A Pat on the Hood . . . And a Warning

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I had to go outside and give my ’02 Nissan pick-up an affection pat on the hood. It has reached the point of being more-than-free transportation. This is a point that almost any car made around that same time – the mid-late ‘90s through the early-mid 2000s – can also reach.

It is also a point that no electric car will ever reach. Which is why I thought it would be worth some keyboard time to explain what we have – and are on the verge of losing.

It took about 80 years – one long human lifetime – to perfect the automobile. To make cars so easy to operate that almost anyone could drive one. To make them so affordable that almost anyone could afford to own one. To build them so well that they routinely last for generations.

To all-but-eliminate their harmful (as opposed to political) byproducts, too.

All of this was achieved 30 years ago  . . . back in the  early ’90s.

Which is why my Silverbell – my ’02 Frontier – has more than paid for itself already.

Brand new, it stickered for $12,799 – equivalent to just shy of $18k in today’s Weimarian-inflated currency. This is convenient for math purposes as it works out to an amortized/inflation-adjusted cost of $1,000 annually for the truck – not counting the cost of government, in the form of the multiple mulctings all vehicle owners (including EV owners) are subjected to – such as annual “registration” frees, title taxes, property taxes, insurance-at-gunpoint and so on.   

But my truck is still worth about $4,000 – a sum equivalent to about 25 percent of its original value. This by itself is remarkable, in part because it isn’t unusual – for an apotheosis-era vehicle. They retain a significant percentage of their original value because they remain reliable/viable transportation even after 15-20 years of driving.

And Silver’s worth much more than that, actually – when you take into account that for as long as I have owned it – by which I mean, haven’t had to make payments on it – I haven’t had to spend a cent on what economist call opportunity costs. By which is meant money not available to spend on opportunities that arise (or necessities that crop up) because it’s already been spent on something else.

The longer I keep my truck, the more it pays me to drive it. Each month that passes without an expense is money I have on hand for other expenses.

Or just have – and therefore can accumulate.

Equity – vs. debt.

And because my truck was made at the apotheosis of vehicle design, that sweet spot between the mid-late 1990s and the early-mid 2000s (the older stuff is still finicky; the newer stuff is more finicky) it will likely continue paying me to drive it for at least another five years before it begins to cost me anything to drive it, excepting, of course, gas and Uncle’s mulctings.

My truck is not exceptional, either. It is typical. It is not accidental that the average age of cars in service right now – about 12 years – is more than twice what it was before we reached the apotheosis of car design  . . . back in the ‘90s.

EVs will be a regression to pre-apotheosis times. A deliberate, engineered regression. This being necessary to deal with the problem of the of the perfected automobile – which is too damned good for its own good. A car that doesn’t cost much that will run reliably for long enough to more than amortize its cost – in other words,  car that will save its owner money –  is a problem.

The manufactured hysteria over the “climate crisis” is really a front for the crisis of too-affordable, too reliable and too-long-lived cars that appeared in the ’90s. Thee have been costing the car industry, banks and insurance mafia money by making it very easy for most people to drive the same car for 15-20 years without spending more than occasionally – and usually, out of pocket – on things like tires, brakes and so on.

The EV will solve this problem.

The higher buy-in cost is obvious.

What most people are oblivious to is the higher recurrent costs.  Electric cars will not last a generation. Most will last about as long as cars used to last, pre-apotheosis, before they reach the EV equivalent of worn rings and a slipping transmission  . . . a wilting battery pack.

About 8-10 years. Less, ideally.

This will restore the balance of things – as far as the car companies, banks and insurance companies are concerned – by making it very difficult or most people to continue driving the same car for more than about ten years. Or at least, make it very difficult for them to continue driving it without making payments – including interest payments – on it.

Most people, after all, do not have the $5,000-plus on hand it costs to replace an EV’s battery pack. Or even $2,000. They will therefore be maneuvered into financing a new battery pack. Or a new EV.

Either way, they will be paying – more and sooner.

This being the opposite of owning. For the sake of their controlling.

Which is what this EV bidness is really all about.

. . .

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  1. Here’s a different perspective. This online article surprised me because of the bad press about Tesla’s quality problems and risk of catching on fire: https://cleantechnica.com/2019/11/23/500000-miles-in-a-tesla-whats-the-result/ (copy and paste in your browser)

    According to that piece, in one fleet’s use Teslas are reaching over 300,000 miles with minimal issues, and the fleet owner thinks 500,000 miles would be easy to reach. The cost of battery replacement has not been the issue you would expect. Over the miles the range of the cars does go down a bit.

