Things You Won’t Find In Your Next New Car

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It’s almost impossible to find a new car that doesn’t come standard with amenities that used to be expensive options such as air conditioning (usually, automatic climate controlled air conditioning), power windows and locks, cruise and (usually) at least a four-speaker stereo system.CD pic

But there are also items that used to be givens in cars that are becoming harder to find and – within a few years – will probably be nearly impossible to find. For instance:

* CD slots –

Music is delivered over the ether nowadays, via Bluetooth and Pandora and SiriusXm. Compact discs are so 1990s. They are the tape decks of our era. Relics of another time. A few new cars still have a CD slot, but the CD changer (remember them?) is history. Who wants to deal with the hassle of a stack of CDs – each of which having maybe a dozen songs on it – when you can access thousands of songs on a iPod or iPhone the size of a pack of cigarettes?

Gas caps –gas cap

You may have had to deal with a “check engine” light coming on – and then having to get the “trouble code” cleared by a shop. Frequently, these codes are triggered by a fault with the car’s evaporative emissions control system. Perhaps you can see where this is headed. People not quite tightening the gas cap enough. So, gas vapors – very un-PC – escape and the car’s computer has a conniption fit. The car companies engineered capless fuel fillers to deal with this. Just stick the nozzle in, pump in your gas, pull out the nozzle – and the thing seals itself. You’ll also never have to worry about laving the cap at the gas station again, either.

* Analog gauges –

Old-timey speedometers and tachometers (and volt/temp/oil pressure gauges) with physical needles and fixed gauge facings are gradually fading away in favor of multi-configurable LCD flat screen displays. These have the advantage of allowing the driver to select from any of several displays. For example, you can toggle from oil pressure to volts to water temperature. Or change the look of the speedo. Or replace the speedo with GPS. The options are almost limitless. More stuff can be displayed in a given space (though perhaps not all at once). Flat screen displays first appeared in hybrid and high-end end cars but are becoming common in mid-priced cars and will likely be as common in all cars within five years as idiots lights and white-wall tires were back in the ’70s.gauges LCD

* Dipsticks –

Guess how you check the oil (and other fluid) levels in several new cars? It’s not by popping the hood and pulling out a dipstick. Several new cars don’t have them. Instead, fluid levels are checked from inside the car. Instead of popping the hood, you tap the app. Sensors tell you not only how much oil is in the engine but also its condition – and whether it’s getting close to change-it time. Some will lament the passing of the simpler – but dirtier – dipstick. But others will appreciate being able to check the level without getting their hands greasy. Or even getting out of the car. And also, getting the longest life out of each quart of oil. Many new cars come factory filled with (and require) expensive synthetic oil, which can cost $10 per quart or more. If the oil life sensors help you avoid changing the oil before it’s actually necessary to change the oil, it can save you a bunch of money over the life of the car.   

* Drain plugs –

Related to the above, drain plugs on the underside of the engine are no longer there in a number of new cars. These are – for the present – mostly higher-end luxury cars such as certain Mercedes-Benz models. The assumption being that people who purchase $50,000 (and up) vehicles tend not to change their own oil. Instead, the oil is sucked out of the engine using special machines at the dealership. It’s neater – and it doesn’t require getting underneath the car. The downside, of course, is that if your car doesn’t have a drain plug (and you don’t have the special equipment to suck the oil out from above) then you have to take the car to the dealer for oil changes.air cleaner pic

* Oval air filters – 

Air cleaners are now almost uniformly air boxes. And the filters inside are squarish or rectangular rather than oval. The chief reason for the change is packaging. The old-style round air cleaner assemblies and filters took up a fair amount of space under the hood. The boxes allow the same (or more) surface area for filtration/air intake, but are more compact and can be fit into the engine compartment more easily. One not-so-great aspect of these air boxes, though, is that you sometimes need tools to open them to get at the air filter. It may be only a screwdriver, but that’s still more work than hand-turning a single wingnut, as we used to do back in the day.

* Ash trays –

Most new cars come with multiple cupholders, but not a single ashtray. If you like to smoke, you are out o’ luck. A few manufacturers still offer ashtrays, but they are extra-cost options. You must buy a Smoker’s Package. Otherwise, the “ashtray” will be lined with felt and meant for coins. Or plastic – and it’ll melt.    

