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Drive it till it drops ?

isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,676
edited March 26 in Honda
Recently, I ran across a book I bought, probably twenty years ago...Drive it till it Drops.

It was written by a person that I kinda know...a Joe something...anyway...

In this book the author discussed the merits of simply maintaining an older car vs. buying a new car. The costs of repair, fuel, depreciation etc were discussed. The author made a strong case that keeping a well maintained old car on the road made more financial sense than buying a new car every few years.

As I re-read the book, I had to wonder how the author would feel now. Cars have become much more expensive and complex. Yesterday's 500.00 transmission repair bill would now be 2500.00 etc.

From my vantage point, I see a lot of cars traded in that are in great shape. The owners simply tire of them or worry about impending doom.

I just wonder if that author's feelings have changed ove the last twenty years.

It was an interesting book.
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Comments

  • ...is really hard to refute. I know that I waste a LOT of money buying cars "because the (name a car) is showing signs of expensive replacements/repairs soon to be needed." Several hundred bucks for replacing worn parts will get me down to the dealer looking at the newbies. But, it's the hassle I tell yuh! I need a dependable vehicle, not one in the shop being fixed up. Yeah, that's it...
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,676
    It costs so much nowadays to fix anything.

    So a person carefully maintains his car. It's got 150,000 miles on it and the transmission starts to slip. Well, the rest of the car is in great shape so he go's ahead and fixes the transmission even though the cost is close to the value of the car. Next month something else happens.

    Or, a week after the transmission gets repaired, the car gets rear ended and totalled. It's still worth the same as it was with the bad transmission.

    I guess I could argue both sides.
  • nematodenematode Posts: 448
    Buy a new car and do the absolute minimum to stay withing the warranty. Once the warranty expires then do stuff like 15k mile yearly oil changes or 25k with synthetic, 60k coolant change, dont change the transmission and diffy fluids after 60k, and so on until it starts to die and then trade it in while there still some equity left. Most cars will easily make it 7 years with that kind of treatment at 15k/year.
  • For over 30 years I haven't brought a car to a mechanic except for front end alignment and those lifetime mufflers. Well, there was that time I was busy, it was winter, and I had the transmission rebuilt by a cheap but well known back yard guy. Then I had to do it again myself after it broke a year and a half later. My last six cars have been high mileage ones from the repo auction. I think that qualifies them as having a poor maintenance record. I manage to get another 100K out of them for less than $500 excluding tire wear in that period. Too bad high school doesn't prepare you for things like car maintenance and finance. Drove someone to work the other day and they talked about taking their car in for an oil change. They added on a few things and the bill was $70. She said the car, which had a little idle problem, didn't run any better afterwards. With repair costs today, it may be cheaper just to get a new vehicle more often.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,948
    ...to just drive my '00 Intrepid until something major goes out on it, and then just go back to driving old beaters. Only problem with that strategy though, is that the old cars that are actually cheap to maintain and repair are now pushing around 15 years old or more, and are becoming more and more scarce every day.

    Back in the days when I was was using Darts as a daily driver (from around 1990-96), there were still plenty of 'em around in these parts, both on the street and in the junkyard. Mechanical parts are still no trouble, as they used the same engines, suspension components, etc for decades, but if I needed, say a grille for my '68 Dart 270, well lotsa luck! Back in '93, I needed a driver's side fender for said car, and found one in the junkyard. In retrospect, I should've bought both fenders, because as luck would have it, about a year and a half later, I got hit on the other side. Went back to the junkyard, and there was that donor Dart, sitting high in a pile of cars waiting to be crushed, that once-pristine fender smashed in. I was actually surprised they'd kept that car around for that long!

