By on February 21, 2012

Travel on U.S. roads fell to its lowest level since 2003, while Americans hold on to their cars longer than ever, two Detroit newspapers report to the horror of their carbuilding readers.

Last year, U.S. drivers logged 35.7 billion fewer miles over 2010 — down 1.2 percent — to 2.963 trillion miles. That’s the fewest number of miles since 2003, when Americans drove 2.890 trillion miles, the Federal Highway Administration told the Detroit News.

What’s keeping people off the streets? Says the DetN:

“Stubbornly, high gas prices and an economic slowdown since 2008 have convinced some Americans not to drive as much.

At the same time, people are holding on to their cars longer than ever. The research firm R.L. Polk told the Detroit Free Press that new vehicle owners kept their an average of 71.4 months, or nearly six years, the longest in the eight years Polk has done the survey, and nearly two years longer than the average life of ownership in 2003.

The average age of a vehicle on U.S. roads reached a record 10.8 years.

Looking for reasons, the Freep heard a familiar tune:

“Consumer spending remains conservative in a still-weak job market with relatively high unemployment rates. Many buyers have longer-term financing options to secure more affordable payments. In addition, vehicles produced in recent years have been more durable and reliable than their predecessors.


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90 Comments on “Americans Drive Less, Keep Cars Longer...”


  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    There is another reason.

    Aging.

    We have an aging population and this is also impacting the number of miles driven in the US.

    Boomers are retiring and they will not drive as much as they had. Compared to previous generations, Boomers drove much more. They have a higher percentage of suburban living than previous generations and grabbed car keys at times of low gas prices, low insurance prices, and in an era when driving a gas guzzler was the norm. These people are retiring.

    This will continue to impact this figure.

    • 0 avatar
      obbop

      Makes sense to me.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      That’s very true. Also, I’d have to assume the number of kids 16 to 22 who are driving is also declining, due to a tight job market, graduated licensing, facebook, etc. many kids aren’t getting a car until they graduate college.

    • 0 avatar
      jeoff

      Yeah, and as folks get older the less they like change. My dad got rid of his ’99 Corolla for a new one two years back, and he really misses the old car every day. Everything from the visibility (he says it is only a matter of time until he backs into something), to the way the new one accelerates drives him nuts.

    • 0 avatar
      Bowler300

      And teens aren’t driving much. I just today read a stat that something like only 48% of teens 16-19 have their license.

    • 0 avatar
      fendertweed

      true (anecdotally) … I’m 56… used to drive 12-13k/yr routinely.

      Now drive 10-11 k even though I don’t bother to fly much anymore thanks to the fascist twats with the TSA.

      Parents/family are either aging/no longer alive and 260 miles away x 3-4 times per yr.

      A lot less driving, plus teleworking 10% of the time knocks off another thousand miles or so….

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      Agreed.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    In this economy, who wants to take on a car loan if the car they have is perfectly servicable, regardless of age?

    I’m just about to turn 61 and figure I may buy one more new car. Two reasons why we have kept our CR-V and Impala so long – they’re both outstanding cars and have served us well, even if they are showing some wear and have a few small issues that I’m not bothering to fix, so why get rid of any of them? I’m having my Impala detailed this spring, and I may get the temp control and mode selector lights fixed on both cars.

    The second reason is Chevy simply isn’t building a car I truly like enough to buy right now. I’m hoping the next Impala will float my boat into something I can mildly customize to my taste as to what my image of an Impala should be. Three tail lights isn’t necessarily one of them, but would be a plus.

    Don’t even ask why I won’t consider anything else – my mind is set on Chevy right now, but I never say never…

    • 0 avatar
      VanillaDude

      My growing family forces me to replace perfectly servicable vehicles. My friends have the same issue. We get more kids, and we can no longer keep a perfectly fine vehicle.

      So, if you are not experiencing a lifestyle change that would impact your driving habits, then you can keep your vehicle longer.

      Boomers are done with their lives and are now coasting. This changes things within the Market regarding buying and driving habits.

