When Alyssa Gadd wanted to get a car as a high school student, buying new was not an option.
Three years ago, the Caldwell resident purchased a 1995 Plymouth Neon and she wants to keep it a few more years.
"I'm hoping it lasts 'til I'm done with college and then I can get a new one," said Gadd, a 19-year-old freshman at Marietta College.
EVAN BEVINS The Marietta Times
Marietta resident Tiffany Laipply gets into her 2001 Volkswagen Passat after work Tuesday at Washington State Community College. Laipply said saving money is the reason she and her husband bought the car used and plan to keep it as long as it’s running well.
Gadd has plenty of company when it comes to holding on to an older car. According to automotive data service Polk, the average age of cars and light trucks in the Untied States has climbed to nearly 11 years in 2011, an increase of a full year from 2007. The company attributes that partly to a decline in sales in 2008 and 2009 and says an expected rebound in new vehicle purchases could slow the trend.
The aging of America's vehicles seems to be the result of those vehicles lasting longer than their predecessors, as well as people wanting to save money, according to owners of local auto repair shops.
"I think the people would just as soon put that into a car that's been paid off ... versus going out and borrowing $25,000 to buy a new car," said Ted Klintworth, owner of John's Auto Repair on Muskingum Drive in Marietta.
Tips for keeping your car running longer
Don't drive - Look for opportunities to walk, bike, use public transportation or carpool instead of driving your vehicle. The less you drive, the longer your car will last.
Make fewer short trips - Trips of less than 10 minutes don't allow the engine to reach its full operating temperature and water remains in the engine and exhaust. This can lead to rust and dilution of oil. If you can't avoid taking lots of short trips, experts recommend changing your oil frequently, such as every 2,000-3,000 miles.
When shopping for a new car, choose carefully - Choose a car company that's going to be around for a while, with a good reputation for supplying parts. Too many good cars are junked because it's hard to get parts for them. Talk to your local independent mechanic and find a company that has a good reputation for supplying parts for its older vehicles.
Drive gently - Accelerate slowly. Anticipate your braking so you can brake gently and avoid panic stops. Don't rev your engine in the driveway when it's cold, before the oil is warm and freely circulating.
Watch for engine warning signs - It's OK to drive your car short distances with certain warning lights illuminated or gauges out of their normal range, but there are three that you dismiss at your car's peril: the engine oil light, the engine temperature gauge and the brake light.
Unload extra weight - Extra weight adds stress to critical systems and causes premature wear. Remove things from your car that you don't need. Remove anything that causes additional drag.
Do your regular maintenance - Regular oil changes and oil, fuel and air filter changes all help make sure your car has what it needs to run without problems: clean air and clean fuel, plus fresh, uncontaminated oil to prevent wear and tear. Don't forget about transmission, differential, brake and power-steering fluid and antifreeze. Simply keeping the fluids topped off isn't enough because over time they lose important properties.
Get problems checked out sooner rather than later - Above all, make sure your car is safe to drive. If you have any doubts about such things as brakes, brake lines, ball joints, tie rods, airbags, seat belts or even the structural integrity of your car, get it checked out.
Find a mechanic you trust - Having a good working relationship with your mechanic will enable you to make wise decisions when the time comes - and you won't have nagging doubts about the truthfulness of what you're being told.
Discuss your plans with your mechanic - Not everyone wants a car to last for 200,000 miles. As a result, mechanics don't always have a long-term mindset when they perform routine service.
If you can't avoid salt, wash your car frequently - By kick-starting rust, salt wreaks havoc on the body and other components. During the winter, when there's salt on the roads, wash your car's undercarriage as often as possible.
Skip the heated garage - Heat accelerates rust.
Source: Tom and Ray Magliozzi, cars.com
That's the thinking of Marietta resident Tiffany Laipply, 32. She's been driving her 2001 Volkswagen Passat for about seven years and plans to keep it "until the wheels fall off."
"It's paid off," she said. "So I definitely don't want to trade off to get a new car ... and a payment."
To make sure her car lasts as long as it can, Laipply said she and her husband have been very diligent about keeping up with regular maintenance. She had all the brakes and pads replaced in December.
"It's an expense but it's cheaper than buying a new car," she said.
Klintworth said regular maintenance is the key to making a car last.
In addition to changing the oil and filter regularly, owners should make sure their transmission fluid and coolant are addressed too. Left in too long, the coolant can damage gaskets and even plug a radiator, he said.
In the past, people started thinking about getting a new car when they'd logged 100,000 miles on their existing vehicle, Klintworth said. But today's vehicles are lasting longer.
"To see a car with 200,000 miles on it is nothing. We're seeing them every day in here," he said.
David Boley, owner of Boley Enterprises in Marietta, said a new car costs a lot these days but it will last longer thanks to improvements in engineering. He also pointed out that locally there are fewer gravel roads than when he started in the repair business more than 40 years ago, so that leads to less wear and tear.
"Now even the county roads, township roads are blacktopped," he said.
Besides increased longevity for vehicles and more of a desire to save money given the recent economic woes, Boley said he thinks there's been a cultural shift in that people no longer think of having a new car as a status symbol.
"It used to be kind of a prestige thing, and prestige (isn't) there anymore," he said. "I know doctors that are driving 10-year-old cars."