By on August 4, 2015

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Automakers have collectively spent tens of billions of dollars trying to concoct schemes sales campaigns that make consumers perpetual debtors instead of long-terms owners.

$129 a month. 0-percent financing. Move the decimal point here and the first payment there. Sprinkle a healthy amount of small print, toss in some advertising that pushes the right buttons, and keep driving down credit standards to the point where you maximize your long-term profits.

It takes the right financial recipe — and an awful lot of money — to keep any automaker in the black. The mathematical truth of the auto industry is that automakers can’t do anyone any favors, anywhere, if they don’t successfully cater to a healthy audience that embraces debt as a long-term financial proposition.

So with that said, how should automakers cater to the keepers among us? Those new car shoppers who buy once, and then try to keep their cars until they are often times worth more dead than alive?

This is one of the more challenging questions of the car business. You can try espousing reliability, quality, precision and a whole lot of other nice comforting words into the advertising of a given brand. One brand may try to represent themselves as “The Relentless Pursuit of Perfection” while another says that they are “Built Like No Other.”

Is this what a keeper really wants? Do they want a fortress of interminable longevity as their daily commuter? Or are many of them just as willing to try something nice for now and buy something else a few years later if the right opportunity comes around?

How do you get your keepers to become traders?

I see two unusual ideas that are beginning to chip away at the keeper mentality.

The Exchange: The typical idea of a car exchange has usually revolved around changing personal needs and tax avoidance. You exchange one vehicle that was bought at one stage of your life — say, a compact sports car that was bought at a time when you were single — for another one that’s a better fit for your next stage, such as a crossover to support a young family.

The other party can be a private seller or a dealer and, in most states, you’re able to avoid states taxes completely or minimize them by simply making the two vehicles comparable in value at the time of exchange.

TT RS front quarter, photo courtesy Michael Karesh

 

High trade-in values for late-model cars is one common way of getting keepers into this habit of trading in their old cars for new ones. What used to be just a haphazard promotion devised by a local sales manager has now become a highly refined system of targeting specific consumers who have the right cars and trucks for this exchange. In the coming years, don’t be surprised if automakers and their dealer networks start to develop online exchanges that offer low ‘exchange’ prices which help sell new cars and bring in popular vehicles for their CPO programs.

The 200k Kit: Traditionally automakers have focused on provided extended warranties to those folks who want to keep their cars over the long haul. The issue for these warranties is that their lack of use can be seen as an intentional rip-off. Consumer Reports recently completed an extended study where they found “55 percent of owners who purchased an extended warranty hadn’t used it for repairs during the lifetime of the policy.” On average, those who did use it spent several hundreds more for the coverage than they saved in repair costs.

In a world where long-term reliability is becoming more of a given, maintenance needs may become the bigger issue for those customers who want to keep their cars for the long run. Why not offer an extended service contract that guarantees a blanket 25-percent discount for all the maintenance needs of a given vehicle up to 10 years or 200,000 miles?

Service contracts have been around for decades. This is nothing new. However, their importance for everyday consumers is evolving, and long-term care of a keeper’s car with OEM parts and dealer personnel can represent a better way to bring keepers closer to the brand in ways that an extended warranty simply can not do.

What are your thoughts? This business does not have easy answers and I have learned over the last 12 years as a car dealer and remarketing manager that ‘keepers’ can be your most challenging and least profitable customers. Many of them embrace six simple words when it comes to the automobile: “Don’t spend money. Don’t buy anything.”

Are these two ideas possible win/win scenarios? If so, what else would work?

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141 Comments on “The Deeper Dive: Catering to the Keepers...”


  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Interesting look.

    I think a lot of folks would be willing to pay for an overhaul at ~200K. Engine rebuild, suspension rebuild…. maybe the option for a new paint job? All that with a new powertrain warranty like a new car. Dealer service dept and factory could split the profits appropriately; long hauler would be getting a “new car” for a fraction of the price.

    • 0 avatar
      sproc

      Interesting, a little bit like an aircraft maintenance model. But I think the take rate this kind of overhaul would be minuscule, a mere subset of the keeper subset. Also, I would suggest that an electronics refresh will become as or even more important than a mechanical overhaul. The obsolescence timeline on infotainment is ridiculous.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        Give the cost of labor and how efficient a car manufacturer is at making a car I don’t this would ever make sense economically. It’s cheaper and easier to just crush them and make a new one than it is to try and restore a 1998 Camry LE.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Who wants to restore a 98 LE? That’s a low-end model, and the good Camry ended after 96 anyway.

          Come on this ain’t amateur hour! 96 XLE V6.

          ;)

          • 0 avatar
            Waftable Torque aka Daniel Ho

            I have a 98 Camry LE. For some reason, even though it’s been parked outside forever, it’s just as new. No restoration required. I see a lot of other Camry’s the same age and they’re jalopies. I guess the condition of an aging car depends on the owner as much as the car. I think the dealer-applied wax-based rustproofing might also have helped.

          • 0 avatar
            yesthatsteve

            I’d jump on an LS400 done this way.

        • 0 avatar

          Exactly. I just was gifted a 1998 Plymouth Voyager from my parents, who were pretty meticulous about taking care of it. It still failed Maryland inspection for about 5 different things, including rust.

          It’s costing me about $1300 to get it to pass. It’s worth… about $1300. It’s worth it to me, because I could use a van for my side business, and because I know it’s history and that it has a bunch of new parts. But from an economic standpoint, it’s completely irrational.

          • 0 avatar
            Patrickj

            Maryland’s one-time inspection is basically a scam. If it were a 2011 Chrysler minivan, it would still cost you $1300.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          Exactly. The Grandpa’s-axe model works on airliners where a replacement aircraft costs you 8 to 9 figures. It doesn’t work on cars where just a bit of labor, comparatively speaking, gets you to the point where a new car is cheaper.

          Remember that quality frame-off restorations of classic cars are six-figure propositions even where the parts are fairly readily available.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            I doubt it would make economical sense.

            However, as a labor of love, heavily refurbishing something like a LT1 Impala SS or CRX SI or something similar that has okay resale in excellent condition probably wouldn’t be complete financial destruction.

            How much do you think Sajeev has spent restoring his ’90s era Lincolns? The guy isn’t a millionaire.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        I don’t understand OEMs approach on infotainment. Android/iOS do all the heavy lifting for them. Just create a portal for them to be operated through your controls. Why try and reinvent the wheel?

        For folks with conventional radio holes the aftermarket has done this, and it works great. Imagine, GMaps or Waze right there in the middle of your dash. It just makes sense.

        • 0 avatar
          sirwired

          I think one problem with relying on Android/iOS for infotainment is that phones change a lot faster than cars. It’d be a real challenge for carmakers and Apple/Google both to preserve backward compatibility for the lifespan of a car. (And what do you do if some time in the next decade some other phone OS becomes popular?)

          The only real solution is to make the phone an optional accessory to the infotainment system instead of a integral part of it.

      • 0 avatar
        greaseyknight

        I tend to keep vehicles and maintain them myself, but I doubt that I would spring a 4 figure rebuild of anything that I own or have owned. What does happen when a new to me vehicle is purchased is that I give it the once over. Not a rebuild, but what the vehicle needs mechanically and cosmetically to run and look good for the foreseeable future.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      “I think a lot of folks would be willing to pay for an overhaul at ~200K. Engine rebuild, suspension rebuild…. maybe the option for a new paint job? ”

      How much would that cost compared to the cost of a new Camry?