      • 0 avatar
        BobinPgh

        Why do you assume you will have a “growing family”? The world doesn’t need any more people and if you decide your family is enough, you will not have to replace “perfectly serviceable vehicles”.

      • 0 avatar
        CA Guy

        As a recently retired boomer who bought a new G37 sedan, I have many friends who also are purchasing new automobiles to enjoy while experiencing this lifestyle change. Most of us are far from coasting; instead, we are engaged in a range of new activities and doing consulting and other work. And we fully intend to buy more new vehicles before we are “done.” A market change to be developed rather than dismissed.

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        “Boomers are done with their lives and are now coasting.”

        Uh…I don’t think so. A change in direction or priorities, if you will, maybe, but I have no intention of ever being “done”. Yes, I do plan on living forever, too.

        I’ll have to make one more new car purchase before retirement, unless I can find a job closer to home, then I’ll see – we will have to replace our cars eventually. As a designer, I have a certain gift, or talent, and I need to use it, so no sitting on my butt, wasting away, ever.

      • 0 avatar
        VanillaDude

        –Why do you assume you will have a “growing family”?–

        That’s hilarious!

        Dude, you have to get a book? OK – how about “Almost Twelve”?

        I don’t shoot blanks! And wrapping it up is like drinking decaffinated coffee – going through the motions without the same feeling or kick, man. Sex causes babies if it is done right. Babies are fun! Life is good! Get out there and be a man! Nothing will mature you faster than being a husband and a father!

        Life isn’t something to avoid – it is something to procreate, love, father and keep on doing! The world DOES need more people, and I am doing my part to keep the future bright.

        If you want to avoid it, good, perhaps you have some kind of genes that aren’t supposed to be passed along to the next generation. And with your attitude, it’s probably a good thing your ideas and beliefs will die when you do.

        Here’s a secret – the folks with the most kids, wins and owns the future.

        Then there is the situation regarding the kids I already have. They will not remain 30 pounds and 3 feet tall – they will, grow! This means a different vehicle when they get, say 100 pounds and five feet tall.

        Your question demonstrates a complete lack of reality.

    • 0 avatar
      racebeer

      I with you on that. I’ll be 60 this year, and my current fleet is more than adequate. This is how it stands right now:

      2004 Rainier w/63k
      2001 Trans Am Convertible w/48k
      1998 Firebird w/54k
      1963 Dodge w/110k

      No maintenance issues with any of them (Dodge included), they all do the job for us, so why trade?? I live in the ‘Burbs and work in the city, taking the bus from a local park n’ ride. The wife drives about 12 miles round trip to work with the Rainier, which she loves and wouldn’t trade for anything. I might buy another car at some point, but it won’t be new and it won’t have a top!!!!

      So, I’m doing my part…………

      • 0 avatar

        Only 110k on the Dodge? Those things were good for 300k. Sounds like you’re wasting some good capital equipment! If you’re in Boston, I’ll be happy to drive it for you a few days a month.

      • 0 avatar
        racebeer

        Hey David …. I hope it’s good to 300k!!! It was my wife’s uncle’s car which he bought new in 63. It was his “baby”, and wasn’t driven much. It got handed down through the family, and my wife wanted it BADLY. When we got it in 2005, it had just turned over 100k and had sat in her father’s garage for 6 years untouched. Living in Minnesota, it is only out for 6 or 7 months of the year …. but we’ve been putting about 2k a year on it during the good weather. In fact, this past weekend it was in the 40′s up here and we took it out Saturday and Sunday.

        Come to Minneapolis …. I’ll give you a ride!!!

      • 0 avatar
        28-cars-later

        So is the Firebird your DD and the Trans Am the toy?

    • 0 avatar
      zerofoo

      What you need is a Corvette convertible. It’s a fine vehicle, and at 61, you deserve to treat yourself!

    • 0 avatar
      DubTee1480

      Hey Zackman, when the climate control lights on my ’04 Impala went out, I sent the unit to this guy and he put LED’s in it. http://www.bbengineer.com/cars/impala/store.htm#climate
      I don’t know that you can buy off the shelf bulbs for them like you could back in the day.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    And older drivers have always kept cars longer.

