A Great Time to Buy a Used Car . . . But Not Because They’re Cheap

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You might want to buy a used car while they’re cheap – but not just because they’re cheap.

And cheap they are.

Because of unprecedented desperation tactics to sell new cars – including under-bid incentives, cash back offers and “free money” loans at zero or nearly zero interest. Which the car companies have had to resort to during the past year in order to fluff up wilting sales (and sales are wilting regardless).

When you make new cars so attractive – so cheap – to buy, what happens is that used cars become even cheaper to buy.

It is hard to sell, as a for-instance, a $17,000 three-year-old Camry when you can buy a brand new one for around $22k out the door – especially when the payments on the new car are lower because the interest on the loan is less  and because the payment on the new car can be stretched out over six or seven years, while the loan on a used car is shorter in duration – because of the lesser value and faster depreciation of the used car.

So. . .

But it’s not just it’s a great time to buy a used car as far as the deal you’ll get.

It’s a smart move because of the hassle you’ll avoid.

Maybe not right away, but down the road – probably just after the warranty coverage expires.

What’s happened is we’ve crossed a kind of engineering Rubicon. It has happened over the past two or three years – and there is probably no turning back. Not unless regulatory reasonableness returns – and that doesn’t look likely. If anything, it is likely to become  less and less reasonable.  

The car companies have had to resort to design and engineering measures just as desperate and extreme as the financial measures they are resorting to in order to fluff up sales. But in the case of the design and engineering measures, it is to placate federal regulatory ayatollahs, who continue to demand – among other things – that new vehicles achieve ever-higher fuel economy – and lower “greenhouse emissions” – irrespective of the cost involved.

It is why, next year, BMW will append a four cylinder/hybrid drivetrain to all 5 Series sedans – and eliminate the six cylinder/non-hybrid versions.

It is why every new-design car has a direct injected (DXI, or GDI) engine rather than a port fuel injected engine. Automatic Stop/Start systems are pretty much standard equipment – which you can’t cross off the options list.

The latest automatic transmissions have eight – or even ten – speeds. Turbochargers – sometimes two of them – are the new In Thing.

Bodies are being made out of  aluminum rather than steel.

And of course, there is “autonomous” driving technology – cars that semi-steer and park themselves, accelerate and brake on their own.

None of these things materially improves the performance – or even the economy – of the vehicle in a way that’s meaningful to the owner.

A car with DI and and eight-speed transmission might give you a 3-4 MPG uptick – on paper – vs. the same basic vehicle without these technologies.

That’s not nothing, of course.

But ir doesn’t cost nothing, either.

Not much is said about the fact that the car costs more to buy because it has these technologies. You “save on gas” – by spending more on the car. The same logic used to peddle hybrids.

It’s interesting that this other side of the equation is almost never discussed. And that the ayatollahs who smite us with their regulatory fatwas –  so seemingly concerned about how much we’re spending on gas – never seem much concerned about how much we’re spending to cover the cost of their fatwas.

Up front – and down the road.

These turbocharged, direct-injected, stop-starting cars – with their eight and nine and ten speed transmissions and aluminum bodies – deliver the goods (MPGs) when new. Enough so that the car companies achieve “compliance” with whatever the latest federal fatwas are, at any rate.

But what happens as they get old?

I’ve written before about what’s already happening. About relatively young cars – less than ten years old, sometimes – becoming economically unfixable (that is, not worth fixing) when, as a for-instance, the uber-elaborate transmission fails.

You have an otherwise sound car; an engine that will probably run reliably for another 100,000 miles, an un-rusty body and paint that still looks great. The overall car’s not a junker – but the transmission is junk . So you have it towed the shop, expecting to get the tranny (not Caityln) rebuilt. And the guy tells you they don’t do that anymore. Rebuild – or repair.

They replace.

You must buy a new (or “remanufactured”) transmission, because they’ve become too complicated and time-consuming to deal with on a work bench. You are faced with spending $5,000 on a replacement transmission for a car that’s worth $8,000.


Older cars made with economically sane five and six-speed transmissions remain economically repairable. But they do not make them new anymore. Not many, anyhow.

And not for much longer.

It is not just that, either.

Last week, I reviewed the last of the Mohicans – as far as full-size trucks. The 2017 Toyota Tundra. It is the only current-year full-size truck you can still buy that does not have a direct-injected engine. This means it will never have a carbon-fouling problem – as Ford and others who have added DI to their engines, to squeeze out an MPG or three more, to please Uncle, have regularly been having.

Actually, it’s you – if you own one of these DI’d rigs – who will have the problem.

And be paying to un-crud your direct-injected engine. Which may involve partial disassembly of the engine. This is not like changing the oil. Nor will it cost you $19.99, either.

Ford’s solution to the DI Blues? It will be adding a separate port fuel injection circuit to its direct-injected engines next year. So, the vehicles will have two fuel injection systems. You’ve just double your odds of having a fuel system problem at some point.

