By on March 26, 2011

My pants still fit me from college. Well, they are sweatpants after all. They were given to me by a friend of mine who is known as a ‘Datsunaholic’. He keeps a few old cars. A few of those models have been written up by Paul Niedermeyer who now keeps a lot of houses along with his new web site. He invariably finds ‘keeper folk’ from all walks of life. But most of the people he finds are not car enthusiasts at all. Why do they ‘keep’ these cars then?  Are they perhaps hoarders? Do they suffer the afflictions of the wantless? Or is this just another write-up inspired by Kevin Bacon?

No, they are just keepers. They find what they need. A car about ‘yay’ big. In blue. There. Done. They then go on about their lives avoiding the debt and the down payment in a way that gives guys like Dave Ramsey so much sanctimony. In rich times they’re sometimes looked up as hermits and miserable misers. In poor times they lead by example. But most of the time they are just ignored and blend right in. But that nagging question remains. Why do these people not buy cars? Well… the ‘keeper’ of old cars comes in many forms.

The Junkyard Dog - He can tell you the exact locations of every vehicle he uses at the junkyard to keep his ride going.

“The Volvo 740 right next to the 940 SE at Jason’s Junk Emporium  is a white wagon with the removed engine and no seats. What a beaut! I removed all the bulbs off of that one and even the wiring harness which looks to be nearly brand new . The flex disc came straight from Groton and…”

This guy is into his ride like Elliot Spitzer is into hookers.

The Quality Guru: The shocks are from Bilstein. The wheels are AMG’s. The brakes are Brembos. The oil is Amsoil and the oil filter can also be used as a breathing apparatus in the event of a major disaster.

Yes, the car we’re describing may be nothing more than an under-engineered Mercedes from the seventh circle of hell. But hey, it was dealer maintained. and has been given a full regimen of Mother’s every month. Steam cleaned at the local auto spa… usually these folks are either divorced or terminally single.

The Tinker-er-er-er: The inside of his garage is an endless maze of gondola board and special tools that were designed only for one car and one purpose. That is to enable this owner to install anything he wants whenever he wants.

This guy has a custom lift, four jacks, a pair of aces, three welders, and several bookshelves loaded with manuals. When you want something done cheap and right, he’ll be able to help you…. once he completes his projects. In a few months or so… if you’re lucky…

The Tightwad Husband: This is the guy who spends an evening or two a month performing spreadsheets and budgets. He inevitably breaks down the cost of nearly every automotive expenditure to it’s finest elements.

“Motor oil you say? Why, take the $10 Quaker State online rebate and find the nearest Autozone that’s doing $1.99 / quart closeout for synthetic. Then…”

Oh damnit! My wife wrote this while I was replacing a compact florescent upstairs. I’ll keep it Susan. Thanks!

The Broke: The tires may be more bald than a baby Mr. Clean and all the leaking oils make the car smell like Seacaucus. But hey, it runs.

Often times these cars will have half empty bottles of fluid wedged under the bonnet for easy access. There is almost always a paper cone next to the coolant resevoir, and what’s that wire hanger there? Oh, that’s to help keep the duct tape in place so that the front of the car… still attaches to the rest of the car.

The Bum: He hasn’t done a damn thing since 1987. When the parents, brothers, and relatives are nearly done with their car but don’t quite want to sell it outright, they give it to ‘him’. Within a year or two the creme puff turns into a pile of refuse destined for China.

The Content’ Folk: They don’t know much about cars. Oil for them should be changed every 3k at most and if the mechanic advises them about a defective Johnson valve, they go “Uh huh!” and write a check.

Thankfully these folks enjoy two unique qualities. They find good independent mechanics and they tend to be easy going with the machinery. Since the car fits them like a good pair of, sweatpants, they go about their lives without thinking about cars. Pity the fools.

Grands: As they say in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, “ I’m not dead yet! “ Of course the double yellow line is a mere suggestion and the nearby shopping cart haulers at the supermarket keep a wide perimeter when ‘they’ come around.

