How bad are things? Let’s count one of the ways.
My sister owns an early-mid 2000s Honda Element with nearly 200,000 miles. It cost about $20,000 when it was new, all those years ago. I scanned used car listings to see what one of these might cost today, used.
How about $15,995 for an ’08 with just under 75,000 miles?
In case you’re counting, 2008 was 14 (almost 15) years ago. So, this aged Element is worth – is being sold for – only about $5k less than what it listed for when it had zero miles, 14 (almost 15) years ago. But this didn’t surprise me too much given it only has about 75,000 miles on it and so probably has at least another 150,000 miles of life left in it.
This latter being one of the chief reasons why the cars of that era – as opposed to the cars of the current era – are so valuable, notwithstanding how long ago that era was.
In fact, precisely on account of it.
After about 100 years of working at it, cars achieved a degree of near-perfection by the mid-late 1990s and into the early mid-2000s, at least insofar as anything mechanical can come close to achieving that. In spite of myriad moving parts and (in most cases) regular use and (in many cases) even hard use, they kept working. And then they worked some more. Regular maintenance – aside from the most basic things, such as fluid and filter changes – had become as rare an occurrence as a Bigfoot sighting, almost. It became routine for cars – almost any car, irrespective of make/model – to run reliably for hundreds of thousands of miles. And to run like new for most of those miles, irrespective of the years.
I myself have one of these, though it’s not a car. But the fact that it’s a truck – a 2000 Nissan Frontier – doesn’t change the essential point. These things lasted. And they continue to last.
That is how you save money. Not by replacing something that works and needlessly buying something newer that doesn’t run any better but merely costs you more.
We never had it so good – though many people didn’t realize it, at the time. Those who did realize it and held onto what they had – now find that that their 15-even-20-year-old car (or truck) is worth not far from what it was worth when it was new. In part because of how desirable such cars (and trucks) are – and on account of the awakening realization of that fact by those who don’t own one and now wish they did.
There is also the dawning realization of the fact that new cars – and trucks – are less desirable because they aren’t any better.
And – almost certainly – a lot les likely to be still running reliably when they get to be 15-20 years old. Assuming they ever get there. It is not a safe assumption to make, as more and people begin to realize. For many sound reasons to make that assumption, including the built-in Longevity Bomb of partially “electrified” (i.e., hybrid) drivetrains, as for instance in the case of one of the new trucks, Ford’s Maverick.
It is a neat little truck and otherwise appealing, particularly because of its advertised just-under $20k base price (assuming you can find one for that price). But – unlike my truck – this truck has a battery and not just the one that starts the engine. Like the battery that starts the engine, the other battery – the one that powers the motors – will eventually need to be replaced in order for the truck to run. But unlike the battery that starts my ’02 Frontier’s engine, that battery will cost thousands rather than about a hundred.
There is also the Maverick hybrid’s continuously variable (CVT) automatic, a type of transmission that doesn’t shift – in order to save gas. These CVTs vary ranges, using a metal belt/band that expands and contracts – and eventually, inevitably, fatigues for just that reason. And then breaks.
CVTs are becoming ubiquitous in new cars, as are partially-electrified drivetrains as well as fully electrified ones. They are not long-haul rides. And they are layered with “technology” that peremptorily corrects your driving, which isn’t appealing to lots of drivers.
Hence the appeal – and the prices – of those prior-era cars.
They run better, even though much older. Unlike all the new stuff, which stops running at every red light, courtesy of automatic stop-start “technology,” another Longevity Bomb built into new cars. How much less-long will a battery that is tasked with dozens of engine re-starts every time you go for a drive last? How about the starter motor? This latter is being addressed in more and more new cars via belt-driven starters and flywheel starter-generators, paired with 48 volt electric systems and a big (expensive) battery in addition to the usual little (and cheap) one.
It is just possible that one of the reasons all the news cars have such “features” is so as to assure they do not last 15-20 years without costing their owners more than the cost of oil and filters. The car industry may have done too good of a job for its own good. After all, GM can’t make money if it can’t sell you a new car. And if you don’t need a new car but once every 15-20 years rather than the previously usual five or seven . . .
This might explain why the industry has been not merely submissive as regards the plethora of regulations issuing from the federal apparat practically requiring that new cars be designed for the short-haul, but enthusiastically “embraces” (the term favored by apparatchiks) them, even anticipating them.
Back to my sister’s ancient Element, with 200,000 miles on it.
A scan of the classifieds and used vehicle pricing guides gives it a market value of between $5k and $8k. This is even more astounding – if such a thing is possible – than the fact that a 14-nearly-15-year-old example of the same thing with about 75,000 miles on it is going for (and likely to get) almost $16k.
But then, anything from that era is valuable and will probably always be so in a way nothing from this era will ever be – because what was made back then will never be made again.
At least not until we “transition” from this era to another and better one.
. . .
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