* Mechanical keys –key pic

Remote transmitter key fobs (and pushbutton ignition) have already all-but-replaced the physical ignition key that dates back to the dawn of the automobile age. So long as the fob is in your pocket or purse, you can start the car and also usually unlock the car, just by touching the car (the door handle). Several new cars (e.g., the 2016 Ford Edge) don’t have mechanical pulls for the interior locks; the works are now entirely electronic and wireless, too. Just be sure to not lose the things as they can be very expensive to replace. Depending on the make/model involved, you might be looking at $150 for a new transmitter fob… vs. $5 for a new key. depends on you to keep the wheels turning! The control freaks (Clovers) hate us. Goo-guhl blackballed us.

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  1. the dipstick issue is an odd one.

    my m-b 2006 cl55amg doesn’t have one.

    my m-b 2006 cl500 does.

    go figure this. the engine that needs a visual confirmation of oil levels doesn’t have one. the engine that is not so expensive does.

    i have been told that the amg engine does not have the room for a dipstick[i.e., i cannot find a dipstick for the cl500 engine and use in in the cl55 engine. T or F?

    my 2008 porsche cayenne turbo engine has a dipstick.

    que pasa?

  2. For me, the untenable polar opposite of Keep It Short and Simple has been Leave It Ambiguous and Open-Ended. Obviously KISS > LIAO.

    The Most Important Word for any kind of freelance worker or consultant is “scope,” and the most dreaded situation being when this word is immediately followed by the word “creep.”

    Scope Creep is the bane of any independent consultant or contractor’s existence. It usually happens when your client successfully adds things to your to-do list that you didn’t foresee and didn’t make clear it’s billable as an a la carte add on cost.

    Scope Creep also arises from misunderstandings that occur when you don’t communicate firm boundaries around a project.

    Scope creep will cost you money, enthusiasm, and eventually your mortal soul, sanity, happy wife, and happy life.

    Scope Creep affliction isn’t limited only to nasty clients who are trying to put one over on you. Cool clients, who don’t understand the specifics of your proposal or the amount of time they’re requesting, can often be the worst perpetrators of Scope Creep time and financial catastrophes.

    Never assume that having a good relationship with your client will prevent Scope Creep – only good contracts can do that.

    The way to keep expectations manageable and within budget is to tightly define the scope of a project, both within your initial proposal and in the final written agreement/contract.

    Sample words for such clauses might include:

    Example #1:

    This project will include research, writing and editing of one news announcement, one six-page brochure, and one FAQ (to include up to 10 questions). The fee includes three rounds of revisions for each document.

    Out-of-scope activities include: facilitating internal approvals within the client company, graphical design and layout, and wire service distribution. Any such additional service requests will be billed at the listed rates or else the standard maximum rate of $39/hour.

    Example #2:

    The monthly retainer fee includes A, B and C. Additional services are available and can be quoted separately upon request.

    When working on a project with a portion to be billed upon completion, it’s also helpful to state something like “if two weeks pass without communication from X company, you reserve the right to bill for services rendered to date.” This is important protection for occasions when a client can’t get the final approvals on a deliverable, but your work is largely completed.

    Though out-of-control projects can happen to anyone, spelling out the deliverables and managing expectations up front are key to keeping these misunderstandings and unbilled time expenditures to a minimum.
    – – – –

    The KISS – Keep It Short and Simple, or Keep It Simple Shitbag principle’s key message is that simplicity should be the goal and that unnecessary complexity should be avoided.

    Others formulations and similar concepts and similar ideas in the past:

    Albert Einstein: “Everything should be made as simple as possible but no simpler.”

    Leonardo Da Vinci: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

    Antoine de Saint Exupery: “It seems that perfection is reached not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away”.

    A similar, but not equivalent, principle to Kiss is Occam’s Razor, which is usually summarized as “The simplest explanation is usually the best one.”

    In medical diagnosis for example, this is sometimes expressed as: “If you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras.”

    One candidate for being the opposite of the Kiss Principle might be solutions that exceed the Rube Goldberg Cartoon Standard of Complexity.

    The cartoons of Rube Goldberg always depict some sort of elaborate Rube Goldberg machine, which is one that performs a very simple task in an over-engineered, complex fashion, usually by a chain of motion events.

