Which car to use for a longer commute?

My husband and I have been married for about a year, and we both still drive the cars that we had before we got married. Mine is a paid off 2005 Toyota Camry with 150,000 miles. His is a 2015 Mazda 3 with 50,000 miles, which we are still making payments on. When we were first married, we had commutes of about equal distance. Now I commute 26 miles round trip 5 days/week, and he commutes about 6 miles round trip 3-4 days/week. I have had the same commute for a few years and generally put about 10,000 miles/year on the car between commuting, errands, weekend trips, etc. Husband’s shorter commute is new so I’m not sure exactly how it will translate, but I think 3,000 miles/year is a safe estimate.

Since he drives significantly less than me we have been thinking about trading so that I drive the newer car, on the theory that the Camry will last longer if we stop putting as many miles on it now. We are hoping to make the Camry last at least another 2.5 years, which is when the loan on the Mazda will be paid off–we don’t want to be making two car payments at the same time if we can avoid it. However, neither of us know much about cars, so I’m wondering if this plan makes sense. Don’t some parts start to break down with age regardless of mileage? Would putting the Camry on “light duty” now really make much of a difference overall, or would it just reduce the life of the Mazda while not adding much life to the Camry?

Husband has no sentimental attachment to the Mazda, and just sees the cars as a tool to get around–he doesn’t care who drives which car. I’m not super sentimental about my car either, but I’m very comfortable in it and will be bummed when it eventually needs to be replaced. All things being equal I’d prefer to keep driving the Camry as my primary car, but I’m open to switching if that is what makes the most sense for us overall.

Camry is the cheaper car and has less resale value so you should put the miles on that one. 150K on a Camry is nothing–I had a '96 Camry that was almost at 300K when the transmission finally grenaded. Bought it with about 220K on the clock for $800 and I definitely got my money’s worth out of that one. Thing about the Camry is that with regular routine maintenance the things will last pretty much forever so keep up on your oil changes and tire rotations and drive it like you stole it.

50 commuting miles per day is really nothing to one of these workhorses–it could be argued that giving it less to do makes it peevish and more likely to get bitchy with you. Thing is, people really get overly paranoid about older cars and their capabilities–sure, you might have to repair some things like getting your timing belt done when the service interval calls for it and while you’re at it, if that Camry has a similar setup to mine the water pump and oil pump are right there where the timing belt is so it’s just a few extra parts dollars to change those out too and for that little bit of money you’re extending the life of the car by a huge amount.

I strapped a kayak on the top of mine and drove it from Portland to Utah and back averaging 90 mph the whole way and that was when it was near 20 years old. What I’m saying is, I wouldn’t stress out over it too much. :wink:

More info about your (longer) commute would help please. Is it mostly stop-n-go city driving or more of a highway cruise? If you broke down at some point during the commute, is that going to be an inconvenience or a genuine danger?

Have the Camry checked out from bumper to bumper by a trusted mechanic just as if you were buying it today as a brand new-to-you used car. If it gets a reasonably clean bill of health, it wouldn’t phase me for a second to drive it.

The commute is 13 miles one way. About 4 miles of that is highway, the rest is usually pretty stop and go. I’m not too concerned that the Camry is unsafe at the moment, just wondering if there is a better approach to getting the most life out of it. Based on SmartAleq’s response I’m probably overthinking things. :slight_smile:

Haha, I’m pretty casual about the age of cars and driving long distances–I boggled like a mofo when I read a post where the person was fretting about whether or not their six year old vehicle with about 50K miles on it would be “safe” to make like a 500 mile each way trip. Jaysus, I’m likely to put 500 miles on my car just as a day off joyride to nowhere but there was serious discussion as to whether or not it would be safer to rent a vehicle to make that oh-so-arduous trip. I think it’s partially a Left Coast thing–I’ve driven from Sacramento to Los Angeles and back in a day just to attend a party but I guess on the other side of the country people are way more paranoid about distance driving. I was in Huntsville AL and my then husband and I were planning on taking his rental car down to New Orleans and back and people were absolutely freaked out by that–it’s 800 MILES AREN’T YOU GOING TO FLY??? We were like LOL no, we’re not even doing the whole stretch at once, y’all kidding? I think we managed to hit six states on that trip and outside the cities there was nobody on the highways but trucks. Weird.

