Alas, the Cash for Clunkers program has ended -- sad news for any driver who’d love a government subsidy for trading an aging gas guzzler for something spiffy and new.

But there’s another way to see things: Clunkers are good.

Well, not real clunkers. A car that won’t start half the time, leaves you stranded beside the road or isn’t safe is ready for the scrap heap.

But the idea of hanging on to a vehicle longer has lots of merit. Over a driving lifetime, keeping vehicles running longer is a good way to keep a budget in balance and perhaps build a nest egg that will let you retire years earlier.

Imagine that during 40 years you buy four vehicles instead of eight. If each cost $25,000 in today’s money, the difference would be $100,000 spread over four decades, or $2,500 a year.

Now plug the numbers into the BankingMyWay Retirement Income Calculator assuming a starting balance of zero, a $2,500 annual contribution that increases at a 3% inflation rate (because vehicles get more expensive over time) and a 7% investment return.

After 40 years, you’d have a whopping nest egg of $783,000. Inflation would whittle its real value, but the nest egg would produce a monthly income of $1,415 in today’s dollars.

Assume your car-owning life lasts for 50 years, and that monthly income would jump to $2,254. At 60 years it would be $3,482.

The investment gains could double for a two-car family. And you could make the gains even bigger if you bought cheaper vehicles as well as keeping them longer. The cheaper vehicle might also cost less to insure. Pick smaller vehicles and you’d also save on gas.

If you liked this article you might like

Why You May Not Want to Pay Cash, Own Your Home Free and Clear

Now You Can Get That Home Equity Loan in a Comfortable Hybrid

If Retirement Health Care Costs Look Scary, Try These Tactics

Why Buying Bonds With Negative Yield Isn’t as Weird as It Sounds

Investors Turning to Dividend-Paying Stocks See Benefits of Buybacks, But Must Heed Caveats