The car is driven about 100 miles a week and it’s all dinged out. Dings from curbs. Dings from doors, walls, and at least a dozen people. Constant ding sounds from keys left in the ignition. Ding sounds from the door left open. In fact, the car has encountered so many dinging over the year that the ‘ding’ noise doesn’t even work anymore. For those honored elderly who still drive Cadillac’s and Lincoln’s, please replace the ‘ding’ noise with the ‘dong’ noise.

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55 Comments on “Hammer Time: The ‘Keeper’ Culture...”


  • avatar

    I think I’ve displayed some degree of each of them over the years; well except the last three. I’ll get to the Grands eventually.

  • avatar
    Ethan Gaines

    “The Quality Guru: The shocks are from Bilstein. The wheels are AMG’s. The brakes are Brembos. The oil is Amsoil and the oil filter can also be used as a breathing apparatus in the event of a major disaster. Yes, the car we’re describing may be nothing more than an under-engineered Mercedes from the seventh circle of hell. But hey, it was dealer maintained. and has been given a full regimen of Mother’s every month. Steam cleaned at the local auto spa… usually these folks are either divorced or terminally single.”

    This describes my neighbor Bob and his ’92 400E so perfectly. He seriously rubs it with a diaper, and doesn’t pay attention to the fact he has had two different transmission leaks and is leaking oil from the head in the year he has owned it. His wife=long gone, grown kids and an empty house. He spends countless thousands of dollars on waxes, polishes, and huge repair bills at the Mercedes dealer.

    • 0 avatar
      BuzzDog

      And I’ve worked with guys like this.
       
      I typically refuse their offers to drive to meetings, or to lunch. Once your body comes into contact with the passenger seat, your clothing is permanently stained with Lexol, or some sort of greasy “hide food.”

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    I’m sort of a Quality-Tinker-er-er-er-Tightwad.  Any part that breaks is replaced by an equal or higher quality and (if possible) performance part, but I also search for value (notice I didn’t say the cheapest one available.)  The exhaust on my truck is (after 8 years) finally getting a little loud from the rusted perforations in it.  My solution?  Performance cat back dual exhaust system.  OEM tires wear out?  I search very carefully for a replacement set that hits the sweet spot of performance characteristics, warranty, price, and ride charachteristics.  It’s just how I am. 

    Am I a keeper sort of guy?  Yeah, I’ve got two vehicles with an engine and a motor titled to me right now.  The question in my mind?  How many years and how many miles can I go without super major repairs like engine rebuilds and trans rebuilds?  And yes I religiously calculate my fuel economy to help let me know if trouble is on the horizon too. 

  • avatar
    Disaster

    Love this article, Steven, though I’m never going to admit which group I fall under.
     
    One other thing.  Gifted sweatpants from college roommates is a bit “French”…or maybe Greek is a better metaphor…not that there is anything wrong with that.  Just sayin’.

    • 0 avatar
      BuzzDog

      One other thing.  Gifted sweatpants from college roommates is a bit “French”…or maybe Greek is a better metaphor…not that there is anything wrong with that.  Just sayin’.
       
      Great comment, except that if were a “French/Greek” thing, it would have more likely been something more fashionable than sweatpants…and most of us on that team wouldn’t admit to wearing something from back in our college days, unless for the sole purpose of showing off that we’re still able to fit into what we wore in college…

    • 0 avatar
      Disaster

      You got me Buzz.  That Oxymoron slipped right by me.  Our “fashionable” roommate, in college, had more sweaters alone than I had cloths altogether.

    • 0 avatar
      Disaster

      Jeesh…that should read “clothes.”  Cloths is probably correct too, but not as funny…or maybe more funny?