    I am a big SUV owner, but could selling low mpg vehicles be hurting auto sales in the macro? If you drive less due to cost per mile, you don’t wear out your car and come back for another. That extra SUV profit may not be as good as selling more cars.

    The old Detroit solution was cars that wear out quickly, but that won’t work anymore. Is a highly effiicient car that is comfy, or fun to drive, what they need to be selling boomers?

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    PS.

    Mom traded in last year. Her 1990 Maxima had 60k miles on it. She now does about 100 a month in her new Rogue.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      Hey, welcome back! I wondered where you went…I suspected the banhammer, though I never thought you said anything ban worthy…It’s been, what 2 years?

      • 0 avatar
        Landcrusher

        No ban, when RF left they said they wanted to get away from politics, but every post I made someone would always try and make it political, so I started lurking.

        I have learned a new skill. I just refuse to argue against unworthy arguments, demagoguery, etc.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Hey, where else can you get this much intelligent opinion and debate, along with some of the funniest comments I have ever read? I avoid the political stuff and try to stay relevant to the subject at hand, but to me, TTAC is without doubt, THE finest car site on the web. CurbsideClassic.com is the best for the old stuff, and is a perfect compliment to here.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    I will second Zackman, and add that I think that new cars are lumpy, claustrophobic, and overweight. I drive a 2002 Accord, and I don’t think I have seen anything on the market with which I would replace it.

    My only motivation for buying a new car would be if one of my children needed a car. So far, all of them live in big cities and use public transportation. But, rather than see one of them buy an overpriced used car, I would give him the Accord, and suffer through a new car.

    Another factor is that there is not much technological difference between new and my 2002. When I bought my 1995 Mystique, I realized that with traction control, ABS, and dual airbags, I had crossed a technological bridge, and that I would not go back willingly.

    I don’t see anything like that in new cars. Certainly, when vehicles that are driven in traffic by built in digital computing machinery (what we could call automobiles, because they are self mobile) become commonly available, we will cross another such bridge.

  • avatar
    marshall

    Good to know — all three of my cars are “above average” ;-)
    You would think they were all from Lake Wobegon.

    1994, 2000, 2004. All older than 71.4 months.

    I wonder how “average miles/car” and “average miles/driver” have changed.

  • avatar
    200k-min

    Ummm, used car prices…anyone, anyone? My father’s 2003 Honda Pilot has some funky transmission issues. He looked to see about dumping it for a newer used Pilot, way expensive! Then he looks brand new, he says, and I quote “It’s not worth $36k.” He even went and looked at a Highlander and said the same thing. If an off lease 3 year old vehicle had taken a 30%+ depreciation he’d be in a new “used” vehicle. If new car prices were 10% lower, he’d be in a brand new vehicle. Instead he’s looking at putting a new tranny in the 2003 ($2500) and running it for another 100k. And this is a buyer that can pay cash for a $30K+ vehicle.

  • avatar

    Everyone I know in my little village, an “upscale” burg, is not buying cars….even if your job is secure, inflation, (which we are told does not exist now), taxes and health insurance are sucking up any “excess” cash. I am sick to death of seeing Minis in my area….everyone who replaces a car seems to arrive at that same conclusion…

    When the car dies they get a new one. Not before. I’ve not seen any recreational car replacement since the crash….and this in an economically intact area.

    New cars aren’t much better than the “old” ones now, other than being new. My nine year old BMW, maniacally maintained, does not drive “worse” than a new one…depending on the model, it is often “better”. I can’t imagine that the same is not true for an Accord or other car. The days of massive improvement between model cycles is over….technology has mostly plateaued.

    • 0 avatar
      Toad

      +1 on that last paragraph. It is tough to rationalize purchasing a new car that is only marginally better than a well maintained late model car you already own.

      Is a new Accord, Camry, or Pilot significantly better than a paid off 2005? More importantly, is it $600 per month better?