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        I could see the engine and suspension being done for high 4 figures. Definitely much less than a new Camry.

        • 0 avatar
          jmo

          High 4 figures? As in $8 or $9k? And you still have the window regulators, locks, wipers, AC compressor, oil pump, water pump, power steering pump, heater core, etc. yet to fail.

          It doesn’t make any financial sense at all.

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      So I’ll speak to this as I’m in the process of some fairly significant maintenance on my S2000. The stuff your espousing rebuilding is fairly significantly expensive.

      Engine rebuild – granted i only know tuner costs for this, but an engine build from a known good builder on a Japanese car is generally in the $10k range. It’s probably similar from the dealer. Crate motors, if they make them for your application, are as much as $20k for some of the modern V8s, and still around $10k for most 4-bangers. And we never mentioned replacing turbos since basically everything new has one, that’s another $1500. We’ll call the whole thing $10k though.

      Transmission – You never mentioned the transmission in your calculus here either. A rebuild on that is minimum $1-2k for even the most simple autos/manuals, and more like $3-4k for a replacement. We’re not even talking fancy CVTs and DCTs here.

      Suspension rebuild – I’m in the process of doing this now. With factory parts, my shocks/springs run $1300, and anything non-OE worth buying is around $175-200 per shock. However, that’s not all. Replacement control arms with new bushings (it’s actually cheaper than just replacing the bushings) run around $250 plus install, so that’s 8 for anyone with double wishbones and 4 for your run of the mill macstrut. Add another $300 for new inner/outer tie rods, get it aligned, and your set. Add that all up and you’re looking at $2500-$3k (and I would get to add an extra $1k to this by having 4 extra control arms).

      Paint – now we get to the kicker. I just had some bodywork done, and unless you know a guy, you’re never getting out of there without spending $500 on a single panel unless you’re going to Maaco. So we’ll go with a conservative $6k (2 bumpers, hood, trunk 4 quarter panels, 4 doors, roof/unibody is 13 pieces)

      So your all in there is $10k + $3k + $3k + $6k = $22k. That’s why nobody actually refurbishes a car with 200k on the odometer, they can actually buy a new car for what it costs. And then you’re still sitting in seats with 200k worth of back sweat and farts in them.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        Right, you can mass produce a car but you can’t mass produce a rebuild. A rebuild is going to be basically hand done which means it will tend to cost more than a new car.

      • 0 avatar
        Toad

        The problem with refurbishing a 200k mile car is that EVERY SINGLE PART is either wearing or worn out: every wiring connection, every gasket, every solenoid, hose, valve, rubber bit, hinge pin, etc. The only parts that are not worn out are steel & iron components, and even their attachment points have been flexing/wearing/rusting for years. All of these worn parts would have to be inspected, repaired, and/or replaced to re-manufacture a car, and that would cost far more than a new, modern vehicle.

        I run commercial trucks to 1 million miles and then sell them off not because of major failures (engine, transmission, rear ends) but because of the constant minor repairs and failures that cost more per month (in parts, labor, downtime, and aggravation) than a payment would. If it is not economically feasible to rebuild trucks that retail for $150k new, it certainly is not for a $30k passenger car.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          “EVERY SINGLE PART”? Calm down there. If you’e not willing to get your hands dirty, then yeah it can be astronomical. And that’s just for a ‘driver’, not a museum piece. The more people you know in the business, goes a long way, but most any 200+K miles car that’s worth saving, restoring, or just refreshing won’t need more than the typical “wear items” besides the entire drivetrain and cosmetics/upholstery. It pays to stick to the popular cars though. It’s totally worth it, all the frustration along the way, if you’re a car nut. Or just stick to new cars.

          • 0 avatar
            Toad

            Every single part in a 200k mile car is is 200k miles old, more or less exceeding the designed life span of the typical passenger car. That is not a shocking statement.

            Can can a car be driven longer that that? Sure, I see haggard looking single moms driving 20 year old Cavaliers every day. But compared to a new car it will not be reliable, safe, or clean, plus it will have squeaks, rattles, and many major and minor mis/dysfunctions.

            Some people find joy in constantly working on an old sh*tbox. More power to them. But for most people it is a penalty and/or a curse.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            If you’re talking the “typical passenger car”, like a Cavalier, then just walk away at 200K or soon as you can. But say a last gen, fullsize Bronco, it depends. Or mid/late ’90s Wrangler or Mustang GT? Any one can be a sh!tbox when the work is complete, but that depends on a few things too.

            If you want 99.9% dependability, you might not get that with anything new. Except I tell everyone to spend a little more for something they won’t get tired of, in a few years, let alone 6 months in.

            15 years from now, a freshly restored/refreshed Bronco (daily driven) may be in need of another ‘go through’.

            I just don’t see the pleasure of a new car, in and of itself.

            Even if it’s something like a new Audi TT, what would that thing cost to restore, in 15 years and 200K miles? Never mind the upkeep, control modules, etc.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            Btw, you sound like someone that has to have a “new” or newer car at all times and never looking back. That’s fine, I know the type, but don’t think all else is sh!t rattle boxes that’ll leave you stranded everywhere. But if that’s what you want to believe to justify your choices then enjoy.

      • 0 avatar
        Flipper35

        A replacement engine is about $1k to $3k for most applications if you are just going for a stock replacement and not a tuner version.

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        20k crate motor?
        You can buy a 572 GM for 15k.

        A rebuilt GM 6.0 long block is about $3k give or take a couple hundred, and a new transmission is about $2k, maybe if the car brand your buying is designed with planned obcelense like a typical Euro make. Otherwise a typical domestic BOF is going to be reasonable proposition, and I assume this is why they are getting more expensive and complicated.

        Edit: I guess if it’s Diesel 20k certainly wouldn’t be unrealistic.

        • 0 avatar
          duffman13

          I had a friend money-shift a recent Hemi-equipped Mopar vehicle a few years back. His cost to replace at the dealer was quoted at $20k, and only about $2500 of that was labor. The long block was somewhere in the $17-18k range.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            The dealer was screwing him. The part number on a brand new 5.7L is P5155459 and can be bought at about $6000. I’d guess a 6.1 or 6.4 is more but not $17k.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            Well dammit, the only vehicle I was interested in was a 6.4 2500, great, now there is literally nothing but used vehicles.

            17k will buy a few 6.0s and/or 8.1s

      • 0 avatar
        anti121hero

        Your prices are astronomical. I’m sorry that you’ve spent so much!

        • 0 avatar
          duffman13

          I’m only rebuilding my suspension, and doing most of the work myself. All in it should cost me about $2k.

          Otherwise, I was going through what those parts and install generally run, though I realize that for the engine part I was definitely estimating on the high end of things. And as for bodywork, I’m guessing you haven’t had any done recently. Paint/labor costs are through the roof nowadays.

    • 0 avatar
      CobraJet

      I am an extreme “keeper”. I bought a 94 Chevy Silverado 1/2 ton pickup brand new. It was loaded with just about every option there was at the time. I have kept it all these years. For the first 10 years it was parked outside and was my daily driver. Since then it has been garaged and is used several times a week and several longer trips per year. Current mileage is 192,000.

