200K Miles in an ’03 R50 MINI Cooper

It’s official as you can see from the photo. My MINI eclipsed the 200,000 mile mark recently and thought it would be a good time to give you my thoughts about this car since it has more than 10 years worth of normal driving miles on it.

I got my MINI on March 9th, 2003 and hit my first 100K miles on October 7th, 2005. Lots of miles for work, lots for SCMM events and just general motoring.

This 100,000 miles did take a little bit longer, mostly due to the extreme increases in the price of gas. When I bought my MINI, I was paying $1.899 for a gallon of premium in SoCal. We all know the rest of that story. I also drove less for work, which is another reason why it took a bit more than 3 years to hit this 100K versus 2.5 for the last.

I’ve said this here many times before, but the MINI is the best car I have ever owned. Except the alternator going out and getting 1 flat tire, this car has never left me stranded and never not started. I’ve driven this car in pouring rain, searing heat and even snow without a hitch. Never thought I would lose control and have always felt safe, even driving next to 18-wheelers with 60MPH gusts!

The following is a recap of the life of my MINI. Follow the jump!

Where I have been

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Thanks to this amazing little car, I have been able to do some pretty cool things, meet almost all of you plus other great people and go to places I’m sure I would have not gone to otherwise.

I have…

  • Helped to start one of the largest MINI Cooper Clubs in the world, Southern California MINI Maniacs (SCMM)
  • Started a little podcast called White Roof Radio with Todd and Gabe. Thanks to you, it is one of the most popular automotive podcasts in the world!
  • Been an editor at Motoringfile.com for more than 2 years
  • Been the “Official” something at AMVIV, MTTS and MINI United.
  • Driven to the Grand Canyon
  • Driven on the track over 40 hours!
  • Driven on the Las Vegas Strip with over 200 other MINIs, more roads than I can count with 30 or more

Pretty amazing stuff, all because of the MINI!

Repairs

Since my MINI was built in the first year (11/15/02 to be exact), the first 50k miles were slightly problematic, but covered under warranty. Steering wheel, seats, latches, numerous software updates and a new transmission are on the list of things that were replaced or repaired. In total, my MINI spent over 1 month at the dealer for the first 50K miles. Did I mind? Not even a little bit.

From 50K to 100K everything was exactly perfect except for the A/C pump going out during the hottest summer we have seen in 20 years. It was replaced and now my MINI has a part on it that can turn sub-12 second quarter mile times, should I ever need to do that.

Once I was passed 100K, wear and tear started setting in. First thing to be done was a tune-up, which is fairly minor. I was amazed it didn’t need it until 120K miles. After that was the battery at about 145K. Should you need this, I highly recommend going to the dealer. I’ve recently tried a battery that was non OEM and the bracket to hold it in it’s little box wouldn’t fit correctly.

Next up was the power steering pump. And it wasn’t cheap. If you are getting up in miles and think yours might be failing, be sure to have an extra $US1,000 handy for the job.

Following that, I had a control arm break. Scary, but cheap and easy to fix.

Finally, at exactly 200K miles, the alternator decided to give up the ghost. While I was driving in the middle of the California desert. At night. It made for a fun experience that you can read about 1 post down.

Wish List

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I’ve really not had to do to much to my MINI to make sure everytime I put in the key and turn it, it starts. There are still some things that I really need to get done, hopefully sooner than later.

  • Complete suspension rebuild, including new upper control arms for the rear, shocks and springs. And all the parts that make the MINI front-drive.
  • Radiator. It doesn’t really leak, more like a slow steam. Not a concern now, but I want to replace it before it becomes one
  • Belts and hoses. After installing the alternator, replacing the main belt on my car might be doable, if not terribly time consuming. Hoses shouldn’t be too bad either.
  • Wiring harness. This is a concern for many reasons. I’m hopeful that getting it replaced will also turn the airbag light off. Pretty sure this one will have to happen at the dealer
  • Brakes. New rotors and pads this time around. Power slot rotors have lasted me 170K miles, so I’m pretty sure I will use them again.

Overall impressions

There isn’t anything that I don’t like about this car. I can keep up with you in your MCS on the track and get 35MPG on the drive home. I can cruise at 70MPH all day long in comfort. I can suffer in bad traffic or dodge the cell phone using idiots on SoCal freeways with ease.

Besides the cost of dealer service being extraordinarily high in my opinion, this car hasn’t even cost me too much. Sure the repairs I need to do will be a bit spendy, but my car is, essentially, 10 years old (depending on who’s math you use). Most cars that are as old as mine always require something.

Like I mentioned above, Roxy has always started when I turn the key. Always moved when in gear and has done so with more style, flair and fun than any other car I have ever driven. This is a car I hope to keep in my driveway for as long as possible!

Join the Conversation

37 Comments

  1. Excellent write-up :)

    Interesting though that you would consider all those repairs (the EXPENSIVE wiring harness), and not simply trade in – why? Just sentimentality?

