Buying a car with a good track record is of course important, and the magazine, which does not accept advertising and is published by the not-for-profit Consumers Union, names several Honda, Lexus and Toyota models as good bets. But the magazine article and a Consumers Union news release also emphasize our make-them-last strategy. Among the advice: Follow the maintenance schedule in the owner’s manual (skipping even one oil change can damage the engine and accelerate wear). Use only parts and fluids meeting manufacturer specifications (we do, while also shopping around for the repair and maintenance shop with the best combination of price and service). Check the car yourself from time to time, looking for fraying or cracks in belts, and cracks or bulges in hoses. And wash the car regularly, not just for looks but also to help preserve the paint and keep the sheet metal below it from rusting. Send questions or comments to Humberto Cruz at [email protected] or c/o Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Buffalo, NY 14207. Personal replies are not possible.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGame Center: Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 10 a.m.Our mantra: Buy only cars we can comfortably pay for with cash, keep up with the maintenance and follow common-sense steps to make them last. The Volkswagen Beetle, alas, was going strong after more than 130,000 miles before copious rains that flooded our street knee-deep ruined it beyond repair. Our cars routinely break 100,000 miles, except a Toyota Corolla we donated to charity in 2003 when we realized that, working part time from home, we did not need two cars. Along with homeownership costs, buying or leasing more car than you can afford or need can derail your finances. “Our family has withstood some potentially damaging events because we had lower expenses and higher savings than we would have had if we had bought the bigger house and the new cars throughout the years,” wrote Nancy Howard of Dodgeville, Wis. After paying off a car loan, the Howards kept their car a few years while regularly saving an amount equal to the car payments. They were able to make a bigger down payment on the next car and eventually buy one for cash. The magazine Consumer Reports, meanwhile, found that, with proper care, many cars today can last 200,000 miles or more with few if any major repairs. An annual survey by the magazine found 6,769 readers with 200,000 miles or more on their vehicles, including 488,000 for a 1994 Ford Ranger pickup. (See the October issue or go to the Web site www.ConsumerReports.org). When comparing the costs of buying and keeping a car for 225,000 miles over 15 years to buying and financing an identical model every five years, Consumer Reports found savings could be more than the original purchase price, and even greater if the savings are invested. My first car, a nine-year-old peeling-blue Ford I bought before my junior year in college, lasted me the two years I needed it to hold a part-time job until graduation. Not bad considering I paid just $50 for the clunker, all I could afford. I also had to carry jugs of water in the car. Every five miles or so, I had to stop, open the hood and pour water into the radiator so the engine wouldn’t overheat. After graduation, I sold the car for $35. I warned the buyer about the car’s condition but he let it overheat and die in the middle of downtown Miami three days later. Caring well for our cars, my wife, Georgina, and I have had only five other automobiles combined in the 40 years since, from a red Volkswagen Beetle I bought new for $1,400 after I started working full time to our current silver Mercedes C-Class four-door sedan we bought in 2001.