Nice story, Chuck. I've seen this play out in my own life. I used to trade my cars in when they started closing in on 100,000 miles. Now I regularly drive them past 150,000. Cars are getting better.
When I was a kid, my dad bought a new car every three years. He kept the old one for my mom to do errands. So the oldest our cars ever got were three years and six years. Back then, that six-year-old car seemed ancient. The times have certainly changed.
I may start buying used, too, Chuck. There's so much stuff on new cars I don't need or want. OTOH, on a recent road trip our rented caR got upgraded to a Chrysler full-size sedan--which was about the size I remember as a mid-size--and were pleasantly surprised at how well it handled, general comfort, ease of controls, etc. Also really good mileage.
Ann, I've heard the best way to own a car economically is to buy a used car with medium-to-low mileage and drive it until it falls apart. Basically you take the car from 40,000 miles to 150,000 miles or more. The worst way to own a car economically is to own it during those first 40,000 miles.
Exactly how I've done it, too. CarMax is my favorite buying place – Lots full of certified low-mileage cars for about ½ to ⅔ the price of comparable new models. Plus the CarMax, MAX-CARE warranty is 100% coverage with Zero deductible. Can't be beat for the price. ( 'Cripes I sound like a commercial,,,)
That's really interesting, Rob, why is that so? In my experience, I do have an example in which it's true. I had a new Hundai Excel once that didn't last two years before the engine blew up, but then I had a used Mitsubishi Gallant that I got a good seven or eight years out of. So perhaps there is some truth to this statement.
Not sure why cars are not quite the status symbol they used to be. and perhaps I'm mistaken. But it seems to me people are turning to other symbols of status -- fashion, homes, schools, electronics. For some, cars ae clearly still status symbols, but it just doesn't seem as widespread as it was when I was a kid.
I think for some people, Rob, cars will always be a status symbol are special to them in some way--they will always want a certain type of car and think it's important to show everyone what kind of car that is. For the rest of us, we're just happy to have wheels! ;)
I'm in the boat where I'm happy to have wheels, Elizabeth. There are different forms of status with cars. for some an EV is status. For others it's a class Mustang that's been preserved or restored, or an old pick-up. The new car in of itself is no longer the only status symbol for vehicles.
Yes, you're right, Rob. Your car does still tell people a lot about you and your "status," status meaning less your class but more your ideas or philosophy about life. EVs/hybrids tell people you are environmentally conscious (I suppose!), a Mustang tells people you're into retro style...I drive a VW Transporter van with some dings, which around here tells people I'm likely a surfer/beach bum who wasn't used to driving such a big car through the tiny streets of Portuguese villages. :) But you do have a very good point--it's not just about the new car anymore. New cars around here mean you're either a tourist with a rental car or a well-to-do city person in the Algarve for a holiday to your summer home. Both are rather unfairly maligned by the locals. ;)
Ha, yes, Rob, EVs as they are know aren't exactly practical for the whole family, but I do think of course that they serve their purpose. And who knows, there may be an EV mini-van someday--actually, I hope there will be! That would be a great innovation.
Believe it or not, Liz, the Tesla Model X seats seven, although it's not nearly the size of a minivan. It's coming out in 2014. I'm still trying to figure out how they pack seven people in there, but I saw it done at the Detroit Auto Show earlier this year.
That makes sense, Chuck. One thing I liked about the minivan is that I climbed up into the driver's seat rather than stooping down into the seat of a standard car. I also liked the heightened view of traffic.
Yes, the high perch is also the appeal for many SUV drivers, Rob. In the mid-'90s, we were told that 92% of SUV drivers never took their vehicles off road. They didn't want the powertrain and clearance so much as they wanted the high seats. It's the same for me in a minivan -- in and out is so much easier.
I'm not surprised to see that 92% figure, Chuck. I would imagine you'd see similar stats for trucks when it comes to how many trips are actually used to move stuff in the bed. That's a lot of money spent and gas consumed to use these vehicles just for passenger trips.
This thread has been going on a long time. You're right about SUVs, Chuck. They're the big, long cars for the baby boom generation. the WWII generation had its long sleek Caddys and Lincolns. Baby Boomers have their SUVs.
You got that right, Rob. That's why we have automotive divisions like Cadillac, Lincoln, Lexus, Infiniti and Acura, not to mention BMW and Mercedes. There will always be a market for luxury. Only the definition changes, not the desire.
One of the things we were trying to determine in another thread, Chuck, is whether these luxury cars have a separate engineering team for the drive chain, or whether the luxury car design team is only there for the interior and exterior body. Any thoughts?
Well, there's certainly precedent for it, Rob. The Cadillac Northstar engines in the '90s were developed from the ground up by a dedicated GM group that was trying to compete with the powertrains of German luxury cars. The technology eventually trickled down to Oldsmobile and Buick, but not until Cadillac had gotten several years use from it. Obviously, luxury automakers can't always develop their engines from the ground up, as Cadillac did in that case, but many have their own teams that enhance existing powertrain platforms.