    Call or Text the EDC – Epic Domestic Contraption – and Sit Back and Enjoy the Lulz

    Other instances of examples contrary to KISS are:

    – “instruction creep”, where instructions increase in number and size over time until they are unmanageable;

    – “function creep” where an item, process, or procedure designed for a specific purpose ends up serving another purpose for which it was never planned to perform;

    – “scope creep”, where a project’s scope is increased so that more tasks must be completed, without an increase in budget or time; and

    – “creeping featurism”, where systems become more complex over time as more and more features are added to the original device, plan etc.

    Some more practical applications of the KISS Principle:

    – Wherever feasible, break tasks into smaller tasks and deal with them as smaller ones.

    – Everywhere possible, break problems down into smaller problems and address each individual smaller problem.

  3. Some of these improvements aren’t necessary and others are downright stupid. The old adage comes to mind: just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should do it.

    Local radio show host talked of his daughter losing or destroying her Audi (I believe) key. The car was towed to an Audi dealership, a new key was procured and yes, the key had to be programmed. Excluding the tow, the cost was around $600. But do Americans complain? Of course not. We’re so enamored of gadgets and blinking lights we’ve become catatonic, like the woman in the movie “Andromeda Strain.”

    Maybe this is edging out a little on a limb, but it wouldn’t surprise me if many mindless worshippers of gratuitous car technology are also either Clovers or inchoate Clovers.

    • What’s the opposite of the KISS Principle?

      Whatever it is, that’s what’s guiding the auto industry currently.

      A lot of the features that are now standard are features that if I had my druthers, I would never order.

      Call me a reactionary, but I would never even order power windows.

      • Right. Keep It Simple, Stupid. That’s one of the core principles of good engineering. The problem with electronics (and lets not even get started on drive-by-wire) is that there is a larger number of failure paths. If you lose your dipstick, you go to the auto-shop and buy another one. How is the oil level or the oil quality sensed? What if the sensor goes bad? If you don’t check your dipstick you blame yourself, if your oil sensor goes bad what then?

        Now, what about the drain plug? Is there anyway at all that this can be couched as a “benefit”? What value does it offer the end-user? Let me answer that: nothing. Does it lower the cost? Does the cost savings of not putting in a drain plug fall all the way through to the bottom line faced by the consumer? Even if it did, how much are we talking about? No, the removal of the drain plug is a way for the dealers to mulct the consumer. It forces one to either buy a pump to change the oil or go to someone who has one…someone like their friendly neighborhood dealer. Now, a lot of people already do that, but this “feature” merely takes the option away or makes it more expensive for those who formerly did it themselves to save money. It’s a money-milking scheme which offers nothing to the consumer.

        As for the death of mechanical keys, well, I confess that I find the electronic key fobs kind of nifty, unless you accidentally trigger the panic button or the trunk release button while it is in your pocket. The one I have for my 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer needs a small “jeweler’s screwdriver” to open the fob to replace the battery. If you’re careful, you can prevent your mechanical key from breaking off in the door lock or the ignition switch. Conversely, there is no amount of prevention that can keep the battery from eventually running down. One could argue that a regimen of regular battery replacement would prevent that, but how long does the battery typically last? Also, I think most people have a psychological resistance to replacing a battery that is not yet completely depleted, even if they know what kind of battery to buy for their key fob or where to buy it. First world problems… Heh.

  4. Gavin Seim Pulls Grant County WA Deputy For An Unmarked Car Violation. Gives Him A Warning.

    Gavin Seim, describes himself as a liberty speaker and constitutional activist, posted the video of himself threatening the officer with citizen’s arrest to draw attention to the unlawful traffic stops made by police impersonators.

    Seim, and the state of Washington, believe that police cars should be marked to help prevent such impersonation.

    “This is my ID right here,” the officer says, pointing to the police patch on his uniform.

    “That’s not ID, sir,” countered Seim. “If I showed you a badge if you stopped me, would you take that as ID? C’mon. Let’s be reasonable. Anybody can have a patch, sir.”

    Because the officer is performing patrol duties in an unmarked vehicle, Seim says the officer is now culpable in the violation of state law which prohibits unmarked vehicles. Seim says that the officer would need to return the vehicle to the station to be lawfully compliant. The law Seim is referring to:

    RCW 46.08.065
    Publicly owned vehicles to be marked – Exceptions.