    I guess in general, as long as you can find parts, you can keep nursing a car along indefinitely, and it'll most likely be cheaper than buying new. For instance, while a new tranny for my Intrepid may run about $2500-3000, a used one out of a wrecked one may only cost $1000. Sure, it's taking a chance, but they usually warranty stuff like that for around 3 months...if it's a really crappy unit it'll most likely tell on itself in that amount of time.
  • and the author stated that if the parts bills were over 15% of the gross receipts for a month that not only were you pricing too low but you probably wouldn't stay in business. No wonder they are pushing all those extras. There is a high price to be paid for the convenience of not doing it yourself. I have had very good luck with high mileage vehicles. Perhaps in part because I only buy ones where there is no obvious sign the engine has been worked on. The first 100K weeds out all those Monday and Friday lemons
  • tbonertboner Posts: 402
    Odd, I took both autoshop and consumer ed (not home ed) in highschool.

    I was a bit out of place as most of my other courses were prep courses, but I wanted to be well rounded.

    Economically it makes sense to drive 'em till they drop, even with $2500 trannys. Espcially if you know you've taken good care of the vehicle.

    Heck, I put $1500 into the tranny of the Buick I bought for $1000. I got my money back as I've put almost 35K on it since that repair. Works out to be about $0.04/mile.

    But I do see the point about it getting totalled the day after. I'm just betting on it being the other guys fault and am happy we don't live in a no fault state, LOL

    TB
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,676
    Suggested something he called the "Big Fix"

    I think it was every 75,000 miles?

    At that time, he suggested going through the car completely. Replace the water pump, hoses, belts, thermostat, carburetor etc. Even though there weren't any apparant problems with these items. Just as preventive maintenance.

    Twenty years later, I wonder if he would feel the same way given the changes in today's cars.
  • Anyone aware of a source for front struts for a 1998 Pathfinder? I may elect to replace mine in the foreseeable future, and to this point I fear that only Nissan provides such parts. If I can't get them in the after market, it will cost me far too much dinero for the acquisition. (:o]
  • and do the work myself, so the costs are "minimal", so to speak. However the cost of parts, or now "assemblies", since a lot of parts aren't sold individually, is starting to skyrocket.

    My wife's Lincoln went in the shop three days ago for a squeak in the front end. Turns out the problem is a bad ball joint. However, the b/j isn't serviced seperately. It's together with the steering knuckle, so they say, and it's $$$.

    OK, the car is still under warranty, so the $$$ aren't coming out of my pocket. But, now I have a car with one, or possibly two new b/js on one side of the car and two worn ones on the other side. Since I'm anal about stuff like that, it bothers me, but to replace the parts on the other side probably is cost prohibitive. Gimme' the old time Chevy b/js...$9.95 for the uppers, and $12.95 for the lowers, all day long!!
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,687
    had very good luck with old, high mileage cars...I always look for ones with their original engines and transmissions, and no obvious signs of abuse. Beyond that, any repairs and maintenance they can document are a plus.

    All that stuff isellhondas mentioned above can be done for a few hundred $$ except the carb, which is less applicable these days. That is a great investment to make in the car after a few months, once you know its quirks and get a sense of whether or not it is about to drop.

    Apart from that, I continue to keep the car up as long as it is roadworthy, and $1000 is my limit for an individual repair. My last car was an old celica, and $1200 for a steering rack that became more and more urgent was what finally caused me to sell it...but the guy who bought it from me was a mechanic with a connection for a cheap steering rack, and with 250K + miles, I still see that car every day - he uses it to commute.

    Old beaters (provided you know what to look for and have a little luck) are a much better investment than a new car, and you can still do a lot of the repairs yourself (not true today)...I had that celica for almost five years, and it only needed towing once.

