140,000-Mile Maintenance Cost Comparison: Then & Now

Odometer (Legend):  534,432


Odometer (ILX):  139,755


A 2013 Acura costs half as much to maintain long-term as a 1993 Acura.  And I can prove it.


Let’s talk about maintenance costs.  I love to ‘geek out’ about facts & figures, so bear with me here.  My friends and I frequently comment about how owning an old Legend gets pricey – like this recent dialogue with Kevin from Georgia, who I’ll see at NALM in a few weeks:


Well stated, Kevin.  And we love our expensive hobbies like your 1994 LS coupe.  Last Wednesday, I dropped another $250 on maintenance for the ILX.  This got me wondering just how much the car has cost overall to keep on the road since new.  That total is $4651.26.  Considering that it has 139,755 miles on it, the cost-per-mile comes out to 3.3 cents.  Here’s a detailed spreadsheet look at my ILX’s complete maintenance history since new (on June 12, 2012 @ 16 miles on the odometer).



If the ILX has taken $4,650 to get to 140,000 miles, how much did my other cars cost to get there?  Luckily, on 4 of my 6 current Acuras (most of you haven’t ‘met’ the most recent – but you will soon), I have complete records back to brand new.  And for each of those cars, I’ve created an Excel spreadsheet just like the one you’re looking at for the ILX, so it’s an easy calculation.

  • 1992 NSX:  This car only has 101,000 miles on it, but has already cost $16,908.74.  [17 cents per mile]
  • 1993 Legend sedan:  Cost $9,777.44 to get to 140,000 miles.  [7 cents per mile]




  • 1994 Legend coupe:  Cost $7,403.56 to get to 140,000 miles.  [5.3 cents per mile]




Conclusion:  The average cost of getting a 1993-94 Acura Legend from zero miles (brand new) to 140,000 miles was $8,590.  When compared with what the ILX has cost me so far ($4,651), this is a substantial savings – especially considering 20 years of inflation!  Did you know that $8,590 in 1994 dollars is $13,831 in 2015 dollars?!

So why is it that my new car is so cheap to keep on the road?  How can it be that you’ll spend HALF as much getting your new Acura into the 100,000+ mile range today as you would have spent in the 1990’s?  I have a few ideas:

  • Cars are more reliable in general.  Fewer things break.  Contributing factors might be:  Enhanced durability testing techniques, higher quality materials, more rigorous development processes over the last 20 years.
  • Scheduled maintenance intervals are longer.  While my Legend grew up on 3,000-mile oil changes, it’s not uncommon for my ILX to go 3 times that distance thanks to longer-lasting “0W20” synthetic oil.
  • Fewer “major” services.  The Hondacars of yesteryear required strict adherence to a 90,000-mile change interval for timing belt & water pump replacement.  My ILX, on the other hand, has a timing chain, which requires little/no upkeep.  This is a $1,200+ savings for me every 90,000 miles!
  • Improved technology.  Thanks to the many computer systems at work in today’s cars, we leave it to the car to tell us when it needs something, rather than leaving it to a mechanic who may just want extra money.
  • External conditions:  Are roads less likely to put wear and tear on suspensions today than they were 20 years ago?  Am I a more careful driver than my Legends had when they were new?
  • Or is it that the Legend was simply a more complex car than my ILX is (it did have two additional cylinders) and thus was inherently more involved to keep on the road?

There’s so much to consider, but these are just a few ideas that I had.  I know we have a lot of other road warriors in the audience out there.  What do you think?  Are cars of today more economical to maintain than cars of yesterday?

Chew on that while you look at this safari-ready, lifted 1998 Acura SLX that a friend sent me.


Finally, the Phoenix area has been getting hit hard this week with late-summer “monsoon” thunderstorms.  We had a pretty severe one roll through town on Monday night.


I was out to dinner with a friend in Old Town Scottsdale when I noticed that every time the restaurant door swung open, people were ducking indoors to seek cover, soaking wet.  The rain outside was coming in sideways and the wind was howling.  Sadly, when I went back out to my car, I saw that a dumpster had rolled into it.


The pics were taken AFTER I had rolled the dumpster away and folded the dented sideview mirror back out.


Somehow, miraculously, the mirror took the only impact and the door has zero damage.  The dent mostly popped out and I threw some touch-up paint on it Tuesday.  This will have to do for now!


Poor car has been through a lot in the last year – I got backed into overnight at a Motel 6 parking lot in Las Vegas, a busted out rear window in Salt Lake City this summer, and now this.  Always an adventure!  Hope everyone is having a good week!

24 Responses to “140,000-Mile Maintenance Cost Comparison: Then & Now”

  1. What, Indeed I ask What, did you buy now?

    • Hardy-har-har! The Acura-quisition is yet to be revealed on this here blog! Don’t get your hopes up. She’s just a $500 “project car” and she ain’t pretty! But still worthy of a feature here in the next couple of weeks…

  2. Poor ILX! I’m really loving that lifted SLX too.

  3. I don’t mind owning my expensive hobby. It puts a smile on my face each time I drive it. The best stress reliever I know!

    • That’s the right attitude to have! And I fully agree with you. It’s a great return on investment when you consider how much fun we have at NALMs and throughout the year.

  4. Chris Green Says:

    I’m so pained that the dumpster decided to roll into your ILX’s personal space! I hope that will be an easy fix. Hang in there!

    • It’s all good – could have certainly been worse. I’m still amazed that the mirror took the whole impact and the door was fine. It would have been a MUCH larger hassle if I had to have any body work done. Thanks Chris!