  • avatar
    tbp0701

    Hmmmm…. What about, say, an enthusiast who always tended to keep cars, take care of them, and put a lot of miles on them.  But he had to switch to an automatic for a while after breaking a leg, so he found an off-lease Accord Coupe.  But he still has that car, now at 11 years old and nearing 175,000 miles. When things need fixed (rarely), he picks good quality parts and intends to keep the car even after he buys another. He does keep oil and a few tools in the car.
    And say this same guy has been shopping for, oh, a nice-handling, fun car with a manual transmission and, preferably, rear-wheel drive and a naturally-aspirated engine. A car that’s not absurdly priced nor costs a ridiculous amount to insure, and one that won’t require regular visits to mechanics.
    But he hasn’t found that, so he keeps driving the old Accord, even though he has saved enough money to buy anything short of an exotic outright.
    You know, just hypothetically.
     

    • 0 avatar
      cugrad

      For the record, I think your “friend” just described a Honda S2000 (except possibly the insurance part, depends on where you live).

    • 0 avatar
      tbp0701

      There’s definitely an appeal there, but my “friend” lives in a snowbelt region and is built like a linebacker–or, rather, a linebacker that retired a couple years ago–so I’m not sure it would be too comfortable.

    • 0 avatar
      R.Fortier1796

      350Z.  6’1 and 280lbs, and other than the bolster on the left side of the seat pushing my wallet into my butt a bit, I fit fine.  I also have a good friend who is 6’8, 350+, and fits just fine in an E46 M3.  Then again, his DD is a Panamera Turbo and the M3 is his “fast” car. You can pick up excellent specimens of both in the 13.5-20k range. I obviously went with the Z, I wish I had gone with the M. 

  • avatar
    turbobrick

    Oh boy…. So I’m a Tightwad junkyard dog husband who likes to tinker? I loved that Pennzoil Platinum 15$ rebate thing they had going couple of years ago. I ended up using my last drop of it to fill up my lawnmower two weeks ago.

  • avatar
    OldandSlow

    I’ve only had my 71 VW Westfalia for 6 years.  I’ll let you know in 2016, if it is a keeper.
     
    It takes me awhile to decide.

  • avatar
    beach cruiser

    My bride and I are keepers for sure. My pickup truck is 20 years old and my official beach cruiser is 43 years old. The wife’s van is 12 years old and way north of 200,000 miles. When asked why she still drives it, her reply is always “it still runs fine.” This van replaced a legendary 1987 Accord that she pushed to just over 250,000 in a short 14 years.
    However at a recent car show she spied a freshly restored 1969 Z28 and said she would not mind having that as a nice car to drive. 34 years of marriage and you think you know someone.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      beach cruiser:   I like your post. We will celebrate 34 years this year, so we’re keepers as well. Before my wife and I met, we both happened to own 1964 Chevy Impala convertibles. Both yellow, hers had a white top, mine was black. Mine was a SS. A few years ago we actually looked around to get that particular car “back” as it were, but the price was much too high. So we settled on the 2007 Miata we bought last year. We still like to cruise around together and enjoying each and every minute! Rock on!

  • avatar
    Autopassion

    tbt0701 – same here, still looking. I suspect we have lots of company.

  • avatar
    WaftableTorque

    I fall into the Quality Guru category. I’m anal about my car care maintenance and cleaning products. My 9 year old car looks like the day I bought it, inside and out.

    Oddly, the car care products I tend to use are all-on-one’s that clean/polish/protect or works on multiple surfaces.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Well, I really don’t fit any of the above exactly – no way to the last one. I’m sure I was a little of all the others at different times.

    I do have a friend back in Missouri whom I have referenced before. He bought a Jeep J-10 in 1980. He still has it – sort of. When the front cab overhang rusted out, he fiberglas-ed it, so now it’s streamlined. When the bed and box rusted out, he converted it to a flat bed. When the engine gave out, he put in a different one. He still drives it and scares the living daylights out of me, for he still drives like we did in high school, same with his steadily deteriorating 1961 Volvo PV544. I get somewhat rejuvenated every year when I spend a day with him, following him around, tinkering with his personal junkyard of heaps, drinking a little, having fun running little errands searching for a replacement for the latest thing to break or go bad. When it is time to leave, I reflect on my latest odyssey and our 45+ years of friendship and say to myself; “It is for this I have come!”