      At 150,000 the engine began to sound a little loose. There was some engine knocking on hot start-up. I knew I wanted to keep the truck. The new ones just don’t work for me. They are too big and too tall to be useful to me as a truck. I can’t reach anthing in the bed of a new one while standing on the ground beside it.

      So I had the local Chevy dealer install a new GM crate 5.7 as an exact replacement. The new engine came with a 3 yr/100,000 mile warranty. Today it runs great. Other routine maintenance has included tie rod ends, brakes and alignment. No work has ever been done to the transmission or rear axle. These are serviced regularly.

      Since I am in the south, there is no rust and the original two tone paint still looks very good. I have no plans to get rid of it and I enjoy it everytime I drive it. It is getting old enough now that people stop and comment about it and its condition.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        That sounds like a great truck. In my opinion the GMT400s are the best-looking full-size pickups ever made, if you can keep the tinworm away. (Just don’t look too closely at the interior.)

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          My dad would have kept his silver 94-ish Silverado, with the grey cloth – BUT.

          As with many 90’s silver vehicles, it couldn’t really hold paint well, and started coming off the hood very early on. He has steered clear of silver paint since then.

  • avatar

    Raise your hands if you’re gonna live forever!!!

    A car is an investment.
    The second largest investment the average American makes behind a house. Buying a new car ever 6 years or leasing a new car every 3 works for some people just fine.

    Considering the movement to change cars from ICE to EV most dealers wouldn’t want to support models beyond 20 years. The roads are changing faster than that.

    • 0 avatar
      turf3

      Sorry, a car is not an investment (unless you are a car dealer buying wholesale and selling retail). An investment is something you buy, hold for a while, then sell for (hopefully) more than you paid for it. A car is an operating cost, and sometimes a plaything or toy.

      It helps to use the terms “profit center” and “cost center”. Is your car a profit center? How about your stock investments? Unless you are in the habit of buying cars cheap and selling them dear, they are not investments.

      Now here’s some even more unorthodox language: Neither is your primary residence an investment. Unless you plan to sell your primary residence and live somewhere much cheaper, your house is also an operating cost. Especially since the vast majority of homeowners don’t actually own their houses but pay a mortgage, so all the debt service associated with that is 100% operating cost.

      The accurate statement would be: “Your car is a large and very important cost center; the second highest one behind your house. For some people the model of always paying on a loan is the best choice for how to meet that operating cost; for others buying the car outright and keeping it for a long time is the best choice for how to meet that operating cost.”

      • 0 avatar
        clivesl

        turf3 – excellent summary

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        I actually agree with both Big Truck (perish the thought) and Turf3. Cars are both a cost AND an investment. They cost money to acquire and to run, but you are investing in your personal transportation. And for some of us that think of cars as a hobby, it is an investment in entertainment. At least if you blow money on a sportscar you have something to drive around in, if you blow money on golf or a vacation all you have are some short term fun and some memories. Friends of mine just spent almost what I paid for my ’13 Fiat 500 Abarth on a Disney cruise for themselves, kid, and a couple of the grandparents! And I got BACK 80% of what I paid for the Fiat when I sold it. You can’t sell a cruise you took.

        I’ve always thought thinking of cars as a “depreciating asset” simply is not the whole story. In exchange for that reduction in value, you are getting very valuable transportation. And of course the longer you keep the car, the less the depreciation matters in relation to the value of the transportation.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Cars are investments huh….. well Mr Stock Market, what kind of returns have your Rubbermaid Chryslers been giving you, after insurance, fuel, tolls, traffic violations, depreciation etc…..

      • 0 avatar

        My car:

        #1 protects my health by being strong enough to survive side impacts and rear impacts. AN INVESTMENT IN MY LIFE.

        #2 Investment in my overall comfort driving to and from work. A Luxury car can make the difference between a stressful commute and a stress-free, soothing commute.

        #3 Investment in mental health.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          @BTSR

          You just jumped the shark by switching the term investment from monetary (which WAS being referenced) to emotional (which was NOT being referenced).

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            How many more seasons will we get out of his show before this is realized and the network cancels him?

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      A car is a major purchase, just like a house which is a major purchase AND an investment. But these are two different kinds of assets – the house will appreciate (in theory) given correct factors and maintenance.

      The car is always a money loser.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        @CoreyDL

        A car is not necessarily a money loser if you keep it long enough. Even with all the expenses over the past 19 years of ownership, my Spitfire is worth notably more than I have spent on it. Has it kept pace with the stock market – no, but it is probably on par with a simple savings account. And I can tell you it has been a heck of a lot more fun than a series of bank statements, so I am ok with the lower return.

        The trick is not letting the car get to the point where it NEEDS an expensive refurbishment. If I keep my BMW wagon for 20 years, it will have just about 120K on it at that point, assuming my lifestyle doesn’t change much. I predict baring some idiot running into me, that it will look pretty much the same as it does now, and drive pretty much the same too.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          This is true, I suppose. But only if you -happen- to purchase the right vehicle. Your Spitfire is a rare thing, one which didn’t survive the years very well in the hands of the majority of human beings who were not B-L mechanics.

          Something like what most/almost all people are buying today will lose money, because they won’t be rare enough. I’m trying to think of something “interesting” which people think is worth money because it’s rare, but likely won’t be.

          Riviera Silver Arrow, or any Riviera Supercharged.

          *Ducks fury of Kyree*

          Anyway, with cars the way they are now, there are no “rarities” of a style, like your Spitfire. It would all be down to some rare trim package or limited edition. The rare makes and models have been legislated and consolidated out of existence.

          In future, I could see: 190E 2.3 Cosworth? Sterling 827 LSI, SVX LSi, Saab Viggens, Jag special editions (200, or Gold etc). But it’s going to get harder and harder to have these kinds of specials.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            It just has to be interesting. Hardly any boring workaday cars survive from any era relative the numbers sold. I bet my 2016 M235i will be just as sought after in 40 years as a ’76 2002 is today, and check out the prices on a nice one of those these days – 2-3X what they cost new!

            Nobody keeps a Corolla, other than accidentally. It does happen, when my Great Grandfather died in ’95, he still had the last car he bought new, a ’75 Vega. It had all of 17-18K miles on it and was in almost mint condition, other than being a Vega, the few times it had ventured out in inclement weather over the years caused a couple small rust spots on the sills. It was probably the last ’75 Vega alive in the state of Maine at that point.

  • avatar
    turf3

    I’m not clear on what your question is. Is it: “How should automakers make vehicles that appeal to people who keep them a long time?”; or is it “How can automakers convert the last few thousand responsible people in the USA into lifelong debtors?”

    If it is the first question, I think that: a) automakers don’t give a flip, since those people don’t statistically buy enough cars to matter, and b) the answers are pretty well known, but automakers don’t do those things, because they would by and large be counterproductive to their main business which is to sell everyone a new car loan every two or three years.

    If your question is the second one, which I suspect is actually the case, I would suggest that those of us who do not want to live our entire lives with neverending car loans should simply be left alone to live our lives the way we want to. Being left alone seems to be the most difficult thing to achieve in this age.

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    “Don’t spend money. Don’t buy anything.”

    I’m not comfortable seeing my Church’s sacred liturgy being bandied about on the internet. Not even this little bit of it.

  • avatar
    Nicholas Weaver

    “Subaru customers are wonderfully loyal. The just come back once a decade”. -Subaru dealer’s lament.