      • 0 avatar
        DC Bruce

        Even better, when we bought (new) our ’08 Honda Pilot (at something of a discount off sticker) and then looked at the version that replaced it, we were very happy that we did not wait for the “new, improved” version. There was nothing about it that seemed “better” to us, and some things that seemed worse.

    • 0 avatar
      cfclark

      I am bored with my ’03 Subaru to some extent, but I have no rational reason to replace it–it should have plenty of miles left at 114K, it’s comfortable and it gets me where I need to go with reasonable fuel costs (and of course, no monthly payment cost). I posted here because I have noticed the same thing in my area–scads of Minis (MINIs?), including my wife’s own 2011. (She tends to cycle through cars more quickly than I do.)

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        I get a bit bored with my oldest car, but it is not used all that much. And at 20 years of age, it has been very reliable and has held up well. I spend the most time in my 09, which makes sense but even if I tire of it I am just the kind of guy that likes to get the full life out of things. I hate the throw away mentality. Buy quality and keep it…much cheaper in the long run as well, but money is not the main reason…I would only have one car per person in the house if saving money was the main reason to keep cars a long time.

    • 0 avatar
      TL

      I looked into replacing my 2001 Tacoma 4×4 last year, but couldn’t bring myself to do it for similar reasons. The new ones are nice, but aren’t enough nicer to make me spend $28k if I don’t HAVE to. Sadly for Toyota, the two features that would have pushed me off the fence (heated leather seats and external mirror defrosters) are both available on the 4Runner. So instead of replacing my paid for truck I’m spending $2000 on parts to make it what I want.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      speedlaw, I see the same thing. Even those of means are not confident in any alleged economic recovery, and it would appear they prefer to have sufficient liquidity for necessities in the event they’re being lied to in deep ways often.

      It doesn’t help that many of those with means now are survivors, seeing cohorts with as much or more means formerly get wiped out (thus reinforcing that this economy can crush anyone – aside from a select few with ties to the Crony Capitalist, Federal Reserve, DOE, etc.).

      At any rate, I think 1993ish to about 2005ish will be recounted as a golden era of automotive quality, reliability and excellence, at some distant point.

      Many makes/models have gotten worse in every imaginable way since about 2005ish (I’m looking at makes like Acura, BMW, Lexus – sheesh, look at the VW Passat or Jetta now vs the old models).

      Even Honda & Toyota took a dump. Who could refute the claim (intelligently) that older Accords, Civics or Corollas were better than the newest ones? A 1993ish Camry TROUNCES a new one. A 1995 Civic EX trounces a new one. Give me a early 90s Mercedes over a new one any day of the week.

  • avatar
    redav

    My dad used to own a ’64-1/2 Mustang. When it became a maintenance headache, and he sold it. He often expressed regret over that decision.

    Now, I can see where he was coming from. When you find a car you love–one that does just what you want it to do–keep it. It becomes a good friend.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Yup – which is why I am never, ever, selling my Triumph Spitfire. I’ve had it nearly 18 years now, a thousand or so miles a summer these days. I would regret it the moment I sold it. Thinking about doing the seats again in the next couple years and maybe even getting the little guy painted.

  • avatar
    jeoff

    With so many folks insecure about everything and cars that lasting so much longer than they used to, it is hard to justify high new and used car prices.

  • avatar
    asapuntz

    Those who want a car to last a few more years are likely to cut back on the yearly mileage. Deteriorating roadways probably motivate that behavior as well.

    Maybe $4 gas makes a difference, but I’m dubious since $10 gas (and better-than-most alternatives) in Europe haven’t exactly led to empty roads.

    • 0 avatar
      ciddyguy

      They do it through cars that often get MUCH higher gas mileage than the typical vehicle here so they often CAN afford it.

      This is done by buying a car no larger than a C segment, or small family car that can do easily mid 30′s at the very least.

      That’s how they do it and plus, I don’t think they drive quite as much as we Americans do, but I doubt as low as some here in the US have claimed though.

  • avatar
    replica

    The biggest problem with new cars is they aren’t really that “new.” What does a car do today that a 10 year old used car doesn’t? It seems they get more cheaply made with each passing year. Interiors scuff easier, paint has tons of distortion in it now, all this added technology and still gets the same MPG.