    2013 Civic SI, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (stick)

  • I bought an 84 Supra that was a salesman's car. 14 months old from the date of manufacture and it had 60K on it. I drove it till 224K when the clutch went out. Had to put in a couple of valve cover gaskets, two timing belts and water pumps, the usual brakes and plugs, NEVER ANY BEARINGS OR U JOINTS, fuel pump, windshield wiper motor, and I rebuilt the ignition module. Dealer wanted $187 for it and I figured, "Hey, who won the war!" and redesigned my own by adding 5 transistors. So I sold it and I know it was still running, after the guy put a new clutch in, three years later.
  • swschradswschrad Posts: 2,171
    if you could find the transistors, guess you did ;)
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,948
    ...last time I had to buy ball joints was back in early '99. My grandmother lost her license because of failing eyesight, and to sign her '85 LeSabre over to me, it had to go through inspection. Ball joints were one of the things they caught...the uppers were fine but the lowers needed replacing. I went around the corner to the auto parts store, and got the parts. Asked how much they were, and the guy said "52.00". I asked "each?". "Nope, $52 for both of 'em".

    I had no idea they'd be that cheap on something like that! Last time I had to get a ball joint prior to that was back in '93, when an upper for my Dart was about $45. I figured out how to put it on myself though, so at least that saved on the labor.
  • I don't "Drive it till it drops" any more. Early in my driving years I was given an old car by my family, a 1955 Chevy that my father had purchased new. The troubles I had with that car were legion. Some vehicles you just gotta let go!
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,948
    ...we let my grandmother's '85 LeSabre go because it needed about $1200. At first, we were going to keep it around at least until the next emissions test came up, and see how it fared, but then the brakes went out, and that was the last straw.

    Still, considering what it needed, $1200 didn't seem half bad. Lessee...front brake pads and rotors, a center link and idler arm, valve cover gaskets, engine mounts, exhaust work, belts, hoses, radiator flush, tranny service, tuneup, etc. We actually did get the brakes and centerlink/idler arm done, because my uncle was planning on using this car for his long commute to work. At the last minute though, he bought a brand new '03 Corolla which, in light of fuel prices, and an even longer commute now, was a wise choice. On top of that though, it was going to need new tires soon, and most likely a front-end alignment, plus whatever was wrong with the brakes.

    Still, for a 17-18yr old car with 157K miles on it, that's not too bad. The engine and driveline were still strong, and the body was pretty solid, except for the rear bumper rusting from the inside out. If anybody in my family really needed the car, we would've held onto it.
  • gslevegsleve Posts: 183
    brand new and perform yearly maintenance with regard to plugs and fluid changes ie: tranny, brake fluid, coolant, pwr steering, and have the undercarriage with the suspension checked you could avert higher or more expensive repairs I think items that are wearable ie: brakes, exhaust systems are a given and need replacement every perhaps so many years.

    However if the upkeep is done including belts and hoses and thermostats done every 5yrs or so a car these days could last a very very very very long time, again I think maintenance is the key and performing these services much earlier than recommended by the manufacturer or cutting their time table and mileage in half buys considerable life to the vehicle.
  • andys120andys120 Loudon NHPosts: 16,615
    Sometime this year I will reach the 100k mark in my '98 A4 Quattro wagon. I plan on doing a Big Fix since I plan to keep it in the family for a while. This car has been maintained by the book and has given little trouble in fact it has never been off the road for unscheduled maintainence.

    This car was a CPO unit with 53k on it when I got it in fall '00.

    I plan to have the following replaced @ 100k:
    -ATF/filter
    -Brake Fluid
    -front shocks
    -R-134a

    At around 120K I'll replace:
    -Timing belt
    -Serpentine belt

    These were done @ 60k that's why I'm waiting til 120k.

    Is there anything I'm overlooking? I'm not sure if i should replace the battery after three New England winters.

    2000 BMW 528i, 2001 BMW 330CiC

  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,676
    If my battery is four years old, I'll start thinking about replacing it. My thought is I can either do it on my terms or wait for it to fail at a bad time.

    Of course, I did this once, thinking I was smart and ended up with a defective battery that failed the next week!

    Same thing with hoses and belts. I hate unexpected troubles!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,779
    I think the Drive It Til It Drops theory only works on cars that have a "sound foundation". If you inherit some worn out old vehicle you are already into restoration work, which is not, I don't think, what the author had in mind.

    I like to look at cars as if they were a bank account. You buy a new car, you start out with a "full" account, the value of the new car.