    It is unlawful for any public officer having charge of any vehicle owned or controlled by any county, city, town, or public body in this state other than the state of Washington and used in public business to operate the same upon the public highways of this state unless and until there shall be displayed upon such automobile or other motor vehicle in letters of contrasting color not less than one and one-quarter inches in height in a conspicuous place on the right and left sides thereof, the name of such county, city, town, or other public body, together with the name of the department or office upon the business of which the said vehicle is used.

    The law goes onto to give local police and Sheriff deputies a pass, but only for “special undercover or confidential investigative purposes.” Seim points out the officer is not entitled to this pass because he is, by his own admission, using the vehicle for normal patrol duties.

    “I’m not gonna write you up today,” Seim told the officer, who immediately smiled in amusement.

    “I know you’re smiling, but we the citizens do have the right to hold you guys accountable,” said Seim. “I could call a Sheriff out here and demand that you be written up for this because you are in open violation of Washington RCWs.”

    Seim takes the issue of unmarked police cars very seriously, citing the lack of proper markings gives police impersonators a criminal advantage. In his blog, he writes:

    “In Washington we have unmarked police vehicles impersonating citizens. If you think it’s not a serious issue, try asking those that have been raped or lost loved ones because of unmarked cars.

    It’s already illegal in WA for public vehicles to be unmarked, unless designated for “special undercover or confidential investigative purposes.”

    After printing out a copy of the law and reading it, the officer is less defensive toward Seim, stating, “This is good to know.”

    UPDATE: The Grant County Sheriff’s Office issued a response to Seim’s video on their Facebook page.

    In the response, Sheriff Tom Jones stated that “The patrol car Deputy Canfield was driving was awaiting installation of vinyl graphics.”

    “I am not going to put the public at risk by not deploying patrol cars while awaiting installation of decals.”

    Jones also wrote that no one would receive a citation or risk going to jail for violating the law, claiming that it is not a criminal or civil offense, and would instead be handled internally.

  5. The worst of the above is losing the ignition key. It has nothing to do with cost or the ability to cut the key. These got-damned key fobs get lodged in between the seats, fall to the floor or stay in your pockets for the entire trip. Real drivers don’t want a frigging extra bump in their pants. It’s that simple. I can’t stand these damned things and want to find the person who invented it and ring his/her neck. I will not purchase a car with one of these.

  6. And don’t forget replacing metal & glass parts with plastic, all to save a little weight.

    So consumers will regularly get to polish their fogging plastic headlamps.

    And replace plastic components that should have been metal.

    E.g., I’ve had to replace 3 of 4 exterior door handles on our 2007 Suburban – the plastic simply can’t handle normal wear & tear – time to look for a 3D metal printer.

    • Great idea. Then, once you’ve built some door handles that will LAST, you can print your very own COlt 1911 to keep you and your travelling companions safe as you motor on into the sunset…..

    • look for a shop with a CNC mill.
      about the keys; slit the plastic to get at transponder chip then you will still have a $5 piece of metal cut, For the fobs they are usually very cheap, $20 for my 08 Aura. for many cars there is a complicated system of opening and shutting doors moving shifter up and down and having the stars in the right alignment under a full moon.
      then there are models you will have to have it professionally done (thanks GM for the Aura’s system) a locksmith will charge half what a dealer will.

      • I have a CD changer in my car — and about 250 CDs for it, either bought or burned. It’s my backup for those moments when KUTX or the alt-indie stations I listen to are both doing commercials or talking.

        Or for a long road trip where there’s nothing to listen to on the radio.

        • I’ve pretty much transferred my CD collection to the iPod. Most new cars have BlueToof, so you can pipe it all in and not have to carry around all those CDs! I’m a reluctant adopter of technology, but I love the iPod.

          • Sure our worlds may be running down, but new worlds are sprouting up, supple, lithe, sinewy, crazy, beautiful.

            And wisely, you’ve a charter member of this exclusive club and often a captain of those of us who’ve elected to make the best of our fading(from our vantage point) world, that’s still around.

            Leeloo Milla Jovovich.

            When the world is running down, you can’t go wrong,

            “You make the best homemade stew around.”