  • avatar
    jeoff

    Does anybody sell a car that has better visibility than they sold 15 years ago?

    • 0 avatar
      supersleuth

      The Fit probably has better visibility than the Civic hatchbacks of that era. (But the Fit is an aberration in these days of the return of the high beltline.)

      • 0 avatar
        Wheatridger

        I ruled out the Fit on the basis of visibility alone. Not that it doesn’t have plenty of glass, but how it’s shaped and framed. For me, those triangular fixed windows between windshield and door are deal-killers. They’re awkwardly placed (too low), and they necessitate an extra pillar several feet long. It’s just too visually busy for comfort, especially in a city/commuter car that’s intended to be driven among pedestrians. Ironically, the “fast” windshield angle that necessitated the extra windows delivers little fuel economy benefit at low urban speeds…

    • 0 avatar
      azmtbkr81

      They sell cars with more cameras…does that count? Pretty soon cars will be eggs on wheels with monitors like the USS Enterprise instead of windows.

    • 0 avatar

      Almost no-one. Even the Subaru Forester now has less visibility with the redesign, although its still probably better than most. One of the really good things about the MINI is visibility. But effing high beltlines and fat C pillars are all over the place.

    • 0 avatar
      acuraandy

      Not that i’ve seen. Panther, maybe? Oh wait, they aren’t built anymore…

  • avatar
    Robstar

    I guess I’m in the minority — I want a (newtome) car. I’m looking for used at $5k or less for a stick shift econobox so I don’t have to drive my WRX STi every day & spend tons on gas/maint.

    I’m tempted to buy a new car” (something $12-13k+TTL on special) only due to safety. The only reason I’m looking for a car at all is my 2000 neon (3 speed auto) just ate it’s second transmission at 210k….

  • avatar
    George B

    The main barriers for me are electric power steering and poor styling. Most manufacturers just haven’t figured out how to make EPS feel like hydraulic power steering and most cars would look better with a couple inches of height sectioned out below the beltline. There is something wrong with car proportions when ordinary cars need rims 18 inches or larger to fit the design.

    • 0 avatar
      redseca2

      I don’t even like hydraulic power steering unless it is very subtle.

      I miss the sore muscles I would have after running some of the old british and german cars I have owned down California Highway One and would love the automotive equivalent of the steering damper you often find on a motorcycle.

    • 0 avatar
      ciddyguy

      And remember, not all hydraulic steering were all that great either, some were just as vague and lifeless as some EPS systems of today.

      The steering in the Fiesta was a bit on the darty side, the steering in my 2003 Mazda Protege5 is very nice and provides good feedback (and it’s probably hydraulic, though I hear they also have the EPS done right as well).

  • avatar
    manbridge

    Gack, new cars are just so unappealing. Especially on a sensory level.

    Drive by wire throttle? No.

    EPS? As if the engineers were challenged to make normal power steering worse. And so they did.

    ABS that on all Suburbans I’ve owned (1994,2001,2007) has never worked very well. Or gotten better over the years. Confused by bumpy gravel roads/low pedal nonsense etc.

    TCS/Yaw control? It is absurd as a car guy to have to accelerate AGAINST the application of brakes just to get up a snowy driveway when all that was required was throttle modulation. My father-in-law actually got the brakes smoking hot coming up a 200 yard driveway. I turn these systems off whenever possible. I suppose they are intended for drones.

    Weight gain that forces same components to do more work with less efficiency. Example form Suburbans…. 2001 and 2007 share same 4L60E transmission. 2001 has less lard and original trans at 175K. 2007 has had trans failure at 60K. And it gets worse mileage, has less outward vision, and comes with cheap plastic bumpers as opposed to the 01′s metal ones. And it is harder on tires.

    Is newer safer? Perhaps, but there are still just as many people dying per miles traveled as ever IIRC.