    • 0 avatar
      hglaber

      And they pay cash. One of the reasons cited for Subaru doing so well during the carpocalypse was that they had the highest % of cash buyers of any brand. High interst? Tightened lending standards? They didn’t care. Just handed over the ’99 Outback and a check and drove away.

    • 0 avatar
      Kendahl

      We’ve had our Legacy wagon for 17 years. Its replacement is likely to be an all-wheel-drive van, something that Subaru doesn’t make.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    Though you’d never know it from the Party Line on this site (which continually scolds prototypical shoppers for taking out long notes on short ownership (or getting lease after lease) and spending themselves into ruin), the average owner IS a “keeper”! (okay, maybe not “until the wheels fall off” (unless they own a German Car), but long enough to pay off the note.)

    The IHS looked at registrations and determined that the average new “light” vehicle (meaning non-commercial vehicles) is held by the original owner for 77.8 months. (And this is up 26 months from this measure in ’06.) Used cars are held for an average of 63 months, which is up 25 months.

    While certainly the left edge of the bell curve holds some irresponsible folks (and an inordinate number of automotive journalists), on the whole it appears that the average consumer is quite responsible, holding on to the car well after it’s no longer upside-down, and in many cases well after it’s paid off. (If the average for a new car is 6 1/2 years, there must be an awful lot of folks holding new cars for quite a bit longer.)

    http://press.ihs.com/press-release/automotive/average-age-light-vehicles-us-rises-slightly-2015-115-years-ihs-reports

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Interesting. I’m almost perfectly average. I just sold a vehicle 75 months after buying it new.

      Although I replaced it with a car that was actually a year older, so that’s probably different.

      • 0 avatar
        Power6

        The Internets is like friggin lake wobegon, all those *other* people buying cars with loans must hang out somewhere else….

        Just like everyone here is an awesome driver who would never ever need any safety tech, and totally robbed the dealer on their last car purchase. Dunning-kruger in full effect y’all.

  • avatar
    Waterview

    I think I qualify as a “keeper” given that I’ve kept cars for 12 and 14 years. My current DD has been with me for 13 years. I absolutely am a car guy and would love to own more cars and trade more frequently, but the car buying process is not set up to service folks like me (understandably). I don’t think most of us are “payment buyers” and I don’t think spending time in the service department waiting room is productive. We’re looking for something well built, durable, and without Star Wars electronics that will utlimately (and expensively) fail. I realize that paying cash, not buying the extended warranty and other add-ons makes me a less desirable customer, so it’s just easier to keep it.

  • avatar
    dwford

    I understand that some people get a perverse pride in maintaining an ancient car, but I’d rather buy a new or lease a new car on a regular basis and not have to worry about constant repair trips.

    • 0 avatar
      RideHeight

      Or buy Japanese and get both!

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      I think you vastly underestimate the reliability of a modern car. In my family we have two cars, an ’04 Passat (now at 145k) and an ’06 Solara (just hit 114k yesterday). Of the two, the Passat required a new wheel bearing and a new alternator. Other than those two repairs (in 11 years!), I haven’t had to do anything that could not be completed at the same time as a scheduled maintenance visit. (I’m not counting batteries… it’d be foolish in the extreme to decide that you’ll never hold onto a car because you’ll need to jump the car for a worn-out battery a couple times a decade.)

      If you want to keep yourself in a newer car, great, but you likely aren’t actually saving yourself much hassle, and it certainly isn’t cheap.

  • avatar
    slance66

    I think they have already done this with CPO programs and long powertrain warranties. The goal now is to sell the car at least twice. Hopefully enticing the new car buyer with low lease rates or financing, that will allow them to flip the car every 24-36 months. This in turn produces an inventory for actual car buyers who want to buy and hold. Buying and holding from new is a pretty poor strategy for most new cars (excepting 4Runners, Tacomas, and cars with huge incentives). I’d guess that most people who keep their cars 10 years end up with cars rather older than ten years old.

    • 0 avatar
      sproc

      Agree with you on the CPO turnover, but not necessarily the keeper buying strategy. If I’m only replacing a vehicle every 8-12 years and I’m scrupulous about maintenance and upkeep, why should I forgo the first three years of a new car’s life? Being a keeper (as I am) is often much more than a TCO calculus. There’s a lot to be said for that new car thrill, especially if you’re disciplined enough to only have it once a decade.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    Try to sell an old Volvo and you’ll become intimately familiar with the Exchange. Unfortunately, it’s usually just another old POS Volvo that you’ll get in return.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      This is so so true!

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Speaking of Volvo, I saw a “keeper” one this weekend.

      The MOST basic XC70 I’ve ever seen. It was a circa 2006 model, and it said 2.4 on the back. No tint, flat white paint, no two-tone, cloth seats (!) in beige, and flat black plastic trim where the wood would be.

      I had no idea they could even -be- that basic. I have never seen one with cloth before to my recollection. That had to be very specially ordered by someone with thick glasses and an old tweed jacket.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        You found yourself an updated 240 DL!

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Omg you’re right! The beige cloth pattern had little squares on it, which put me in mind of a hair salon smock or something. I didn’t like that part.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Cloth quality has gotten much worse since leather started being a mandatory element of “premium” status.

            I haven’t seen any cloth interior in the 2000s that had cloth as durable and comfortable as that in my 1988 Accord. My “new” LS460, unbelievably, is my first car since that Accord to be its equal in interior material quality.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I’m not thinking of any cars past about 1998 which had excellent cloth. I’ve been in cloth examples of both the 88-94 and 95-99 Maximas, and they had excellent cloth.

            The 00ish Century had thin, grabby cloth which was too hot.

            My mom’s Pathfinder has nasty grabby cloth that feels like a lint brush.

            My dad’s 04 Ram has cloth which would seem not hearty enough for a truck used for working. He covers his seat bottoms with towels.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Funny you mention the Maxima. The single worst thing about my 2015 Maxima rental two weeks ago was the cloth quality. It was like a terry towel that’s been through the wash 50 times. I wish I were making that up.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I think these days the Maxima is a car intended to have leather in it, like you mentioned. Especially with as upmarket as they’re making the current parrot-shaped model.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        That’s not a stripper – it was an XC70. Come to Maine, son. This is where every steel-wheeled, cloth seat, no sunroof, no auto HVAC, 5spd stick *V70* Volvo ever sold in the states lives. Not even all that rare here.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          I don’t even see V70’s here, at all! There’s ONE white one I see, and boy is it clean. It’s probably an 08 or so. And I think it’s AWD as well.

          People go all out with Volvo models here, unless you’re poor and got an S40 used or something. Same kind of person who’d buy an X-type.

  • avatar
    redav

    Why should automakers cater to keepers? Clearly, their current goal is to sell cars. But with Ford trying to become a transportation service provider (and not just a car/truck maker), are you suggesting that automakers need to switch to a service business model? It may not be a bad idea where an automaker sets up rideshares, life-event exchanges, maintenance/reliability, insurance, etc. Then, profitability comes through any use of transportation, not merely purchasing of product. However, much of the services side is already being done, but it’s through dealerships, not automakers.

    Dealerships already offer a system to buy, exchange (dispose), insure/warranty, maintain, customize, rent, etc. They can offer discounts on service, lifetime warranties (if the buyer gets regular service at their dealership), etc. I don’t see these strategies directly benefiting the automaker, but certainly brands can set guidelines for consistent policies in the same way they make standards for dealership experience.

