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Go Green By Driving It 'Til The Wheels Fall Off

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  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,187
    edited May 2013
    Interesting article! It makes me feel very fortunate.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,567
    Very cool article. Europeans have been selling their cast offs - inspection failures to the less developed world for decades, makes sense that we'd get in on it too. It's kind of the ultimate recycling.

    Rebuilt wrecks are a touchy subject. Many fear them and with good reason, as you never know the quality of the repair, and it destroys resale value, so one better be prepared to drive it til it dies. I wouldn't be scared of the right rebuild, but I would want all the history.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,187
    edited October 2013
    "The average age of all light vehicles on the road climbed to 11.4 years in 2013, and an aging fleet will continue to force buyers back to the market next year," says Edmunds.com Chief Economist Dr. Lacey Plache.

    I think this represents a record, and proof that more people are driving their cars into the ground. Maybe the increasing average age of cars on the road is due more to improvements in car design, materials and assembly than to the soft economy and greater income disparity. Just a guess. Also, people are driving less, on average, thereby decreasing wear.

    Any guesses as to what the average age will be in 10 years?
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 8,396
    Depending on how the statisticians go about their business (is this based on registered vehicles or driven vehicles?!), I predict the average age will drop, and somewhat dramatically, from the current 11.4.

    Why? Well, we are in a transitional time, I think. Emissions and fuel economy standards are pushing technology to new levels, and cabin tech is also changing at an increasing pace. Interactive technology in cars will also lead people away from their current vehicles as it ages and their dissatisfaction/frustration grows, and the time it takes for that to happen is going to drop.

    I think the average car age will be closer to 7 years in 10 years, perhaps moderated a bit by those second/third/fourth vehicles on the registration rolls (even if rarely used or not used at all), so let's say ~9.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,187
    So you're saying that the average age will reverse course and decline, and rather rapidly. I'd bet against that, and predict that the trend in motion will remain in motion. My guess is that the average vehicle age will be around 12 years by the end of 2023. I understand what you're saying, but cars are lasting longer than they were, which I believe will trump the reasons you cited.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,902
    I don't think the average age is going to drop anytime soon, but I don't think it can stretch out much further. Even though cars tend to last longer, they also tend to be more expensive to repair than in days gone by. As they age, they still lose value, and eventually it gets to the point that one major repair will make the car not worth fixing.

    Also, cars are much easier to total in an accident than in days gone by. I know someone who recently totaled a fairly new Passat CC, or whatever they call that good looking "pillared hardtop" looking thing, in a rear end collision. I saw pics of it, and it didn't look *that* bad. But it was enough to total it.

    My uncle hit a deer with his 2003 Corolla a few years back, and it did about $4800 worth of damage. Also left him stranded, as all the coolant leaked out, and it pushed the fender back into the tire. Also pushed the fender back into the door so it wouldn't open!

    Dunno if the deer thing is really an indication of how flimsy cars are these days. Back in the 1990's, one of my neighbors hit a deer with a '65 Impala, and it did a pretty good number on that car. And I'm sure that if, in the late 70's you hit a deer with something like a Pinto, Vega, Civic, Corolla, etc, the results wouldn't have been pretty, either.

    I know my actions would never be enough to sway the averages, but I've been thinking about trading more often. I've been toying with the idea of trading my 2012 Ram right around the time it turns 5 years old and the warranty runs out. But, to offset that, I also have a '57, '67, '76, two '79's, an '85, and an '00 that get another notch added to their bedposts every year they stay registered, titled, and out of the junkyard!
  • ohenryxohenryx Posts: 285
    edited October 2013
    What you are speaking of is known as the "crumple zone" or "crush space". It is on purpose, it saves lives, and it makes cars much more expensive to repair after a collision. But it is still a "very good thing" (copyright applied for).

    Yes, it will put more cars in the junk yard, but people are walking away from accidents that might have killed them in years gone by. What we need now are fewer accidents, but that would require real driver training, and that ain't gonna happen.