    • 0 avatar
      supersleuth

      You don’t recall correctly. In the US they have resumed a steady, significant decline after a plateau between 2000 and 2005. http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2010-04-12-traffic-deaths_N.htm

      • 0 avatar
        manbridge

        But the header above states ‘Americans driving less’, so I took that to mean less deaths but less miles driven. But looking closer at USA today article, they say Americans drove 1.6% MORE miles.

        So one is left wondering who is correct, USA Today or TTAC?

      • 0 avatar
        Landcrusher

        It’s likely the individuals drive less while the increase in population adds to total miles driven.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      It is absurd as a car guy to have to accelerate AGAINST the application of brakes just to get up a snowy driveway

      It makes perfect sense if you don’t have a limited slip diff. By braking the slipping wheel power is transferred to the wheel with the most grip.

    • 0 avatar
      supersleuth

      Don’t know about the miles traveled, but official DOT statistics shouldn’t be hard to find.

    • 0 avatar
      Moparman426W

      Manbridge, you are right. Anyone who thinks that abs won’t lock the wheels has never tried it on gravel, or even a blacktop surface with a little gravel on it.

      • 0 avatar
        DC Bruce

        IIRC, when ABS was first introduced it was, in many instances switchable. Tests showed that ABS had a significant braking benefit (shorter stopping distances) only with wet pavement and a modest benefit with dry pavement. On snow? Not so much. Within the past months, there have been You Tube videos of folks sliding and spinning down icy hills. One thing you notice is that these cars’ wheels are locked . . . and they’re all new enough to have ABS.

        Best thing about ABS is that you can mash the brake pedal and still steer the car. Unfortunately, in a panic, most people forget the “steer the car” part.

  • avatar
    redseca2

    I recall an article in ROAD AND TRACK many, many years ago that noted that research indicated the average purchaser of a new Rolls-Royce in Great Britain kept the car for 27 years.

    The article went on to compare the cost of ownership for the Rolls versus buying a new median price Detroit car every three years, using the previous one as a trade in.

    Even factoring in maintenance, the Rolls came out ahead per ROAD AND TRACK. Mind you this was a long time ago when the average american iron was $3500 and the Rolls perhaps $35,000.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      What was the average miles driven per year on the Rolls? I bet the vast majority of those cars had less than 100k miles when 27 years old. The average American would have over 400k by then.

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      There’s also the factors of storage and maintenance… a Rolls is more likely to be protected from foul weather and impeccably maintained. What about the avg American ride?

  • avatar
    rodface

    I see a lot of complaints about new cars in this thread, including the marginal improvement in gas mileage, poorer visibility, and perceived lower level of build quality, when compared with their predecessors.

    The one thing people seem to consistently skip over in these comparisons is the safety factor. Bloat, complicated electronics, poor visibility, snub noses and high belt lines are unfortunate side effects of ever-increasing crash test standards. We can all agree that, desirable as a 60s-era American land yacht may be, the cheapest econobox on the road today is a safer car by many orders of magnitude. Not only will it hold up better and protect you better in a crash, with its reliable handling and better brakes, the “crappy” car will do a better job of keeping you from crashing in the first place. Layers and layers of electronic aids, airbags and the like reduce simplicity and increase repair costs, but they work, as evidenced by an ever-decreasing accident rate. We aren’t having less accidents and fatalities per capita because people are becoming better drivers (obviously), or are less distracted (cell phones!), or because cars are getting older on average (what?); it’s because cars and highways are becoming more high tech, and safer.

    I think it’s important not to lose sight of this. It seems romantic to imagine that when I have a son or a daughter they’ll want their first car to be an old BMW convertible from the 80s or some other cheap beater with a lot of character. I would never forgive myself if they got in an accident that they likely would have survived had they been driving a modern car with the latest preventative and reactive safety features.

    • 0 avatar
      replica

      There’s an entire segment of lightweight modern cars. They didn’t seem to be spoiled completely by safety. There’s a 2011 model year car I drive everyday that’s under 2,300 lbs. It doesn’t have gun-slit windows or poor visibility.

      I think it’s entirely a choice for cars be be designed as poorly as they are now. I guess sheet metal is cheaper than glass. Do higher belt lines and massive pillars improve safety or just the perception of safety?