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      Agreed. The dealership wants you to be a keeper (or an exchanger, preferably at their dealership), because they make so little on the sale of a new car. But the automaker has little incentive whatsoever to keep the car running after the original owner has sold it (hopefully after a happy ownership experience)

      Cell phone carriers had this all figured out, where you paid a set monthly fee and you could change out your phone every 20mos or so, and you were beholden to the carrier for 24mos, lest you be hit with a punitive ETF (which, if you remember, were not pro-rated until several years ago.) Since the price didn’t drop if you DIDN’T upgrade, and since they let you upgrade before your contract was over, you had great incentive to re-commit yourself without bailing to another carrier since the re-commitment (via a “free” upgrade) happened before you were relieved of your contract obligation.

      We owe a lot to T-Mobile for pointing out to consumers how stupid throwing away your phone so often is and offering phones on a payment plan (disconnected from your carrier contract) instead. It appears to be working, since the other carriers are now switching over to such plans, making it obvious how much “free” phones cost. (And this has led to a viable used phone market; it used to be the only people that bought used phones were those that dropped their old one.)

      I’m sure if the automakers had their way, all cars would be least and they all would go to the crusher as soon a lease expired but people DO like decent resale value (or decent residual value) and cars last way longer than leases or loans.

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    Steve,

    Any age pattern to the Scrooges vs. Stooges?

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      Surprisingly no. The stereotype is that Millenials are somehow less capable of being keepers. But I’ve found it’s older folks on fixed incomes who prefer to be traders.

      However some of those folks will also complain about nearly anything just to pass the day. I effectively fired one of my customers recently because he just wouldn’t stop complaining. This was even after I went out of my way to help him with something that was not my responsibility.

      • 0 avatar
        RideHeight

        I knew an elderly trader like that; obsessed with Buicks his entire life, traded every couple of years and took a bath on each one. He stealthily kept this up (kids far away) till his son got power of attorney and put him on a leash.

  • avatar
    Matt Foley

    I am a keeper, and I have managed to accumulate close to $20K in cash over the past five years by not having a car payment. I’m a smart guy, right? Well, maybe not:

    1) There’s no place to invest that money that is safe, liquid, and pays a decent return. So my money is actually losing value.

    2) Politicians of both parties are discussing “means testing” as a way to reduce “entitlement spending.” In plain English, that means if you were a responsible saver all your life, you’re not getting your full Social Security check when you retire, while the grasshoppers who leased luxury cars while living paycheck to paycheck get their full slice.

    3) My DD seems to need a $50-$100 part every 4-6 months. That’s way cheaper than a car payment…but I am getting tired of wrenching on it. (It’s outer tie rod ends this weekend.)

    4) I was thinking of using this cash to help my son when he goes to college, but financial aid offices are running the same racket as #2 above (savers pay more).

    So maybe I need to unload Old Faithful on CL and lease that 3-series. Financially dumb? Sure. But when there’s so little incentive to save, maybe I should go ahead and fiddle while Rome burns.

    • 0 avatar
      turf3

      Well, what happens if you lose your job? If you have a large unplanned expense? That, it seems to me, is the kicker in the “it makes better sense to spend every dime you have and take on debt, because your money isn’t earning anything anyway” argument; that argument seems to rely on an assumption of an unbroken income stream forever.

    • 0 avatar
      RideHeight

      “..fiddle while Rome burns.”

      I think that’s been changed to Athens.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      “1) There’s no place to invest that money that is safe, liquid, and pays a decent return. So my money is actually losing value.”

      Correct. Risk v. return is the nature of money. Nobody is going to pay you extra for holding your money without giving you risk. You can keep up with inflation (sounds like that’s your concern) by investing in something -almost- no risk, like a money market account. Those are largely liquid.

      You could also use a tiered bond strategy. Little less liquid.

    • 0 avatar
      an innocent man

      There is no such thing as “your full Social Security check.” Your money doesn’t go into an account or a lockbox. SS is not a savings account. A tax is collected from some people and paid to others as a benefit that is subject to change at any moment. Just like any other benefit.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      “There’s no place to invest that money that is safe, liquid, and pays a decent return.”

      You’re missing a word: “There’s no SINGLE place…”

      This is why diversified investment strategies exist. You combine the advantages and disadvantages of different types of investments. There is still risk, and your portfolio may decrease in value in some years, but most of the time there is an actual return, and there’s no problem with liquidity unless you want to cash out the whole portfolio at once.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    What a great article Steve!

    The flaw that I see with the CR review of the extended service contract is the following; repairs have deceased in frequency but substantially increased in cost. It appears the modern car is far more of a gamble than perhaps ten years ago.
    In the past you could, for the most part, script out the cost of repairs over ten years including mechanical failure, not just maintenance. Certain makes eat CV boots/joints, trannys, window regulators etc. I have seen many a Lexus, Toyota, Honda as well as the usual suspects roll in with massive R.O tickets for seemingly benign repairs. These are infrequent for sure but eye popping when you do get them.

    I am referencing integrated computer controlled climate systems, full digital dash pods so on and so forth. When these components fail it is hard to ignore them as the operation of the vehicle has turned into a game of Jenga, the right component fails and the whole system fails. This is most likely why so many of the posts on this site reference the desire to have knobs and buttons on the dash versus a computer interface (touch screen).

    Perhaps Murlee’s post of the junkyard A8 is preminiscant of the future…too much technology packed into too tight a space.

    • 0 avatar
      Waftable Torque aka Daniel Ho

      I’m a keeper, but only because I tend to buy fully loaded cars. That means getting the gewgaws like navigation, active cruise control, power everything, etc. And that introduces more things to possibly break down. But if I didn’t have those features, I’d be a lot more susceptible to trading in my ride more often to get those features.

      I sidestep the conundrum by only buying Toyota or Lexus, though with their recent design decisions towards aggressiveness and trendiness, I’m inclined to look elsewhere next time.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    “So with that said, how should automakers cater to the keepers among us?”

    Not really worth it, we’re a shrinking part of the market. The market is increasingly treating cars like cellphones, and must replace often with the latest and greatest. Longevity beyond a lease is not a concern. So they shouldn’t bother.

    • 0 avatar
      sproc

      This part of it all makes me particularly sad, and is undoubtedly one of the reasons I’m a keeper. I’m far from an eco-warrior, but I just can’t stand stupid waste. It’s bad enough replacing the perfectly functional 1/2 pound of glass and plastic in your pocket every two years, much worse two tons of metal, glass and rubber that is engineered to last a decade.

  • avatar
    Dan

    “Why not offer an extended service contract that guarantees a blanket 25-percent discount for all the maintenance needs of a given vehicle up to 10 years or 200,000 miles?”

    The people who run vehicles for 200,000 miles either wrench themselves or have a good indy.

    Dealership maintenance with a 25% discount is about 1000% and 100% more expensive, respectively.