  • avatar
    jeffzekas

    Not sure which group we fit into: we regularly maintain our vehicles at the local mechanic– a boring ’99 Subaru and a ’96 Ford Bronco– but we have owned an occasional classic: ’64 Chevrolet C-10 and ’68 Ford Galaxie hotrod, both restored in “daily driver” condition… and I’ve owned or driven a few “fun” cars (1966 VW Karmann Ghia convertible and ’65 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint)… so, are we boring old “Content Folks”? Or semi-anal “Tightwad” caretakers? Or oddball occasional collectors? Just a side-note: I’ve come close, several times, to buying a Porsche… but after all the expensive horror stories from my buddies, I decided not to join the “gold chain wearing old guy” 911 brigade.

  • avatar
    alan996

    Keeper of dead brands here.  1995 Town Car 145K; 2004 Pontiac Grand Prix 28K, wife’s 1998 Izuzu Trooper 174K.  All run, Trooper goes through oil like my Grand-kids went through Diapers but wife wont part with it. feels safe surrounded by two tons of steel.
    I guess I now fall into the change the oil and have a good mechanic category with a hint of better quality parts and change them before they wear out section for the Lincoln, it still does not burn any; oil, mileage 20.5 for the life of the car (using the dash computer I don’t log every fill up except in my head) and it took 15 years for the air shocks to quit (and yes I popped for air bags instead of coils)
     
    Too cheap to change

  • avatar

    Steve, I’ve got you beat. I still have the suit I bought in 1980, when I was 26, and it still fits me as well as it did then, although the only part of it I use regularly is the jacket. Still looks great, too! I also have my childhood corgi, dinky, and matchbox cars, most of them anyway. I have a ring I made out of a silver quarter when I was 15. The Tigger my mother bought me when I was 4. The bicycle I bought in 1972 and road across the country in 1975. The cactus I planted from a seed 47 years ago. (It hits the ceiling.) The Olivetti portable manual typewriter I bought in 1982 to take on a reporting trip to Australia (it’s now a decoration in my living room). AND… the 1999 Honda Accord 5speed I bought in November, 2004 when it had 67k. It now has 188k, and still feels great.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      That’s awesome. You are truly a keeper par excellence

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      My late father had you both beat. My father was an old New England farmer, born in 1904. When my youngest sister got married in 1972, my father wore the same suit, tie and shoes he’d worn for his own wedding – in 1928.  He gave up on the shoes four years later when the cobbler told him the leather uppers were too far gone to resole them, and he was buried in the suit and tie in 2001.

  • avatar
    Ubermensch

    I don’t know how some of you cars guys hold onto cars so long.  My past cars drove me away with their unreliability after about 4-5 years of ownership max.  My current ride has been pretty much trouble free and it is very low miles but I want something new because I am bored of it and underwelmed by its performance.  I know it makes no financial sense to upgrade, but life is short and I like cars, so that is my curse(inherited from my father.)  We are also a one car household that only drives 6k a year or so and I feel that I can splurge a little.  I also want to experience European Delivery once in my life and this is the last year to get a new BMW 3 series wagon.  The wife and I were planning a Euro vacation anyway so I have to take my last chance at a decent wagon before they are gone from our shores forever.

    I respect the keeper and I fight with my own inner keeper fiercely whenever I start shopping for a new car.  What it comes down to is that life is short and I just can’t stand to own the same car for 5+ years without getting the itch.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    I   still  have all my  528es, all 6 of  them . I use  them  to   keep  the   the 2 runners  going.

