. Inconvenient, sure. But not something to be afraid of or worry about.

JLee

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Re: Road trips with high mileage vehicles
« Reply #15 on: March 28, 2018, 06:13:02 PM »
My Landcruiser was north of 200k when I took it into Mexico for 6 days.  If it's properly maintained, go for it.

Just Joe

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Re: Road trips with high mileage vehicles
« Reply #16 on: March 28, 2018, 06:47:14 PM »
We went everywhere in our old 300K mile CRV until the oil pump failed. Not far from home. Replaced the engine. Life goes on.

Thegoblinchief

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Re: Road trips with high mileage vehicles
« Reply #17 on: March 28, 2018, 07:23:40 PM »
In college I once broke down in a blizzard with a POS car. Luckily I was on the PA Turnpike about a mile from Breezewood. There was a 24 hour mechanic shop there, they had us back on the road about 3AM. Makes for a funny story now.

Our current vacation vehicle is 17 years old but only 183K. Itís starting to get to the point where I might want to look into roadside assistance based on some condition issues but havenít yet.

shelbyautumn

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Re: Road trips with high mileage vehicles
« Reply #18 on: March 29, 2018, 08:05:05 AM »
My husband drove his 1996 Tacoma with 200k+ miles on it from Colorado to Mississippi. It was an 1,100 mile trip. His only issue during the drive was in Shreveport, LA when he locked his keys in his car. He ended up paying a guy $20 to help him break into his truck.

ketchup

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Re: Road trips with high mileage vehicles
« Reply #19 on: March 29, 2018, 09:19:00 AM »
In college I once broke down in a blizzard with a POS car. Luckily I was on the PA Turnpike about a mile from Breezewood. There was a 24 hour mechanic shop there, they had us back on the road about 3AM. Makes for a funny story now.
Shitty situations on road trips often make for good stories later!  My GF was about 200 miles from home when something blew a three-inch hole in the fuel tank and spilled 18 gallons of gasoline onto I-94 in Michigan before the engine ran out of gas (this was when she noticed and pulled over).  Her main frustration was "I had just filled up!"  Never mind the scene of fire trucks and police cars all freaking out at the spill.  That was a fun phone call.

We've taken lots (dozens) of 300-2000 mile road trips and never with a car that had less than ~140k miles.  Our last one had its engine give out on me (at 262k) 100 miles from home.  AAA got it home and I later declared it dead.  Just figure out the worst-case scenario and walk yourself through it.  It's probably not actually that bad.  We do have AAA since we do so many trips, it helps GF relax more about driving an older car (presently a 2001 with 163k miles), and the discounts mean it usually pays for itself anyway.

And if you keep on maintenance and check your tire pressure and the like often enough, something bad will only happen if it's a freak accident (like the gas tank leak) or it's finally time for the car to visit that big parking garage in the sky.

PlainsWalker

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Re: Road trips with high mileage vehicles
« Reply #20 on: March 29, 2018, 10:07:41 AM »
My Ford Focus wagon had just cracked 250k when I took it from Oklahoma to Maine and back summer before last. That was about 4k miles with about 60 hours of run time for the round trip. I did some fairly major maintenance before setting out. The timing belt was due for replacement and on an interference engine that is something to not skip. I put on new tires on, shocks, wheel bearings, brakes, serpentine belt, and changed the oil. With all of that and a AAA membership fixing up the car was cheaper than renting one or taking a plane. And I had my vehicle running like new.

COEE

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Re: Road trips with high mileage vehicles
« Reply #21 on: March 30, 2018, 05:37:33 PM »
High mileage travel is nerve racking to me.  I've done it before.  No thanks.

These days I just rent a car.  It's ~$200 a week for a full size car, and I keep miles off of my vehicle.  Biggest drawback is not always knowing what car I'll get.  So I'm never sure if the dog crate will fit nicely in the car or not.  I much prefer having the dog in the crate while we travel - and she does too.

