Almost 14

  • May 17, 2023

That’s the age of the average car in daily use – and a new record.

Several things can be gleaned from this number. The first is that cars made that long ago were – are – probably among the best cars ever made, if by that one means durable and reliable. Because it’s not really feasible to drive one that isn’t every day for as long as this.

It’s testimony to how good we’ve had it, as well.

And for a long time – now ending.

Cars were durable – and affordable. Almost anyone could afford to buy one – new – and after it was paid for, you could keep on driving it for a decade (or longer) after it was paid for. This meant not having to make payments for a decade or longer – which meant having money to pay for other things, including fuel and insurance, the two major peripheral costs associated with owning a car. But these were small costs relative to the monthly payment and once the latter was done with easy enough to pay for.

Maintenance costs were also low – as most cars made since the late ’90s generally didn’t require much in the way of that, beyond the usual oil, filter and fluid changes. Even these were infrequent, relative to what was once obligatory.  Annual tune-ups became a thing of the past decades ago and so long as you did change the oil and filter and fluids per the schedule, there was – and is – a good chance you won’t have to do (or pay for) much else other than occasionally, for tires and brake pads. Even clutches – in cars (and trucks) with manual transmissions routinely last for 15 years and 150,000 miles or longer.

So it’s no wonder so many people are still driving what they paid off, a long time ago. It enables them to avoid paying for a new car – which many are hesitant to buy because these cars are not likely to be as reliable as the cars they bought almost 14 years ago. Most are afflicted with over-tech, including direct-injected engines that are too small for the car they’re in – and heavily turbocharged to make up for it.

They are also much more expensive to buy – about $35,000 on average now, up almost $15k over just three years – and you are obliged to buy a lot of things many people have no interest in paying for, such as a suite of “advanced driver assistance technology” (translation: the car is programmed to correct you when it does not like how you drive), touchscreen controls that are not likely to last ten years – let alone 14 – and creepy “connectedness,” which they all have and which means that they can be controlled by someone other than you.

Many people also want no part of EVs, which are the apotheosis of all of the foregoing – in addition to being as emotionally interesting as an ATM machine, except it withdraws from you.

This brings us to what is probably the main reason why people are “clinging” to the wheels they’ve got:

The double-whammy of attenuated buying power – i.e., the devaluation of money that is styled “inflation” – and the very real increase in the amount of money it takes to buy a new car – have pushed a new car into unaffordability territory for a lot of people. Especially when you factor in the increasingly obnoxious additional costs of insuring a new car – up by 10 percent on average – and the pile-on “property taxes” many states apply as form of serial rent (like the serial rent you are forced to pay on the home you “own,” even if you long ago thought you’d paid it off).

Holding onto an older, paid-for car can mitigate much of that – especially as regards the insurance and taxes, both of which are based on the value of the vehicle, which isn’t much after 14 years.

The older, paid-for car is thus what you often hear a new car is – but isn’t. That being an investment. The latter being something that doesn’t cost you money, which the buying of a new car will. Whereas the holding-onto of an older car will at least save you some (usually a lot of) money. And also make you some – in that they money you didn’t spend on a new car (and obnoxious insurance premiums, taxes, etc.) is still available to invest in things that do make money – or are at least worth something, such as food.

But durable cars that can be daily driven for 14 years or more (often, a lot more) are money-losers for the car industry, which can’t make money if people aren’t spending it on a new car. The industry wants a return to the good ol’ days when people had to buy a new car shortly after they had paid off their old one – because by then, it was beginning to become a money pit.

Electric cars will restore that balance.

You will need a new battery long before the car is 14-years-old. Probably by seven, if the EV is used daily – and depleted (and then “fast” charged).

That’s just physics and chemistry. And since replacement EV battery packs cost more than a 13-year-old EV is worth, you will be nudged into a new EV. Since you probably won’t be able to afford to buy it, you will rent the use of it (this is what a lease is) and ownership will be replaced by serial renting, on the WEF model.

The prospect of that probably accounts for people holding onto what they’ve got. So as to not be nudged into what they don’t want.

Of course, it is not likely this opting-out will be allowed – once it becomes obvious that millions of people will never buy a new car, much less an electric one. And at that point, we enter the Red Barchetta Era of what used to be America.

. . .

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