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Will My Honda Civic Drive Another 2,850,000 Miles?

This article was written by in Consumer. 23 comments.


While I am happy I’ve kept my 2004 Honda Civic eight and a half years and haven’t felt the need to upgrade, I’m certainly not as dedicated to maintaining old cars as an automobile enthusiast. In fact, I’ve been ridiculed and insulted by people whose opinion is that eight years is not very impressive for holding onto one car. It’s a fair point; others have certainly done more with less.

Disposable consumer culture, however, has pervaded the psyche of the general car buying public. Marketing tactics and peer pressure have persuaded people to purchase new vehicles every few years. Shoppers replace cars for a variety of reasons, not just to keep up with the latest styles. Living situations change. If I had children, I might have needed a bigger vehicle for transporting the family, for example. If I were to marry someone who had no interest in learning how to drive a car with a manual transmission and we couldn’t afford to keep two cars, I would need to replace the Civic.

The car in the photograph is not my Civic.

My situation has remained mostly the same since purchasing the four-door Civic in June 2004, except for my finances. I could afford a replacement if I liked, but my two reasons or rationalizations for choosing to buy a new car were that I needed reliability immediately and I planned to drive the car into the ground before replacing it, getting the full value for its cost.

Regular maintenance and oil changes, though not nearly as frequently as the suggested 3,000 mile interval. Have kept the car running well. Passengers often observe that the car runs like new. Aside from a few scratches on the body, it looks like new, as well, except the body’s form factor isn’t nearly as sleek-looking as the later-model Civics rolling out of factories today. Having operated the vehicle for almost a decade, I’m aware of the changes in the feel of the driving.

I wouldn’t consider my Honda Civic sedan a fun vehicle — particularly when stuck in traffic on the Cross Bronx Expressway. I’m not sure there is any car considered fun in that situation. I know what it’s like to love driving, but years of long commutes have moved me away from that camp. A man on Long Island still driving his 1966 Volvo P1800S must still have the joy of driving for pleasure in his heart, unlike me. Irvin Gordon purchased this car in June 1966 for $4,150, about $30,000 in today’s dollars. Irvin is currently the world record holder for most miles logged in the same car: almost 3 million. He accomplished this feat without replacing the engine, though it has been rebuilt twice.

At one time, Irvin experienced a 125-mile daily commute, but the bulk of his miles was clocked during the freedom of retirement. He now drives 85,000 to 100,000 miles a year, but it took 21 years to reach his first million miles in the car.

As I expect to reach 150,000 miles by the end of the year — without a daily commute I drive much less than I did for the first six years of ownership — I have a long way to go before reaching mileage high enough to be considered a world record, or even just impressive. And my Honda, built at a time when mass manufacturing, competitive pricing, and lowered expectations for the lives of products, would probably not be able to compete with this 1966 Volvo in terms of longevity. Cars from the 1960s lasting this long regardless of mileage is an anomaly, an outlier in the data of automobile longevity, but it’s hard to imagine a world where my Civic is considered a collectors’ item worthy of value half a century in the future.

The long life of a car is linked to regular maintenance. There may have come a time when it cost to maintain the 1966 Volvo in one year than it would cost to buy a replacement. But Irvin’s love for the vehicle, and perhaps a little bit of obsession or compulsion to see that mile number climb, compelled him to put finances aside and ensure his car could survive another year.

Although I dedicated to making the most out of the $16,000 I paid for the Honda Civic in 2004 by driving it until it dies, practical matters might get in the way. If it becomes too expensive to maintain, I would replace the car. If my family situation changes quickly and a manual-transmission Civic that seats only four comfortably no longer meets my needs for transportation, I would need to reconsider my initial plan. Assuming my needs don’t change and maintaining the car continues to be preferred from a financial standpoint, I’ll hold onto the Civic. It might last a few more hundred thousand miles if I let it.

However, if I get a sudden desire to drive more and rediscover the joy of being on the open road, and if I find myself with more time, I may replace the car with something a little more enjoyable. It would be a tough decision to determine whether the cost of a car just for pleasure is worthwhile — but if science is any indication, I will only live once.