The point here is it’s not just one thing, it is a synergistic multiplicity of things that are bringing into actuality the Planned Obsolescence people used to grumble about – but which was mostly not the case. Until just the past several years, most cars were usually economically repairable well into their senior years. It made sense to put say $2,000 for a rebuilt (four or five-speed) automatic into a car worth $8,000.

But with all the complex, fragile, non-serviceable and hugely-expensive-to-replace-when-it-fails Stuff they are grafting onto cars to make them Uncle Friendly, they become not-worth-fixing long before the cars themselves have reached their liver-spotted years.

The truth is that probably every car made since about 2015 is a Latter Day Throw-Away. It will run beautifully for about ten years. Just a bit longer than those $500/month payments were were making.

Then, some very expensive thing will fail and you will be faced with a bill that’s not worth paying – or which you can’t pay.

How many of you have $5k available for a car repair? Keeping in mind this is cash due when services are rendered, not financed at low interest, either. 

Meanwhile, the just-a-few-years-older cars without all that Stuff can be kept going almost indefinitely – because almost anything that breaks or wears out can be fixed for a within-reason price.

These are the “sweet spot” vehicles made from – roughly-speaking – the early-mid 1990s through the early 2000s.

I think they will prove to be the high water mark of vehicle design – if the measure is economically sensible design.

They were – they are – incredibly durable, rugged and reliable. A mid-late 1990s-era GM pick-up with a TBI-injected small block V8 and either a five-speed manual or a four-speed/five-speed overdrive automatic is a mechanical Methuselah that will endure for decades, because it is economically rebuildable almost indefinitely.

It and those like it are the last vehicles of which this can be said.

Get one – before people who aren’t car-hip realize that the new cars are short-lived, expensive throw-aways.

Courtesy of Uncle.

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  1. I just recently bought a very GENTLY used 2015 Ford Focus; it had less than 3,200 miles on it when I got it. You read that right; it had less than 3200 miles on it, in spite of being four years old. The salesman said it was a lease turn-in. It’s practically brand new; it still has the new car smell even! That said, I didn’t pay the new car price; got her for $16k OTD… 🙂

    Like one of your other commenters, I like a car that’s fun to drive. I also like a car that’s practical and economical to operate. When looking for a car that’s practical, economical, and fun, that leaves only two cars IMO: the Mazda3 and the Focus. Oh, I know, the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, et all can be bought as fun cars, but you have to get the TOP TRIM (and pay top dollar) to do it; in base trim, none of those cars are FUN. The Mazda3 and Ford Focus are fun, regardless of trim-or price.

    Oh, and I have the six speed auto trans-no issues. I know that the third gen Focus has had issues with the tranny, but in 2015 Ford fixed that. My tranny is shifts smoothly, and it always seems to know what gear I want before I do. The car came with the sport package, so it has the paddle shifters. I can hit the local, North Jersey back roads and have some fun changing gears; when I’m back in the city, I don’t have the hassle of working the clutch as I would on a manual. I have the best of both worlds.

    But yeah, now is a good time to buy a like new used car. Lease turn-ins abound now, so the supply is plentiful.

    • Hmmm….who leases a car to put only 800 miles a year on it? I’d say there’s something seriously wrong with that car that you may not have discovered yet. (I hope not). Did you run the VIN to see if the odometer/dealer claims are indeed accurate?

  2. Hi Eric,

    Love your articles – always hit the nail on the head. Used to live in the US as a kid in the south, and remember the good old big V8s. Now am in London and you may be aware of the Fatwas we have on CO2 emissions (without considering anything else). This has over the years pushed everything to diesel engines. Now while its a great fuel for running heavy vehicles or long motorway runs, its horrible for short city stop and go driving of a couple miles a time, and pointless in a small city hatchback. But ofcourse our version of Uncle doesnt think that far.

    Amongst other stupidities with this they have mandated something called a Diesel Particulate Filter. This is a creation which basically holds the soot from the diesel engine inside it when you drive the car in the cities where flipflop wearing guardian reading muesli eating lefties ride their bicycles, but when you get out in the countryside (where I live) and speed up they empty themselves apparently burning away the bad diesel soot to something somehow nicer. This also requires that these cars are driven outside the city at least once a week. Which they arent as they are mostly in small city cars. This means that these filters get blocked up and make it impossible to drive the car as the engine looses power. Furthermore, as the car gets older the catalyst degrades and makes it even more useless. The solution – take it to an official dealer and have it changed (a fortune) or go to a pirate garage and have its insides removed so it looks like its there which i hear is now illegal as well. To make matters worse, all it does when these filters empty themselves is burn the larger soot particles to smaller ones which are even more dangerous for human life as now they are able to penetrate deeper into the lungs of all living beings. As a result we now have some of the worst air quality ever.

    But or course we shouldnt be worried, should we? British-Uncle is on top of things, with a whole range of new taxes and bans on diesel cars and forcing us to get hybrids and electrics. Also, we hear a new cash fro clunkers is around the corner….. what can possibly go wrong…….

