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Posted: 3/13/2006 9:22:31 PM EDT
Have been looking at used cars recently, and have found some heavily-discounted prospects with a lot of "highway miles" (130K-160K).

Although vehicles that are driven mostly on highway trips are often touted as having less wear and tear than when driven the same number of stop-and-go miles in city traffic, how much of that is truth, and how much is myth?

In your experience, does a vehicle that makes one 100-mile commute every day really age more gracefully than one that makes, say, ten 10-mile trips?
Link Posted: 3/13/2006 9:29:25 PM EDT
Highway miles are indeed easier on a car than city miles. However, the other question is "Were they really mostly highway miles?" It's a hard thing to prove. Better off with actual low mileage IMHO.
Link Posted: 3/13/2006 9:37:09 PM EDT
Keep in mind what those highway miles are easier on. Brakes would have less wear, but, so what? I would be concerned about valves, rings, and pistons. Probably not so worried about the transmission. stuff like that. *

*disclaimer: I know very little about cars.
Link Posted: 3/13/2006 9:41:54 PM EDT

In your experience, does a vehicle that makes one 100-mile commute every day really age more gracefully than one that makes, say, ten 10-mile trips?

yes, because of two main things: The more a car is started, the more wear will occur. This is because within minutes of shutting the car off, almost all the oil drains back into the pan. The upper portion of the motor (where all the REALLY fast moving parts are) has very little lubrication at start-up if the car has been parked for any length of time. The other point is that while a car is cruising on the highway, there is much less strain on the engine & transmission, than if the car is having to repeatedly accelerate, as it does in city traffic.

Of course in large metro areas such as New York City, Los Angeles, etc this rule doesn't apply.
Link Posted: 3/13/2006 9:43:52 PM EDT
I'd have to say yes, that highway miles are easier on a car.

Most of my vehicles have aged far more when driven many short trips vs. days on the highway.

Worst was when I had a 74 Datsun B-210 that ran a grand total of 3 miles each way to and from work. Damn thing would hardly be at operating temp before shutting down. It was shot when I traded it in at 108k miles.

My Xterra (new in Sep 05) now has 42k on it. The VAST majority of that on the open road. Doesn't have anything loose, brakes still in fine shape, doesn't burn a drop of oil, clutch and tranny are great, hell even the alignment is still on. Other than the exterior wear from rock hits/chips it's as tight and smooth as the day it came off the lot. I couldn't imagine that being the case if it sat in bumper to bumper traffic 5 days a week.
Link Posted: 3/13/2006 9:49:21 PM EDT
I have seen several GM pickups with 200K of highway miles that still dont use oil.
Link Posted: 3/13/2006 9:57:55 PM EDT

Originally Posted By gus:
Highway miles are indeed easier on a car than city miles. However, the other question is "Were they really mostly highway miles?" It's a hard thing to prove. Better off with actual low mileage IMHO.



No way to completely prove that a vehicle has mostly highway miles but you can make a good guess of it by figuring out how many miles per year were driven.
Link Posted: 3/13/2006 10:00:47 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Samstead:

Originally Posted By gus:
Highway miles are indeed easier on a car than city miles. However, the other question is "Were they really mostly highway miles?" It's a hard thing to prove. Better off with actual low mileage IMHO.



No way to completely prove that a vehicle has mostly highway miles but you can make a good guess of it by figuring out how many miles per year were driven.



You could always take the word of the used car salesman.
Link Posted: 3/13/2006 10:06:22 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Zardoz:

In your experience, does a vehicle that makes one 100-mile commute every day really age more gracefully than one that makes, say, ten 10-mile trips?

yes, because of two main things: The more a car is started, the more wear will occur. This is because within minutes of shutting the car off, almost all the oil drains back into the pan. The upper portion of the motor (where all the REALLY fast moving parts are) has very little lubrication at start-up if the car has been parked for any length of time. The other point is that while a car is cruising on the highway, there is much less strain on the engine & transmission, than if the car is having to repeatedly accelerate, as it does in city traffic.