    Back to the original topic: My belief is that the average age of cars on the road will continue to go up, although not by much. Cars do last longer (leaving aside collisions), and the ever widening income gap means that fewer and fewer people will be able to afford a new car.
  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,147
    ...of my fleet is 11.5 years, as including my 1989 Brougham in the mix acounts for it. I imagine andre1969 including his 1957 DeSoto would really drive up the average age of his fleet.
  • snakeweaselsnakeweasel a Certified Edmunds Poster.Posts: 11,702
    I'll throw in my 1 cent (that's my two cents after taxes). First I would like to know what is the average age of ownership for the cars on the road. I would guess that a lot of cars that have been on the road for 11.4 years have had more than one owner.

    While build and reliability of todays cars has a lot to do with that average age of a car the economy has a lot to do with it to. Not many people today can afford either to get a new car every 4 or 5 years or a new car at all. I cannot see that changing in the next 4 or 5 years. We may never see a sizable true middle class again for quite some time.

    My guess is that over the next ten years the average age of a car will increase by 0.1 to 0.2 years per year. So in ten years look at the average age to be around 13 years.

    The sign said "No shoes, no shirt, no service", it didn't say anything about no pants.

  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,902
    edited October 2013
    Yeah, crumple zones are definitely a good thing, there's no denying that. But it is aggravating how much damage even a low-speed impact can inflict.

    However, even that is nothing new. One reason that 5 mph bumpers were enacted in the first place back in the 1970's was that it was getting too easy to run up big repair bills in minor impacts. It was mainly the safety aspects of the car they were looking to protect...lights and such. But, I remember Consumer Reports running some vehicle into a wall at only 2.5 mph or so, and it was enough to disable it! I think it was a Chevy LUV, and the impact punctured the radiator.

    And, crumple zones aside, sometimes cars are just designed stupidly. My 2000 Intrepid was totaled when someone pulled a hit and run on it in a restaurant parking lot. The damage actually looked fairly minor, but the wiring harness was routed in a bad spot, passing just behind the headlight, and ended up getting ripped. I think that was the straw that broke the camel's back. Anyway, here's all it took, to total that car...

    image

    Before I bought my 2000 Park Avenue, I made sure to check the location of the wiring harness. Even though they say lightning never strikes twice in the same spot, I was a bit paranoid at the time...
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,902
    First I would like to know what is the average age of ownership for the cars on the road. I would guess that a lot of cars that have been on the road for 11.4 years have had more than one owner.

    I think I read somewhere that the used car market is something like 3-5X the new car market so yeah, many of those 11.4 year old cars have definitely had more than one owner.

    Like you, I'd be curious to know how long the average new-car buyer keeps their car. I've only had two new cars...my 2000 Intrepid, which I had for just over 10 years until it got totaled, and my 2012 Ram, which I've had just over a year. Most of my family members...grandparents, parents, etc, often bought every 3-5 years when they were younger, but as they got older those intervals stretched out. Not sure if that's a result of more reliable cars, not driving as much, or just not putting as much emphasis on having the latest thing.
  • crkyolfrtcrkyolfrt Posts: 2,345
    OTOH, maybe because of our incessant desire for tech toys in the office..err..car, and our increasing reliance on shifting questionable driving abilities..(including basic parking) to the safety tech the car possesses, rather than owning these responsibilities ourselves, that manufacturers are possibly finally back in a position to ensure they sell you a new car more frequently. They hold all the (repair-ability) cards now. A simple (not) electronic PC board somewhere can total the car if you can't find the problem. OR if the mfgr manipulates the ability to 'service' (or not).. that board by deliberate obsoleteness.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,539
    I think statistical probability also limits a car's ultimate age on the road, in everyday use I mean (anyone can KEEP a car stored for XX years).

    Sooner or later, it will be in an accident, or excessive mileage will start to cause structural weaknesses----or climate will get to it, etc.

    Then there are mechanical limits---even the most modern cars are pretty worn out at 175,000--200,000, and even if still "nice", they have plenty of needs at those mileages.

    So I think 12 years is really pushing what is realistically possible.

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  • steverstever YooperlandPosts: 40,153
    edited October 2013
    It's fun being a bit of an outlier.

    4 cars since we got married in '84, three new, still driving two of them. Only drove the '89 Voyager a decade/~90,000 miles. '82 Tercel, 17 years, 114k, '99 Quest is at 194k, 14 years, and the used '97 Outback is at 92k, 16 years.

