With 567,000 miles on it, Rachel Veitch’s 1964 Mercury Comet Caliente has been all over the U.S., from California and Michigan to Texas and Pennsylvania.
It isn’t headed for a spot in the Guinness World Records — that honor belongs to Irv Gordon and his 3-million-mile 1966 Volvo P1800 — but Veitch’s Comet has won car show awards — and it owns the heart of its Orlando, Fla. owner.
Veitch, 93, said she never believed the misty-yellow car nicknamed “Chariot” could bring her so much joy, despite the 18 batteries, eight mufflers and endless oil changes over the years.
“She’s survived three husbands,” she told ABC News today. “She’s never lied to me. She’s never cheated on me. I could always depend on her. She’s American-made. She’s solid steel. … This is my ship.”
At 48 years old, the car is still purring along nicely, but Veitch opted to end her driving days in March after becoming legally blind due to macular degeneration.
While Chariot’s mileage is extreme, automobile experts say most modern cars should easily go as many as 200,000 miles or more.
David Champion, the director of Automobile Testing for Consumer Reports, says high mileage is a credit to the “engine technology and material technology that goes into cars.”
But as you might expect, drivers who want their vehicles to rack up the miles and keep on running have to do their part too.
“Really, what you need to do is make sure you keep up with all the scheduled maintenance,” Champion told ABC News. “Go by the owner’s manual of the vehicle. It will tell you exactly what needs to be done at particular miles and don’t skip.”
“Make sure you service the car with good quality parts,” he added. And between the scheduled maintenance appointments, keep an eye on your car as well.
“You don’t have to be an expert,” he said. “If you look under the hood, if you see anything that looks weird from the last time you looked at it, it probably needs attention.”
Champion also suggested driving like there’s a baby sleeping in the back seat.
“The gentler you drive, the less strain you are putting on the engine, the transmission, the suspension parts, the brakes,’ he said. “You will get much better fuel economy and maintenance costs will be less and the car will last longer.”
All advice that Jason Kavanagh, the engineering editor for the automotive website Edmunds.com, agrees with.
“The single most important thing is to change your oil and filter frequently,” he said.
His final piece of advice: “I think the first thing you want to do is you want to make sure it is a car you like. You are going to be spending a lot of time in that car.”
The make of your car can also make the difference. Historically, Consumer Reports has found Honda, Toyota and Subaru vehicles are among the most reliable. But U.S. automakers have greatly improved the reliability of their vehicles too.
With the economy in a slump, Americans have been holding onto their cars longer. The Polk research firm found in 2011 that the average age of vehicles on the road was 10.8 years.
Veitch said today that she doesn’t feel sad about not driving her Chariot anymore.
It will head to another Florida car show Saturday, but with one of Veitch’s relatives behind the wheel.
ABC News’ Enjoli Francis contributed to this story.