Ann, one way to help avoid a lemmonis to take the vehicle to a mechanic and ask to have the vehicle checked. Sometimes mechanics take a quick look. Other times, a mechanic will look at the vehicle thoroughly.
Us too, we regularly hit better than 150K and as much as 250K a couple of times before giving the cars to other family members. Here in Chicago, keeping the car in a garage is key to longevity, but as far as the engine goes, the manufacturers have done an excellent job of engineering a drivetrain that lasts so long.
I had a '96 version of the Windstar. It served well until I blew the engine at 140,000 miles. I learned a hard lesson. When a water hose blows, and you refill the radiator -- and all the water leaks right back out and you don't know that it has -- the temp gauge no longer works. So I thought it was fine until it froze up on the freeway.
I think part of the upgrades, back in the day, was that the designs changed more frequently.
There is a big difference between a '68 Mustang and a '74 Mustang. The body styling in 2008 and 2013 aren't radically different.
I think we'll see a small surge in car sales soon. Part of the aging is that people can't afford to buy a new car or they're being cautious. The other key trend is that younger people (teens and 20's) aren't interested in owning cars in the same way that older generations were.
I'm on my third 1997 Chevy Lumina in last few years. Nothing wrong with the first two - traded one for a different car and gave the other away - they are still driving it. Love my current one - easy to work on, only normal wear and tear maintenance, highly rated for safety, seats six with a huge trunk.
There was an article in the biz section of the LA Times about declining car ownership in the teen-25 demographic. Concerned automakers are putting low-cost "intro" models on the market to get some revenue and capture brand-name loyalty.
The article attributed the sales decline to many choosing urban lifestyles where a car is not needed (or desirable), student debt, environmental and geopolitical consciousness, and living with parents who share their car. My colleages and I (in a suburban area) compared notes...most of our kids were fairly indifferent to getting their driver's license- most of us counted the days!
Nadine, thanks for the reminder about more rapid changes in car styles. I hadn't really noticed how much more slowly they change now because I buy new so infrequently, and because I don't care much about looks.
That is good to know! When I lived in the United States my cars were never more than five-seven years old, but here in Portugal I drive a car that's 14 years old and still going. (It's a VW Transporter, which can go for a long time with the right maintenance.) So I am not alone! We all drive pretty old cars around where I live, though. Which is why it was so funny when Porsche recently took over a local beach to do a car showcase and for a week there were about 100 Porsches driving around the roads--the fanciest cars these parts have ever seen. :)
I too have a car since last 10 years i bought it in 2003 and its running fine by the grace of good till now and hopefully it will run good in future as well. Agreed that because of recession the rate of car purchase has decreased but according to me if someone is satisfied with the design the body and the autoparts why would he go for another car. So age of vehicle depends upon the design, relibility and quality of the car.
I agree, Rob. Many of us have lost that urge to buy a new car. My old Honda minivan now has 196,000 miles on it. I don't want to replace it, not only because replacement is expensive, but because I can't stand buying new cars. When the salesman says, "Let's go sit down in my office," my only urge is to leave.
I agree, Chuck. It's hard to lose the wonderful feeling of not having a car payment. I've managed to avoid car payments for about 15 years. Mostly by paying cash for used cars and keeping those payment-free cars forever.
All good data points supporting the conclusion – However, having only been taking data since 1998 does not give a much more than an anecdotal conclusion – Certainly not strong enough to warrant any hard strategy decision from an Auto-Maker, for example.
Corrosion is certainly a big cause of vehicle failure. Most of the time, when I am forced to replace a vehicle it is because of corrosion. And yet here in southeastern Michigan they apply salt to the roadways at a rate of several tons per mile. Is it any wonder that both cars and roadways fail more frequently? The salt concentration is far greater than the ocean, and far worse than the military salt spray tests.
And, of course, the auto company execs who get a new assigned vehicle every six months really do not care, nor do the politicians, who have chaufer driven state owned vehicles that are replaced whenever they get a bit shabby.
But if modern technology were used to produce a vehicle like my 1965 vehicle, it would easily be good for multiple hundreds of thousands of miles.
Yes William, I have to agree. My 1968 Tempest still drives great. Mind you, the manual drum brakes require a strong leg, but they work. I do like the modern brakes and handling and can upgrade this older car, but my 1993 Suburban (though much heavier) can stop very well compared to the classics.
However, trying to chang ethe spark plugs in the 1993 compared to the 1968 is night and day. I also have a 1984 Oldsmobile v-6. Good luck changing the plugs in this car!
I also recently had to change the starter in the 1993 and found I had to remove a lot of extra stuff. The 1968, two bolts and two wires, easy (other than having to jack the car up compared to fitting under the Suburban).
I wonder how much older the average would be if "Cash for Clunkers" was not responsible for destroying a segment of used cars?
