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Shop Talk: Am I really saving money if I buy a 30,000-mile car?

Got questions about cars? Joe Malick and Rodney Braun started at CarShop as service technicians years ago, and have worked with cars all their lives. We sat down to get answers that consumers often ask.

A mechanic working on the engine of a used car.

How much life is really left in a 30,000-mile used car?

Joe: These days, a lot.

Rodney: A lot of people have it in their head that 100,000 miles is what they can expect. But that hasn’t been true for at least a decade, maybe two.  

Joe: It used to be, you’ve got a domestic SUV with 150,000 miles on it, you cringed when you went to hit the starter. What am I going to hear? What lights are going to stay on?

Rodney: These days, you go out and do an appraisal of a car 150, even 175,000 miles old, and it’s basically still in pretty good shape – cosmetic issues more than anything mechanical.

Joe: Cars do last longer, so that 20,000-mile used car, even that 30,000-mile car, has a lot more value than it did even 5-6 years ago.

Rodney: Replace all soft parts on a regular basis, so hard parts don’t have to be replaced, and 200,000 miles is not unrealistic anymore.  

So you’re saying 200,000 with maintenance. What kind of maintenance?

Joe: Fluids and filters. Every 30 to 60,000 miles, just flush your brake fluid and get all the contaminants out of there.

Rodney: You want to flush the cooling system every 45-60,000 miles, instead of replacing a heater, cooler, water pump, head gasket at 120,000 miles.

Joe: Make sure the air filters get replaced. And of course, your oil filter changes.

Rodney: Spark plugs… Tune ups are really 100,000 miles in most cars now.

Joe: Myself personally, I don’t like going beyond 60,000 miles for a transmission fluid flush. I’ve been doing that for years and years, and out of the dozens of cars I’ve owned I only had to replace a transmission once, and that’s because I bought a junker – an old Ford Bronco.

Rodney: Keep an eye on brake pads, so you don’t have to replace both brake pads and rotors, where you go down to metal on metal and kind of destroy everything.

Joe: At CarSense, on the 30,000 or 60,000 mile services, we just sell the necessary items. When we do our 21-point inspection, we’re going to check your air filter, your wiper blades, take a look at the tires. People who are diligent about getting their car serviced on a regular basis, I’m rarely sitting in front of them, looking at a problem.

Rodney: Things happen once in a while, of course. You’re going to get an oddball part, but you stay on top of things, maintenance-wise, you’re going to be fine.

Joe: Easiest thing for our customers to do is stick with our Engine for Life maintenance plan – change the oil every 4 month or 4000 miles. Come in and get your synthetic blend or full synthetic, whatever the car calls for, keep your oil filter changed, that’s your base.

I notice you’re talking synthetics and synthetic blends when it comes to oil.

Rodney: I don’t know how many vehicles we have that have been built in the last five years that don’t at least call for a synthetic blend.

Joe: I recommend full synthetic to everybody who asks me. It has properties to it, it has additives, and it doesn’t cook off like regular oil can. I say it’s great insurance – I would say cheap insurance, but you do spend a little more for synthetic oil.  But to me, it’s worth every penny.

Rodney: Our Engine for Life plan, you switch the oil every 4000 miles. Some manufactures say you can go 10,000 with it, but that’s a risk not worth taking.

Joe: 10,000 is not a good idea.

If you’ve been using a conventional oil, can you just switch to synthetics?

Rodney: Sure, not a problem.

Joe: You can switch back and forth all the time if you wanted to.


Got a question for the folks at CarShop? Email us and we’ll try to answer your question in a subsequent edition of CarShop Shop Talk.


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