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Will you wear out before your car does?

As people are keeping their vehicles longer, we are seeing just how far our modern day cars will go.

When the recession hit the American car buyer a few years ago, consumers stayed away from new car dealers as they became wary of trading their older vehicles in for new ones. According to an article from The New York Times, the research firm R. L. Polk, which tracks vehicle sales and registrations, says the average age of cars today in the U.S. was at a record 11.1 years in 2011. And now we are beginning to see that the cars that were manufactured in the last decade, are lasting much longer than anyone anticipated.

Back in the 70’s and 80’s, when a vehicle reached 100,000 miles, it was a good bet that major mechanical problems would start appearing and many of those cars were ready for the junk yard. Hyundai began selling a single model in the U.S. in 1986, the Excel, and it was originally received with great success. The Korean carmaker sold 168,882 cars their first year. But rather quickly, the Excel received an increasingly poor reputation of reliability and quality. It became a joke among people in the auto industry, that the Excel was a throw-away car. After you put 60,000- 70,000 miles on it, you better get rid of it.

But with the increasing competition from the Japanese, both American and Korean manufactures had to keep up with the competition or get left behind. Today, we see Hyundai building vehicles that are very close in quality to Toyota and Honda. We may even be seeing the Japanese cars slipping in quality. And now we see Hyundai and Kia including 100,000-mile/10-year warranties on their powertrains.

I have personal firsthand experience in seeing just how far a car will go today. My daughter bought a 1995 Subaru Legacy sedan with 60,000 miles on it back in 2000. She drove it until last year and put 236,000 miles on the odometer before selling it to me. I knew the kind of maintenance she performed on the car and I was confident in its condition. Because I drive test vehicles most of the time, I don’t put a lot of miles on my own cars. I have put another 5000 miles on the car and it’s still running strong. I expect to put another 50,000 miles on the car before it gets taken to the scrap yard.

Just look at the online classified ads for used vehicles, and you can get an idea of how long cars are lasting today. It’s not uncommon to see used Toyota’s, Honda’s and Volvo’s with 150,000 or 200,000 miles on them. There are a number of factors that have contributed to our modern cars going much farther than ever before.

The fierce global competition has force carmakers to improve their customer satisfaction to remain competitive. And today, cars are much more reliable than they were 20-30 years ago. According to The New York Times, the government-mandated push for lower emissions is another key factor. “The California Air Resources Board and the E.P.A. have been very focused on making sure that catalytic converters perform within 96 percent of their original capability at 100,000 miles,” said Jagadish Sorab, technical leader for engine design at Ford Motor. “Because of this, we needed to reduce the amount of oil being used by the engine to reduce the oil reaching the catalysts.

Another factor is the quality of lubricants being manufactured today. We have seen a continual improvement in oils and greases since the 1970’s. Today we also see the newest technology in engines using the highest quality materials that help reduce wear.

So whether you drive your vehicle longer for economic reasons or just because you love the car, it’s entirely possible that the driver could wear out before the car does.

Reference: NY Times