GTOlover, the very best handling car that I ever had was a 1965 Barracuda. I was the third or fourth owner, and I bought the car without an engine or transmission. So I dropped in a slant six and torquflite trans, which it had a 273 and 4-speed previously. I also dropped in the power steering from the 1964 Valiant. With the sure-grip rear end, cheater slicks on the back, and K-Mart Roadmaster tires on the front it would oversteer just a little bit, which is just where I think a car should be set. And of course, with rear wheel drive it did handle well. Front wheel drive is great for not getting stuck, the only other advantages it has are that it is cheaper and lighter.
I do agree completely that the disk brakes stop better, but I have had more problems with disk brakes and rust than with all the drum brakes that I ever owned. IT seems that most Chrysler product6 disk brakes eventually stick in the applied position and cause a number of problems as a result. Or else they stick in the almost applied position and cause problems. I have had both kinds of failures on multiple vehicles.
Thats not the average age of the cars on the road. Thats the average age of roadworthy cars. Stands to reason that the older cars are those which see litle annual mileage, whereas cars with high annual mileage never reach 10 years. A measure of average mileage would be more useful.
Battar, this is a valid comment and you are probably correct. I worked for a company about 40 miles from my home and had a daily commute but, I was in a car pool which helped greatly. The other members of our pool had fairly new cars but we decided to combine our resources and purchase an older road-worthy car just for transportation to and from work. No bells and whistles just a very basic "ride". It was not a "looker" but got us there and back for four (4) years and without a great deal of maintenance. We did the "fast-lube" thing every 3,000 miles; i.e. oil change, rotate tires, lube bearings and joints. etc. It worked. The reliability was excellent. Very informative post Charles
I am firmly in the camp which believes that vehicles are better now than they were 25, 50, or 75 years ago. Regardless of how people complain about the plastic on their bumpers, the fact is that advancements in materials along with good engineering and improved design has clearly trumped heavy gauge sheet metal and mass. My only frustration is that making repairs is more difficult when something actually does need to be fixed.
Am not failing the idea of making vehicles last longer but my opinion is that this should not really be the target; unless of course you are in love with vintage cars or you are a collector. If you are not any of the above, chances are that you wouldn't want to be stuck with the same car for the next 11 years and you will need a change regardless of whether that particular car is still in great shape or not. Besides, with new revolution towards energy efficient cars, your car will probably be obsolete in the next decade anyway.
My current Land-Rover 110 diesel is 30 years old, the one before, a Discovery, rusted away in 15, the one before that was built in 1958 and is still running around in the US. So the basic truck lasts longer than the car, is simpler to maintain and as it saves multiple 'new' builds is greener overall!
However as I'm now aging and my wife wants greater comfort, a newer, quieter more comfortable vehicle is now required.
I wouldn't expect the average age to decline but we're already seeing a rebound in the number of vehicles produced. I don't think there is any question that cars are more reliable than in the past, and that has contributed to drivers sticking with a particular car longer.
I've got a 1929 Ford Tudor that just had a smoke even after taking a prize. Should be back running in two weeks waiting for a part.
Got a 1977 MG Midget the WIFE's car been sitting for a while. Needs new battery and starting relay.
1984 Toyota DeLux 4X4 pickup runs fine. Put in the third starter this year. It is on the fourth alternator (stick with factory leave the belt loose). Second engine. The first I repaired three major over hauls. Gone through a couple dozen head lights - mostly lefts.
1995 K2500 with ABS wheel sensor problem and no compression in #6. Been driving it since spring with the problem. New plugs cap rotor and wire fixed some of the bad running. Went over the pass with 7 cylinders. Gone through alternator and compressor.
2000 Caviler with ABS problem. Got to update the reader for ABS so I can find out what the heck is wrong. A lot of people say left front sensor. Replace battery in '05
Guess I'm really helping the stats if they keep track of that Ford.
My 1st car 1964 Belair which was the family's was recycled in 1984 when I had it with rebuilding the transmission.
And the 1991 Mazda purchased used was recycled in 1996 after being rear ended.
@ Ann R. Thryft, all of us feel embarrassed about our old vehicle which is baseless indeed. It seems that we have finally started understanding that car is more about solid design and reliable functioning rather than stylish look and status. It is noteworthy that our more than 10 year old cars are exported to less developed countries where they are used for another decade or so without any real problem.
My car is ten years old, marksilva2121, and I'm very proud of the fact that it has 205,000 miles on it. But when I recently told that to my mechanic, he said he had a customer with the same vehicle (a few years older, though) that has 740,000 miles on it. That's longevity.
I can remember when cars rusted out and wore out in 7-10 years if yiu took care of them. I think the fact they are lasting longer is due to people being more aware of the importance of maintenance. Electronic signals ( time to change the oil, tire pressure is low and the ability to save trouble signals) have made maintenence more than your mechanics opinion.
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