  3. Eric, I absolutely love your articles and in fact you have helped me to change my thinking in regards to vehicles. I’m done with the car loans on overly priced newer cars. I managed to pay cash for a 2005 Buick Lesabre this year with a sweet V6 and only 65,000 elderly driven miles. It’s not the cool car I would have wanted in the past but it is super economical and reliable car that should last a long while yet and save me a ton of money. Thank you for your great writing!

  4. A local dealer had fourteen imprisoned TDIs. Four were left for sale at the end of parole day. Still, the topic of this article puts a dark cloud over the future usefulness of the things when wear-out time arrives.
    The actual experience of ours is that it is the best car we ever had and bought at a discount in the height of the VW hate. I looked at it as civil disobedience.
    They won’t nickel and dime themselves to death they will have fatal heart attacks. But so far the quality looks exceptional and the sudden death will come as a shock.

    • I know a few people that have these and have extreme mileage with no issues whatsoever. I have a Cayenne TDI, 2014 model, 55k miles not a single issue from what is essentially a Tuareg with some handling upgrades. Reliability has been stellar
      one of my clients has an older 2006 Jetta TDI 370k miles, and I did see the odo, he says the MPG is on the order of 50 highway and 42 city, Never had an issue with it according to him
      My uber driver in London drove around in a Sharan minivan with the 2.0 TDI. He has 48k miles on it, I asked if he ever had a problem, he said he did not it was the most reliable car he ever had, hos dash computer reports 46 mpg tooling around the M4

  5. I stopped by the VW dealer yesterday to look at the Atlas. I saw one New Beetle there TDI “Fixed” 2015 model. He told me it was the last one, all the Golf’s and Jettas were already sold. It was commanding a premium price – that is full sticker and they are getting them.

  6. I think the ideas in this article are worth a whole section of your website. For how many manufacturers is it the case that the best proposition on offer is actually a used vehicle they produced several years ago?

  7. Eric, you are wrong about the Tundra being the only full-size truck still available with port injection. Ford is selling new F-150s with naturally aspirated and port-injected 3.5L V-6’s or 5.0L V-8’s as an option. (Although I understand all their engines will have direct injection starting next model year.)

    • 5, Ford engines already have DI and due to the valve fouling problem are being forced to do something to ameliorate the problem with that something being port fuel injection along with DI. What eric speaks of is port fuel injection as the only fuel source.

      • For the current model year, only Ford’s turbocharged F-150 engines have DI. Their naturally aspirated engines have “sequential multi-port electronic injection.” Check Ford’s website if you do not believe me.

    • I stopped by the VW dealer yesterday to look at the Atlas. I saw one New Beetle there TDI “Fixed” 2015 model. He told me it was the last one, all the Golf’s and Jettas were already sold. It was commanding a premium price – that is full sticker and they are getting them.

  8. I had a 2001 Durango SLT with the 4.7 L Mercedes engine, bought brand new off the lot in May 2001, until, with a little over 318,000 miles on the engine, in 2013 a 16 year old not paying attention at a four way stop sign totaled it. I’m still not happy about that. I replaced it with a 2002 Durango with the 5.8 L Dodge Engine with 142,000 miles on it. The price was reasonable, but I had to sink almost the purchase price into it immediately for some major repairs before I could put it to good use. Drove it until the front power train crashed on me, at a little over 200,000 miles, taking with it the transfer case and the rear power train, and the cost to repair was more than we could bring ourselves to pay when considering other factors (this was just last February).

    My beloved husband told me we were not going to consider anything older than 2012 when I started car shopping, which limited my choices greatly, considering our budget. Three days later, he informs me the repair shop owner where we towed the Durango is selling his 2001 Excursion LTD. I test drove it and loved it.

    After I test drove the Excursion, I test drove a 2007 Mercedes SUV (I think it was an ML something). The first thing I noticed when I started the engine was the check engine light illuminated. The dealer didn’t think it was a big thing since he was driving it around without any problems. The price was within our budget; the car was comfortable and handled well, and the temptation of driving a Mercedes was there, but the check engine light bothered me. I did my research and decided we didn’t need that white elephant.

    We waited 2 months for the Excursion to become available (another story, another time). In the meantime, I drove for 2 days, a Nissan Versa, and then the rest of the time a Hundai Elantra, both 2017 models. You could not pay me to own the Versa. It was horrible and unsafe unless sitting parked in the driveway. The Elantra was better, but that’s not saying much because the Versa was so horrible anything would be better.

    Lesson of the day: Newer is NOT necessarily better. Sometimes, newer is much worse than the older options. I agree with Eric about not purchasing newer vehicles. “Ooh, shiny” is not a good reason to purchase anything. I like things which can be repaired.