So the economics way to look at it is depreciation. Even if you have no present plans to sell either car, say you did need the money - or you wanted to sell either or both cars and buy newer car(s).

The value loss from driving additional miles is higher putting them on the Mazda. People will pay significantly more for a 2015 mazda3 with less miles than one with more. The Toyota already has such a low value it simply can’t go much lower.

You would get higher trade in offers and higher sale offers if you sell the Mazda private party.

It sounds to me like the money does matter to you- otherwise you would already have the Mazda paid off.

6 miles round trip is very hard on a car. Due to quality differences the Mazda will suffer more than the Toyota with this near abuse. But ‘mostly’ stop and go is not so good either.

Ideally, for the cars, not for your marriage, is one or two day(s) a week you switch cars, less ideally once every 2 weeks would help.

If that is not a issue, I would go to who is a more aggressive driver, the Toyota can take more of a beating (during their commute) then the Mazda and give the ‘toy’ to that person to play with.

Just drive the Toyota till the wheels fall off. At the rate you drive, it should last only about 27 more years.

It’s 13 miles to the nearest grocery store from where I live. :smiley:

Thanks for the responses everyone! I’ll keep driving the Toyota, hopefully for many more years.

I’m posting my answer before reading anyone else’s, because I don’t want my thought process influenced by other opinions at the moment.

26 miles x 5 days per week x 52 weeks per year equals 6,760 commuting miles per year. While this isn’t going to be reflective of actually yearly mileage due to extraneous errands and the like, this will in no way put undue stress on either vehicle. ~7K miles a year on a modern vehicle is a total nothingburger. I think the average is something like 13K per year for most Americans.

More importantly, as far as longevity is concerned, IMO will be based on two things: routine maintenance performed and transmission type. If this daily commute is through heavy urban traffic and either of these vehicles is a manual, prepare to replace the clutch sooner rather than later, especially on the higher-mileage vehicle. Heavy stop-and-go traffic or miles of stop lights and intersections can be hell on a car’s clutch. If the Camry has a timing bent and it has never been replaced, that should be done now to reduce the chances of engine failure (I have no idea if this year Toyota Camry engine has a timing belt, or if it does it’s an interference engine). Similarly, if routine maintenance like oil changes have been neglected, the life of the vehicle will be reduced.

For what it’s worth I just applied for a job that, if I get it, I’ll have a ~70 mile per day commute, plus some longer jaunts to Portland and Seattle at various times throughout the year. I did the math and this job will put about 20 - 22K miles a year on my car, which is an aging Pontiac that barely runs. So if I do get it I’m getting a new car with a manual transmission: either a Toyota Corolla or Honda Civic.

I have a “commuter car”. About 2 days a week I have a long drive (I often can work from home). It’s mainly 70 MPH, without traffic. The car is rarely used for anything else.
I had a Honda Civic. Last month after about 160,000 miles I got another car. It is a cheap, Nissan Virsa with about 6,000 miles. It doesn’t even have keyless entry or power windows. It has good gas milage, cheap and should be reliable for a while.

Huh? The type of drive matters more than the distance, and a short trip is not “hard” on a modern car under any normal driving circumstances. And what pray tell “quality differences” are you getting on about between two cars that have ten model years and 100k miles separating them? Mazda makes good cars just like Toyota does and a 3 is vastly more rewarding to drive than a Camry.

The only thing hard about short commutes is that the vehicle is doing most of its driving on a cold engine–not optimal, but also not gonna drive a stake through its heart. Every couple weeks take it on a nice jaunt out to the country, do some highway driving, let it get fully warmed up and run it that way for a while and Bob’s your uncle.

A lot of that is mitigated on modern cars with remote start (which also can be done from your phone), or just warm up your car for a few minutes the old fashioned way before setting out.

The distance is short enough and the cars are similar enough it probably won’t matter much, but you might consider the fuel economies of the two cars as well.

You should think about what is the long term pattern of car ownership and payments you want.

For example every six years you get a new car with payments over six years and keep each car 12 years.

On the other hand you might think that you really want to buy a house in two and a half years and it would be much better to have no car payments at all for 3 or so years after that.

In the first I would use the Camry more heavily (everyone here agrees there is no problem with your car lasting 2 1/2 years). In the second I would use the Mazda more heavily.