    • 0 avatar
      Felix Hoenikker

      Agreed,
      A dealership could never sell a long term service contract at a reasonable price because of their high pricing for labor and parts.
      Case in point, I took my Saturn into the local Chevy dealer for the ignition recall and a recall on the electric power steering. After arriving I noticed the smell of gasoline that I traced back to a tiny leak in the fuel line under the car. It was near the front of the rear door about a foot from the edge of the rocker panel and not an immediate hazard as there were no heat sources close.
      I asked the service manager to check this and give me a cost estimate to repair the line. Their estimate was $920 to replace the fuel and vapor return lines. Before he called me I already checked online for a price on the fuel line. It was $130 for the OEM part.
      I picked up the Saturn after the recall work was done and drove it to the local Indy shop I use. They said nothing was wrong with the vapor return line and quoted $130 plus an hour of labor for the new GM fuel line. I had them also replace the intermediate steering shaft, two front tires and do an alignment. The total bill was slightly under $800. This was the first real money I had sent of the car in 10 years and 250K miles.
      The moral of the story is to buy mew and hold, bank a little money for the inevitable repairs, and find an Indy mechanic who doesn’t have huge yacht payments. I guess I’m a keeper.

      • 0 avatar
        DweezilSFV

        Have had my ION for 10 years, purchased new with only auto and AC. I splurged for floor mats. 64,ooo miles and have had to replace one battery after nearly 9 years, tires and rear brakes.Still have Original brakes on the front wheels.

        The polymer panels are rust proof and easily replaced on all four corners. Unlike the welded ones on the rear of most cars.

        Kept it simple. Bought for long term ownership. The fact that others think it’s an automotive booger makes me like it even more. And my bank account thanks me.

        Other than the same recalls you had, Felix, our experiences are similar.

        I’ve dropped off this hamster wheel.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I don’t know the answer. I guess I’m a keeper – I need a good reason to get rid of something. I’m 38, have had a license since I was 16 and have owned 6 vehicles in that time. 3 of them currently.

    First car 1982 Celebrity passed off to my sister.

    Second car 1987 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme Brougham, stolen when I was living in Detroit.

    1997 Escort station wagon, lost in a divorce because it was paid for and therefore she wanted it. Cars were appliances to her.

    2004 Ford F150 Heritage, still own it. It’s long paid for and I just run it and maintain it enough to keep it going for those times I need a truck it just passed the 100K mile mark.

    1967 Ford Mustang convertible, family heirloom I plan on keeping it long enough to pass it down again.

    2010 Highlander, I plan on taking it to 200K miles (roughly 70K now) and taking whatever they’ll give me in trade.

    How does a dealer make more money off of me? Hard to say, if the car isn’t reliable enough I’m not coming back to your brand.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    Automakers can’t even get me into the door right now, how could they possibly expect to keep me paying money through any venue other than the parts dept. They could start by offering a compelling product that didn’t have Rubbermaid bumpers, touch screens in the dash/electronics controlling every aspect, and engines choices that are interesting.

    Until then, I will continue to own my old vehicles and keep them up, at least until the point the above changes.

    • 0 avatar
      RideHeight

      “a compelling product that didn’t have Rubbermaid bumpers, touch screens in the dash/electronics controlling every aspect, and engines choices that are interesting.”

      Well, they didn’t *quite* clone us because I don’t care about engines.

      But it’s nice to hear from another hater of plastic-capped car bodies!

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        Plastic bumpers are an extremely compelling case against planned obcelense. They look fine the first year or two, then you realize just how godawful they look in everyway once the new model arrives. Metal bumpers do not suffer this problem.

        And engine choice is a must, I need the Big Block for the trucks, and the small block for the cars, there is no other way.

        • 0 avatar
          RideHeight

          Plastic bumpers/end clips and *visibly* thinner, puffed-out sheet metal have forever deprecated my brain modules that respond to Effing Gorgeous Cars.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            +100

            It’s very reassuring seeing half of these brand new undamaged bumpers fluttering around when they’re on the highway.

          • 0 avatar
            RideHeight

            I mean, how can you take those seriously?

            I don’t care what kind of Area 51-spawned tech may be under the surface, they fail the eyeball test and nothing can redeem that for *this* boomer.

            Christ, I saw the ’65 Impala-on-a-rock ad when it was new, owned a ’66 SS 396 and grew up ogling Golden Hawks, Imperials, Tri-5s, and Galaxies etc.

            I’m supposed to be excited by a ’16 Fusion?

        • 0 avatar
          Toad

          If you want metal bumpers and big block engines you don’t need a new car, you need a time machine :-)

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            http://www.mcsmk8.com/GM-CLASSICS/GM.htm

            Hey Hummer and RideHieght, See if you can get him to part with some of his collection…

          • 0 avatar
            RideHeight

            Aughhh.. put that Wagoneer back down, you lifter creeps!

            Those were for doctors, not d1ckheads!

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            Toad,

            No I need a new vehicle that isn’t meant to be thrown away.

            I’d take a nice 06 8.1l 2500 with a 6 speed Allison very happily over any currently sold vehicle on the planet, including exotics and even real land rovers. Although if we count the brand new H1s AM General is selling in Europe to civilians, it may be a different story.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            Dan, that suburban has H2 rims on it, dunno where I’m going with that, but, there it is.

        • 0 avatar
          turf3

          Yes, the plastic bumper is a revenue enhancement for the automaker. It used to be (in the days of the energy-absorbing 5 mph bumpers that everyone derided) that a low speed tap meant that you walked around, saw the place where the rubber rub strip was scuffed, and if you were really really picky you got some black shoe polish and tidied it up. Now, the same low speed tap pops the huge piece of molded plastic off all its little snap fit holders, so one end of it is hanging down, so you have to duct-tape it up just so you can get home, and then it costs $1000 to replace it. Someone, please tell me how this is an improvement?

  • avatar
    ajla

    If I’m not going to spend a bunch of money on cars (granted maybe not always new vehicles) then I might as well quit my current job to work at Wendy’s so I can watch Porsche owners hit on the drive-thru girl with their retractable spoilers.

  • avatar
    milkplus

    Ever since Mahindra almost came to the US market, I’ve fantasized about a “third world” spec truck with few creature comforts and low operating costs. As the average transaction price of a new automobile is closing in on median household income, I’m thinking a $25-30K diesel hilux with hand crank windows and a PTO is what subsistence laborers will need. I don’t see the USA investing in infrastructure anytime soon so as our roads deteriorate further and we collectively get poorer, we’re going to need something more tractor/UTV like to commute (at least in the snow/rust belt). Maybe it’s not that bad where you’re at, but come to Ohio, 40th in household income, but with a lot of our disposable income going to heat our houses 8 months a year. We also have corrosion obsoleting our vehicles for us at about the 12 year mark. TL;DR My next truck might be a polaris RZR with stainless floor pans.

    • 0 avatar
      RideHeight

      “I’ve fantasized about a “third world” spec truck with few creature comforts and low operating costs.”

      Me, too, but achieving US crash worthiness would cost a way lot more than deleting techy gee-gaws and slobby comforts could ameliorate.

      • 0 avatar
        milkplus

        I 100% agree that NHTSA mandated safety requirements bloat the cars, it’s a textbook case of feature creep. Here in Ohio, if you stay off a restricted motorway, you could theoretically commute in an ATV/UTV/Agricultural plated vehicle which would have made the Mahindra perfect. The other option would be to take a page from the old english kit car manufacturers and sell unassembled cars to skirt regulations. I’m dreaming about a stainless floor pan, removeable plastic body panels, a powdercoated frame and live axles, and a small diesel 4 cylinder. Imagine Local Motors meets Wrangler.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Certain oddball cars/trucks will generally be keepers, and those are the sort whose owners would pay for a 200K mile overhaul.