  • avatar
    Ubermensch

    I would be curious as to where some of you live.  It is very difficult to be a ‘keeper’ here in the midwest.  Most cars start to show signs of rot at about 8 years or so.  After 10 years of winters, most cars have a terminal case.  The bodywork on my well waxed, 5 year old car still looks good, but there is a lot of surface rust on the undercarriage.  If you keep a car until it starts to rust, you might as well drive it into the ground because almost no one will touch it on the resale market.

    • 0 avatar
      tbp0701

      I’m in the NE Ohio snowbelt, and the conditions tend to be fairly brutal on cars.  My 2000 Honda has a few small signs of rust, mainly where the paint was dinged, and I’ll likely have to replace the brake and fuel lines before long, but the rest of the undercarriage and car in general are surprisingly solid.

    • 0 avatar
      alan996

      I am the keeper of lost brands…  We live 12 miles South of  the Wisconsin-Illinois.  Been here 14 years, before that in Chicago for almost 40 years.  Two of these cars must be one of the old urban legends:  “built on a Thursday by a crew of old timers who knew what they were doing and were sober”.  I bought the Town Car from the original owner eight years ago with 85,00 on it, he took care of it and the only unusual repair I had to do immediately was replace the fuel ejectors, after that smooth sailing.  Until last year it was used every day all year long, garaged at night, washed at cheap drive thru car wash and do the normal maintenance.
      The Trooper was bought new by my wife, this is the amazing one, for the first eight years she drove 80 miles round trip to work just North of the Chicago loop.  Rain, snow heat, six day week with two days off.  The next three years she drove a sixty mile round trip every week day to babysit two of our Grandchildren.  Terrible mileage and started burning oil at 90,000 but never stopped.  The body looks almost new, washed every ten days or so in the winter, only two coats of wax in 13 years.  I have no idea what grade steel and paint they used on this thing.  For the first time since I was a kid I am seriously considering an engine rebuild or swap, just don’t know what engine would fit this beast.  Oh this was garaged when not being driven.
      The Pontiac is too new to make proper evaluation. We inherited it and it spent its first three years in Dallas, I drive it now when the snow is bad, it sits during the summer when I use the land yacht.
      I am tempted to go ou this morning and take a few pictures and put them up on the family site.
      A Anderson, Grayslake, Illinois

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      http://www.car-part.com/cgi-bin/search.cgi
       
      Plenty of Isuzu engines here…

  • avatar
    mikey

    Yeah….I would be a cross between the tight wad, and the quality Guru. I bought an Impala over the more up to date Malibu. I figured with a Zilllion Impalas on  the road,parts would be cheaper and easier to find.

    I wash, and vacum, sometimes twice a week. The 18″ tires are like new,but I’m pricing and saving for Michelins. If there is salt on the road,the Impala doesn’t leave the garage.

    My objective is to be the 70 year old guy,driving the 14 year old car. Yeah, and all of the younger dudes are saying “check out the 09 LTZ…. Grampa must clean it with a Q tip”

  • avatar
    ajla

    Well, I like older cars, but I don’t think I can be called a “keeper”.

  • avatar
    obbop

    Term for those viewing a conveyance as a “fall-back abode”?

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I go both ways. I’ve had my Triumph Spitfire for more than 15 years now. Can’t imagine parting with the little guy. Historically I have turned over daily drivers fairly quickly, but I have usually bought (well) used. I fully intended to keep my ’08 Saab a good while, but then BMW decided not to sell wagons in the US anymore, so it was get one while I still can… I have every intention of having the 328iT for a LONG time, as what would I replace it with??

    • 0 avatar
      Ubermensch

      I am seriously pondering the same thing even though my current ride is only 5 years old and has very low miles.  I also really want to experience European Delivery and this is my last chance to get a real BMW wagon this way.  I don’t put a lot of miles on my car so that puts some of the realiability issues to the side.  The wife and I were planning a Euro trip anyway so this is just a perfect storm that may end my best ‘keeper’ intentions.