  5. All those maintenance reports… makes me look like a bad owner for not keeping all my records.

  6. The fact that your car has a timing chain is huge. I also have a timing chain in my TSX. I remember when I had a 1987 Acura Integra. It required belt and water pump replacement every 60,000 miles to be on the safe side. Forget about going to 90,000. Also, the less parts, the better. Give me an inline 4 cylinder over a v6. I love that the only thing I have to worry about with my car to keep it on the road is making sure that there is gas in the tank!. It is a beautiful thing. 🙂

  7. I just went over 129,000. I average about 12,000 miles per year. 🙂 My goal is to make it to 250,000. That is going to be huge for me. A quarter of a million miles. It will take me another 10 years. Or maybe less if I take a drive out to Arizona 🙂

    • Get on over here! Now that the weather is cooling a little, it’s actually a great place to visit 🙂 And I have no doubt you will get to 250,000…. eventually!

  8. Sorry about the ILX, but glad it wasn’t worse! It looks like just the mirror housing would need replacing — a $16.58 part. Nice maintenance cost analysis. When I bought my car in ’04, I was tempted by the extra power of the J30 V6 but was also impressed with Honda’s new K24 engine. They doubled the OCI to 10k miles, ditched the distributor for coil on plug, raised output and fuel economy with i-vtec, and finally got rid of the expensive timing belt. To this day, Honda’s V6s still use a timing belt. I guess that won’t go away until they replace the J series with a new design.

    • Interesting, I didn’t realize that the V6 motors still used a belt. “The more you know…” But yeah, I think you made the right call when you picked up your coupe. What kind of maintenance recordkeeping methods, if any, do you use?

      • I’ve always used Honda’s “owner link” site for recording all maintenance. My first entry was on 4/9/04 for a headliner rattle that was fixed at the dealer, and my last was today actually — tire rotation. Total maintenance costs during the 11+ years is $2,756.03. I think that’s pretty reasonable!

      • Yeah that is why I won’t ever buy the V6 motors. Thanks for providing all of us with such a nice blog.

  9. Sorry to hear about the dumpster incident. That would’ve thrown me over the edge haha. Although I haven’t put together a nice excel spreadsheet, I keep all service records in my glove compartment, and thankfully I haven’t had to put much money into the TSX since purchasing it at three years and 39,000 miles three years ago (3 years exactly in 3 weeks!). It only had 65,000 miles on the clock now, as I take public transit to work.

    Beyond a $35 oil change every 3,000 miles, I put a a new set of tires (roughly $900) on it at around 50,000 miles. In summer 2014 I had to replace the center “power plenum” piece of the grille after the bright trim began peeling (about $250 for the part and labor).

    At the end of this most recent winter, I noticed a tiny dot of rust between the rear door and the wheel well. Brought it to my trusted body shop immediately. According to him, the rust was forming as a result of poor body work from a prior collision (before my ownership). He had to do a substantial amount of welding new steel on before repainting, though kindly only charged me his original estimate of only $200 (extremely reasonable).

    Though I’m glad it’s repaired and all fine for now, I was naturally really ticked off that Prime Acura never disclosed this when I bought the car “certified pre-owned”. Getting the bumper replaced from a minor fender-bender is one thing, but side-panel collision damage is a lot more serious, especially to the overall structural integrity of the car. I remember when I bought it, the Carfax said it had been in an accident. When asking the salesman, he told me that it had been rear-ended and the bumper was replaced.

    Buyer beware I guess, and I shouldn’t have taken his word. Although I haven’t had any other issues as a result, naturally I still feel taken. I wasn’t too happy with the overall buying process at Prime either and if I buy another Acura, will go elsewhere.

    It’s costly repairs that make me hesitant about buying another used car, for my daily driver or for a second toy. Of course, when it comes to an emotional purchase, sometimes you just need to follow your heart. Once I’m in the position to be able to buy a second older car for my own enjoyment, I don’t think I’d let this stop me from doing so. When you’re passionate, you’ll do whatever it takes.

    • Congrats on your upcoming TSX Anniversary in 3 weeks! Sounds like overall the car hasn’t been too bad to maintain. My hyper-mileage accumulation patterns mean I get to experience service intervals at faster frequency so it’s almost like my ILX is undergoing real world durability testing. I would think my maintenance records could be of value to other ILX people who want to know what to expect in terms of longevity. As for the rust on your TSX, that sucks but you did the absolute right thing by addressing it speedily. Rust can get out of control in a hurry. Have a great holiday weekend!

  10. Excellent record keeping. How much $$ do you save by ordering tires on tirerack.com /Ebay and then paying to have them mounted?

    • Thanks Charlie. The recordkeeping is obsessive. I shared a couple screen shots with my friend Jack who said, “Tyson, you need to get laid.” Haha. I guess not everyone understands the value of a nicely formatted spreadsheet.

      As for the tires – you know, I’ve done it both ways (buy in-store vs. buy online). I’ve found that my local Acura dealer is actually CHEAPER on mounting & balancing than Discount Tire. Plus when I buy online, I get to shop around and compare prices. I prefer Michelins, and every once in awhile, Michelin will have a rebate offer. I think right now there’s one going on for Labor Day weekend where you can get a $70 rebate if you buy a full set of 4 tires. None of my cars need tires at the moment or I might be taking advantage of that deal…

      • Just noticed that I did have Discount install my last set of tires (vs. the Acura dealer). I can’t remember why. Honestly I think it was a convenience thing. I drive past Discount every weekday on the way home from work. Had the tires in my trunk, a trip coming up where I’d need them installed, and didn’t have time to get all the way to my Tempe dealership…

  11. Thanks for the tip on the Michelin rebate. I’ll need to replace the Michelins on my 2007 V6 Accord by the first of the year. I may take advantage of the rebate and purchase now. Safe travels this weekend. Look forward to reading all about it next week.

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