  9. My 2007 Saab 9-3 got crushed while in for service. Literally. A Caddy on a flatbed that went rogue rolled off right on top of it. Soooo, I went off looking for a new car. Big mistake. I should have purchased another 2007 Saab. I now have a leased (for three years) VW Jetta SEL. I leased because I did not want to deal with the inevitable problems on down the road. Point is: I love the way it drives but…..I hate every bit of added “TECHNOLOGY” plastered onto the car. It is distracting and dangerous. And the high belt line and wide rocker panels are annoying and dangerous. I cannot wait until the lease is up. Had I purchased the car it would already be up for sale. My next car will definitely be in the 1995 – 2002 range. I like driving too much to ever purchase another new car.

  10. “These are the “sweet spot” vehicles made from – roughly-speaking – the early-mid 1990s through the early 2000s.”

    93′ GMC Vandura(G20), 97′ Volvo 850, 94 Buick Roadmaster…I’m living proof of your theory Eric.

    I really miss my old Taurus SHO(95′), wish I would have never traded it in on a used 2000 Jetta TDI- but it made economic sense at the time as I was doing long freeway commutes.

    If I replace any of my cars anytime soon, it’ll be weeks of searching ebay/craigslist list for the mid 90’s to early 2000’s range “low mileage” replacement. (100k or so)

      • Hi Jim,


        Another hard-to-kill cars is an early-90s-early 2000s Toyota Corolla. They are the Dodge Darts of our era … without the rust…

        • Hi Eric,
          Loved your article, and I have been trying to teach my kids your truths for some time now.

          I (my kids) have both a ’97 Jeep Cherokee 4×4 with the 4.0L with only 86k on it, AND ’98 Toyota Tacoma 4×4 with V6 with 116k on it. (Only wish it had the famous inline4). I told my kids that if they do regular maintenance on these two cars it will be a LONG time before they have to get Raped at a car dealership. Keep up the good advice!!


        • eric, a friend had a Corolla in 2006, a company car he put hundreds of miles on every day. He was next to suicide when the company finally did one of their flip flops, allowing employees to purchase and drive their own cars. He said the Corolla was the noisiest, roughest little shitbox he’d driven and he had some of the old Honda’s, one the 50 plus mpg job and he said they were better.

          Of course, matching needs to what vehicle you drive is as important as the vehicle. We had a Versa rent car a few years ago due to a garbage truck running over the Blazer. That car could make you swear off anything with that same badge on it. Just a small trip to the SIl’s house, 275 miles, was enough to make me want to be unconscious. Even CJ acted like he was sick and jumped out right behind me and would have beat me if there’s been room.

          My buddy with the Corolla said it was by far not the best car for fuel mileage either. Loud, coarse, buzzy and uncomfortable were his words.

          • I freaking HATE Corollas! They may be reliable and all that; but dayum! The few times I’ve ridden in one of any vintage, I felt like I was a fly on the wall waiting to get squished! Perish the thought you grab the door by the window frame, it feels like it’s going to rip right off. I don’t want to drive something which feels delicate and flimsy.

        • “Without the rust”, he says. Spare a kind thought for us hapless New Englanders, Eric. I just had to give up on my ’95 Corolla daily driver because of all the rust– whatever liquid stuff they spray on the roads here now finally ate through the unibody. It was not the world’s smoothest or beefiest car, but damn was it reliable… in twenty-plus years besides a new starter everything it needed came down to wear and rust.

          I know there’s liable to be some good deals on stuff coming off leases, but I don’t know what I can pick up now that will last nearly as long as that little Corolla. Sadly the unkillable cars of the past, around here, are liable to already be starting to rust out…

      • “Also 90’s Jeep Cherokees with 4.0L in-line 6 engine. Practically bulletproof!”


        Before I scored the 850, that generation Cherokee was on my score list- I just got the 850 so cheap($2000) with under 100K on it, that I couldn’t pass it up.

        That inline 6 has been around forever and I’ve always liked the “square/muscular” look of the Cherokee(like my 850!). If I recall, that inline 6 started as an AMC product and was refined over 4 decades.

        It’s hard to find Cherokee’s of that vintage that haven’t been beat on/made in rock crawlers in 4wd, but decent 2wd’s are still pretty plentiful on the used market.

        • I actually heard (although no way of verifying it) that Chrysler had to stop making those 4L in-line sixes because they were so reliable that Chrysler wasn’t getting enough repair revenue from them!
          BTW: I wonder if Eric would comment on if the recent move by Trump to give the automakers some relief on these onerous MPG requirements might change the situation at all?

        • Those 4.0 straight sixes were bulletproof (what straight-6 wasn’t?!) but being a Chrysler product, all the peripherals on the engine, and on the rest of the vehicle AREN’T!

          Last year I picked up an 01 Cherokee, just to drive for a while so I could sell my rusting pick-up. Had to put a crank position sensor in the Jeep right away, and what a bear it was to diagnose, as it turned out the old sensor wasn’t wasn’t technically bad, it was just loose in it’s bore- so was acting weird, but without throwing an appropriate code. ‘Was just changing it in desperation, and that’s how I discovered it was loose- but since it’s a BEAR to get at- being on the top of the bellhousing, and the bolt that holds it is on the back of the engine, I swapped the new one in anyway.