    • 0 avatar
      Ubermensch

      I am pondering the same thing.  I am considering a Euro Delivery BMW 328i Wagon while I can still get one.  There is nothing wrong with my current ride other than some normal wear and the fact that it is slow as molasses.  I think I will seriously regret not experiencing a ED BMW in a body style that will disappear from these shores after this year.  I don’t put a lot of miles on our car so reliability is not a huge concern.  The wife and I were planning a trip to Germany anyways so this is just a perfect storm of opportunity.

      Has anyone else given up the ‘keeper’ mantra to take advantage of a once in a lifetime opportunity?

  • avatar
    tparkit

    I represent the tribe of the ”Unmotivated”, which may be an offshoot of the “Content” clan noted above.

    I still have a 91 Accord because it hasn’t given me a reason to get rid of it. Until it does, I won’t.

    In our tribe, we’re all the same. We all own creampuff cars, and relatives soon to be too old to drive are asking me to take their immaculate, always-garaged, low-miles, vintage machinery. Um, thanks, but I’m thinking about an AWD with skid/stability control and side curtain airbags. Yes, the Accord will still be in the garage, still doing what it always did from the day I bought it new for cash.

  • avatar
    zeus01

    After reading this I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m a schizophrenic. Let me explain:

    I religiously keep every receipt and log every inspection/maintenance task as though my cars were aircraft. (I fix planes for a living, hence the logbook habit). Yet I’ve never kept a car for more than ten years and usually no longer than three or four before selling, trading or junking.

    I’ve been the above-mentioned “tinkerer” (complete with special tools, well-equipped garage and numerous side projects, with my car of choice being 1st-gen RX7s), yet I’ve also owned rust-bucket winter beaters that I couldn’t be bothered to change the oil any more often than absolutely necessary, choosing instead to run them into the ground until the bitter end. These cars were the only exception to my maintenance logbook rule.

    My first car suffered the same fate as that of cars owned by “the bum”, ie: it was an almost pristine ’73 Impala Custom when I bought it, but after six months of the Cheech and Chong lifestyle (minus the lowering kit) it looked like it had been owned by a little old lady who only drove it on Sundays— in the demolition derby. Yet I was gainfully employed at the time and did not sell ”recreational pharmacuticals” on the side. My friends and passengers did though, hence the total dilapidation of an otherwise decent ride. Sold it to one of them for $300, who promptly brush-painted it orange-red with a rebel flag on the roof and 01 on the sides to match the Dukes Of Hazzard scheme. Go figure…

    Speaking of old ladies (for which I’d need both a sex change and another 25 years to qualify), none of the ”grands” criteria seem to fit me– yet. In fact, I’m at the worst possible age: too old to blame any of my incompetence on inexperience, yet too young to blame it on Alzhiemers. But those shoulder-checks are starting to become more painful. And the road signs blurrier. And the radio turned up louder…

    I’ve done the Junkyard Dog trip several times, hoarding ignitors, tail-light assemblies, oil coolers and other highly-sought-after 1st-gen RX7 parts. Yet I insist on quality consumables for my cars, choosing napa oil filters while shunning Fram, Napa or OEM brake components rather than Canadian Tire and full synthetic oil rather than cheaper no-name dinosaur stuff.  

    As for the mechanically-challenged and gullible “content folk”, my BS meter is the first to peg when dealing with dishonest mechanics. I rarely let others do a task that I can do myself if the cost savings amount to more than my income per hour for the task. Yet even I have been in situations far from home, on a Sunday and without my own tools. This is where I had to fork over for a replacement muffler that took exactly 15 minutes to install, but then had to pay for one hours’ labour— because Canadian Tire was the only place within 500 miles that was open and had the part on hand.