I got back yesterday from a 2000+ mile trip that hit CO, WY, NV, UT, and CA.  No oil changes, no stress about the car on our limited schedule, no oil changes, brake jobs, or tire checks, and we got lucky and had a Subaru Outback - massive amounts of room for the dog and DD.  Gas mileage wasn't great, but wasn't awful either (about 26mpg).  It did awesome going over Vail and Loveland Passes yesterday in snowy conditions also.

It might be a little bit spendy to rent a car (assuming it makes the trip without any issues) but it's not that much so.
Oil Change: $50
Tires: 2000/50000 miles*$600= $25
Brake Pads and Rotors = 2000/20000 * $500 = $50
Fluids: $5
Air filter: $5

So not taking into account depreciation on the car (assuming high mileage - and not much depreciation), it would have cost me ~$135 to operate my own car that far.  Considering that my 'travel car' gets much worse gas mileage on the highway (by about 8mpg) I personally break about even at the current gas prices.  I've often wondered how car rental places make money.

I don't have AAA - never have - probably never will - the price doesn't justify the presumed savings (a tow is ~$60 in most locations).  I can count the times I've truly needed a tow on one hand.

sokoloff

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Re: Road trips with high mileage vehicles
« Reply #22 on: March 30, 2018, 05:44:50 PM »
AAA hack: Benefits become available immediately upon membership.  Keep the membership number on you.  If you breakdown, call it, ask for a new member deal, take it, pay with CC.  Hang up, call back and ask for a tow. Enjoy small discounts on hotels and tourist attractions for the following year.
http://www.aaa.com/aaa/164/files/member-handbook-7-13.pdf

Only basic is available as soon as payment is processed. Plus and Premier benefit levels have a 7-day waiting period.

oneday

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Re: Road trips with high mileage vehicles
« Reply #23 on: March 30, 2018, 11:59:05 PM »
When I broke down last December, I immediately called AAA and renewed my membership.  They notified me that benefits would not normally take effect for 24 hours, but I could pay $75 extra to have that waived.  This is in California.   I think AAA is very regional, so this may not apply to you.

pdxvandal

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Re: Road trips with high mileage vehicles
« Reply #24 on: March 31, 2018, 12:21:26 AM »
Drove a Prius across the country recently with 275k miles and a check-engine light on the entire way. It can be done!

Laserjet3051

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Re: Road trips with high mileage vehicles
« Reply #25 on: March 31, 2018, 10:31:17 AM »
Not crazy at all; I just did it. 1999 Jeep Cherokee w/235K miles. Runs well, though a few minor bugs, and had the Jeep fully checked out before leaving. Made sure a full sized spare was on board and fully inflated, tire iron/jacks present and working, fluid levels all topped off, serpentine belt inspected. I also (personally) visually inspected that vehicle very thoroughly under the hood, from below, and in the nooks and crannies. As a backup, I looked at the cities along my road trip route to ensure that if the shit hit the fan ,there were rental car opportunities along the way and WHERE each one was. This way, even in a total breakdown, I could quickly get back on schedule in a rental.

She held up like a champ, those older Jeep 4.0L engines are built to last forever.

YMMV

COEE

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Re: Road trips with high mileage vehicles
« Reply #26 on: March 31, 2018, 10:37:42 AM »
She held up like a champ, those older Jeep 4.0L engines are built to last forever.

Yes they are.  I have one in the driveway I just can't seem to let go of.  235k 97 XJ 4.0L

I don't do long trips in it anymore though.  It's fun to have a car you don't give a shit about what it looks like - just how it runs - and boy does it run!

Reddleman

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Re: Road trips with high mileage vehicles
« Reply #27 on: March 31, 2018, 02:23:37 PM »
Depends on how much you know the car. 

2 summers ago I did a 9000mi. cross country trip in a 1998 BMW with almost 200k on it.  Not a problem. 

Of course I had owned the car for 2 years and did all the maintenance and update on it myself, so I was pretty sure it was good to go.  If you know little about cars or the maintenance and repair history, you could be out of luck and should probably have AAA. 