    • 0 avatar
      cfclark

      Does it seem that the reduced visibility that is a function of increased crash test standards is at odds with the (perhaps more sensible) goal of increased crash avoidance? If I see the obstacle ahead slightly earlier and avoid hitting it, is that not preferable to hitting it, even if I walk away?

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        “goal of increased crash avoidance? ”

        As most folks aren’t paying attention anyway I think increased visibility is going to do much good. And really, is that 5 degrees of obstruction caused by the A pillar the reason for the crash? I’s say that would almost never is it the culprit.

      • 0 avatar
        cfclark

        @jmo — good point about no one paying attention anyway. :P

    • 0 avatar
      manbridge

      I don’t think a reasonable person would advocate returning to 60s-era cars for everyday use.

      But somewhere, tradeoffs have to be made. Or why not just have everyone drive tanks that have a top speed of 15mph? And have no deaths? I mean if it will save one life then we’ve got to do it! The answer is because it is not practical.

      I would like to see safety as a choice instead of its being foisted upon the buyer. In this way the risk averse types could spend more and buy what they want, and others could have a less safe car without all the penalties. Perhaps the risky would be weeded out of the gene pool, but then that would be better for the rest. And free up some traffic congestion to boot.

      But then again, people choosing freely gets us into rather deeper water.

      • 0 avatar
        Toad

        Your argument is good in theory, except that most accidents have one innocent party as well as a guilty party. You may forgo safety devices in your car because you are a very safe driver, but you still get killed when you are broadsided by a driver who was texting.

        Auto safety standards also protect 2nd owners of cars who cannot practically retrofit crash bars or air bags into a used car.

        Like it or not, as a society we have decided on minimum safety standards for restaurants, homes, cars etc. because some people make very bad personal safety decisions.

      • 0 avatar
        aristurtle

        Safety is a choice and a tradeoff you can make. Buy a motorcycle. Light weight, low cost, good performance, excellent fuel economy, exciting to drive, reduced traffic congestion in areas where lane-splitting is tolerated, all the normal car-geek preferences checked off right from the start (manual transmission rear wheel drive mid engine power-to-weight etc. etc.). All at the cost of increased license requirements (read: a three-day class, at worst) and reduced safety.

        (And, frankly, the reduced safety, while real, isn’t as bad as the statistics suggest if you’re smart about it).

    • 0 avatar
      jeoff

      Every “advance” engineered in today’s cars does not increase safety, some decrease safety (think infotainment systems), and perhaps even some features that are engineered for saftey may result in a net decrease in safety (massive pillars). ESC and ABS decrease the chance of a rollover with minimal added weight or a decrease in visibility. I think that there is a good chance that we are past the point of diminishing returns with the amount that we have sacraficed visibility for the sake of roll-over protection.

  • avatar
    ...m...

    …public roads in a police state are travelled with trepidation, lest the state-sanctioned highwaymen or robotic enforcement extract their onerous toll upon the traveller…

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      “I see a lot of complaints about new cars in this thread, including the marginal improvement in gas mileage, poorer visibility, and perceived lower level of build quality, when compared with their predecessors.”

      Sounds to be like the real 10-15% annual inflation since 2008 has been taking its toll on materials and build quality. With somewhat non-negotiable labor costs and the fact you can only really ask so much for a purchase price to remain competitive, costs have to be cut somewhere to maintain the bottom line.

  • avatar
    mikey

    My current fleet..09 Impala LTZ
    08 6cyl Mustang convertible
    09 Cobalt 2 door
    The Impala is great, perfect for long highway cruises.but resale is a joke,so I will keep forever. The Mustang is our summer car,and spends the winter in the garage.

    Then there’s our sweet little Cobalt with the nice wheels. I bought it for my wife, a month before she had to give up driving. Here in Canada,with gas now over $5 gallon, I could probably recover most of my cash.

    However, I drive the little Chevy every day. I’m not going to part with it.