    Then driving becomes 'withdrawals". Okay, fine.

    So when do the "deposits" start?

    If you just make lots of withdrawals and very few deposits----aha! Bankruptcy!

    So "deposits" are then the maintenance by this simplistic explanation.

    Totally "reactive" maintenance isn't enough. This is inevitably a downhill situation, because one of these days you'll going to have to "react" to a thrown rod, and you won't wanna do that.

    "Drive It Til It Drops" also pre-supposes, interestingly enough, a kind of psychological healthiness, in that your self-worth is not tied up with a new car, but rather that you derive some satisfaction from preserving and taking care of what you have.

    A bit too subtle for most Americans, but then we are all above-average here!

    I have quite a few clients with older cars, who really take care of them, and then they get in a wreck or get hit and they are offered dirt + $2.50 for their cars from the insurance company. This is their reward from their society for caring for something meticulously. What the insurance company is saying, in so many words, is that, statistically speaking, if you drive an older car you are a "loser".

    Of course, we can declare it a "classic" and a work of art, but then you'd better not actually drive it everyday. We wouldn't want a car to actually become "transportation"!

    MODERATOR

  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,687
    driving a car a really long time is predicated not only on doing regular maintenance (and more than just the oil changes), but also on fixing things that get worn or break...and then if it is a decent model to begin with, it can really pay you back for that trouble, and most cars built can go more than 200K.

    Right now I am looking at an '88 integra with 240K that drives like the day it was new. I am going to pick it up and see if it will go past 300k on the original engine and tranny (seller is the original owner).

    That whole thing about being hit can surprise occasionally though...my celica was hit a couple years back when it was already 18 years old, and the repairs topped $1600...I thought I was going to have to fight the other guy's insurance company not to just junk it, but instead they cut a check the same day, and it was repaired by the end of the week!

    2013 Civic SI, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (stick)

  • Seldom do I disagree with you, Mr_Shiftright, but this is one of those times. The presupposition you suggest for psychological healthiness is a serious stretch. Relative wealth and lifestyle has more to do with the equation, in my opinion, and both yours and mine can be challenged. Some folks maintain older cars in desperation, and achieve little solace in so doing. Others purchase new cars to avoid the "hassles" presented by older vehicle maintenance, and do not necessarily manifest self-worth deficits for so doing.
    All things considered, we Americans ARE demonstrably superior in the larger global scheme, and should not shrink back in embarrassment for having that which we have earned on this trail of tears.
    Insurance companies do not represent society's judgement against meticulous care of old vehicles, but rather they represent the cold, hard facts (albeit terribly inflated on average) of what volume of money is required to restore the vehicles versus their market value just prior to the damage being suffered.
    In retrospect, I assume you were really waxing a bit poetic in your paean to sacrificial care of older vehicles, and I am showing little appreciation for same. But we are not being considered substandard people, as the term "loser" suggests, when we must accept a lesser settlement than full restoration when other drivers destroy our low market value vehicles.
      Actually, I'm feeling like I just burned poetic license at the stake. My strident patriotism made me do it...
  • about this "drive until it drops" idea. Yeah, I can fix almost anything on a car that might break, but sometimes determining what has gone wrong can be time consuming and frustrating.

    Case in point...I have a 1997 Chevy S-10 4x4 for a winter vehicle. Lately, the ABS warning light has taken to intermittently staying on for extended periods of time. So far, I've removed all of the electrical connectors to the ABS unit, as well as all of the relays, and sprayed them with contact cleaner and blown them out with compressed air. Checked and re-seated the fuse on that circuit.

    Beyond that, there isn't much that I, or one of my "shade tree" bretheren can do, unless we possess a full blown scan tool, at $1800-$2000. So,in reality, keeping a current car going for an extended length of time may become a thing of the past, unless you have a professional mechanic in the family. Oh well, the times they are a changin'.......
  • People are posting that you can go to Autozone and get at least a reading of what the red light is glowing about. Diagnosing and repairing can still be a problem, but there could be some value in finding out what the "code" means.
  • thanks, I'll look into that. I'm hoping it's nothing more that a relay heading south, as the truck has only 37K miles on it.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,676
    The book I was talking about was written over twenty years ago.