  2. Thanks Ian!

    The first reason I won’t use it as a trade-in is because there isn’t a dealer anywhere that will take a car with over 100K miles on it. At least not any of the MINI dealers I know.

    The 2nd reason is that I think this car, with the repairs needed, would make a great first car for my son. That is my plan right now any way.

  3. howdy!
    i have an 2003 mini cooper and i had aspirations of achieving the miles you have on my mini. did you ever have issues with the midlands gear box or transmission ? i have 29400 miles on my mini and the clutch went out on my out of nowhere. hope to hear more about your mini because i need hope! i love this car a lot but im worried im going to have to sell it and get a boring car. (btw ive only owned it for 2 months now…)

    1. The only problems I had occured at 49k miles and it was replaced under warranty. Quite a few of the ’02 and ’03 R50 had this problem. My current transmission has almost 200K miles on it without any trouble at all.

  4. DB, Did you follow the standard oil change interval using synthetic oil? I have a neighbor who says he would change every 5k miles anyways. Thanks.

    1. I kind of follow the standard oil change interval. If I’m honest, I usually go over. And I have always used OEM oil at my changes.

  5. My wife’s 02′ has 211K on it right now and we just had to replace the tranny. Other than that the only major repair was a clutch at 180K. I agree with the sentiment that this is the best car we’ve owned as well. The new transmission seems to have restored what little torque was lost due to the high mileage. Love this car!!

  6. Hi I came a cross your mini review when searching for mini info, I have just brought a 2004 mini cooper but didn’t realise that it has 191K on the clock, have you found any problems with this high mileage or do you know how long the engine will last? Many Thanks

    1. Thanks for stopping by!

      The engine in your MINI can last for quite a while if properly cared for. I’m almost at 250k without any issues at all with the engine and I know of at least 1 MINI driving around today that has over 400k miles on it!

      Check your oil. Keep in changed. Keep the air filter clean and use good gas. A trip to the dealer on occassion doesn’t hurt either, or at reputable shop in your area.

  7. Came across your review searching info on an ’03 ignition switch replacement.

    I bought my daughter an ’03 R50 as her first car, 2/2010, now has about 108K. She loves it. I went over the car, and had a Mini dealer do a once over. No real issues, and very good history since it was a local car.

    The ignition switch has given her troubles a few times now. After turning the car off, all power lost. Tries the key a few times, nothing. Then in a minute all power back on.

    Sounds like ignition switch to me.

    Great post!

  8. Thanks for stopping by knagy389us. You should check out the latest post by clicking the banner at the top of the page.

    There you will see that I have since cleared 200k and reached 250k!

  9. I have a 2004 base Mini standard bought car with 110000 like the car but have had to chnage power stearing pump very expensive $1200 total inclusing labor. I then had to change muffler thought they didn’t go being stainless steel. Now I am having a P 2096 error and am looking into replacing catalytic converter, I tried both O2 sensors but continues to give yellow service engine light.
    I have been informed could be exaughst leak exaughst manifold to be determined thinging about getting after market exaughst which comes with two catalitic converters and exaughst manifold all in one unit factory specs much cheaper than MINI parts. have you seen p 2096 I am reserved on what i think about car but driving and handeling is great reminds me of my MG Midget going way back in last 60s. Well I hope to get p2096 fixed to pass
    inspection suspect catalitic converter in process of fix.

  10. Also what do you know about 2004 engine if drive to ground how long will they last. I just got rid of a 1994 Honda Del Sol had 308000 miles great great car in fact all my Hondas have been incredible. No car handels like a Mini but this car was close. I hope my Mini will be like a Honda very very dependable what do you think about the Mini engine and trany standard if driven till dead what arte some of the highest milages you have sceen with nominal repairs. Also do you have gen records of repairs and cost for people who have driven these car to ground want to keep it but just don’t know what to expect ahead.
    I heard don’t buy and automatic so I did not.

  11. Thanks for stopping by Alfred.

    Sorry to hear that you haven’t been having that great of luck with that MINI. I would blame the miles and your lack of knowing any of the cars history. Luckily, I’m intimately familiar with the history of mine.

    I don’t know where you are located, but I would recommend asking around with your local club to find a reputable shop nearby. They are usually better about troubleshooting the odd problems like yours and can save you a ton of money over the dealers.

    Good luck!

  12. Had a recent scare on my daughter’s ’03. Developed a stumble, miss on acceleration, threw the service engine lite on. Pulled a code referencing bad 2-1 downshifts in the tranny. Uh-oh, not the dreaded CVT death.

    Took it to Mini in Raleigh, NC. They called with the bad news, “yes it’s the trans, and can replace it for $7500 as they are not serviceable.

    NO WAY! I said to myself, it’s at 110K now, I’ll change the plugs and wires since it needed that anyway. VIOLA! it runs like a dream. NO stumble, NO codes, runs smooth.