          But man, after reading some Jeep forums and talking to other owners, it seems those things, like all Chryslars, are plagued with a ton of common problems. I had always thought Jeeps were reliable- turns out (and even echoed in consumer stats) they are one of the most unreliable vehicles out there.

          Stupid thing was only getting 13.8 MPGs too. -Little more than my freaking 8000 lb V-10 Excursion gets! I couldn’t sell that damn Jeep fast enough! Still have the rusty P/U as my back-up vehicle.

          • Hmm. Nowadays what you say is true about Jeep reliability, but not back then. I quick search of reviews on 2001 Cherokee brought up a whole list of positive comments (of course not every one). Multiple comments for people with 200k plus miles on their Cherokees, and multiple owners, and they loved them. Agree the MPG not that great, but I guess you can’t have everything….

          • Late 60’s and through the 70’s saw electronics/radio shops making a fortune off Tx. DPS cars, all Chryslers with their unholy alternators making 2 ways radios almost worthless because of internal bleed.

            I had a similar problem from an alternator on a Cummins in a ’74 Freightliner. No need for a tach since you could hear the engine rpm fine through the CB speaker…….all the time it was running. Turn on my airplane landing lights for two lane running when there’s no oncoming traffic and the noise was nearly deafening. WBAP turned WAY up.

    • Hi Fred,

      It’s actually the opposite – manuals are being driven out of the market due to the fuel efficiency advantage (on government tests) of automatics, for purposes of CAFE compliance. The difference is trivial – generally, 2-3 MPG overall in favor of the automatic. But for CAFE “fleet average” purposes, this is a big deal and it’s why it’a becoming hard to find a manual transmission, especially in trucks (of all things).

      • Swell.

        I was thinking of the manuals as a way to avoid the pitfalls of modern automatics, not to mention the CVTs which for some reason I just don’t trust.

        As a youngin’ it seemed you couldn’t reach 65,000 without the throwout bearing going up. But I have friends who have gotten 200,000+ miles out of the clutch and gearbox in their Toyotas and Hondas.

        I guess uncle will get what uncle wants, up until he doesn’t.

        I’ll continue to enjoy your articles just the same!

        • Hi Fred,

          Part of the reason for the much-improved longevity of modern manual transmission clutches is that they are hydraulically assisted and have self-adjusting take-up. It is routine to get 150,000-plus miles now before the clutch needs to be touched… and that’s assuming a person who isn’t exactly a left foot Jedi!

          • eric, I can’t say about anything but pickups and big trucks but they’ve all had a tube that connects to the throw-out bearing so it can be greased regularly as part of common maintenance. I haven’t had a clutch face or disc wear out in a long time. The main culprit is simply age that leads to the fingers getting so stiff the clutch is extremely hard to disengage. I got in my running pickup one day and when I depressed the clutch pedal it suddenly made a bad noise and I felt all the pressure go away. It had just blown the tube connecting the master cylinder with the slave cylinder.

            I replaced that tube along with the entire clutch assembly.

            The other weak spot in clutches now is the slave cylinder on some brands.

            The Big 3 no longer have clutch problems on their heavy duty light trucks since they don’t offer a manual.

          • I think it’s lining material improvements that make clutches last so long now. The ’86 Mazda started to slip on 5th gear accelerations and it was a manual cable adjustment. It was closing in on 200K miles. I was able to use the manual adjustment so it would be less frequent an occurrence. I also started the habit of always downshifting to accelerate.

            Other than that something else on my cars goes before the clutch resulting in a while-it’s-apart clutch replacement.

  11. As the owner of a major repair shop, specializing in European cars, I’ve been seeing the death of what should be perfectly usable and nice cars because of the “unrepairable” factor. 10-15 years ago we’d have a 8-10 year old BMW with cylinder head or transmission issues come into the shop and the car could be fixed at a cost that made practical sense for the owner. Now they come in and the owner has already been beaten up by expensive fixes for other systems and they just give up on the car and away it goes to the junkyard. A 2008 3 series BMW with
    135K on it that has suffered an over heat episode has a ruined engine that can’t be fixed (no simple skim cut the head and replace the gasket). Supply of used engines is slim (due to demand) and they are costly when available. Factory exchange engines at over $10K are a laughable choice (as in laugh while crying). The owner of the car will walk away. 20 years ago a 4 cylinder Volvo engine could be had for $300 from a yard and the installation could be comfortably done in a day. Things have changed indeed.

    • Hi Erik,

      Yup; it’s crazy – and sick and sad.

      I doubt many current year cars will be around in 20 years. Most will probably be attrited into beer can fodder long before.

      Meanwhile, out in the garage, I have a 40-year-year-old muscle car that remains as economically viable to repair today as it was 20 years ago. And it will almost certainly still be here 20 years from now.