    Today's cars are so much more complex and expensive to repair even when adjusted for inflation.

    An ABS light decides to come on? well, it could be a loose connection, but more likely it's a wheel sensor or a control unit.

    We recently took in a trade with the ABS light on. It needed a whole new control unit. the estimate was something like 1300.00!

    An air bag unit fails and it can cost a fortune.

    I guess I'm thinking...I have a high mileage older car in good shape. So, I do the "Big Fix" and plan to drive it another couple of years.

    Then, the next week, I get an ABS light on...?

    What to do?
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,948
    ...it used to be easy to read the "codes" on a car. Just about every Chrysler K-car ever built has a feature where if you turn the ignition key on-off-on-off-on (or something like that, I forget), the check engine light would start flashing in code. For instance, let's say the code was "32"...it would flash 3 times, then a short pause, then flash two more times, followed by a longer pause, finishing up with a "5-5" which means "end of codes".

    There was a way to get my '86 Monte Carlo to flash its codes too, but it was a little trickier. You had to take a paper clip and bend it, and make a connection between two points on an interface under the dash.

    Of course, then you need to know what the codes mean, but it's not that hard nowadays to find that stuff on the internet. In one of my Mopar clubs, I see posts where people are decoding these things all the time.

    Speaking of airbags, I wonder what's going to happen to them as they age, as well. I have one of the original mass-produced airbag cars, an '89 Gran Fury (GM did offer airbags around '73-76 on some of its full-sized Olds/Buick/Caddies at around a $300 option, but it was rarely ordered). Well, this car's build date is 10/88, so that sucker's pushing about 14 1/2 years now.

    I remember reading somewhere that up until recently, air bags used chemicals that were extremely toxic. Once they combined to make the airbag go off, they were harmless, but separate, as in undeployed airbags, they're dangerous as hell. And to make it even more exciting, when a car gets thrown in the crusher, the airbag doesn't go off, so those chemicals stay separate.
  • andys120andys120 Loudon NHPosts: 16,615
    they don't add much safety over what you get when you're securely belted in except ipossibly in the worst of collisions.

    If it fails beyond economic repair screw it. Just be sure to buckle up.

    2000 BMW 528i, 2001 BMW 330CiC

  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,948
    ...of an airbag going off for no reason? Like, when the car is sitting unoccupied, or just driving down the road? Considering all the other things that can go wrong with cars as they age, I don't for a minute believe that the auto makers made their airbags and all their sensors and such fool proof!

    I know in the Fury's owner's manual, it says to take the car to the dealer every 30K miles to have them check the air bag, or if the air bag warning light comes on and stays on.

    Y'know, considering I bought the thing used, with about 73K on it, for all I know it doesn't even have the air bag in there anymore! I've heard that due to the expense of airbag systems, sometimes if a car gets into a minor accident, but still enough to deploy the air bag, that often they won't replace the airbag, just fix the cover, and then re-sell the car.
  • It's rather ironic that you mentioned an ABS control unit. 3 years ago, my wife and I were discussing the purchase of a new car. We didn't REALLY need one, she just wanted something different.

    Two or three days later, the ABS light in her car comes on and stays on. I checked all the connections, still on. At the time, I knew someone who had just bought a Snap-On scanner. He put it on the car, and it said the problem was either the relay, or the ABS unit. Naturally, I put in a new relay, with no success.

    I didn't want to "shotgun" it any longer, so I took it to the dealer. Sure enough, it was the control unit...$750 for a new one, or $300 for a used one from the "recycler", plus 3 or 4 hours labor.

    I know it might not have been the most ethical thing to do, but I went with the used one, since we were already planning on selling off the car.
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