The big 100k, or how long should you keep a car...
So most likely the Danger Ranger, my bright yellow 2006 Ford Ranger XLT extended cab 4wd pickup, will be hitting 100,000 miles this Sunday, when I drive it back from my parent's house in NJ, where I'm spending Thanksgiving, to my house in Baltimore. It's currently sitting at 99,930 or so, so I'm guessing somewhere in central PA it will hit the big one quintuple zero.
Growing up in the 80's, 100,000 miles was pretty much considered the end of the road for my parent's cars, the time where repairs would certainly make it not worth keeping. But that math seems to have changed, and the expectation is that cars will last a lot longer.
And the Danger Ranger has been solid, knock on wood. I bought it new, with 42 miles on the clock, and in the six and a half years I've been driving it, the only non-wear repair I've had to have done was a temperature sensor that was lighting up my check engine light and making my temp gauge permanently read cold. That's not to say that I haven't replaced a lot of wear items - I've gone through a bunch of brakes and tires, but that probably has more to do with the fact that I drive like a combination of a NYC cab driver and Jeff Gordon than with anything actually wrong with the truck.
Now that it's about to hit the sixth digit, I'm starting to think about replacing it. I'm torn about that - it's been solid, and I hate to replace it with something unknown. I'm also notoriously frugal, and the thought of spending half a year's salary on a new vehicle isn't really something I want to do. On the other hand, I've always liked cars, so the thought of something new and shiny is appealing. I also like the idea of getting a few features that my previous vehicle had and the Ranger doesn't - heated leather seats, a sunroof, and an actual backseat with doors - my Ranger lacks swing-out back doors, which makes things like grocery shopping a hassle, since I usually end up balancing my frozen chicken tenders and cases of diet Mountain Dew on the passenger seat.
But I could live without those things. From a cost perspective, obviously keeping my current, paid-off ride is the best move. Even if I had to make a substantial repair, like replacing the transmission, it's still going to be considerably cheaper than a new ride. But the main way I would justify buying something new is security. I'm not mechanically inclined, so I don't fix my own vehicle. I live alone, several hundred miles from my family, so I can't easily get a ride or borrow a vehicle if my truck is out of commission for a while. And I do a fair amount of long distance driving - I have a hobby/side business of going to auctions and hamfests (electronic and ham radio flea markets), and selling on eBay, so it's not unusual for me to drive a few hours to the middle of nowhere at odd hours of the day. I also drive up to NJ a few times a year (or more) to the parents, and I eternally say I'm going to take a long road trip some day. I really don't want to find myself stranded in the middle of nowhere with a dead vehicle - last year I had the misfortune of having a battery die on me in rural Western Maryland, and it wasn't fun. I'd also prefer not to be unable to get to work due to a dead vehicle.
So what will I get to replace it? Right now, my thought is a Nissan Frontier, because it's one of the few "compact" pickups on the market. If Ford still made the Ranger or the Explorer Sport Trac I'd buy one in a heartbeat, because the Ranger has been the most reliable vehicle I've ever owned (granted, it's also only the third vehicle, and only non-Chrysler, I've owned). I plan on buying new, because prices on used vehicles still seem to be high, and I like the idea of getting several years of warranty and of not having to replace anything.
My thought is that I'll probably start looking for a new vehicle in March or April - I can't see buying a new truck right before winter, when it will get snowed on and road-salted and exposed to roads full of bad drivers who don't understand how ice works.
So we'll see if I can actually pull the trigger then, or if frugality will win over a desire for security.