Apologies in advance if this question should be posted on the mechanics Stack Exchange rather than here, but after seeing a similar question or two, I figure this one may not hurt:

I've been driving a '96 Chevy S10 for about five years now, and coming from a family of mechanics and/or vehicle enthusiasts, the truck's been pretty well-maintained in that time frame. I'm on a brand new set of tires (not even two months old), I just refilled the coolant, the oil is fresh, the current heater core has not even had a year of use, etc. It's sitting on about 147k miles.

Against all odds, I somehow managed to get an internship for the summer that's all the way in New Jersey. I live in Virginia. I (with the advice of friends that have travel experience, whereas I have none) have already established that it'd be cheaper to drive there (rather than fly), and I would need a vehicle for getting around once I'm there anyways.

The route seems to be mostly highway/interstate driving for miles on end, which should be pretty smooth on the truck.

So, in summary:

  • Well-maintained '96 Chevy S10 with 147k miles
  • Virginia -> New Jersey, 7hr, 450mi trip
  • Mostly highways/interstates

Would it be safe to make the journey? Or is the paranoia from parents justified? Let me know if more information is needed.

edit: Is there anything outside of vehicle maintenance/check-up and self-preparation that I may be forgetting that'd be a good idea to prepare for?

  • 7
    "You're right, Mom, the old truck is unsafe. You'd better buy me a new one..." Apr 22, 2019 at 20:31
  • 1
    How long ago and how many miles ago did the truck last break down in the middle of a trip?
    – phoog
    Apr 22, 2019 at 20:43
  • 1
    I don't know about "mechanics" but it is most obviously off-topic for here!
    – WGroleau
    Apr 22, 2019 at 20:43
  • 1
    @WGroleau why? It's about traveling.
    – phoog
    Apr 22, 2019 at 20:44
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's about vehicle mechanics not travel as defined here. Apr 22, 2019 at 21:19

4 Answers 4


Truckers drive much longer distances every day, and the highways you are likely to take (particularly I-95) are major arteries of the US highway system. This is most likely safe, as long as you take reasonable precautions:

  • Plan for the truck to break down. This could mean AAA, carrying your own spare parts and tools (which you know how to use), or any other contingency plan.
    • If relying on AAA, you may want to verify that your cell service provider has adequate coverage over the entire route.
    • It may also be a good idea to have a mechanic check the truck, but this is not a substitute for AAA or a repair kit. Nobody is ever going to give you an absolute guarantee that the truck won't break down.
  • Plan to stop. Seven hours is short enough to do it all at once, in principle, but I-95 has plenty of rest areas which you can and should take advantage of. In general, these will consist of a food court, gas station, and bathrooms, and occasionally a miscellaneous shop or two, but the precise set of amenities will vary. Some places may be little more than a parking lot.
    • Much of this region is either urban or suburban, so it's often a safe bet to pick a random exit and start looking around for local restaurants and gas stations. Check a map if uncertain.
  • Drive during the day if possible. Night driving is harder than day driving for most people.
  • Make sure you get plenty of rest before the trip. You can also re-caffeinate or even sleep at the rest areas, if necessary. However, overnight parking is frowned on in both VA and NJ. If they bother to enforce it, they are fairly likely to just ask you to move along, but you could theoretically get a ticket.
  • Bring paper maps, because paper generally does not run out of batteries. If you will be using your phone to any significant degree, either plug it in to charge, or bring a spare battery.
  • 4
    Another reasonable precaution might be to have the truck checked by a professional mechanic before leaving. Apr 22, 2019 at 21:48
  • Rest areas will vary widely in what amenities are available - in my experience in that region, restrooms are about the only solid guarantee - though there are a few that are "truck rest areas" designed simply for truckers to sleep overnight, and have no facilities (or car parking) whatsoever. If there are restrooms, overpriced vending machines are more common than a restaurant or food court. Gas stations are just as rare - though there will be plenty of exits to urbanized areas: the USA is basically one continuous urban area from DC to NYC. Apr 22, 2019 at 23:29
  • Source: I grew up on the central east coast, and travel through the area (DC/Baltimore/Philly) 2-3 times a year. Apr 22, 2019 at 23:34

There are quite a few variables, but yes, it should be safe. Get AAA if it helps you sleep at night.

  • 1
    Could you elaborate on any of those variables? I may or may not be able to fill in some blanks Apr 22, 2019 at 20:34
  • Maintenance being key and how the truck has been driven. I often drive a '92 Lexus SC300 with 150k miles across WA state (about 400 miles total) no problem. I say give it a go! Apr 22, 2019 at 20:37
  • The truck hasn't really seen anything other than normal road use, whether that be in towns, highways, or up and down rural mountains. The furthest I've ever driven it is about 70-90 miles over the course of 1.5-2 hours (going between hometown and college, depending on which route I take). Apr 22, 2019 at 20:45

There's some level of risk in all travel. And risk in staying at home, for that matter. So there's no way to declare a certain trip to be objectively 'safe'. Best you can do is make sure your car is in good shape and that you know where you are going.

VA to NJ is a not a very long drive at all. So if your parents are concerned, why not drive there and back once w/ a family member first? You can probably even do it in one long day if you really want to, switching drivers as needed.


To look at another angle of safety of the car and yourself, carjackings are incredibly rare on the interstate simply because of the speed of the vehicles involved (and not involved too). And then the entire state of New Jersey have only seen 184 carjacking offenses in 2016 according to the report and only 17 of the 565 municipalities reported even one. So, the chances of a bump-and-rob is nil on the long drive and not significant on the other end either.

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