            … Turn on my V.C.R., same one I’ve had for years,
            James Brown on the Tammy show, Same tape I’ve had for years, I sit in my old car, same one I’ve had for years, Old battery’s running down, it ran for years and years…

  7. How about throttle cables? They’ve been gone for a decade now. Why, because someone thought replacing that simple cable (or in some fancy cars, throttle linkage-I’m looking at you Mercedes) with a servo, two throttle position sensors, a bundle of wires and a separate computer was more reliable, less weight and cheaper. Of course Honda/Acura does a hybrid, the servo pulls a gotdam cable attached to the throttle body!

    • With all of the electronic systems present on new vehicles, using a traditional throttle cable is impossible. Radar assisted cruise control, direct injection, variable valve timing, Dual clutch gearboxes, cylinder deactivation, start/stop plus government mandated stability Control and traction control.

      To add insult to injury most manufacturers soften throttle response for the purposes of reducing emissions, fuel consumption and warranty claims. This leads to a very erratic driving experience from a dead start. A slow initial throttle response is followed by a huge surge forward as all the systems give you permission to accelerate using 100% power half a second after you bury the throttle. The only exception to this is Porsche (in my experience).

      I’m sure Eric can attest to this since he frequently drives so many new vehicles.

      • Evidently, a throttle cable and cruise control work just fine as evidenced by many vehicles I’ve owned and driven… the Peterbilt I’m about to drive 350 miles(I hope, with all the bad drivers out there, it’s a turkey shoot every day).

    • Yup, gone (throttle cable).

      See Pedro’s post above. Another reason is the car companies’ need/desire to make every single car of a given model type feel exactly the same. The McDonald’s Model. The Camry you buy in Seattle reacts to your right foot exactly like the one you bought in New York. Cables have to be adjusted – and adjustment almost always varies.

      • Once I had a throttle cable snap while driving, so I coasted to the shoulder and “fixed” it on the side of the road with a shoelace. I suspect a drive-by-wire system will not be as easy to deal with if and when it fails.

        • Those units on Dodge diesels quit so often it’s maddening. They don’t always have to be repaired, a cycling of the electrical system 5 times often resets them but not always. They’re extremely expensive units too.

          The rub sometimes comes in the form of nearly causing a wreck. They’ll often surge and then return to idle. I’ve had the traffic sliding to a stop as I attempted to cross a busy highway with a trailer. It surged just enough to get me on the roadway and then went to idle, not enough to move the trailer. Everybody saw their life passing before them.

      • But…but…..but……McDonald’s…..have it Your way……ain’t it? I wish it were like McD’s, just get another a couple blocks away.

  8. We have a ’13 Buick Verano with the stupid keyless start, which is pointless and I hate (story for another time), but the wife dropped her key down the garbage disposal after a grocery trip, the error wasn’t discovered till the disposal alerted us to the foreign object to which it couldn’t swallow. Long and short of it, I was pleasantly surprised that, since we were able to recycle the key blade, the new fob was only $39 for a new OEM fob, and on-board programmable. Granted, back in the day, that would have been robbery, but today seems like some sort of bargain.

    • Hi Doc,

      You got off easy! Still, $39 for a key is highway robbery. It’s – what? – about eight times the cost of getting a key cut down at the hardware store….

      • 1. The keys on modern cars went to a reverse design many years ago, which is not so trivial to have copied.

        2. If you have a key be stolen or you lose a key and you want to replace the locks, that can be nearly $1000 to do on some cars (German) that still used keys even a decade ago.

        3. The all-electronic system would likely actually be cheaper to deal with on a lost or stolen fob than a key on those last generation key-based entry systems.

        • Some of the decent quality European cars, Mercedes for certain, can supply a pre-cut key to original specs for about $25. The entire physical ignition lock cylinder with one key, to original VIN’s code, cost me about $50 plus shipping from California. That was for an SD 126 body car, it was the couble sided milled key. I was impressed.

      • $39 seems cheap compared to the electronic “key” for my push button start car. Washed one of the keys accidentally, and the dealership wanted about $600 to replace it. I told them no thanks, and am veeery careful with the remaining key.

  9. No drain plugs? I wonder if you can drill and tap your own, rather than have to buy an expensive oil sucking machine. It seems the overwhelming trend here is to make ANY maintenance or repair impossible for the backyard mechanic and force everyone to pay the inflated prices at the stealeship service dept.