      • Collector cars will likely be a thing of the past too. Can’t imagine anyone will ever be able to restore a 2017 vette, Challenger, etc. 30 or 40 years from now. Not for any kind of reasonable price anyway. And even if you’re able to restore it, you probably won’t be able to drive it, since gasoline will be about as expensive & hard to find as Freon is today. That was another scam. Hundreds of billions of dollars to retrofit or replace every ac and refrigeration system in the country because cfc refrigerants caused a “hole” in the ozone layer and we were all gonna die! Don’t hear anything about that anymore, do ya?

      • Your friendly VA DMV will have an apopletic fit at you putting that “dirty, unsafe” old “dinosaur” on the public roads and will come up with some regulatory “fatwa” to render it a “garage queen”. Can’t have the car buying public neither supporrting the auto industry, nor paying those high registration and personal property taxes to swell state and local coffers, right?

        • Hi Doug,

          I expect that. One of the few upsides to being sans wife or kids is that I just don’t care. Come and get me – if it comes to that. And it just may…

  12. I have a venerable old 2002 Tahoe taht I use for business. It is a simple beast, nice smooth V8, simple auto transmission I could probably rebuild myself if I wanted to. The Autoride stopped working a long time ago but I never missed it. No parking sensors, no turbo’s, not DI, K&N filter and at 266k miles it still gets about the same gas mileage as when I bought it, (low fuel light at 370 miles after fill up) no matter how I seem to drive.

    I might be buried in this thing. It’s tough as nails, thing that broke on it since I had it = zero. Well I had to charge the AC a couple of years ago, that’s basically it.

    I have the hots for a new Atlas, but thinking I will get over that when I see the price.

    • Alex, is that a 5.3L? Seems like Tahoe’s had 5.7’s longer than pickups. While my complaint list is long for our 2000 Z 71(no room compared to my 93 ext cab, doesn’t handle well, not as comfy a ride as my 93 4WD one ton, plastic, plastic, plastic….)it’s decently reliable, esp. for the life it’s led. I’m still trying to find a replacement body for my 93 though. That diesel got 4 mpg better mileage in that big, heavy pickup than the Z. I miss sticking it into OD and no matter the speed the speedo never moved regardless of the terrain. I miss shifting from 2nd into OD too.

      I’ll fix the 93. My wife and I still miss the seats, all the legroom and storage we now don’t have. I put new door gaskets and hinge pin bushings on and it was tight enough to demand nearly slamming it. My wife drove me crazy not shutting the door the first time.

      • yes it is the, 5.3, a slow turning V8 – <2000 rpm at 80 MPH.
        The only real thing that has failed on it is the Autoride which I never liked anyway, it was always too soft, now it is just like having normal shocks.

        It has been spectacularly trouble free over a quarter million miles, but i feat sooner or later it will fail, but then a new motor might cost the equivalent of 4 car payments on something new, after that I am in the black again.

        For me these are the cheapest miles imaginable even at 17 mpg.

        • Of course the Z turns slightly under 2000 rpm at 75 but it can use a prodigious amount of gas doing so. I think new plug wires and plugs will probably boost it back to some decent mileage.

          As far as replacing the engine, it seems from what I’ve read, good used engines are plentiful. I drove the a big wrecking yard recently and saw plenty vehicles with that engine rolled, creamed from behind and in the front.

          Truth be told I’d prefer one of the old early 90’s 350’s. Not as powerful but lots of people I knew that had them got 20+mpg in ext. cab pickups(2WD) and I know 3 people who have put over 500,000 miles on one with it still running fine. Not a lot of computer control on 93 and older, and I never saw anyone have a moment’s problem with the old TBI.

          I’m trying to remember when being the fastest to a certain speed was germane to my driving. I did get in a bit of a race in the early 90’s with a friend who had a knew 94 Chevy ext. cab 4WD pickup and the old 454 begin reeling him in at higher speeds but I was paying for it dearly with gas.

          Back to the new engines though, heads are interchangeable across the V8 line for the most part. With aftermarket fuel injection and 6 L heads on 5.3 people are making big power and still able to keep decent mileage.

          • Heh, yeah 8Man, about the worst thing electronically that can go wrong with an early 90’s 350, is the ignition module…..that little $30 thingy inside the distributor held in by 2 tiny screws, and has one electrical connector. Carry a spare in the glove compartment, and you’re near bulletproof.

            • Nunzio, funny you mention that. A couple days ago a friend from S.A. texted me for a Suburban that just quit. He said his daughter’s boyfriend replaced the cap and rotor with no change. I said if he hadn’t removed the coil/module from the top there was a good reason it wouldn’t have fire and since that was almost assuredly(98 model)the problem(they were flipping out about the crank sensor and other non-issues)the problem. He later text me gushing appreciation since that cured it. I had to tell him where it was located which none of them even knew of it. I was surprised he paid $79 for it. I’ve only bought one and that was in the early 80’s and it was $10.

