Tuesday, January 8, 2008


This post is for all of you who share high mileage vehicles in common with me. That would be most of my friends, and just about every confessional Lutheran pastor I know. The only pastors I know driving new and shiny vehicles have fast growing churches!

We have been getting between 205,000 and 250,000 miles out of our fleet of castoffs this past few decades. We attribute it to living at least six miles from anywhere. I think I've only replaced one exhaust system in any of our vehicles in the past decade.

So, mileage:
The '95 Saturn is hanging in there at about 175,000. My '99 Honda Odyssey work van has about 125,000, and the '01 Ford Windstar is sittin' pretty at 110,000. So we expect some years of service yet from these rather "new" vehicles. Of course, no self-respecting car owner of any repute would allow the average mileage of their collective vehicles to exceed one hundred thousand miles. It makes me a second class American, really. But I left that rat race behind in kindergarten.

Except that the bells and whistles are a bit creaky these days, I love my Honda. I had Dodge Caravans for workvans for a very long time, but the comfort and maneuverability of the Honda is amazing. It is just well made and well designed. I don't think I'll be able to go back to anything from Detroit. When I drive the Windstar, it is a shock--drives like a noisy truck.

We Americans spend a lot of time in our automobiles. I actually enjoy going out shopping for a new used vehicle. There is so much choice, and one never knows what sort of treasure one will find. The day I bought the Honda I'd set aside for van shopping. I drove a new Caravan that had the entire inside stripped out--just the front was finished. I drove a newer Windstar. A few more Caravans. Finally, on a whim, I pulled into the upscale Honda/Saab dealership used car lot, where a line of Hondas were sitting. I had no idea, really! It was fun to discover these vans, and to check them out.

I was shopping in late January. In late January, one is treated as a conquering hero in used car lots. The major activity in these places in late January is brushing snow off vehicles. It is impossible to make them look sexy under six inches of snow. Nothing looks good in January. The salesmen have by then mostly assumed the fetal position, to be more or less maintained until after Tax Day, April 15. One salesman in particular borrowed my driver's license to copy when I came in to test drive a van, but forgot to give it back. I didn't remember until the next day. I'd shown some interest in the heap he was trying to sell, and the poor guy was wracked with remorse, knowing he'd broken Rule #2 of the Used Car Salesman: "Never forget to give 'em back their driver's licenses." I had to drive across town to pick it up, and felt bad for the guy when I saw the sucked-lemon looks on the faces of his associates. Sort of half smirk, half grimace.

I wasn't going to buy that van anyway.


Lutheran Lucciola said...

I have a 96 Saturn, just past 200K. I hear ya! I'm keeping it until it dies.
These makes of Saturns run forever, man, if you treat them good! And I live in the world of "everyone has a new car", but who cares. They can make the payments, I just don't feel like doing it.

Bruce Gee said...

Yup, ours is a '96. The sedan with the safety lights that are always on. For an old guy, getting in feels like being packed in a sardine plant. Getting out is just a lot of work. My teenager uses it to deliver Picasso's pizzas, and slips in and out like it is a well-broken-in glove. Crap.
These Saturns like to develop ring problems, the solution of which is to keep pouring fresh oil down their throats. By 200000 miles, I imagine your engine is swallowing an extra quart a month, eh? My life's challenge is to get the aforesaid teenaged boy to check the oil every time he fills up. Grrr.

Elephantschild said...

Ooo. I'm in good company. We had a 92 Saturn that we took to about 225k, then traded in on a Chrysler minivan with the odometer stuck at 167,000 miles. Hubby fixed the odometer, and now it's at 220,00 or so. My husband drove the Saturn to the trade in with no clutch left! THAT was fun on tollway!

Our "good" car is a hand-me down 96 Saab with 140,000 miles.

Dead on about the oil usage on the Saturn. We used to *pray* the thing thru emissions testing. Near the end, it was using a quart a week.

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Elephantschild said...

Hey, Bruce - see if blogger has a way to auto-close comments after a set amount of time.. it'll help avoid spam comments like the one above.

Bruce Gee said...

thanks, Echild. I've been putting this off, hoping it didn't get too bad, but now I've added a sign-in to the comments section. Hopefully that will cut out the automated spam.