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Some cars last 1 million miles, while others may be lemons.

When you buy a new car, how long should you expect it to last? If you purchased a new car and it is a defective lemon and you are negotiating with the manufacturer for a settlement, the issue of how much value you have received from the car will arise. Simply put, for this purpose under the Texas lemon law, a car’s lifetime is presumed to be 120,000 miles.

In other words, if you used a car for 12,000 miles, then you have “used up” 1/10 the value of the car. In reality, there are more details that factor in, such as the first time you had a problem with the car. Ignoring this, we can broadly figure that the manufacturer expects the car to last 120,000 miles.

In the past, it might have been expected for a car to only last that long, but many modern cars can easily make it further. Currently, the US Department of Transportation reports that the lifespan of a car is 12 years and/or 128,000 miles. John Ibbotson, a supervisor with Consumer Reports’ Auto Test Center, says that this figure is so low because of failure of some owners to properly maintain their vehicles. With proper maintenance, you new car might easily make it to 200,000 miles.

Some vehicles (and owners) are truly exceptional and make it to 1 million miles or even more. In 2006, Peter Gilbert retired his 1989 Saab 900 SPG after it reached 1,001,385. Other than a rebuilt transmission and some replaced parts (due to 8 collisions with adeer) the vehicle was original. Saab gave him a new 9-5 Aero and indicated that they would do the same for any other original owner who put a million miles on their car.

Even better than that was Irv Gordon who put 2 million miles on his 1966 Volvo P1800. He celebrated by taking his car on a 5 week tour of Europe where, amongst other places, he visited the headquarters of Volvo in Sweden. Since then, he has continued to drive his car and has added another 25,000 miles.

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