That's a pretty concise description of the theory. From what I've read, the only other major element is engine temperature - a fully warmed-up engine doesn't dump as much raw fuel into the oil, and also allows the oil to reach a temperature high enough to boil off any contaminants (less sludge, bearing corrosion, etc.).

Still, I'm curious about the reality. I hear stories about taxicabs running 300K of stop-and-go driving between engine overhauls, and have to wonder whether highway driving really makes that much difference in the real world.
Link Posted: 3/13/2006 10:18:53 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Skibane:

Originally Posted By Zardoz:

In your experience, does a vehicle that makes one 100-mile commute every day really age more gracefully than one that makes, say, ten 10-mile trips?

yes, because of two main things: The more a car is started, the more wear will occur. This is because within minutes of shutting the car off, almost all the oil drains back into the pan. The upper portion of the motor (where all the REALLY fast moving parts are) has very little lubrication at start-up if the car has been parked for any length of time. The other point is that while a car is cruising on the highway, there is much less strain on the engine & transmission, than if the car is having to repeatedly accelerate, as it does in city traffic.



That's a pretty concise description of the theory. From what I've read, the only other major element is engine temperature - a fully warmed-up engine doesn't dump as much raw fuel into the oil, and also allows the oil to reach a temperature high enough to boil off any contaminants (less sludge, bearing corrosion, etc.).

Still, I'm curious about the reality. I hear stories about taxicabs running 300K of stop-and-go driving between engine overhauls, and have to wonder whether highway driving really makes that much difference in the real world.



Think: Transmissions, drivelines, differentials, u-joints, brakes. Lower end of the motor takes some wear with lots of stop and go driving.

City life is indeed much harder on a car.
Link Posted: 3/14/2006 4:50:31 AM EDT
Gotta remember also, Taxi's are bought and designed with HD components, often the same stuff used in police cars, they're also frequentlly maintained. AND they stay running almost all day.

City miles = stop and go, accelerate and slow back down every block

Highway miles = long stretches of steady state driving, rare acceleration/stops, lots of time to burn off crud in the oil and keep moisture out of the exhaust.

If you want to get 300K out of your car? Pick one with a LONG track record of reliability, buy few options, CHANGE THE FLUIDS OFTEN.
Link Posted: 3/14/2006 4:58:28 AM EDT
Also keep in mind, highways tend to be smooth, while city streets (at least in the northeast US) are notoriously rough. Suspension and brakes take a real beating on any city car, as do transmissions, drivelines, and even the car's body due to the pounding of hitting pot holes all day every day. This doesn't even mention the greatly increased likelyhood that a city car has had body repairs from minor accidents or vandalism.

The company I work for has a fleet of cars and trucks that are used mostly in the city and they are constantly in need of repair due to the harsh life of city driving. Same would be true of cabs and police cars - they get constant maintanence or they wouldn't last more than a year.
Link Posted: 3/14/2006 5:04:28 AM EDT
I drive a lot. I drive a vehicle all hiway. It's parked on the weekends. I have routenly put on 150k in a few years and the brakes last forever it seems. Tranny fluid is bright red. Only change oil every 5-7k. They are like new when I sell them. High miles but good as new.

One I sold has over 300k now and is stlill in great shape. I sold it to a neighbor.

Early on I drove one to 270k. No problems. Only two brake jobs but lots of tires. I pay a little extra for tires because I hate leaky tires. When I went cheep it would always seem that I had a leaker or two.

The thing I wear out first is the tape player. CD always still works. I love audio books and put as many miles (perhaps more) on the tape deck.

The overall quality of cars is very good these days.

anyway $0.02
Link Posted: 3/14/2006 5:11:49 AM EDT
There is a reason that the auto makers consider short trip driving to be extreme duty driving.

On both my current vehicles, the service interval if you make mostly short trips is every 3,000 miles. For mainly highway driving, it is 7,500 miles. Since there are warranty implications for the manufacturers, I think it is very telling that they think it is okay to go 2.5 times further before scheduled maintenance if you are driving mainly longer trips. As always YMMV.
Link Posted: 3/14/2006 5:21:38 AM EDT
I think car dealers say EVERY high-mileage car has mostly "highway miles". Be cautious.
Link Posted: 3/14/2006 5:22:41 AM EDT

Originally Posted By Admiral_Crunch:
I think car dealers say EVERY high-mileage car has mostly "highway miles". Be cautious.