    • Hi Mike,

      It is very possible. I’ve done it (with transmission pans) several times. They stopped putting drain plugs in those about 30 years ago. And – you’re right – they are trying to make service harder. For us.

      For the dealer tech, it’s easier to use the machine.

      • I wish GM would use a drain plug in their torque converter. Ford used to in their heavier pickups, sure made changing transmission filter/fluid much better since you can drain ALL the fluid.

      • I don’t remember anything at any time with a transmission pan plug(not saying they weren’t made). The ticket is to drill your hole and let it drain, then remove the pan, change the filter, clean the pan and re-install. Next time will be probably an earlier drain interval and you are already aware of anything that might be amiss from the first time. Fluid tells you clutch wear and magnetic plug lets you know of worser things….and hopefully it will never show any steel. BTW, if it’s that good factory gasket that doesn’t leak, leave it alone and re-use it.

  10. No ash trays? No cigarette lighters either. Yeah the “power point” is still there, but sans lighter.

    A significant minority of the population still smokes. To deprive them of a non distracting way to light their smokes and tap their ashes seems like a horrible breach of “saaafty!” 😉

    • Most new cars come with multiple cupholders, but not a single ashtray. If you like to smoke, you are out o’ luck.

      You and I both know what’s coming next: a nanny car with a smoke detector that sets off an alarm if you light up in your own car. It’ll probably also shut down and lock the engine for a pre-set period until the cigarette/cigar is extinguished. Heck, it might even activate a fire extinguisher in your face.

      • Smoke detector, one thing I’d like. I have thought of using a smoke detector to send a signal to my phone to protect CJ when he’s in a running pickup. Probably not a big risk from an old Chevy 6.5 Turbo Diesel but just to be safe(not for the kids, for CJ).

        If anyone is confused over this it’s simple. If you live in Texas you rarely turn off a vehicle for 9 months or so to keep the a/c on. I often stick a pair of gloves in my back pocket so I can stand to touch the door handle.

        On that note I have seen a lot of GM pickups recently in the patch that are black and white. I know a guy with a new one, black with a white top so I asked if it was a factory paint job. He said it was a wrap, helped big time. White pickups are the norm but lots of people want a black pickup. The white roof makes a world of difference in inside temp.

        • around here, we see a pickup/SUV black with white lid, we slow down as necessary. State patrol have some of them. And some are unmarked…. against state law but they do anyway.

  11. My neighbor has a car that doesn’t have a key, dipstick, CD player, round air filter or an ashtray. It doesn’t have a radio or heater, either. But it does have oil drain plugs, analog gauges, and a gas cap. His grandfather bought it new or nearly so 100 years ago. It’s a Model T.

    I wonder if our current automotive marvels will have such longevity or if those future folks would recognize any model names 100 years from now.

    • I wonder if our current automotive marvels will have such longevity or if those future folks would recognize any model names 100 years from now.

      Funny that you should bring that up. Back when I was a pre-teen, 45-odd years ago, I remember seeing a fair number of well-preserved “antique” cars from the 30s and 40s on the road and even ocassionally some from the 20s. All had license plates designating them as “historic” vehicles. Again, these were cars that at the time were thirty or forty-plus years old.

      Do you see “historic” designations today on license plates of cars built in the 60s or early 70s – cars that are 40 or 50 years old? I don’t recall seeing even ONE on any car from that generation that’s on the road today. Why is this? Why are cars of that age range not now considered “historic” or “classic” as were their predecessors of previous generations of cars? Is it a question of aesthetics? Or are cars of the 60s and early 70s still common enough not to be considered “historic?”

      • Hi Lib,

        I think it depends on the state. In mine (VA) cars over IIRC 25 years are eligible for “antique vehicle” tags. The upside is no annual registration fee or emissions test; the downside you are technically only allowed to use the vehicle occasionally, as for “road testing” and “to and from car shows.”

        • I often see 40 and even 50 year old vehicles and they have regular plates.

          What I’d like to find is someone who’d sell you comprehensive insurance on older vehicles……just daily drivers and insure for what they’re worth.

          I understand auto companies aren’t keen on this and insurance is a hand in glove sorta thing with them.


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