Hammer Time: An Enduring Dilemma
I used a 15-year-old Ranger to pick up some AMG wheels this evening. The ride was . . . pleasant. Light jazz on the radio. Engine and stick shift in good working order. Intermittent wipers and ABS for the rain. Alloy wheels for show. Did I mention this thing is 15 years old? Anyhow, my mind wandered into the world of ‘what if’s’. What if someone decides to buy this truck and keep it for another 7 to 10 years? It has only 150k and the prior owner took good mechanical care of it. Paint’s cheap. Parts are even cheaper. So…
I’m really wondering if the American car market will ever really ‘need’ to recover given what’s already out there. Yeah, I know that we’ve come a long way since the days where Chrysler LeBarons haunted the new car showroom. But this Ranger isn’t exactly the pinnacle of durability for it’s time either. Yet it will probably see a double decade lifespan despite being built at a time when the 486 computer chip was considered state of the art.
A lot has happened since then and yet, post-Bush, post-Clinton, post-Bush, there are millions of old cars still out there in America. A lot of them are perfectly fine and can be bought for a song. Let me just say it. Is the idea of buying new just getting old?
...Funny that somebody mentioned the Salvation Army. My daily driver was purchased at the SA; went there to donate a bunch a stuff and came home with a 1973 Mercedes Benz with 180K on the odometer. Paid around $800 for it. I will admit that I did throw around $1000 worth of parts at it post purchase but now it has become the steed of choice. It's built like a tank, handles well, has decent power, and is still capable of getting it's driver a 96mph speeding ticket. So the idea of buying new? I don't just prefer used, I'm partial to the rejected and the "donated for a good cause" cars.
To add to ponchoman49's list of features deleted over car model years: What about rat fur carpets, compared to the luxurious loop or cut pile carpets and mats on everything but the cheapest models 20 to 30 years ago? Check out the carpets and mats in a '90 Pathfinder SE, or a '79 Impala. Even a Dodge Spirit. Then look at the carpets and mats in a leathered '06 Grand Vitara JLX. Shameful. I have to say I drove an approximately '90 Ranger (probably the most basic model) on highways for a couple of full days back around '92. I thought it was an awful headache-inducing torture box. But then I was just covering distance with it, not using it for carting things around. On the subject of long-term reliability of complex modern cars... Cars and trucks are also sold into markets such as remote isolated villages all over the globe. Like the fellow with a new Grand Vitara in Pond Inlet, Canada. I haven't heard that there's a crisis keeping these vehicles running.
Back in college (1992 Ohio State) my roommate had a red Ranger, stick shift. I loved to borrow it. Some years later, I bought a 4cyl, stick shift Ford Escape. I bought it used and put another 80K miles on it. Zero issues. With the stick and the 4, it reminded me of the ranger, but with a big back seat and cargo area I could sleep in, if a long road trip required it. Because I drive 40K miles a year, I rarely buy new. The depreciation would destroy me. Instead, I pick up one to two year old domestics. Someone else takes the hit, and I end up with a reliable, affordable car. My current car is a Grand Marquis, it's nearly at 100K, and I freaking love it. It's like driving my couch down the road. At 38 years old, I also like seeing my fellow Grand Marquis drivers, who are seldom younger than 70. I tell you this much: those folks know their stuff!
There are many people that don't have dependability, longevity, or cost of ownership at the top of their list. I admit to being one of them. After three or four years I do fall out of love with a ride when something comes along that raises my blood pressure a little more. So while I just finally got rid of our 93 F-150 the other two cars in the driveway are a 2007 and 2009. Performance, style, creature comforts, whatever matter more to some people than to others. BMW wouldn't need an M class if it was other wise. Heck, there might not even be a BMW period if everyone had a run it 'till it dies policy and actually looked at cost of ownership. Look at the cost of owning one after the warranty expires and you understand why these are leased for only that period. If these high end performance vehicles (Jag, Audi, BMW etc.) offered a Hyundia warranty their sales would plummet for a few years until that longer term was used up.