Exactly my original point.
Link Posted: 3/14/2006 5:28:33 AM EDT
Wear on the engine is dependent on power produced, not the maximum power but what is needed. Most vehicles get better mileage on the highway because the engine does not need to produce anywhere near its maximum power. The major load in city driving is accelerating to speed, then having to brake for stops, only to accelerate again. on the highway, there is only one time it has to accelerate.

Typical airplane engines are a different story. They are producing 75-85% of their maximum power during cruise and they last 1800-2500 hours, equivalent to a car engine going 180-250 thousand miles at 100+ MPH average. Since we have speed limits, the car engines should typically last for well over double that.

Link Posted: 3/14/2006 5:38:21 AM EDT
My dad drove a milk truck. It had 1,000,000 miles on it, half highway half gravel roads. It was a gas motor chevy that got started once a day 6 days a week. The owner had two trucks and changed the oil every sunday afternoon. The owner never had any issues with the engine internals.

I think it is the startups are the killer of an engine. Think about it, the engine has no oilpressure for the first few seconds everytime it is started
Link Posted: 3/14/2006 5:49:01 AM EDT
Also take into account that for every city mile a car drives, it probably idles for 1 to 5 minutes at traffic stops, etc. So a car with 100,000 city miles might have actually been running for 5 times longer then one with 100,000 highway miles.
Link Posted: 3/14/2006 5:55:00 AM EDT
I guess it depends on what kind of cash you have to work with.

Recently I looked at used cars, and did'nt feel comfortable with more than 40K, the limit for me would be between 60-80K and it would have to be a great deal.

Where I live, theres salt on the roads ("rust belt"), and the roads are pretty bad too... so as a result of those two factors, I lose my cars not due to mechanical problems (engine/tranny) but due to rust and suspension/steering issues. While shocks and struts are mechanical, the mounts and towers are'nt, and you eventually feel pretty unsafe knowing the shock could bust through at any time now. The suspension components can be expensive to replace also, going with junkyard suspension parts is a bad idea, as I've recieved even worse parts that way.

In my experience, Chevy/Ford/Dodge vehicles, at least those in the low to mid price range... neons, focus, taurus, cavalier, etc... are really just disposeable at 80K. I tend to look at all cars like that, meaning... once I hit 65K I'm on the decline and at 80K I can expect things to start going wrong.

Even currently, with a 13yo Mitsubishi/Suzuki product, its never failed to start and had no real mechanical issues whatsoever... but the suspension is going and the rust is getting bad, not worth investing into a rot box, otherwise... its at 140K now and I have no doubts it would run to see 300K. I'll be trading it in this week, for new.

The question I have is, what make and model are we talking about? What is the price of the vehicle? How long do you plan to own it, or should I say, absolutely need it, before you could toss it for another. Theres nothing wrong with disposeable cars, and imports are good for the high mileage. If you're in the south or otherwise salt/rust free... you won't be facing the same major issue I do. Puts a different perspective on things.

With a little patience shopping, I've bought cars for between 200 and 800 bucks and got great value... but cars are getting harder to work on these days. I don't really want shitboxes anymore either.
Link Posted: 3/14/2006 6:15:19 AM EDT

Originally Posted By Zardoz:

In your experience, does a vehicle that makes one 100-mile commute every day really age more gracefully than one that makes, say, ten 10-mile trips?

yes, because of two main things: The more a car is started, the more wear will occur. This is because within minutes of shutting the car off, almost all the oil drains back into the pan. The upper portion of the motor (where all the REALLY fast moving parts are) has very little lubrication at start-up if the car has been parked for any length of time. The other point is that while a car is cruising on the highway, there is much less strain on the engine & transmission, than if the car is having to repeatedly accelerate, as it does in city traffic.