    Now here’s an interesting thought. If these claims are true, some powers that be aren’t going to like that. Remember, certain government types are trying to get us out of cars in favor of mass transit. Eric has reported about this plenty of times. If people instead can simply keep driving and using EVs for hundreds of thousands of miles, while replacing only consumables such as tires, that might lead to legislation to force people out of cars to address this “problem”.

    I’m not in favor of EVs replacing fueled vehicles, but if those EVs turn out to be reliable and durable with minimal repair costs, hmm… This means EVs might prove to be as durable as these older vehicles Eric is discussing. Might be a way of sticking it to the nannies, a silver lining of sorts.

    • Oh the old taxi cab argument. This has been used for all sorts of cars. Racking up miles really fast. It’s just as valid for battery EVs as anything else, it’s not. Especially in southern California.

      Six batteries out of 11 replaced under warranty supposedly for factory installation issues. Hmm…. Range dropping. The former police cruiser turned taxi cab crown vic didn’t lose range. In the Chicago area there are still a few crown vics serving as taxis and cop cars and town cars in limo service. They haven’t been made for 8 years.

      As to the ruling class looking to get people out of private passenger automobiles, they aim to do it through taxation and purchase cost. Currently battery EVs are selling with subsidy and low margin because government is forcing them. When government forces out alternatives expect the price to go up at least 50% maybe even 100%. Automakers will want to restore margins back to normal levels and once cheaper alternatives are legislated off the market expect these things to get very expensive. They are expensive now at low to negative margin. Just think what they would be if car makers had to make enough profit on them to keep the lights on, employees paid, executive bonuses, pay warranty costs, and so on?

      • Yep, taxi service in Ca. is hardly comparable to 80 mph in Texas heat(and winter) or a NY winter in the sticks. Hauling ass across Death Valley might be prescient of your future……Death Valley.

  2. This is a great article about “golden era” vehicles. They were just sophisticated enough to be extremely reliable and useful, but not so over-engineered as to be fragile, overly complex and expensive.

    I have a family member who just bought a 2019 RAV4. After only a few weeks of owning the car, he was sideswiped by someone turning *right* from the left lane with their left blinker on. The woman who sideswiped him couldn’t explain why she made a turn like that. Like she blacked out and “woke up” turning into his RAV4.

    Anyway, the point of the story is that there was only minor cosmetic damage to the RAV4, but once he shut it off to talk to the police, it wouldn’t start again. It was effectively bricked…the dash throwing up a Christmas tree of warning lights about parking brakes and “collision detected” etc… So instead of simply limping it home to his Toyota dealer, he had to have it towed 50 miles and will be without a car for 2-3 weeks.

    So there’s a perfect illustration for you: modern cars are so fragile that they will “brick” themselves at the slightest trouble in the name of “SAAAAAAAFFFEEEEETTTYTYYYYYY!!!!” Something a 2003 car would never do.

    • Yeah my fiancé/wife rolled her VW bug 2.5 times down a steep bank. We tipped it back on its wheels, changed a flat tire, added some oil, and I crawled through a window and drove it home. It smoked a bit at first.

      Later I pried open and removed the doors and we drove it without any glass as a dune buggy the rest of that summer. The engine and chassis eventually went under another bug shell that had rusted out underneath.

      Our friends loaned out their big ~1981 Olds to an employee and she rolled it into the river. They got that out too and patched it up and drove it for a while. The told everyone that they had a “Rolls” – ha ha!

  3. Last week my work F150’s water pump decided to consume itself on the way home. I was close enough to the dealer (company owned, so they say where it gets maintained) and it was cold enough that I decided to get it to the shop instead of calling for a tow. A few days and $500 later it’s running like nothing happened. I was really worried that I might have cooked it, but apparently the 2011 V8 is a pretty tough engine. Did I mention it has 320400 miles on the odometer? Of course, lower back support isn’t what it used to be, and I might have to break out the fabreeze again. Shouldn’t eat Mexican food for lunch, since that’s probably the cause of both issues…

    Saw an article that mentioned car loan delinquency numbers since the first quarter of 2015 are up 52% during the time period and delinquencies 90 days overdue, hit an all-time high at $62 billion. Deals are to be had all over the place too, with the average “incentive” at $4500 and you can probably use that as the starting point for haggling.