    And Broke? Let me tell you about broke. How does a 1972 Datsun 1200 fastback with front fenders rusted away and flapping in the slipstream sound? How about the same car with a broken left-hand strut brace that caused the left front tire to smack into the rear of the wheel well every time I hit the brakes? Agressively down-shifting to reduce braking extended tire life to about two weeks before I was financially able to replace both it and the brace. And don’t even get me started on that car’s leaky fuel tank and the two speeding tickets I received in it that same month. Yet somehow I always seemed to have money for beer. Schizo indeed….

  • avatar
    RayH

    If you play Broke family members may consider you The Bum.  You get those Cream Puffs cheaply/free which makes you a very Content Folk.
    The second a repair cost over $100 and/or you can’t fix it yourself= drive it to the junkyard.  Siphon out any gas left and drain the oil out for reuse if you have it towed there….. grab the wipers, headlamp bulbs, taillamp bulbs, floormats for reuse.
     

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    Totally a keeper.  I get attached to my rides.  Think of how many hours you spend in you car to rack up 220K…The fun trips growing up, the new experiences… still own my first car and it gets one of the spots in the garage over the wife’s ride.  She’s cool with that and just another reason to remind me that I picked the right wife.  If that car could talk, well I probably would not be here to write this.  But even since then, I believe in getting the full use out of the car.  if it remains reliable and I can keep it looking good, I use it.  I chuckle at those who mouth off about reliability when they trade every 8 years.  Many people are amazed when they have seen how pristine I keep my cars.  If they get damaged to the point that it isn’t practical to fix – only happened once when rear ended – then they go away even if it still runs.  Driving a mangled car at my age screams poverty.

  • avatar
    Strippo

    I don’t fit in any of those categories. Call me “The Luddite.” My ’94 Miata with a manual rack just appeals to me more than anything I can buy today. Mechanically it’s overbuilt and its technology is pre-OBDII. I’ll pull the trigger on a new daily driver sometime this year, but I’ll never let go of the Miata. It’s the car I’ll be able to keep running in the post-zombie apocalypse. I may need to invest in a hardtop at that point, but other than that I’m good to go.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    I’m also unmotivated.  
    My wife and I buy either new or a 2-3 year old used, then just keep them for 15 or more years.
    Right now I’m driving my ’98 Ranger, bought in 2000.   140K and will probably be good for another 100K at least.   That’s another 10-12 years of driving.   I paid too much for the truck, because I bought at the worst possible time – when I needed a ride.    Still, the purchase price amortized makes the cost of owning (separate from operating) less than $1200/year.
    My wife is driving the ’04 CR-V with less than 55K on the clock.   We dealer maintain this one.  This car should be good for another 15 years of driving.
    I don’t mind buying new (hey, someone has to buy new or there is no auto industry) and paying the depreciation.   I know the car’s history from day one and know it’s been maintained correctly.    The purchase price, amortized,  is about $2,900 per year,  but in another 7 years, that figure will be under $1500.   If we actually keep it to year 20, which is likely, it will have cost us $85 a month to keep the title to this car.    In my estimation, that’s not bad.
    We’re salting away $300/mo into the future car fund.    When  the time comes to replace the Ranger, we’ll pay cash for something new or late-model used.   Buy the time the Honda needs to be replaced, we’ll again have cash on hand.   We’ll probably only buy two more cars the rest of our lives.
     

  • avatar
    Japanese Buick

    I would claim membership in the “Content” group except I definitely give my cars lots of thought. I think a flavor of that group which I claim membership in is “got the car purchase decision right years ago.”
     
    I bought my Miata new in 1996 and my LS400 used in 2001.  I got those purchase decisions right and have no reason to replace either of them.    This is not because I don’t care about them or treat them like a pair of sweatpants, but because both cars are still perfect for their different missions.  Nothing on the market today betters them, IMO (or at least not enough to justify an expensive purchase).  And it’s not from lack of interest or looking that I come to that conclusion.  Oh, and both cars have been reliable as hammers.
     