Of course in large metro areas such as New York City, Los Angeles, etc this rule doesn't apply.



And 3 the exhaust gets hot has no mosture left in it to rust things out
Link Posted: 3/14/2006 6:18:57 AM EDT
Two things to look at: condition and maintenance. Check the condition of all the vehicle components (or have a good emchanic spend a couple of hours checking out the vehicle). Was the vehicle properly maintained? Transmission flushed at proper intervals? Coolant flushed, brakes flushed, power steering system flushed? All lube points maintained?

Blue Book and so on do not have any discounts for "city miles" versus "highway miles".

GunLvr
Link Posted: 3/14/2006 6:32:19 AM EDT

Originally Posted By GunLvrPHD:
Two things to look at: condition and maintenance. Check the condition of all the vehicle components (or have a good emchanic spend a couple of hours checking out the vehicle). Was the vehicle properly maintained? Transmission flushed at proper intervals? Coolant flushed, brakes flushed, power steering system flushed? All lube points maintained?

Blue Book and so on do not have any discounts for "city miles" versus "highway miles".



GunLvr,
You have good points, all are absolutely valid, however...

I've never seen anyone present a complete service history or record.
If I'm selling a car (I've worked at dealerships) I'll drain all fluids and replace fresh, and you won't be any wiser for it. I'll tell you it's highway miles, dealer maintained, and I'll even steam clean engine, spot paint it, then clear coat the compartment so that it looks like brand new (the tricks of auto detailling!)

Bottom line is that, with 100K + or any used car for that matter, you just never know. Taking a dealer or seller's word for something is always a bad idea too.
Link Posted: 3/14/2006 6:32:56 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 3/14/2006 6:36:07 AM EDT by JFP]
unfortunately if you drive a lot of "highway" miles you are naturally gonna drive a lot of "city" miles as well. If its a van or truck it was probably hauling a load thereby making it work harder as well.......
Link Posted: 3/14/2006 6:35:23 AM EDT
I've worked with guys that have driven their cars to 300k and beyond. Mostly highway miles without major repairs tranny and motor. They changed oil and serviced their cars on a regular basis. I wouldn't take the word of a car dealer stating the high mileage was highway. If I knew the owner that would be another thing. I personally have never gone beyond 200k just felt uneasy about getting stranded in the middle of the night.
Link Posted: 3/14/2006 6:36:30 AM EDT

Originally Posted By GunLvrPHD:
<snip>

Blue Book and so on do not have any discounts for "city miles" versus "highway miles".

GunLvr



The Blue Book is intended as a guide for car dealers. Since the dealer cannot know if the car was driven highway or city, it is irrelevant. If you know the owner of the car, and his/her driving habits, you can know about the wear versus just the miles.

In Skibane's situtation, neither he nor the dealer knows what kind of miles these were. Always assume the worse in such a situtation.
Link Posted: 3/14/2006 6:37:22 AM EDT
Highway miles are sure better than farm miles. I have a "low mileage" truck with 76,000 farm miles on it and it is shot, only thing it is good for is hauling wood or hay for short distances.
Link Posted: 3/14/2006 6:49:22 AM EDT
I drive a lot of highway miles and they are much easier on the auto than city miles. I've had to deal with two different insurance companies over auto values. Miles is miles to them.
Link Posted: 3/14/2006 9:09:43 AM EDT
I'll vote for highway miles being easier. Also, I believe almost all cars/trucks made in the last twenty years have engines that are good enough to easily go 200K miles if they are maintained reasonably well. What I would worry about is everything else; trans (especially if it is FW drive), water pump, cooling system, A/C, suspension & brake components, electrical items like window & door switches.
Link Posted: 3/14/2006 10:56:44 AM EDT

Originally Posted By gonzo_beyondo:
I've never seen anyone present a complete service history or record.



I have come very close to getting that on three of my used vehicles (all three were bought from owner). One was so nice as to include all the photos of an accident the car had been in years before and all the insurance information. I maintain a complete service history and pass it on (it's in a big fat file) unless I am donating or junking the car.