Do you want a car that will last a long time or do you tend to buy cars every few years? Do you enjoy driving or is it just a way to get from one place to another?

Photo: dirk@vorderstrasse.de
NBC News

Published or updated October 2, 2012. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Jacob

I drive a 1994 Honda Civic, and have for about 5 years now. I just rolled 270,000 miles on it, and I still love driving the car to this day. I get great mileage and know the ins and outs of the car, as you said, I can feel when things are different with it.

My wife drives a 1994 Accord EX, and just rolled 290,000 miles. Still gets 30 MPG, and the car has all the options (leather, power, moonroof, etc…) and she loves driving it.

Not saying all that to be all “I HAVE THE MOSTEST MILES!!!” but to say that avoiding the pressure to buy new and being content with our cars has given us more joy and saved us SO MUCH MONEY that I can’t imagine changing my mind anytime soon. I do hope to get as many miles as possible from these vehicles, and we will adjust as our family does.

BUT, I do love driving, as does my wife (which is why she drives a manual). Someday I would love to get a real driver’s car, but for now, I’m perfectly content in my wallet-friendly Civic.

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avatar Chip @ ChipsMoneyTips

My first hooptie was a 1986 Honda Accord. It punched out at 328,536 miles. You and the missus MUST crack the 300 mark! That’s as hallowed as the 300 win and 3,000 hit club in baseball.

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avatar Jamie

My friend’s 94 Honda Accord is still kicking at 280,000 miles. He has no plans to upgrade, and I don’t blame him. I must say, the Honda Accord’s interior holds up way better than any other car that I have ever seen. His 94 Accord really makes me want to get a new one; I’m sure they’re even better now than they were nearly 20 years ago.

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avatar Jason @ WorkSaveLive

3 million miles is an incredible feat! We have an Accord that’s approaching 200,000; it will actually hit it this week! Celebration!

I bought it when it has 130k on it and we have no plans on getting rid of it until it dies, or until it just becomes too costly and impractical to repair. Earlier this year we replaced our ’99 Altima (170,000 miles) because it was breaking down too often and opted for a 2011 Camry. I plan on driving that until it dies as well…I’m hoping for at lest 250,000 miles!

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avatar Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager

I plan on driving my 2000 Volvo into the ground (which might take awhile…)

I like driving when it isn’t in the city, put me behind the wheel on the way to the beach or to the mountain and I’m happy. Commuting to work via car = no way!

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avatar Veronica @ Pelican on Money

I had to re-read the title of your post after reading the body, it clicked eventually :) I’ve owned 4 cars in my life – 1st caught fire; 2nd almost caught fire but didn’t, didn’t feel like repairing the junker so I sold it to someone who could; 3rd broke down time after time after time (costing 4x what it was worth), the car was 13 years old – I traded it in to get my current vehicle. The new one was actually a year old at the time of purchase and I plan on taking good care of it until it runs into the ground!

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,386 (Platinum)

Wow — that’s some serious bad luck with cars and fire. With my first car, I didn’t know anything about maintenance. (Oil? what’s that?) Needless to say, it eventually broke down on a major interstate. I replaced the motor, but it wasn’t the same. I also had very little or no money at the time, so it was a problem, and I had to rely on my family to help out. I learned my lesson and now I take much better care of my car. No more holes in the motor.

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avatar Veronica @ Pelican on Money

“holes in the motor” haha :) Nice to meet you in the comments Luke.

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avatar krantcents

I just sold my 1995 Honda Accord Coupe a couple months ago. I literally drove it into the ground. I certainly got my money out of it. It just got to a point where there was too much deferred maintenance vs. how uch the car was worth. Hopefully I will get another 17 years out of my new car (Toyota Prius C)

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avatar Kathleen @ Frugal Portland

I don’t care at all about cars, nor do I know anything about fixing them, so I change the oil, I buy new tires, I replace brakes, and then I hope that my trusty Corolla starts each and every time I turn it on. I do think you should do your future wife a favor and teach her how to drive a stick — everyone should know how!

