Hammer Time: Neglect, Abuse, Rust, and Crap!

Steven Lang
by Steven Lang

“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.

They are…

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.

Steven Lang
Steven Lang

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  • Jco Jco on Jun 02, 2012

    yeah, if you live in a place where winter means snow and salt, then all bets are definitely off. having a garage parking space helps, but unless you're vigilant about running through car washes continuously after salt exposure you end up with an underside full of unserviceable rusted components. i was searching for a used 98-01 subaru impreza wagon for my brother. in our price range, they were going to have above 100k miles. the difference in condition was down to which city's craigslist we searched. the northern ones had rusted bodies and undercarriages. we ended up with a southern car. same mileage as the northern ones, but zero rust anywhere, so continued maintenance won't involve a battle with brittle and/or seized components. had we decided to simply bring the car back north and re-sell it, the condition may have net us a profit with no further work put into it. southern cars end up with faded paint and disintegrating rubber, but i find those kinds of things to be far preferable to the evil brown menace as far interior landfill = nasty used car, i can tell you the equation is correct. generally that kind of mess signifies a disorganized mind; a person unlikely to properly maintain a vehicle or any other personal possession. so in addition to a dirty interior you're also likely dealing with zero attention to a maintenance schedule of any kind, ruined and/or never serviced wear items, and the prospect of larger repair bills in the future.

  • Andy D Andy D on Jun 03, 2012

    For my first 20 years, I recycled VW bugs. Collecting parts and bolting them into less rusted bodies. I bought my first 88 528e in '96. It had 150 k miles on it and was getting neglected. Over the next 12 yrs, I drove it 200k more miles, I maintained it in my driveway to a level such that it never failed to get home. IMHO, BMW, made the E 28 too well. They have since fixed that problem. My current stable is a pair of '88s with 5 yrs of usage so far. I base lined each of them before I put them in service. Whilst doing oil changes, I checked out stuff while draining. The key to this particular engine is timing belt changes every 60 K miles/ 4 yrs I replace the , plugs, cap and rotor and belts. as well as the TB and tensioner. Every other interval , I replace the GMB water pump I put in when base lining . My latest 4wd is a battered '94 Ranger PU. I bought it a year ago for 600$ with a bad clutch being its biggest issue. 800$ in parts and lots of wrenching has rescued this heap from the crusher It is a weekend garden/ house/ dump/ hauler/ beach buggy, snow mobile.

  • Lorenzo It's an election year, and Biden will drag down enough democrats without the state going deeper in the budget hole than it is now. Newsom isn't the smartest guy, but he has smart guys to tell him the state is running out of other people's money.
  • MaintenanceCosts The symbol is the standard international sign for "controlled access highway." Presumably they are trying to evoke the Autobahn.
  • MaintenanceCosts Absolutely. Most old classics are not Boss 429s or Busso Alfas. Most of them have powertrains that are just crap by modern standards. I'd love to have a classic without the pre-emissions stinky exhaust or the need to futz around constantly with points and jets to maintain drivability.
  • Ravenuer No, I wouldn't be interested in doing this at all. Seems like it would be quite expensive.
  • Tassos Why buy either when you have two matching 2007 diesel e-classes with combined over 950k km. NO ONE SHOULD WANT MORE THAN I HAVE SETTLED FOR.