  4. I think of things as market value vs utility value. Looking at it this way, the market value (right now) of an old, but reliable, car is very low, but its value in utility is very high. Think of it this way: Say your old reliable clunker gets totaled. A functional replacement value is about 5x whatever $$ you’d get in settlement. The consumer market for cars doesn’t take this into account. However, if the consumer market was more of a “gear-head” market and considered utility, then acquisition costs of these vehicles would escalate. I think in the future, the prices for these cars (mid 90’s to late 2000’s genre) is going to go up significantly. Should almost buy one now to have a hot spare, when I finally stop fixing my current clunker.

    • Great point. The only thing you are replacing when your car dies or wrecks is mobility and space in utility. Is the ability to move from one point to another reliably worth 4 years and $30k? We are seeing everyday that that is not the case anymore as people keep and fix their cars. If Eric’s old Fronty wrecks, I bet he would look for a similar one with good care, not go out and buy a new one with shinier paint.

      • The concern is that it is a ticking time bomb of repairs. It’s not, but as it gets harder and harder to repair a car yourself they become disposable and “unreliable” even if they aren’t. I think most people would be better served with a lease but they structure them so that you’re pretty much going over the milage allowance no matter what so you get screwed on the back end.

        I bought a house with a two car garage even though I have no plans on ever owning more than one vehicle. The reason is because I want to do a lot of the routine stuff myself. But realistically, working on a transverse engine even for basics like belts and plugs is a royal PITA and requires a pretty complete socket set. Running it to the dealer/shop for maintenance takes time and these days of N-1 staffing means a long wait too. Living in a modern s***box house on a 1/8th acre plot and a one car garage means there’s no way to DYI even if you wanted to.

        • RK, the very reason I don’t want anything beyond 93. I can work on every part of it. The neighbor has an almost 3 year old Chevy 2500 crewcab 4WD and it’s been in the shop 3 or 4 times recently for the transmission. Then it was there again for a brake rotor and new caliper. One day out of the shop it was running metal to metal on the new pads. I didn’t even have to see it to know what was going on. Quality brake pads have a spring on each one, cheap ones have a spring for only the one that goes on the inside. Some idiot had installed the one without a spring on the inside so (1), the tech’s are idiots and (2), the dealer was buying some cheapo pads instead of using GM. I told this to my neighbor before he ever tore into it to fix it.

          This just goes to show what you get at the stealership. Who needs a warranty when they can’t do the work properly. A good dealer will often just replace the transmission since the Allison 1000’s are pretty complicated(they all are these days).

          I get this commercial from Ford on my phone constantly. It says “The new Ford F 150, a highly complex piece of machinery”. Boy, just what we need, complicated. They could have used another adjective such as “sophisticated”. They need a “truck guy” to do their PR.

  5. Hi Eric,

    There’s no avoiding opportunity costs, because EVERY decision has them. You buy Silver for cash way back when, the cash you spend means the other things you could have bought with it then you no longer could.

    You made a great decision, but it still entailed making a choice between competing alternative uses of a scarce resource.

  6. Absolutely, they’re not making money on guys like us that are still driving these pinnacle vehicles. I have been driving the same car that I bought used in 2003 for $3000. It’s been very reliable. I’ve saved a ton of money since it’s very cheap to insure and register, and is fuel efficient. I’m at 470,000 miles and at this point I’m going to see it through to half a million. Then I’ll let em make some money off me.

  7. Spot on Eric,,, been telling people for years my paid off vehicles pay me to drive them. With the average payment of $450 it’s like $900 in the bank every month. As I am not required to put collision I save another $1500 per year. Maintaining is easy. I use the best oil (Amsoil in my opinion). Send oil samples, and usually run the oil for 3 years. Change the filter every year or so. I recently had to repair the A/C in my 98 Regal. Cost $1000. That’s paid for in two months.
    Problem is most people today have this need to impress others who probably really care less. Many I know are leasing. I ask they why,,, they answer, “because I’m always going to have a payment,,, might as well get it as low as possible.” In other words they have no intention of ever being out of debt. What a sad thing.

