“You know what? The average person who lives in the South could probably own two new cars for their entire lifetime.”
“Steve! What are ya? Nuts?!”
“No. Think about it Tim. The average person in the future will probably drive about 10k miles a year. Let’s say they get a new car when they’re 22.”
“A new car? Really? Are we talking about a newly minted college grad? Or someone who actually works?”
“Someone who works… look. You can buy the new car in your 20’s. Maintain it well. Wax it once a year or so. Don’t drive too aggressively. Here in Georgia you have smooth roads, no rust…”
“And shiny happy people holding hands! Look Steve. You’re a frugal fellow. Maybe even cheap. Maybe a tightwad. Maybe one of the cheapest bastards I’ve ever met…”
“Well Tim, spare me your usual compliments. My theory still holds. I think the average car of recent times can hit 300k or 30 years if it’s driven conservatively and maintained well…”
and I’ll go even further than that. Most cars of the last 20 years are able to hit either one of those two milestones so long as there aren’t any latent defects in the vehicle, and so long as you don’t NARC it out.”
For those of you who are not part of my acronym laden world, NARC stands for four things every wholesale buyer looks for in a car.
Neglect: Everything from bald tires with horrific wear patterns, to Dexcool fluid that has turned into burnt gelatin.
Abuse: Knocking engines, slipping transmissions, frame damage, and steering components that take immediate driver’s input as casual suggestions.
Rust: Tin worms, rocker panel corrosion, frame issues, and all unprotected metal elements that embrace the color brown in due time.
Crap: The most insidious one of the four. So devastating in practice, that most cars that are ‘crapped out’ geuninely need to become crusher fodder.
Crap deserves a unique mention for one reason. Crap always requires a cash outlay.
This includes, but is in now way limited to: Cheap tires. Fart-can mufflers. Aftermarket stereo systems that inevitably need more ‘juice’ and cause never ending electrical problems. Virtually all aftermarket elixirs that are designed to improve mileage, driving performance, or cure vehicles that are on the edge of death. Not to mention cheap catalytic converters that are made to last a couple of years and then directly screw up all the expensive oxygen sensors and related emission components in your beater car.
I used to tell folks that if they can find it while walking into a Pep Boys, it’s crap. These days though I even find crap when I go to the gas pump.
Trashy additives are now advertised to folks when they come to a gas station. Go inside, and you will soon find that the gas station devotes more space to the automotive versions of placebo and kitsch than they do to quality products. Why have they found so much success in marketing crap? Because ethanol is quickly becoming America’s new crap fuel.
Then there is the other kind of crap. The crap that people leave behind in their trunks, cupholders, door inserts, floor, glovebox, and any one of seventeen storage bins that lazy folks use to cram everything from ketchup packets to used tissues.
If you’re looking at a late model vehicle, the tendency for a car to eventually be repossessed is usually directly correlated to how the driver treats the interior.
At the auctions we NEVER get clean cars. The car that is four to eight months behind is always inevitably the one that has half eaten McDonald’s bags in the back, half-filled bottles of Mountain Dew that are used for spitoons while on the road, and wet towels (or other items) that have given the future owners a brand new smell to appreciate.
Let me brutally blunt here. I think automakers will be able to overcome neglect, abuse and even rust in the coming years. They will never overcome crap. My wonderful theory for automotive longevity is in shambles thanks… to… crap.
But hey! I can put you in a ten year old Taurus. $500 down and 50 a week! It hasn’t been crapped out. Not just yet.