Depends on how long and how far you're going. . .

1.  Short and frequent- So if it was a bunch of short (300 mi. or so) road trips, as long as you know it's maintained and have AAA, take as many as you want. 
2. Long and epic- If you are planning a concentrated road trip of a few thousand miles and a few weeks, just rent a car and take advantage of that wonderful thing called "unlimited miles".  Make them regret the offer!
3. Regular vagabonding for years (hundreds to thousands of miles whenever you feel like it)?  Just get something they made millions of, made for durability and not style or mpg, and dead simple to repair.  If you're up for it- get a manual transmission.  I'd wager at least 50% of older cars are left for dead because of neglected auto transmissions that are too expensive to be worth the repair. 

For starters, mostly trucks because they are built simple for work and are way overkill for anyone who doesn't use them for actually hauling anything.  Half a million miles is a reasonable expectation before any major component repair if properly maintained.  Like:

-Jeep Cherokee- Brilliant vehicle.  Had one, loved it, but they get rusty in the salt belt. Owned one for 8 years. Grand Cherokees from that era that are lower spec (usually the 6-cyl "Laredo" model) are similar in reliability, but bigger.
-Toyota/Nissan pick up from 1980s-1990s- Tin cans made to run forever.  Higher than necessary resale prices in some markets, though. 
-Ford Ranger/Mazda B-Series- Current daily driver.  They literally sold millions of them, and only slightly updated the design over the years.  Possibly the least sexy yet most practical and cheap vehicle ever. So if your market up-prices the foreign trucks, these are a relative steal!
-90s full-size pickup truck or van- F-150, Silverado, Dodge Ram- See above, but add 30% more volume (and less mpg)!

Car(ish) vehicles-
-1990s Toyota/Honda cars- Pick your size and go.  Civic/Corolla, Prelude, Camry, Accord.  Whatever.  Just drive them.  Smart buy is the 90s Chevy Prism- Corolla with a Chevy badge!
-1990s-early 2000s Pontiac Vibe/Toyota Matrix- Manual transmissions had some issues, so this might be only one of the cars I'd recommend an auto.
-Ford Crown Victoria/Mercury Grand Marquis- Built body-on-frame (like trucks) and were the workhorses of Police departments and taxi services for a reason.  They actually get over 25mpg highway, too!
-1990s-early 2000s Buick- Regal, LeSabre, etc.  Believe it or not, these have reliability similar to Toyota/Honda of the same era, yet drastically lower resale prices.  They also tend to be owned by people who maintain their cars.

For the win (honorable mention with style points)
-Any Saturn built before 2002- Damn plastic wonders!  Reliability is similar to foreign models above, but are way underrated.
-Volvo 240/740 series.  Seriously overbuilt vehicles.  As long as correctives have been made for problems in certain models, they will probably outlive you. 

Yes, there are cars built after the early 2000s that are good, but they tend to suffer from trying to meet too many requirements (comfort, safety, emissions, mpg, style, etc.) and tend to get overcomplicated.  Remember, sexy is your enemy!




MoStache

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Re: Road trips with high mileage vehicles
« Reply #28 on: April 02, 2018, 08:05:46 PM »
Ok, so the prevailing wisdom seems to be...

- Get your car checked out before the trip by a mechanic.
- Have a plan for roadside assistance.
- Don't go if a breakdown would crush you in terms of either time or money.
- Worst case scenario you breakdown and wait for the repair or rent a car.

BTW, the specific car in question is a 2006 Toyota Highlander that I bought new.  It's got some serious suspension issues but I'm bring it in to the mechanic Thursday and I'm hoping to fix it up enough for a road trip in the next few weeks/months.

ender

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Re: Road trips with high mileage vehicles
« Reply #29 on: April 02, 2018, 08:49:19 PM »
I would check what it would cost to rent a car for that timeframe, too.

Many employers have good discounts too with rental companies that translate to you as individuals. My previous employer had absurdly low rental prices.