    Apologies for bringing the averages down, Detroit.

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  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 8,396
    Oh, you know, I wasn't considering this from the multiple-owner perspective. So, while there may certainly be a tendency for a sizable portion of the population to switch cars more frequently (and into new vehicles), there's also going to be someone lined up to drive their old car.

    The "income gap" mentioned between these two posts is no joke. Things will get much worse before they ever get appreciably better.

    So, yes, I'm probably way off in my estimation. But, I don't mind being the nay-sayer. :-P
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,539
    Well you really aren't an outlier, because having multiple cars means you don't use them all up as fast. I think we'd have to toss people like you out of the database and stick with those car owners who drive the national average # of miles per year....which for (ahem) middle aged people (up to age 54) is about 15K per year. After age 65 it drops to almost half, unless you are a host at edmunds :)

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  • steverstever YooperlandPosts: 40,153
    edited October 2013
    Well, that's four cars for two of us. We did share one car for a total of ~9 years over that 29 years. But I only commuted for one year. During that same time period, we had four homes. Not to worry though, we had a least a dozen canoes in there and 8 or 10 bikes. :-)

    The only time we broke the national average was when we did the year road trip when the Quest was new (one more reason to hang on to it - lots of sentimental value).

    Adding it up, we've spend $55,000 buying cars since '84. The real green part of it has been the dollars saved. The only one that had problems was the Voyager, and the three head gaskets only cost $100 thanks to a 7/70 warranty and some out of warranty assistance on the last one.

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  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,187
    Every time your seven older vehicles age one year it's the equivalent of one car aging seven years, so collectors like you drive (sorry for the bad pun) up the average age. I sometimes do too, but at the moment our three cars are 14, 6 and 6 months old.

    I'm very familiar with premature scrapping of cars involved in accidents. In April our '99 TL was rear ended. My wife was stopped at a traffic light when the driver behind her, who was also stopped, but was also texting, hit the gas pedal of her BMW X5. Damage to our car was estimated by Geico, the X5 driver's insurer, to be $4,700. Geico declared our TL totaled and offered us $3,400. I felt that our car had a lot of useful life left, and wanted to keep it. Long story short, I got an estimate to get it repaired for $4,100, and after two weeks of back and forth Geico agreed to pay to have our TL repaired.

    The owner of the body shop that repaired our car showed me three cars on his premise that had been declared totaled, none of which looked too badly damaged. He said that he wants to cry when he sees cars declared totaled, that could be repaired, because of a stupid Maryland law that was passed by the powerful dealer and salvage yard lobbies. I'm not sure exactly what the law states, but it's something to the effect that a vehicle MUST be totaled if the damage is some percentage (75%, maybe, or something well below 100%) of the used value. I don't know whether the value used is wholesale or retail. Anyway, other states have variations of this law on the books, and it doesn't favor the consumer.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,187
    "...one more reason to hang on to it - lots of sentimental value..."

    I wonder how much of a factor sentimental value influences the average years of ownership. Some people compulsively trade their cars while others drive them 'til the wheels fall off, as the two contrasting Edmunds discussions demonstrate.
  • steverstever YooperlandPosts: 40,153
    edited October 2013
    Probably inertia as much as anything for those of us who drive 'em forever. :-)

    That, and dread of going to a dealer.

    Hm, when the van dies, maybe I should have it made into one of those cube coffee tables. Or maybe a breakfast nook....

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  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,902
    He said that he wants to cry when he sees cars declared totaled, that could be repaired, because of a stupid Maryland law that was passed by the powerful dealer and salvage yard lobbies. I'm not sure exactly what the law states, but it's something to the effect that a vehicle MUST be totaled if the damage is some percentage (75%, maybe, or something well below 100%) of the used value. I don't know whether the value used is wholesale or retail. Anyway, other states have variations of this law on the books, and it doesn't favor the consumer.

    Unless things have changed since 1998 when my '86 Monte Carlo got t-boned, it only takes a crash that's estimated at 60% of the car's retail value to get it totaled.