    This is not bragging, because it also means I don’t get to buy new cars.  I live vicariously through friends who buy new cars, and I follow the car blogs and get C&D. I often do the “what would I replace this car with if it were wrecked or stolen tomorrow” thought exercise and at the end I usually conclude that I hope that doesn’t happen.   Getting the car purchase decisions exactly right 10 and 15 years ago is both a blessing and a curse.
     

  • avatar

    I used to be a Junkyard Dog/Broke/Tinkererer & kept the same terrible ’91 Taurus(3.8!) wagon going for 7 years & 187K(for a total of 288K). From there I went to a car to expensively crappy to keep(’96 Fleetwood), Through two beaters never expected to survive (’78 Nova, ’91 Legacy), found myself in a solid but uninspiring car(’96 Outback).
    And now I’ve found myself as a Contented Quality Guru/Tinkererer with my current car. I was shopping for a $1-3K manual gas-miser(CRX/Civic hatch/Neon) when I found and bought my ’04 Scion xB with 92K for $6600. It has 157K on it now and quickly turned out to be everything I want in a vehicle and nothing I found newer or older could match it.
    As of now I only plan to replace it if a)it gets wrecked, b)Rhode Island winters outrun my ability to repair rust. So every repair is with quality parts, every upgrade/modification is planned out very carefully (avoided drilling a hole in the dash to route a cable for the aux gauges so if the gauges die in 5-10 years I won’t have to stare at the empty hole), and whenever possible if I take something apart for repairs/modifications all related parts are checked and cleaned/rustproofed/painted before they go back on. 
    I’m not 100% obsessive about maintenance and let some stuff go (front struts are still the originals, though they are in this year replacement budget). But I won’t let anything safety related go, and if ignoring it is going to damage other components it get replaced ASAP.

    My girlfriend feels the same way towards her stripper model ’99 Saturn SL(only option is A/C, manual everything else). It was the first car she bought new, and now at 165K has been a reliable workhorse through a cross country move, multiple road trips to family over 1000 miles away, & a divorce. I have no fondness for the car (and find the interior a miserable place to be), but I can’t fault her love for it, so I’ve been treating it the same way I do mine.

      There is also my ’62 Comet (owned for 6.5years)  that I’m slowly restoring. And her ’92 MR2, a gift from a Contented dealer-maintaining relative when he couldn’t drive it anymore. And neither of those are going anywhere soon. Hell my cheap $180 Harbor Frieght 3×4′ trailer gets its fair share of the same treatment as I am quickly realizing the quiet joy of finding just the right item then caring for it and making it better instead of tossing it for something shiny new with more unnecessary features.

  • avatar
    brettc

    I’d say I’m a combination of the Tinkerer, the Quality Guru and the Tightwad husband. I do all the maintenance I can on our fleet (a 2000 Jetta TDI and a 2003 Jetta TDI). And having similar cars is helpful because I can buy things like filters and certain fluids that will work in either car. I buy whatever parts I can online, and I only buy OEM VW parts because I’m not going to put off-brand parts in a VW. (VWs will reject low-end parts like a drunk’s donated liver and then you have to do it all over again.) I wish Mobil would offer the rebates on the Mobil 1 Turbodiesel Truck oil again. That was nice while it lasted.
    While I’d love really love to replace our 2000 Jetta, it works and it’s paid for, so why should I replace it until it’s really necessary? As I told my wife recently, the cheapest car is the one you already own. But that saying will be worthless if the 01M automagic in her car suddenly dies. So for now I’ll keep them going as much as I can, and for those jobs I don’t feel like doing or have the confidence to do, our trusted VW mechanic will do them. And we’ll continue to put money in the bank for when we actually do need a new car.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      If you do annual drain & fills using a Mityvac, the tranny on your wife’s VW should last for a while. I would avoid doing long journeys with it if possible (use the other one for that). I’m not sure about other modifications that would help but VWvortex and TDI club will offer a lot of good insight on that.
       


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