  • avatar
    duffman13

    So I’ve been a keeper guy forever, but I generally buy vehicles that warrant keeping, and/or have a commute that discourages leasing. I spend good money doing this, to either be comfortable or driving a car I enjoy.

    However, if you look at long term costs and are putting 12k a year on a car, leasing an econobox at $150/month indefinitely while not perfect, is a strong value proposition. You’re talking less than $2400 a year in total non-gas running costs and never having to do a peck of maintenance other than the oil changes that are probably thrown in. Yes, you no longer have equity upon trade-in, but that is a small price to pay for the zero mechanical aptitude, unscheduled cost averse consumer.

    We talk about new buyers and driving to infinity on this site with pretty high frequency, but the non-warranty buyers, aka the ones who are actually limited at a $150-200 payment for ownership are the ones that really take it in the shorts and are better served by these sort of lease deals. Consider the guy/gal buying a used civic with 80k on the clock for $10k (random numbers pulled from KBB). If they’re in a good position they’re putting down $3k or so to push their payment to that ~$150 price point. But at 80k, you’re undoubtedly going to hit the 100k service interval where you’re dumping $1-2k into scheduled maintenance, not to mention you’ll probably be out a set of tires and brake pads in the first 3 years as well at $4-600 a pop. Suddenly my automotive expense that I budgeted for $6k and some odds and ends over the first 3 years just had it’s cost increase almost 50%. Plus now I’m out rental fees or I’m bumming rides to get to work.

    Yes, after those 3 years the car should be relatively trouble/cost free for around another 3 years, and I won the car so I have equity. But then the car is worth $4-5k, and trading it in just puts me straight into the cycle I just finished. When you consider all of that, leasing the sub-$200 lease special where I can perfectly plan my expenses starts to make a whole lot more sense.

  • avatar
    clivesl

    Give me a totally personalised electric AWD platform.

    Make the whole beast truly modular, so I can upgrade to better components easily. New battery, thirty minute job, new motors at the wheels, maybe an hour.

    Make the interior easily customizable and easy to upgrade. Need new carpet? Replacements are readily available and can be installed in your driveway in an hour.

    That car I would keep forever, cause when I get bored I could just pop in some new interior bits (Seats, dash, cluster, etc) and go on my merry way.

  • avatar
    SavageATL

    If we rephrase the question to why should automakers cater to “keepers,” when “keepers” aren’t profitable for sales, the answer is:

    Toyonda and Volvo built their reputation in the 70s through the 90s by building cars that went 100, then 200, then 300K miles with minor/no issues and maintenance. Anyone else remember the medallions on 240s showing it had made it past 100 or 200K miles? People who have cars which have been trouble free, or relatively trouble free, for some astronomical number of miles WILL NOT SHUT UP ABOUT THEM.

    I know, cos I have a 2.4 06 Caravan with 209K miles (yes, it had 206 when I wrote about it a couple of weeks ago) which has had maintenance (brakes, oil changes, plugs, tyres, filters, coolant, transmission fluid) , a $140 intake gasket, the left side door actuator, a MAP sensor, and an HVAC resistor – – – and that’s it, really. I will not shut up about that car, nor will I shut up about the 91 Cadillac Brougham, RWD, Chevy 305 TBI, with 272000 miles.

    “Keepers” become brand ambassadors for the kept car.

    How long will I keep the Caravan? Probably until it requires REPAIRS totalling more than a half of what I would be making in car payments in a year on that car, or when it begins to require annoying repairs, meaning things that MUST be done rather than can be deferred, more than once every three months.

    As to a point made earlier, a 200K mile car doesn’t necessarily have 200K mile components, and things like door latches, wiper motors, etc, really shouldn’t wear out. Yes, they may do so over time but you can gradually repair them one by one- and then, if they get too much, you can junk the car.

    • 0 avatar
      milkplus

      Neither Daimler-Chrysler nor “old GM” exist anymore. I’m not sure what that does for your argument but I doubt any of the original guys that designed and built your ’91 even work at “New GM.” The auto industry doesn’t think beyond 5 years and even that’s way longer than most industries. I think it’s fairly universally known that “Early Adopters” are always your brand ambassadors. Not uncle Leo who still drives a Pontiac and “don’t trust Jap Scrap.”

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I disagree in that both “early adopters” and “keepers” are your brand ambassadors with the caveat there is a good chance the “early adopter” gets screwed on the product. How did the Karma work out for Fisker early adopters?

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        You’d be hard pressed to find a Cadillac built after 1996 which can claim 272K original miles (and I’m not talking Escalade which I don’t consider a Cadillac). Old GM had a clue on some of those models.

    • 0 avatar
      slance66

      One thing to consider is not just whether it is running well with a solid drivetrain, but how well the small things hold up. My wife’s 2007 Lexus RX has 130k and we’re planning two more years for it. But really every single thing in it is fine. There’s very little wear on interior pieces. I once recall having a seven year old Accord that I compared with a two year old Cutlass Convertible. The Cutlass interior was falling apart and Accord was almost as new at 125k miles.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Mechanical components can be replaced. The body can be maintained very carefully and look new for a very long time with relatively little effort.

    The really hard part about being a “keeper” is the interior.

    Interiors wear, and when they do it looks and feels obvious. You get frayed cloth or scuffed and cracked leather, collapsing seat cushions (not all of us are 105-pound drive-through girls), worn-out steering wheel and shifter surfaces, and permanently stained carpet. Those parts are almost impossible to find in new condition and, if you can find them, exceedingly expensive. Upholstery repair rarely looks the same as new. I don’t like having a car with a worn-out interior, and it’s the hardest part of the car to fix when it inevitably wears out.

    But who am I kidding… I’ll never be a keeper anyway. I get bored after a few years, and buy something different.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      “I’ll never be a keeper anyway. I get bored after a few years, and buy something different.”

      I am a forced keeper now. I want to get something else besides my C-Max because I find it boring in the ways that an SS or Mustang would not be. However, it is almost paid off and it’s running costs will be very low. I just can’t get rid of it and I will end up driving it until it dies.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        I find the trick is to have the keeper(s), and then keep buying some cheapish toys to keep things interesting. It’s just that as I have gotten older and my career has progressed, I can afford more expensive toys. But I can afford to have a garage full of cars, I realize that is somewhat unusual. I find my time is more of an issue than money at this point, I am maxed out at keeping up with four cars.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        I’m in a similar boat with my Civic right now, it’s in the sweet spot of being paid off, new enough to not need any work for a good long while (3 years old and only 42k miles), and with incredibly low running costs (fuel and insurance-wise). I’ve had it for 2 and a half years now, and am always tempted to upgrade. However, trading in would net me a loss of about $5k in depreciation all said and done, it just doesn’t make sense when the car fulfills all of my actual requirements.

