Racking up the miles

August 23, 2004

Brian Herchenrother has stood behind the front seat of his 1987 Volvo station wagon with his feet on his concrete driveway.

He since has had the rust hole patched up and still is driving the wagon, which will go to Canada on a family vacation this summer.

"The average person would have said 'Hmph. Time for a new car," said Herchenrother, 48, who lives in Hagerstown's West End.

Herchenrother and his wife, Lois, also have a 1982 Volvo sedan and a 1985 Chrysler LeBaron.

The Volvo sedan's odometer reads 288,998, but the odometer was replaced after the first 7,000 miles, so the car has 295,998 miles on it, he said.


The Chrysler's odometer reads 48,018, but with only a five-digit odometer, it has flipped twice, Herchenrother said. The car's real mileage is 248,016 miles.

The '87 Volvo wagon, the family's "new car," had been driven 317,299 miles as of Thursday evening.

Herchenrother has good reason to hang onto the cars for so long.

When he bought a new Chevrolet Monza around 1980, the car required a new engine after 1 1/2 years and 70,000 miles.

"I told everybody, 'Price is no object. I'm looking for a car that will take 200,000 (miles) or 20 years with an average amount of service,'" he said.

His choices were Volvo or Mercedes. He picked the Volvo because it had more trunk space.

The keys are doing as much maintenance work as you can and finding a reasonable repair shop for the rest, he said.

The miles have accumulated from vacations, his wife's commute to Chambersburg (Pa.) Hospital, and driving around the four-state area to sell automated filing equipment.

"If I won the lottery, all of these would be gone," Herchenrother said. "I'd rather travel than put money into car payments."

He hasn't had a car payment in eight years.

FALLING WATERS, W.Va. - Heather Myers still is waiting for her husband to give up their 1984 Isuzu pickup with more than 350,000 miles on it.

After all, the Spring Mills area couple has six vehicles. Besides the pickup, there's a new Chevrolet Malibu, a 1985 Dodge van with more than 100,000 miles, a Subaru Outback with approximately 204,000 miles, a 3/4-ton diesel truck and a Dodge pickup from the early 1970s.

"They're his kids and he has separation anxiety because he thinks he's going to have to get rid of one," said Myers, 49, who works at Fulton Financial Advisors in Hagerstown.

The vehicles have been good to the family, she said. Maintenance is cheaper than buying new vehicles, the insurance is cheaper because collision can be dropped after a period of time, the personal property taxes are cheaper on older vehicles and the couple doesn't care if the older vehicles get banged up.

Myers would like to see the Isuzu go to the "junkyard in the sky," but her husband, Dennis, thinks he can sell it because the truck still works.

ZULLINGER, Pa. - Jan Dadario's dirty white 1988 Toyota Camry earned its 306,256 miles with trips for fun, faith and family.

Since Dadario bought the used car with 78,000 miles on it around 1994, she has driven the 200 miles to her parents' home in New Jersey numerous times to care for them.

She visited often when her father was battling cancer until his death in 1997, and she still visits at least once a month to care for her mother, said Dadario, 51.

Sometimes she drove round trip in one day so she could take a parent to a doctor's appointment.

The Camry also racked up miles when she and her daughter, Jasmine Rodriguez, 22, visited friends in New York.

Then there's the 20 hours a week she spends driving around southern Franklin County as a Jehovah's Witness.

Dadario goes door to door, sharing a thought from the Bible and offering to conduct free home Bible study.

The car still gets more than 30 miles per gallon on the highway, she said.

"Now one window doesn't work, one door barely works, but it runs really, really good," Dadario said. "I just hate to give it up. I think I'm going to drive it until it absolutely dies."

FUNKSTOWN - Thomas "Woody" McDonald didn't put all of the 521,837 miles on the 1992 Chevrolet Astro cargo van he drives for work, but he's driven most of them.

McDonald, 39, of Funkstown, drives to Frederick, Md., five times a week making deliveries for Hub City Express Inc. on Garis Shop Road south of Hagerstown. He's driven the van as far as Rockwood, Pa., and Greensburg, Pa., near Pittsburgh.

The van has rust spots, dents, dings and scratches, but what do you expect with a van that old, he asked.

McDonald's history with the van goes back to when he worked at Hoffman Chevrolet and did the predelivery inspection on the van before Hub City Express bought it in December 1991.

He began driving the van for Hub City in November 1996 when it had 245,000 miles on it.

"It's been an indestructible truck," McDonald said.

It's also a van with the original vinyl seats and no air conditioning, so hot days get "a little sticky," he said.

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