    • 3 years on an oil change? I think you misread the sticker on the windshield – it says 3 months. 🙂 Seriously though that’s excellent. I’m too lazy to do the analysis, so just do it every 10,000 like my owners manual says.

  8. How long though, before the green fascists in power in states like Commiefornia and NY, etc, pull out the legislative pen and declare all combustion vehicles owned by us peasants (clauses for the rich folk of course for their exotics that never get driven anyway) illegal? Worse yet, if you want said vehicle you have to not only pay exorbitant fees to operate that dirrrrrrty combustion engined car/truck, you will be subjected to random AGW pulling you over for “carbon emission testing?”

    • Have Rick-138 take you to that alternate universe where Cali(porn)ia and other bastions of libtard idiocy never got their fools heads up their collective asses, Morty.

  9. You are right about that. I have a 2000 Chevy C3500 and it has 258,000 + miles on it and it still is going strong. No rust and it is paid for with parts if needed because of the older classic design I won’t run out of parts for a long time. With it’s 5.7 liter engine I can get parts for it for a long time as it will interchange with older 350 cid engine. I think I bought a winner. I know my credit union or GMC is not making money off of me… I am looking at buying a 383 crate engine soon so I can still tow my travel trailer and will last the rest of my life at 61, I am looking at less time. My only regret is trading in my mid 80’s Ford F150 with it’s 300 six and a manual tranny with only AC as it’s only factory option.

    • Cederq, you done good. That was the last year for the old style and old driveline. Those are great vehicles. I consider my 93 Turbo Diesel the ultimate of the 90’s GM trucks with no computer and heavy duty as it can be plus being a nice driver. I don’t want a 94 simply because of the computer control on the diesel nor the 95 because of airbags. I’ve considered using air ride seats for a 379 Peterbilt since the sellers always scream “we don’t have a seat for that purpose but the seats set flat in it, just like the Pete so it should be a no brainer. I’ve had it pointed out to me my truck has no compressor. Sure glad somebody could straighten me out on that.

      Here in farming and ranching country it’s common for people to get a engine driven compressor that only takes the change of a belt and a tank mounted wherever you like. It’s that emergency compressor you always have. My nephew bought a engine powered generator for his Duramax and it’s a rolling welding machine although nothing shows. Once again, it only required bolting it and using a different different belt. He makes a lot of money with it even though there’s nothing on it to indicate he’s a welder.

      • Eight, now I do have a computer in it, but no air bags, 1 ton fleet vehicle which I bought off the lot new did not require airbags, 2001 did. Now my 350cid is the old style engine and I can run a older points distributor if I had to, bypassing the computer. I live in South Dakota and even with a gas engine I run two batteries in parallel, cuz I had the other battery tray on the drivers side. I just changed them out this summer after the last two set lasted 11 years in SD winters. I don’t buy cheap batteries. The average life expectancy here of single batteries are 48 months. I think I got my money out of them.

        • Cederq, I had no idea a fleet vehicle was exempt from air bags. I used to buy Optima AGM batteries but since they’ve gone cheap, made in Mexico I’ll probably buy something like the Enersys. I’m sold on AGM since they produce no corrosion. 5 years down the road and you need to remove the cables for something, they’re still like new shiny.

          I always used a combo start/deep cycle on the boat with a couple more deep cycles for the trolling motor, bilge pumps and live well pumps. I think I’ll move to two of those for starting a diesel. I have an inverter I move from truck to truck so they get some deep draws at times. Nothing like getting back to the bank and using your electric fillet knife to make short work of cleaning fish.

          11 years is unheard of performance. I’d stick with that brand.

          • Eight, I buy AC-Delco Commercial grade group 24s. A lot of that longevity is good battery maintenance every spring and fall and if I a whisper of a hint of corrosion the terminals get removed and brushed and liberal use of battery cleaner gets used and then spray protection gets reapplied. The same goes for the other maintenance issues on my truck. I plan on keeping ‘Ol Bertha for the rest of my life.

              • J.C. Penney used to sell “Forever” batteries. They were expensive but not so expensive they weren’t worth it. I had one quit about 4.5 years into the “forever” plan. Jacque no longer had an automotive dept but they refunded my purchase price. I took the money and bought the best AC/Delco battery that would fit. It lasted a long time plus I had money in my pocket since it didn’t cost as much as the “Forever” battery.

                Probably not a coincidence Jacque Penne’ is no longer in bidness.


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