The Road to Financial Freedom…

…is driven in a paid-for vehicle.

While developing a set of detailed recommended spending plans for various size households at various incomes, it became clear to me that in order to live in financial freedom it’s essential to avoid financing vehicles.

MSN recently pointed out that most of today’s vehicles should be able to make it to 250,000 miles if you simply keep up with their manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedules. profiled 10 high-mileage vehicles that are still going strong, including one with over 1 million miles.

It isn’t even the mileage that’s so important; it’s how long you keep your vehicle.  For someone who doesn’t drive very much, keeping their vehicles for 10 years should be easy; keeping them for 15 or even 20 years should be well within reason.  And the longer you keep your vehicles, the less you will pay for vehicles over your lifetime.

If you currently have a vehicle loan, in order to break the financing cycle commit today to keeping that car or truck at least 10 years.  Once it’s paid off, keep making the payments.  Just send them to a savings account instead of your finance company.  Five years after paying off your current vehicle, you should have plenty of money to buy your next vehicle with cash.

When you’re ready to buy, check Consumer Reports for its recommendations on the most reliable vehicles (you can get their picks for best used cars under $20,000 without subscribing).  Also use the True Cost to Own tool at to compare some of the vehicles you’re considering based on their insurance, fuel, maintenance, and other costs.

As much as I’ve tried, I have never owned a car that made it to 200,000 miles, but I have kept the last two vehicles for over 10 years.  A Honda Accord I once owned made it to 190,000 miles, but then developed too many cost-prohibitive repair problems.  The Toyota Camry my wife brought into our marriage made it to 165,000 miles, at which point a front spring broke, which caused too much other damage to make it worth repairing.

It’s worth noting that a mechanic told me if I had been on the highway when the Camry’s spring broke, instead of a parking lot where it actually happened, I would have lost control of the car.  So, everyone with a high mileage car should be especially vigilant about asking their mechanic to check for safety issues.

By the way, the recommended spending plans I developed for one-, two-, three-, and four-person households with incomes ranging from  $30,000 to $150,000 are in the appendix of the “Money, Purpose, Joy Personal Workbook,” which Amazon is currently offering at a great price.

If you have a high mileage car or truck, what is it and what have you done to keep it running so long?

12 Responses to The Road to Financial Freedom…

  1. Scott August 9, 2010 at 8:04 PM #

    On the subject of vehicles. I often hit the 200,000 mile mark. Most of the vehicles I purchase (GM brand) have 130,000 when I purchase them. In purchasing these higher mile vehicles, I do not pay a premium for them , and I can sell them for a very low price to someone who just needs a work vehicle. My goal used to be to own the vehicle for 100.00 per month (not including gas or insureance.)I have had to up this to about 130.00 a month with higher used vehicle prices. I have owned several mini vans and Suburbans, with a few trucks too. I think the advice you’re giving is best for the general owner. Buy as low mileage car as you can afford and keep it, maintain it , and know when to say “sell it”.
    Keep up the good stuff!

  2. Jan April 22, 2010 at 5:35 PM #

    Thanks for the great article! My husband & I have always paid cash for our cars & never spent too much on them. So we never had a problem until we started having teen drivers & had to get cars for them. Even then God moved friends & relatives to give us cars (although some of the cars had some expensive problems!) Now we have pretty good used cars, just need to be encouraged to keep up that maintenance & not be hoodwinked by advertising & societal pressures. Great article!

  3. Jane April 18, 2010 at 3:02 PM #

    Our 1990 Chevy Lumina minivan died in Dec 2009 with 320,000. We really didn’t do a good job with maintenance. Don’t have a good explanation except a well-built car and God’s grace.

  4. Jeanne Levrier April 15, 2010 at 2:55 PM #

    I have a 1992 Toyota Camry that has 215,500 miles and is really a good car and looks good and runs well. I change the oil regularly using 20w-50w Syntec Castrol. I check the tires for air about once every two months. I used to be more faithful and check once a month. Perhaps I shall get back on schedule now that you have sent this excellent article. This vehicle was purchased new February 1992.

    Thank you for all you do to make life better for those who choose to be debt free. I just cannot bear to owe anybody anything as scripture tells us to “owe no one anything, but love”. Romans 13:8

    The gift of Salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ puts me in no debt, yet I feel so indebted to God for his indescribable gift to me.

  5. Matt Bell April 14, 2010 at 8:15 PM #

    Thanks for all the great comments, everyone. It really shows that lots of different cars are capable of lasting a long time if you just take care of them.

  6. Ivan April 14, 2010 at 7:52 PM #

    Like you said, standard maintenance seems to do the trick. We also never pushed the car beyond its boundaries (hard acceleration, met top speed on speedometer).

  7. Ivan April 14, 2010 at 7:50 PM #

    Great post, Matt.

    1988 Cadillac Cimmaron – 188k when it retired in 2004. 1990 Volvo 740 – 214k when it died in 2005.

  8. John O April 14, 2010 at 6:37 PM #

    92 Olds kept 7 years drove 200,000 no major engine repairs. 86 Camry 150k no major repairs and gave it to CARS ministry and it is helping a single Mom; 99 Intrigue 150k no major repairs and gave it to CARS ministry and it is helping a single Mom; This is definitely the way to go. Thanks, Matt.

  9. Mitch April 14, 2010 at 4:45 PM #

    My goal with all my used cars is to hit 200,000 miles. So far, for various reasons, the closest I got was 187,000 miles. However, that won’t deter me from continuing the goal because I personally hate car payments.

  10. Henry April 14, 2010 at 4:05 PM #

    I have a 2005 Volvo with 80,000 miles that I have very intention of taking to 180,000 miles. I agree with the earlier comment that our culture assigns value to people based upon what they own.

  11. Jon April 14, 2010 at 12:01 PM #

    1997 Jeep Grand Cherokee with 125,000 miles and because I work from home, I think I will have it forever 🙂

  12. Paul April 14, 2010 at 11:53 AM #

    I currently own a 1986 Toyota pick-up truck that I have driven 120,000 miles. People are always asking me when I’m going to buy a new truck. My reply is always the same: “Why should I? It’s paid off, my tags only cost me $65.00 a year and my mechanic says there is no reason why my truck can’t go 250,000 to 300,000 miles.” The key to keeping any car for a long period of time is regular maintenance and not being influenced by a culture that says your image is directly determined by what you own and how new it is.

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