200,000-MILE CLUB

What it will cost to get your car to 200,000 miles

Watch out for these 10 old-car red flags

Published: April 30, 2015 06:00 AM
Don't skip milestone engine services.

Getting to—and passing—200,000 miles on the odometer is an impressive feat, but it’s by no means unachievable. Reliability in many new cars has improved, and even the maintenance schedule in owner’s manuals has been changed to help you get more miles out of your car.

As you approach that milestone, many of your car’s components will start to wear out. We recommend that you closely follow the service interval schedule.

Despite your best efforts, though, certain problems will crop up as you near the 200K mark.

We calculated the cost to repair certain items in a typical 2008 Toyota Camry V6 using the Consumer Reports Car Repair Estimator. Your repair costs might be different.

1. Exhaust systems that rust out

You can tell because your car will get increasingly loud and will probably fail emissions tests come inspection time. According to our estimator, the job could cost $1,880 to $3,230.

2. Spark plugs

If maintained well, they can last 100,000 miles. But by the 200K mark, you could be overdue for a third set of plugs. Cost to replace: $100 to $300.

3. Shocks and struts

Does your car look like it’s sagging, or does it shudder like it’s in an earthquake every time you drive over a pothole? Then you probably need new shocks and struts. Cost to repair: $280 to $400 for one strut (you should replace them in pairs). But if you need a full set of shocks and struts all around, expect to pay closer to $900 to $1,300.

4. Oil

Increased oil consumption is common in older cars, so don’t panic. You should routinely check and top off the oil between changes, especially before long trips. Cost to replace: A few bucks as needed.

5. Hoses, etc.

Oil lines, vacuum lines, and all kinds of seals and gaskets can start to wear. You should look over your engine routinely for signs of leaks. Cost to repair: $200 to $370 for a new exhaust manifold. But if your head gasket needs replacing, you could pay into four figures.

6. Moisture buildup in the cabin

Almost 10 years of hopping in the car with muddy boots will take its toll, and a lot of the moisture will remain to fog up the windows and give you that old-car smell. Cost to repair: A soggy interior is forever, but you should be able to hold off the fog with a splash of Windex or another window cleaner. As for that musty smell? Blast the carpet with Febreze.

7. Electrical components

Years of water splash and spray can wreak havoc on your wiring and circuitry. Don’t be surprised if features like power windows, windshield wipers, and even the instrument panel go on the fritz. The gremlins can be frustratingly difficult to trace. Cost to repair: $370 to more than $1,300.

8. Brake lines that begin to wear

They should be checked often as you approach the 200K mark. Have a car that won’t start? That’s a problem. A car that won’t stop? That’s a problem. Cost to repair: $900 to almost $2,000.

9. Mechanical components

Many original parts seem like they’ll last forever, but even the strongest ones can wear out. Don’t go cheap on replacement parts. If you did replace worn parts with substandard knockoffs, they might be on their way to failure much sooner than the original equipment. Also, if you buy certain premium parts, they might come with a lifetime warranty.

10. Rust

If you see even a little bit of rust forming around the wheel wells, hood, trunk, or suspension mounting points, there could be a serious problem beneath the surface. That structural weakness will make your car less safe in a crash. Cost to repair: Not worth it. Time to get a new car.

Editor's Note:

This article also appeared in the June 2015 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

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