    I think where the aggravation with the new law comes in is this, though: If you decide to keep your car and fix it, you have 90 days to get it fixed, and inspected, and you're only issued a salvage title. So, you have to hustle to get the car fixed. And even if you do it all yourself, you still have to get the car inspected, so a repair shop is going to profit...and they're going to inspect the whole car, not just the repair. And, with a salvage title, I'd imagine your car is pretty much worthless.

    Initially, I was going to try and fix my Intrepid myself. I was in the process of splicing the wiring harness back together, and was planning on buying another headlight assembly, either from a junkyard or a dealer if necessary. I was willing to live with the slight damage to the hood and fender, and the front fascia could be reattached. Oh, and a reservoir bottle had also been broken...windshield fluid, I think.

    But, when the insurance adjuster said I'd have to get it inspected and the car would just get a salvage title, I decided to let it go. At that point, it was ten years old and had 150,000 miles on it. It could have lasted for years, but who knows? It could have lost the transmission a couple months later, or the engine could have sludged up, or it might have developed some serious electrical problems from an amateurishly spliced together wiring harness. So, I took the $1988 and bidded the car a fond farewell.
  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,147
    ...I'll probably be keeping my Grand Marquis until the wheels fall off. I have no doubt it will endure mechanically, but it's getting beat to heck being in the city and parked out on the street. My wife's LaCrosse looks like it'll be around a while, but it's only got 71K on it.
  • snakeweaselsnakeweasel a Certified Edmunds Poster.Posts: 11,702
    So I think 12 years is really pushing what is realistically possible.

    I would have to argue that point. I would think that it would be easy to get a car past 200K these days with little work outside regular maintence. Not to mention that at 12 years a typical driver would be at 150K to 160K give or take. I would think that what is realistically possible is closer to 15 years.

    The sign said "No shoes, no shirt, no service", it didn't say anything about no pants.

  • steverstever YooperlandPosts: 40,153
    edited October 2013
    Ruking1 came up with an interesting angle that could be affecting our increased car sales - the European makers can't sell their cars at home and that's probably helping to keep our car prices attractive and helping to pump sales a bit.

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  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 8,396
    edited October 2013
    I wonder how much of a factor sentimental value influences the average years of ownership.

    It certainly influences me. I have four vehicles that I (or a family member) have owned for a long, long time. The fewest years of ownership on any of those is 16 years, and the newest of the vehicles is 37 years old.

    But, that sentimentality is also tempered by my personal requirement that each vehicle be in good operating condition for its purpose. So, if I'm not willing to put in the effort to keep it there, then it is time for the vehicle to go. As such, my daily drivers (which are quite new in comparison, even when I do buy one that is 10+ years of age) tend to be cycled through rather than retained.

    Even so, I've only sold four cars thus far (with a fifth one having been destroyed in a crash), and I have purchased seven (three new, four used) and acquired all of my others (the four old ones) by other means.

    I think part of the purchases were due to a growing family. Had we never had my daughter, for example, I think my vehicle purchases would be at least three fewer. :blush:
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,539
    15 years is certainly possible for a modern car but between cosmetic damage, environmental wear and tear, and the continually escalating costs of car repair, keeping a car that long could turn out to be a rather grim determination rather than something rational.

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  • steverstever YooperlandPosts: 40,153
    edited October 2013
    Ah, but they're "disposable" at that point. And after 15 years, you could have saved enough to buy a new or used one to replace it if it dies and the repair price exceeds your pain point.

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  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,539
    I'm kinda fussy. I don't like to drive some worn out crap car. If it looks sharp, drove well and was safe, I wouldn't mind how old it was--but I don't do shabby. Dents, faded paint, rust spots--are intolerable.

    You can often tell how well off a person is if you see little orange flecks of seat stuffing on their jacket :)

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  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 8,396
    Dents, faded paint, rust spots--are intolerable.

    That's funny! I have never had any issues with these (though haven't needed to deal with rust on any of my cars), but I am fussy about interiors and mechanical health. If the interior doesn't clean up well and I can't get it running right, I don't want it.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,539
    What I meant was rust holes. As for some faded clear coat, I could live with that.

    Interiors have to be clean and fresh though. I can't drive inside a dumpster.

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