              I always had my distributors recurved for the inevitable cam change I did so I only knew the final price with an aftermarket model that was hotter.

              Yep, you’re right about carrying a spare but I’ve only had one on all the vehicles I’ve own that failed.

              OTOH, back when I ran dual point distributors I had to go through one coil after the other till I found one that was good enough to not cut out at the top end. I considered using two coils but didn’t see how it would help with set of plugs and how the hell you’d ever wire it so only one set was attached to one coil could be a major PITA. I’d just go to the parts house and say I’ll be back in a few minutes if this doesn’t work. I’d come back and change it for another till one finally worked. In the 60’s nobody made hot coils, the reason lots of racers changed to a magneto.

  13. There is a film actually called Planned Obsolescence oor something close to that. I watched it on the net. It references the light bulbs–a fascinating story, straight out of the Fed Reserve’s play book. It also mentions another film, The Everlasting Suit made in 1951, Presumably by the BBC.

    • That’s The Man in the White Suit.
      BTW, Upgraded to a ’94 Ram Cummins from a Ford 7.3. Have a 2015 Golf Sportwagen TDI, manual; but a 2003 Jetta TDI wagon, manual on standby. Done buying vehicles.
      Amazing anyone knows where milk comes from, huh?

  14. My pld van keeps on chugging away, passed the third of a million mile mark last March, about 80 miles east of El Paso. Had to stop and fire up the ol sail fawn ta tayke a putcher of the odo meter. I’ve had the thing since 130K abnd have done essentially nothing to it…. one glow plug, ball joints, brakes both ends, and after two failed reman (Cardone.. junk) vacuum pumps I went to Ford and bought a new one.. we’ll see how far that one goes. OH, a reman power steering pump a couple years ago a starter in March. Put a bearing and seal kit into the turbo last summer, too. Bought a spare alternator to carry “just in case” some five years ago, its still sitting under the back seat. I’ve worked that thing hard, towing 16000 lbs trailers on some distances…… somehow I just don’t think a 2015 van would provide anywhere near the same service…and the way I work mine, certainly not the same fuel economy. ABS system quit working maybe three years back, and I was glad….. I hate those things.

    I’m actually thinking of starting the search for another one just like this… to park in the yard against the day something happens to this one.

  15. I’ve been driving my 1992 Ford Crown Vic for 23 trouble-free years. It still gets over 20 mpg on the highway. I doubt many 2017 cars will still be on the road in 2042.

  16. I picked up my third 1998-1999 Subaru Impreza at X-mas. Not on the road yet, but I’m replacing ALL wear items to roll the maint. cycle to zero. As I live in Maine now, I’ll be re-undercoating and chip guarding all the surfaces subjected to the sandblasting and chemicals from winter roads. These things take time, and well worth the effort. I plan to find another to do the same sometime soon.

    My first one (given away to a friend in need) has better than 300,000; the one I’m driving has 265,000.

    Nice article, Eric. By the way, you live in a beautiful area of VA. I travelled thru your (general) neighborhood often, from Garrett County, MD.

  17. Good luck with getting a regular radio gig………. I have a friend in the radio biz, she has been working in it for 20+ years now, and still struggles to keep full time employment and be paid a reasonable amount.

    The problem for on-air talent these days, management doesn’t want individuals to become well known and liked by an audience. Because they would have to pay them a-lot more, even people only known in one market. They got tired of paying a mere DJ a million bucks a year, just because an audience likes them and demands them.

    So they aren’t allowed to show their personality anymore. Ever notice how few people on the radio you even know their names anymore? So those people you hear on the radio, that you never heard of before, may not be making much more then someone at the burger flipping place.

    So she sounds no different from any other person in radio under age 50 or so. She cannot show her awesome personality, she would be a big hit, very likely. Another reason why radio sounds so generic too. Had she been a baby boomer instead of a gen X er, she would likely be nationally known and take home seven figures.

    But nope, instead she is known as the traffic chick (she still has managed to become somewhat known, her voice is far from generic) something she isn’t crazy about. It’s doubly bad, because she never wanted to be a news reporter, so she is blocking someone who would like to be a radio reporter from having a job.

    This economy is run by bean counters. And it sucks………

    • Radio died a long time ago….but I guess they figured that it wasn’t quite dead enough. Serioudly, who listens to that crap? Especially in these days of MP3’s when you can listen to whatever you want. Who needs endless idiotic noisy commercials screaming at you, and fast-talking Djs yammering on and on about a contest to win a free T-shirt or pizza? (How pathetic are the people who still listen?!).

      We are living in a time of absurdity. It’s becoming common-place for executives to make idiotic decisions which not only fail to attract new customers, but which drive away existing ones- from radio stations making it so that they have NOTHING unique to offer, to car manufacturers making $70K pick-up trucks which require engine removal to fix and oil pan leak, or cab removal to change a turbo charger, and which indebt the purchaser for a major portion of their life!

      It’s as if people- even white-collar people, are on a massive LSD trip or something.

