Reader Question: Avoiding Uncle-ized New Cars?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Jim asks: Quick question combining cars with politics. I probably will be in the market for a car in a couple of years, and I want to avoid a lot of the crap on most modern cars. I don’t want or need backup cameras, 1,500 airbags, etc. And I damn sure don’t want the car fighting with me to drive it, so I don’t want ASS, automatic braking or steering assist. For the sake of convenience, have you ever done an article outlining when this stuff started showing up in cars? That could make it easier when I go to shop for one. Thanks!

My reply: This question has been coming up often lately. Which I take as good news – because it indicates more and people have had it up their eyebrows with Uncle-ized cars!

The answer is essentially a spectrum. To avoid all of the things you list, you’d need to go back to the early ’90s. Air bags became standard in cars beginning in the mid-late ’90s (not all at once; some had electric seatbelts; you may remember these).

But by 2000 air bags were unavoidable. By 2010 it was becoming hard to find any new car with just four. Today, most cars have at least six and many eight or more. You’d need to go back to around 2010 and earlier to find cars with four or fewer.

But, some good news. Unless you want a luxury car, you can avoid almost all of the driver-pre-emption equipment (aka, “assist” such as Lane Keep Assist, Brake Assist and so on) if you go back to about 2012 and before. However, many luxury cars of that period will have some or all of these things.

ASS also began showing up recently. Go back about five years and most cars won’t have it. Same goes for direct injection, too – but check. Some models do have it. But 2010 and older – you’re generally safe.

I am hoping to end-run all of it with the purchase of late ’70s Detroit Dreadnaught – ideally an Olds 98 or Caddy deVille!

. . .

Got a question about cars, Libertarian politics – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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  1. I’m a big fan of Subaru’s, but their “nanny-tech” is just too much. Now, they have ASS too. I like the AWD station wagon platform, and think I can still get it in a bare-bones VW Golf station wagon 4 motion. Thankfully, VW still has models with bare-bones trim.

  2. It really hit me how they’d made everyone buy new cars when a friend his a deer, tiny deer, in his 07 Tahoe. It looked like a million dollars on the outside but the interior was TRASHED when the 6 or 8 airbag/curtains blew. The Tahoe had no exterior damage, maybe a slight ding in the bumper. It’s toast now, a donor for another Tahoe. It’s just amazing how the interior is destroyed.

    Another reason I have no intention of driving that 98 Chevy pickup. It does have a Ranch Hand front on it but that’s no guarantee.

    The construction company I worked for had a roustabout crew truck with a 3 foot deep front bumper with chain vises for making up joints on various stuff. It was nothing but trouble from day one. It ate parts, mostly small parts but very expensive ones and multiples since one part makes another work or not. It was old enough but still worth enough to be worth it to total so when a guy in a Ford pickup ran right out in front of it, the jig should have been over because the Ford was destroyed but the Dodge wasn’t hurt very little and the damned air bags failed to deploy. Nobody in the Dodge was hurt so it would have been the perfect time for it to be totaled but no such luck. Everybody was cussing about it.

    Fast forward to last year when 3 guys I know bought new Powerstrokes. One was going to put a work bed on his since he always does so to whatever he uses. But he finds out another guy did put a work bed on his. The original had a couple monitors and cameras on the factory bed which he installed on the work bed. After that it wouldn’t run. He queried Ford and no one knew what to do.
    He searched high and low for an answer, nada. So the other two guys are just using theirs ‘as is’. Still waiting for an answer from the first guy.

  3. Eric,

    I think that modern cars which were redesigned on or before the early 2010s would be safe also. These are cars that, though they may be a new 2019 ‘X’, they were redesigned 2012 or earlier. Exhibit A would be the new 2019 VW Beetle you reviewed earlier this summer. Exhibit B would be the new Dodge Charger you tested recently; IIRC, it was last redesigned in 2011. Exhibit C would be the third gen Ford Focus, which had its last redesign for the 2012 model year, but only went out of production this year. These cars are new, but not TOO NEW! None of these cars have all the nanny tech that newer cars so. SO! Your reader could look for, say, a 2018 new VW Beetle, but it won’t have the ASS or other nanny tech since it was redesigned in 2011. The more recently a car underwent a major redesign, the more likely it is to have the nanny tech.


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