If you buy from a dealership where the dealer serviced the vehicle you will have a good idea of the records. There are a couple of garages who also arrange sales who I would trust.

GunLvr



Link Posted: 3/14/2006 1:00:39 PM EDT

Originally Posted By gonzo_beyondo:
The question I have is, what make and model are we talking about? What is the price of the vehicle? How long do you plan to own it, or should I say, absolutely need it, before you could toss it for another.



The two I'm looking at are both Infiniti Q45s, of very late 90's vintage. The depreciation on these barges is incredible - a 7-year-old vehicle that listed for 50 grand now sells for 8 to 12!

Biggest disadvantages are plenty of gizmos to go wrong, and expensive, hard-to-find parts. On the up side, Q-boats have a reputation for reliability, and the owner or dealer may be able to actually provide service records for it. I plan on wrenching it myself, and would probably keep it until the wheels fell off.
Link Posted: 3/14/2006 1:14:59 PM EDT
Depending on the city you live in, a lot of "city miles" can actually be highway miles. In a modern city that expanded after the invention of the automobile, just being on the freeways around the city unless there's a wreck or it's rush hour, you're putting "highway" miles on.

In Dallas, going to work I spend most of my drive time on the freeway, even in the city limits.
Cities like Dallas, or Miami or Oklahoma City are spread out; if you're driving the car into a congested city like Chicago or New York, though, you'd probably tend to get more "city" miles.
Link Posted: 3/14/2006 1:16:29 PM EDT
1 mile in the city is equal to 87 highway miles.

RESEARCH HAS PROVEN THIS!!
Link Posted: 3/14/2006 1:17:20 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 3/14/2006 1:17:58 PM EDT by ryann]

Originally Posted By Skibane:

Originally Posted By gonzo_beyondo:
The question I have is, what make and model are we talking about? What is the price of the vehicle? How long do you plan to own it, or should I say, absolutely need it, before you could toss it for another.



The two I'm looking at are both Infiniti Q45s, of very late 90's vintage. The depreciation on these barges is incredible - a 7-year-old vehicle that listed for 50 grand now sells for 8 to 12!

Biggest disadvantages are plenty of gizmos to go wrong, and expensive, hard-to-find parts. On the up side, Q-boats have a reputation for reliability, and the owner or dealer may be able to actually provide service records for it. I plan on wrenching it myself, and would probably keep it until the wheels fell off.



If you factor in 8K for a 130,000 mileage Infiniti that you plan to get another 100K out of, it's probably 8K well spent.

Link Posted: 3/14/2006 1:19:38 PM EDT

Originally Posted By ryann:
Depending on the city you live in, a lot of "city miles" can actually be highway miles. In a modern city that expanded after the invention of the automobile, just being on the freeways around the city unless there's a wreck or it's rush hour, you're putting "highway" miles on.

In Dallas, going to work I spend most of my drive time on the freeway, even in the city limits.
Cities like Dallas, or Miami or Oklahoma City are spread out; if you're driving the car into a congested city like Chicago or New York, though, you'd probably tend to get more "city" miles.



Baltimore, for example, has interstate highways around and through it. During rush hour, they almost all come down to a stop and go situation. At least it's smooth.
Link Posted: 3/14/2006 3:49:35 PM EDT

Originally Posted By gonzo_beyondo:

In my experience, Chevy/Ford/Dodge vehicles, at least those in the low to mid price range... neons, focus, taurus, cavalier, etc... are really just disposeable at 80K.



Any car that is not maintained properly will not last. I have a Neon that is just fine at 100,000 miles, and based on my own maintenance and the experiences of other Neon owners who are as much a 'car person' as I am, I have no reason to doubt that I will still be driving it at 200,000 miles. It gets Mobil 1 every 8,000-10,000 miles (an interval I've arrived at by oil sample analysis) and burns less than 1/4 quart in 8,000 miles.

Aside from a real lemon, good maintenance will result in a reliable car. Poor or no maintenance will result in a pile of junk in short order. I think this is a much greater factor in longevity and reliability than who manufactured the car.

Jim
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