        This past weekend I did end up test driving a few cars, a ex-rental Avalon that Carmax slapped some horrid Primewell tires on (unbalanced and noisy), and their little security key thing on the door mishaped the door seal enough to create a gap for road noise to come through. Totally ruined my impression of what was otherwise a very nice and solid car. Next was a new 2016 Outback 2.5i Premium, this my gf and I REALLY liked. I was floored by how quiet and composed the car was in terms of totally smothering road imperfections and filtering out noise. The interior quality was also outstanding, totally unexpected for $26k. Even the cloth quality was a step back in the direction of high quality velour like on my favorite 90s Japanese steeds. My only complaints are an overly aggressive lumbar support that centers all of the back’s pressure on one point instead of spreading it more into the side bolsters (remedied on the forums by taking the plastic lumbar adjuster out), and the powertrain is adequate but just barely for the car’s weight and parasitic AWD drag.

        So as much as I’d love a new Outback, and the reasons justifying its purchase are many, I’ll keep on trucking in the Civic a while longer, road noise and all.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          Just amazing how much difference tires can make.

          In the search that got me the LS460 I bought last week, I actually got to the point of test driving four LS460s. Two of them had super-cheap tires (on a LS? really?), one set of bargain-basement Kumhos and one set of a Chinese brand I didn’t recognize. Both were ruined by the tires: the Kumhos were super-loud and out of round, and the Chinese tires had the give and grip of driving on metal rollers. The other two cars both had Michelins, one set of HX MXM4s and one set of Sport AS/3s (on the car I bought). Both cars drove more or less as they should, of course with more compliance from the MXM4s and better response from the AS/3s. I like the AS/3s enough on the LS that I might buy another set.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Oh absolutely, it’s infuriating just how stupid cheap noisy tires are on a quality luxury car whose main goal is to isolate and coddle those within. I’m sure the Avalon sound/NVH engineers would have been tearing their hair out if they rode in this thing lol, it actually made my Civic (which I grouse about road noise in) seem rather refined and quiet, rolling on General Altimax RT43s, a good performing and well priced tire, but no Michelin itself in terms of noise.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            That poor Avalon. I can totally imagine a well-tired Civic being quieter and more pleasant.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Ultimately, I keep the cars that I really, really like. I kept my ’84 Jetta GLI for nearly 15 years, and I bought that car with 150K on it. I have had my Spitfire for 19 years and plan to keep it until I am too old and feeble to get in and out of it. My BMW wagon was THE car I always wanted, and when I could finally afford to I bought one new, ordered exactly the way I wanted it. And I plan to keep it FOREVER. I plan to be like the various old dudes who bought 2002s new and still drive them to Oktoberfest every year. At <5K miles a year that I am putting on it, forever should be a very long time indeed. Other cars come and go to keep me amused, but the Spitfire and the BMW will be in the garage a long, long, long time.

    The BMW M235i I am picking up in two weeks? Probably not a keeper, just like the Fiat Abarth it replaced – loved it, but I had my fun with it. I plan to have that one for a good time, but not necessarily a long time. But you never know. I think I like my Range Rover enough to really search for THE ONE to make a keeper in a few years, but this one is a little too scruffy to be that truck. It costs as much to make an average one nice as to just buy a nice one.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Dealers certainly don’t make money on “keepers.” Every time someone trades a 3-year old car, or turns it in after a lease means a new transaction for the dealer to make money. I’m not sure whether manufacturers do or not. There were certainly some super-durable cars of the past: 140/240 series Volvos, W123 Mercedes with diesel engines, the Lexus LS 400. The common element in all of these was very high quality materials, inside and out.Typically, we keep cars about 10 years. After the passage of that much time, the usual reason to get rid of them was either (a) a lot of little failures (my ’92 SHO), (b) was inconsistent with our needs (my ’01 Z3 3.0) or, in the case of a Saab 9-5 wagon, the prospect of some very expensive repairs (replacing main oil seals; auto tranny showing signs of weakness). I was not “tired of” any of these vehicles, and there is/was no new “must-have” feature that led me into the market to replace it. As others have noted, “infotainment systems” in the newer cars create the possibility of early obsolescence, and it would be better if they could just integrate with whatever smartphone you have. For example, I don’t have navigation in my new Sierra 1500 although I can buy turn-by-turn through OnStar. However, my smartphone’s turn-by-turn Google Maps navigation works very well, and the Bluetooth transmits the voice into the car audio system.

    The biggest planned obsolescence problem I have is that my 5-year old Iphone 4S runs on Verizon’s 3G network, which Verizon is shutting down and replacing with its faster LTE network. So, increasingly even in urban areas, I find my phone system monitor showing “1x” which is the old CDMA network that is used for voice calls and is otherwise very slow. So, I’m going to have to upgrade to an LTE phone.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I am a keeper of a 99 compact S-10 extended cab pickup for over 16 years which is a little smaller, not as tall, and easier to climb into the bed than most of today’s large pickups and many midsize pickups. Some other nice simple features are crank windows, manual locks, 5 speed manual and all gauges. I can even have a new key made at Walmart for under $2 and I have actually worn out one key. To me it is not only the cost savings of keeping a vehicle a long time but it is driving something that I like and that meets my needs. Eventually I might have to part with my S-10 and take it on its final voyage to the salvage yard, but I have no regrets and have good memories.

    • 0 avatar
      DweezilSFV

      Jeff S: the last time I got enthusiastic about a new/late model car was a 2007 Ford Ranger. Wheels and a bed cover, but 5 speed manual, crank windows and rubber flooring material. No asinine console either. Total minimalist transportation. I under stand completely.

      I have a 63 Valiant Signet 200 hardtop and have owned it for 35 years.Minimalist motoring personified: came with 170 [now 225], 3 speed manual on the column, non power steering, radio and heater and probably whitewalls.

      It set the template for what I like most: reasonable size, parts commonality, reasonable mileage and simplicity.

      My 10 year old ION is a little more optioned with auto and AC, but it meets the criteria for what I want in a car. The polymer panels keep it dent and rust free, lots of parts shared with other GM vehicles, the Ecotec seems like a modern version of the Slant Six and I’ve kept the seats covered since year two.

      It’s over-maintained: all belts and hoses changed at the 10 year mark, trans fluid changed at 50,000 miles, regular oil changes. 64,000 miles and many miles and years left in it. A throw away car is only a throw away if one treats it as such.

      I guess I’m a keeper too. I’ve dropped out of this debt orgy: no mortgage, car or credit card debt and I’m keeping it that way.

      The manufacturers can have their turbos, automated manuals CVTs and connectivity, but I won’t be the one paying for the repairs down the road just to “buy new” on an 84 month loan.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    It is nice to have what you owned paid for and it is nice when you pay off your mortgage before you retire. I realize at sometime I will have to depart with my S-10 but I actually like it and don’t feel I have deprived myself. There is something to be said for more simplicity and less gadgetry. My older brother had a 63 2 door Dodge Dart with 3 on the tree and an AM radio as the only option. That Dart with the slant 6 ran and ran and the motor outlasted the body.

  • avatar
    WildcatMatt

    Prior to discovering the joy and the pain of owning a Volvo 850 T5, I had a ’96 Buick Regal GS.

    I didn’t love the car, but I liked it enough that I wasn’t looking to replace it and the body and interior were still excellent. Then I tried to replace a front side marker light which was cracked and filling up with water.

    I pulled the old housing and discovered that the wiring was brittle enough to snap off in my hands. I was able to patch a new piece in where the wire joined the rest of the harness and soldier on, but that was the moment when the proverbial bloom was off the rose.

    The problem with these propositions is, for every system you overhaul there’s another behind it that got overlooked. People moan about things like navigation not working in 20 years, but that assumes the basic wiring still works.

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