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avatar Cherleen @ My Personal Finance Journey

Why, you’re not the only one who would be happy to keep a car for as long as he can. We also do! Hilda, our Honda Civic, will be turning ten on December and she has been very good with us. However, the kids are growing and they are asking for a more spacious vehicle, so we decided to put her up on sale and replace her with a midsize SUV.

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avatar Lance @ Money Life and More

My first car lasted me a good while (my high school/college used car) and when it started to give me a little bit of problems I sold it while I could. I bought a new 2010 Honda Civic (got a great deal… no really like better than used would have cost) and plan to drive it for a lonnnnng time. Like at least 10 years hopefully.

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avatar Michelle

I’d love to say that I keep cars for the long haul, but that has not been the case. I enjoy having a car that I like to look at. ahhh now let me run away because I’m a bad pf blogger! :)

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avatar Keyeser67

Just traded in our manual transmission 2001 Nissan Exterra for a fuel sipping 2013 Hyundai Elantra (M/T). She had over 250,000 miles, and had no indications of breaking down. We are empty nesters now with no need for such a large SUV with 15 mi/gal. Hard to see her go, but we intend on getting 10 years / 250,000+ of the new car.

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avatar andrea1983 ♦226 (Cent)

I’m interested in dedicate to maintaining old cars as an automobile enthusiast. I’m not interested keep up with the latest styles.

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avatar Ceecee ♦796 (Dime)

I may hold the record in the opposite direction……I’m driving a Mercury Sable with under 24,000 miles on it. It is ten years old. The car has been in our household since it was new, so I know the miles are accurate. Suffice it to say that I rarely leave the zip code, and when I travel out of state I go by train. But it’s not all rosy—-the AC went last summer, and it hasn’t been fixed yet.

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avatar tbork84 ♦1,867 (Half-Dollar)

I drive a 98 Buick Le Sabre which just happened to hit 170k miles this week. It is starting to have some issues now, but I plan on driving it until it dies and saving in the meantime towards a down payment on a new car. Well that is just one of the goals that I am saving towards, but not having a car payment is very helpful in my effort to save for those goals.

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avatar Cejay ♦1,521 (Half-Dollar)

Hondas are great cars and are definetely worth the money. I got rid of my Camry last year when it became apparent that if I kept it I would be spending lots of money in the future. I gave it away to my baby sister who sold it to my brother for $500.00 , I gave it to her since she had 3 kids and needed a 2nd car. My brother loves to tinker with cars and can keep it going where I could not. But I bought a Honda Accord and LOVE it. They are even better than Camry’s and my Camry was still going after 12 years.

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avatar Evan

The Wife and I seem to have fallen into a buy one vs lease one. She has the lease now and my car just hit 6 years and 80K miles. It is paid off and I will absolutely keep it another 20 or 30K miles after that I think I’ll be in a lease and she’ll have the 6-8 year old car.

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avatar Daisy @ Free Money Wisdom

I had one car that was older than I was and still running. When it finally broke down, I’d had enough of the stress of not knowing how to get to work and being late, so I bought my Honda Civic.

I have only had it for 8 months but I plan to use it until it’s just not feasible anymore. If I, within the next 5 years, have triplets (unlikely), then I will have to trade it in. Otherwise, I can handle just fine with my civic. I’m hoping to get at least 8 more years out of it! (it was used when I purchased)

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avatar diablo

wuz good yall iam driving a 1993 accord with 366,000 and am gona drive it till it dies

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avatar qixx ♦1,825 (Half-Dollar)

My wife really wants a new car. Her parents got a 2010 model they just traded in for a 2012 model and her sister has 2 cars that are newer than ours. I like the 2005 Chevy Impala we bought used. We are almost to 85,000 miles. More important is we are almost out from under the car loan on it.

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avatar S Atluri

I drive 1997 Honda Accord SE. Bought it new. It has 147,00 miles now. I would like to drive it for few more years..

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