I have some vacation time at the beginning of June, and the plan was to drive to Washington, DC with the family and take in some of the sites and monuments in the capital of the United States. We were planning on driving since flying with 6 kids is a non-starter. The round trip mileage to the city from our house would be about 635 miles. I would estimate another 60 miles per day running around since we would likely stay in the suburban area. The grand total mileage would then be estimated to be about 1700 miles when the trip is completed.
Again, having 6 kids means need room for 8 people plus the associated luggage. We have a Chevy Suburban which would get about 17 miles to the gallon on average. So let’s assume 100 gallons of gasoline would be needed to complete the trip. At $4 per gallon, that would be $400 in fuel costs.
The alternative might be to travel to Mackinac Island in Michigan. The mileage to travel there would be 510 miles one way. Furthermore, there would be minimal additional mileage to get around in the main part of town. The island itself does not allow cars so we would take a ferry across and commute by bicycle or walking. So, I would estimate about 1100 total miles for the trip which would require about 65 gallons of gasoline. At the same $4 per gallon estimate, the fuel costs would be $260.
I am not sure that this would be a make or break difference overall, so another determining factor may very well end up being lodging or the expense of activities in the area.
Doing the Math
I am glad that I undertook this exercise because it really doesn’t seem like the distances are enough different to warrant a change of plans. However, I must confess that no firm plans or reservations had been made.
The other suggestion was going to Cedar Point in Sandusky, OH. This is only 300 miles away so the fuel cost could be decreased even farther to about $165. This might be worth considering provided a decent place to stay could be found.
With such a large crew, we often will rent a house on vacation so that we can shop at the grocery and cook meals. This saves quite a bit of money versus eating in restaurants. Saving money where possible is key since the cost for attractions can add up rather quickly.
Ultimately, I want to make sure that we have some fun but, at the same time, control costs and not add any debt to fund the trip.
My 2004 Pontiac Montana just clicked over 167,000 miles, and I couldn’t be more excited. It is my goal to get up to 200,000 with it. It is such a great feeling to own that vehicle outright. Only 2 weeks ago, I had to spend $650 to get a new radiator and thermostat. I had been in South Carolina for a week and had just gotten home. My wife was out of town, and I was responsible for dinner. Not wanting to fix anything after 11 hours in the car, I told the kids I would go through a drive thru.
As I pulled in, the temperature gauge flashed its warning that the van was overheating. I was surprised since it had never done that before. I shut it down, called my teenager to come in a second car and follow me to the mechanic and take me home (with dinner of course). This was all within 4 miles of home. Well the van cooled down enough while I waited, and we made it. In the morning, I dropped off the keys and later learned the bad news that there was a hole in the radiator. It would have to be replaced. Oh well, $650 is better than a car payment!
In May of 2009 when the van had 108,000 miles on it, I had to have a new transmission. The cost was just over $2000. But to get a comparable vehicle would have cost me $25,000 or more so I think I got a bargain. The payments would have been over $500 per month so all I had to do was get the van to last 4 months without anything major. It was almost 3 years between that repair and this one so I am happy. Now I should be good to go for that 200,000 goal which should be about 2 more years.
Tips to Extend a Vehicle’s Life
- Don’t drive like a maniac. Avoid rapid acceleration and braking. This is tough on your transmission and braking systems. Besides, you don’t get anywhere more quickly because there are enough stoplights in the city to slow you down. Plus, it is bad for gas mileage.
- Maintain a regular maintenance schedule. I make sure that the oil and other fluids are changed regularly. I also have the tires rotated routinely as well and make sure to maintain proper inflation. I have my mechanic look over the vehicle and any item that needs repaired is fixed sooner rather than later. This is especially important with belts and hoses.
- Don’t buy gas when the tanker is dropping off more fuel at the station. The filling of the underground tanks can stir up any sediment that is in the tank and transfer it to your vehicle when you are filling up. This would ultimately be bad for your fuel system. I have also heard that you shouldn’t let your tank get to empty since any sediment in your tank would be more likely to get sucked into the fuel system. I always try to fill up at about a quarter of a tank left.
- Keep the vehicle’s exterior in good condition. You don’t want paint chips to develop into rusted out areas that will eat away at your vehicle. I am fortunate that my van still looks pretty good, but I do try to take care of it. I usually have it thoroughly detailed once per year. It is nice to have a clean van, plus I am helping out a local business.
Ultimately, I must be doing something right. Every vehicle I have owned has been driven over 100,000 miles. Now I am working to extend that to 200,000 with them all. Our Suburban is closing in on 100,000 and the teenagers’ Cobalt has over 75,000. It is getting ready for teen number 3. I am hoping to get it to last for several more years as well.
I have purchased all of my cars new which might not be the best thing to hear from a personal finance blogger, but I can know that the car has been cared for well during ownership. That piece of mind is worth it to me.
Do you have any other tips to keep your car running or any other thought? Please share in the comments below.