    SO there ya go, never trust those guys!

    1. I would suspect it is an Automatic I have been told the Mini have drive belts which go. I have never heard of drive belts in a trani only in place of say a timing belt.
      The minis have timeing belts luckly from what I understand. There must be someone out there other than dealer there mode of operation is replace everything fix the problem and enginering defects like the fan in power stearing pump who ever heard of a fan in a power stearing pump that sound like an engineering flaw to me like drive belts. Not only should they have a recall on drive belts for trani they should fix power stearing pump problem defect and recall. Mini you should have drive chaine not belt and for power stearing you should use a beefier motor that won’t need a fan.

  13. Concerning CVT repair, I found that no one in the US wants to touch these, probably not a big calling to repair. But if you have a CVT that has met it’s end, I discovered Mini Gearboxes Limited / John Tee in the UK. He would export me a rebuilt tranny for about 1/3 of what a Mini dealer in the US wanted to install a new unit.

  14. I’m the 3rd owner of an ’04 Cooper base 5 sp with just under 60,000kms. The car was very well cared for by the first owner. So far everything works well. I’ve kept up all the maintenance fluids; brake flush, tranny oil, motor oil, coolant flush and plugs. I keep reading up on all these failed gearboxes and worry that mine will go anytime. What’s there to do to ease my mind and get back to happy motoring?

    1. The issues mostly affected ’02 – ’03 Coopers. I think it’s a mileage issue, not a time thing. Most that I heard about/knew about (including mine) failed just under 50k miles (80k km). There is no way to prevent it, it just happens. I would keep a close eye AND ear on it. If you start to hear a noise that is somewhat like a playing card in your bicycle spokes, then it’s time to worry.

      If possible, check with your local dealer. I don’t remember if there was a bulletin with this when it happened, but they might know the approximate range of VINs that were affected more than others.

  15. Daughter’s ’03 R50 with the CVT just turned 111K miles after a 460 mile trip back home from college, still running great. She loves this car!

  16. Hi Anton here from South Africa , I bought my silk green cooper last year on 151000kilo,s on the clock and still going strong, I would like to know the service intervals seeing that she was serviced on 145000 and not sure must Igo according to the 12 month service

  17. Went looking for some Mini mileage info – glad I found this! My ’05 ‘S’ has 185,000 miles on it now and still ticking. I love not maintaining it – I change the oil every 10-15k, never topping up (usually 2 qts left at that time). Changed the air filter at 115k miles…serpentine belt at 170k. And have only used super unleaded on rare occasions…and the world didn’t end – imagine. :-)

  18. I was thinking of buying a 2002 Mini Cooper Automatic transmission for $4,000 dollars. It has 206,000 miles on it. I wanted to know if this was a good idea.

    1. Amazing that you found a CVT Cooper with that many miles. It was less than reliable. If it were me, I would pass.

  19. Hi Don and all ….great info, best yet online. Thanks!
    May 2014 – also so cal based, looking at a 2005 to 2006 S or base, auto trans for my 16 yr old daughter.

    Found an S with 118K… seems to drive ok but noticed 2 things: 1) jerky shift between 1st and 2nd; 2) stiff steering wheel, definitely not feeling like normal power steering. Hard to know, but are these indications of problems?

    Found a Base model as well with 85K miles on it, not driven it yet. If drives well, is the decision between the 2 a “no brainer”? right, if it was that simple..

    Thanks, Jeff Wilson

    1. Hey Jeff, sorry for the delay.

      Power steering on the first gen cars has a tendancy to go out at around 100k miles. Could be a concern. Other suspension components contribute to that, as well as a wheel alignment, so always best to check with a professional, not the internet.

      A Cooper (it’s not a base model) with 85K miles would be a great car. Again, there are issues that can crop up at around 100K, so always keep that in mind.

      Would love to hear how you made out!

  20. Hi everyone I’m from Wisconsin
    Not a mexhanic just a simply guy who line how this car are made and how good they feel to drive so I hope I could get some info thanks so here we go…
    I just found a 2004 cooper S 6 speed with 145000 miles on it for $4500 with taxes and tittle
    Took it for test drive and car drives perfect no engine noise or any noise shift smooth and no Leaks the I could see around the engine or under..
    Only light is on is the tire pressure sensor
    Dealer bought new front tires but they didn’t replace the tps sensor that’s why the light is on, and for me I don’t mind that I think i could check my the tires if they’re low so no problem there for me..
    Only concern is if a could be a good
    dayli driver car with these miles?
    I a guy who take care cars and follow maintenance…
    Thanks

  21. Hi there. I am looking at an 04 mini base. It has 230,000 miles on it. It is pretty close to perfect shape and has been well maintained. They are asking $3900. Am I foolish to even think about this, or is this potentially a great deal?

    1. That’s a MINI that could need a lot of work. If you can get it checked out first you should. If it checks out, it’s a pretty good deal.

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