    This baby boomer, and former new car buyer, isn’t buying a car for a long,long time.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    “We aren’t having less accidents and fatalities per capita because people are becoming better drivers (obviously)…”

    I wonder if there is some evidence to verify, or deny, this? I mean something more than feelings and attitude.

    Generally, humans get better at things if they do them over time, both individually and collectively. I don’t think I’d rule out the idea that the accident rate is going down, at least in small part, because people are better drivers today compared to years past.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      “I wonder if there is some evidence to verify, or deny, this?”

      Studies indicate consistently that:

      -Passive safety equipment saves lives
      -Improved road design saves lives
      -Active safety doesn’t do much
      -Driver education doesn’t help

      All of that suggests that there isn’t much in our collective character that results in better driving.

      On the other hand, improved attitudes about alcohol have resulted in lower DUI rates, which has saved lives. Take that for what you will.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        I believe that seat belts, airbags, stability control, crumple zones, and comprehensive front offset, rear and side impact crash testing (not to mention roof strength testing which needs to be improved) by the Insurance Institute, are among the most important developments that have led to safer cars, all things equal, across the board.

        I’m not as convinced that ABS or traction control (as distinct from stability control) have been as critical in reducing accidents and casualties as the aforementioned items (though I am not ruling the possibility out, either).

        Computerized stability control is one of the most underrated and most outstanding components in terms of automotive safety, IMO; more people aren’t appreciative of it as much because it prevents many accidents from happening, rather than mitigating the injuries and deaths as a result of such accidents)

  • avatar
    Andy D

    The 528es will be 25 yrs old this year. Plus I have 2 parts cars to keep them going. I drove about 230 miles today for work. It was just an average day.I’m driving a Transit Connect. It is better than driving the E150 it replaced

  • avatar
    mfgreen40

    Mikey– I remember you getting the Impala when you retired, 09 seems like yesterday. Enjoy!

  • avatar
    highdesertcat

    Keeping them longer? How about 23 years and 19 years, respectively, for the two vehicles a buddy of mine keeps around and in daily use. He also has a 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee but he keeps the old jalopies running in tip-top condition for one simple reason:

    “He’s got so much money tied up in them to keep them running he can’t afford to get rid of them.”

    There’s truth in that old saying that you can keep any car running forever if you just replace the broken or worn-out parts in them.

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    I’m one who’s had to replace their aging vehicle very recently, but I went used, more than a couple of years old, a 9 year old vehicle, a Mazda Protege5 of all things because that was what I could afford and get a loan for (no choice due to tight finances).

    That’s due to a very old, very high mileage Ford Ranger truck decided to die slow death in the last year, and began to accelerate that fact this fall by leaking oil prodigiously and recently showed other issues great enough to jettison it for something newer, with less miles and more economical too, though the Mazda isn’t as economical as I’d like but still considerably better than the 20 YO truck I drove for nearly 6 years and racked it up to almost 237K miles all told.

    Sadly it was NOT by choice, but because I got backed into a corner sooner than planned.

  • avatar
    FordTempoEnthusiast

    In other news, Amtrak ridership broke record levels last year.

  • avatar
    84Cressida

    Our fleet, all bought new except the oldest one:
    1994 Toyota Hilux -pristine with only 51,000 miles.
    1998 Toyota Avalon – 138,000 miles.
    2005 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD 54,000 miles
    2006 BMW 330i 95,000 miles
    2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid 66,000 miles

    We tend to keep cars a long time in our family. Other than the BMW that my mom drives, I doubt anything will be getting replaced anytime soon. The BMW is starting to show its true colors and is developing nagging quirks that will get more expensive to fix as time goes on, and my mom wants to get a new car, so maybe in the next year or two that might happen.

    My dad has no interest in replacing his Camry anytime soon which has been trouble free for close to 6 years.

    As much as I detest the turd, my dad’s Silverado isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. With such low utilization and low miles, it makes zero sense to replace it. Maybe in another 5 years, unless it starts crapping more.

    The ’94 Hilux, which is mine, will be around for a loooooong time :)

    The Avalon has pretty much been reduced to a beater for my brother. Mechanically it is top notch, but it was recently hit in a parking lot.


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