  18. eric, the elephant in the room: You’d have had your own car/bike show but you give your honest opinion. Hell, even Tom McCahill got a lot of flak for telling it like it is. His reviews never jived with “Motor Trend” the obvious “hands out journalism” for cars.

    For a long while C&D had a better rep of truth telling. I remember when nobody could ignore their gushing when they tested a Sedan de Ville not over 30′ long with the new North Star. Nobody was arguing the NS was a nice piece….brand new. But the car they had on the cover showed GM had no QC at the end of the line. The rub strips varied so wildly in placement down the side it looked like a monkey with diarrhea and a promise of a bottle of Lomotil when he was done installing it was on the line that day.

    I recall getting that issue. I looked at the cover in front of the post office and went off the deep end. The readership did so too and there were a plethora of letters to the editor that the editor acknowledge by continuing more of them in the next issue.

    The best thing about our SS El Camino, no friggin chrome or strips of any sort down the side save for on the bed and the vinyl graphics that evidently came in a single roll. Probably it could have been screwed up but it was made by Mexicans and no way would they turn out that sort of crap. They should have moved all their vehicle construction to Mexico.

  19. “So you have it towed the shop, expecting to get the tranny (not Caityln) rebuilt.”

    Every once in a while, in the midst of your dark (and accurate) messages of vehicular gloom, you throw in a zinger that totally CRACKS ME UP!

  20. This is why my 2012 Subaru Outback with its 5 speed automatic and 3.6 non-turbocharged pancake six will have to be pried from my cold and dead hands.

    • Bryce, details on why? I am interested. I want to buy something relatively simple and easy/reasonable to keep repaired. For a decade. Like , example, (6 or ten) year old Camry or corolla or ?
      For my sons. I have five kids and I’ve taught them to not go BROKE on these new cars. I already SCORED on a 05 4Runner a little old lady only drove to church (60k). Super cheap, smelled like 10 years of cig. Ashes. Daughter a 14 Toyota Avalon v6. 32k. Paid half price Allstate auction, fairly bad hail damage, but no broken glass. $10k ish. Drives awesummm. Dad has one of the last 5.9 liter 2500 Cummings diesels made by Dodge before Uncle’ s diesel fatwas. 2007.

  21. And this goes right here:

    Only 20% of Americans will own a car in 15 years, new study finds

    Interesting to note, when searching this, an article with almost the exact same title, from the same publication, from 2015, claims it will take 25 years. The technocratic authoritarians are on the march.

    Welcome to the Rent to Own future, where payments never end, where polyglot citizens of the world consume their way to well structured and government approved happiness on an endless rat wheel of mindless work or Universal Basic Income welfare, all under the watchful gaze of the global surveillance grid, keeping an eye out for your safety and compliance.

  22. This is something I haven’t heard discussed when dealing with self-driving cars, and any forum I raise issues about this is poo-poo’d or ignored.

    I’ve got a 5 year old LR4. Parking sensors are shot and the parking brake will jam if you use it; the parking brake fix is nearly $1000 in parts alone, and the last time the sensors failed I was told $1200 to fix. These features would seem to be integral to self-driving cars.

    What happens when a self driving car hits 10 years? It’s not like now, where I can run the car without a parking brake and without parking sensors and not have to fear for my life. And even most “life threatening” failures (e.g. loss of brake pressure) can be dealt with by a human, worst case by running off the road. But a car with no steering wheel and bad automatic brakes and bad sensors? To me, that’s a death trap worse than any death trap I’ve ridden in.

    I’m guessing the “solution” to maintaining these complicated cars is to make it illegal to fix your own car. Maintenance will soon be come aircraft-expensive.

    • I am guessing, with the self driving cars, when something is too “worn” or has hit a certain point in mileage, if the car isn’t serviced, it will simply refuse to operate. Like when an owner of a diesel vehicle doesn’t refill the DEF fluid it refuses to move until its refilled. The government won’t care how annoying, inconvenient, or in some serious cases dangerous (read about the story of the ambulance that wouldn’t start because of the DEF fluid) it is.

  23. Cars made since about 2015 are so complex that they make “electric” cars almost reasonable by comparison. That’s whtere the push is going to go until they make our way of life obsolete. Nice way to start the weekend. Until we can put Eric on the air every week with our own car show, I guess I will tune into the Car Pro for new car buying advice (sarcasm intended).

    • Thanks, Swamp!

      I’m becoming a regular on Bill Meyers’ show. Would be open to a regular gig… provided, of course, I wasn’t expected to work for freeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

      • I know what you mean. I also listen to Bill Meyers when you are on. It’s a nice recap of of the industry.

        I don’t drive a car under a decade old. I bought my girlfriend a 2005 Acura MDX, I own a 2007 Ford Mustang GT Convertible and a 2003 Lexus ES300. While they are not “simple” cars, they are way less complex and multiplexed than anything made after say, 2010. I also hate got damned cars without an ignition key. That has to be one of the stupidest damned ideas around.


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