How do you avoid the expense – and intrusiveness – of a new car? The answer is simple: By not buying one! Of course, that begs the question about what other kind of car you ought to get.
And keep – if you already have one.
Makes and models matter less these days than years – in that pretty much all makes and models built since the early 2000s are (in general) more durable and reliable than the best-made cars were prior to then. Consider the fact that the age of the average daily-driven vehicle is now almost 13 years old. Thirty years ago, a thirteen-year-old car was considered an old car approaching the end of its useful life and was typically driven by a teenager as a hand-me-down or a first car by someone who couldn’t afford a new car just yet.
Today, lots of people can’t afford a new car – or don’t want one. That is part of the reason why so many people are driving “old” cars.
But which old cars are the right cars – if you want to avoid a car with all the things that have made so many people not want them, such as “advanced driver assistance technologies” and the attendant creepy “connectedness” that could lead to being disconnected by the government-corporate octopus, when the latter decides your “carbon footprint” is too big – or as punishment for not “masking up”?
Most of the worst that has come to define new cars dates back only about a decade or so. It was around 2013 that high-end luxury cars began to boast “connectedness” and things like “advanced driver assistance technologies” such as Lane Keep Assist, Automatic Emergency Braking and similar. Also smartphone-emulating LCD touchscreens rather than the horribly old-fashioned buttons, knobs and switches that don’t require you taking your eyes off the road to operate them. LCD touchscreens and all the rest of the foregoing are now unavoidable even in “entry level” cars (there is no longer such a thing as an economy car).
Also such annoyances as ASS – automated stop-start “technology” that automatically shuts off the engine at every red light and back-up cameras that automatically come on when you put the car in Reverse – and automatically turn down (or turn off) whatever you were listening to on the radio – for “safety.”
And overtaxed, under-sized engines with turbos bolted to them to make up for the power they would otherwise lack. At the cost of the repairs you’ll inevitably be paying for.
But if you go back about a decade – and avoid high-end luxury car brands – you can avoid most if not all of it. Go back another five years, to circa the early-to-mid-2000s and you’ll find cars that are still just cars (and trucks) rather than very heavy smartphones with all the personality of the same.
Many will have a V6; some will have V8s.
These “old” cars – and trucks – are also (and incongruously) likely to be more durable and long-haul reliable than new cars and trucks, because their engines are V6s and V8s. And because they aren’t turbocharged, direct-injected and under-sized for the application (as almost all new cars and truck engines are). Also because the only computer they have is the one that control the fuel-injection and ignition system. The air conditioning controls and accessory controls are usually or at least commonly controlled via simple electric switches and even mechanical connections that operate independently of the hive mind.
It is also much easier to find an old vehicle with a manual transmission, an entirely mechanical device with no electronic controls to fail or “throw” inscrutable “codes.”
These almost always last much longer than electronically controlled automatics and – unlike modern electronically controlled automatics – are rebuildable at a cost that makes the job worth doing. As opposed to the cost of replacing a modern electronically controlled automatic transmission, which is often not worth replacing because the cost of the new transmission amounts to a third-to-half the value of the vehicle.
And that gets us to what may be the chief virtue of these older cars (and trucks). Which is that they are repairable.
And worth repairing.
I’ll use my own old truck – a 2002 Nissan Frontier – as a case-in-point. It has a simple four cylinder engine that is not direct-injected or turbocharged. It is not very powerful or especially fuel-efficient but it is not much different in its basic layout than much older engines in that it does not have elaborate “technology” governing it; just a computer to operate the fuel injection system and ignition. Otherwise, it’s a mechanical device – including the throttle, which is controlled by a cable. An engine such as this one can run reliably for 250,000 miles or more and can be rebuilt at a cost that makes it worth doing that. The manual transmission has a clutch that will last for 150,000 miles or more if you don’t ride it – and it can be replaced for a couple hundred bucks, by you (if you can do basic mechanical work such as a brake job; the two jobs being similar).
And that’s pretty much all there is to it.
The truck has leaf springs and a solid axle rear suspension; they will last 30-plus years. Up front, coil springs (not McPherson struts) and shocks and your basic tie-rods and related linkages – all simple and durable parts.
The rest is just metal and plastic. These rust and crack, of course. But they can also be fixed as needed and for a lot less than a new car payment – for a car (or truck) that is “connected” and that can be disconnected and that probably won’t run reliably for half as long as the average “old” car (or truck) that’s still in use already has.
. . .
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