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Should "Beaters" Be Taken Off the Road?

Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,939
edited March 7 in Nissan
Do you think that badly rusted cars, or cars with smashed side windows covered in plastic, or cars with holes in their mufflers, or massive body damage (trunk pushed up to rear window, tail lights wired on, etc.) should be taken off the road here in the US?

In Germany, the Technische Überwachungsverein or TÜV is an agency that must approve the roadworthiness of German cars and trucks. They can bust you for say a rusted suspension support for instance.

Do you think this would be justified by facts? In other words, is there any credible evidence that beat-up cars are by definition more fatal than clean ones?

Keep in mind that a "beater" doesn't necessarily mean a car with bald tires, no lights whatsoever. These are obvious safety items and probably most cops would order these off the road.

How about severe oil burning? Sometimes a really obnoxious oil burner can actually pass the smog test, but not your lung test.

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Comments

  • andys120andys120 Loudon NHPosts: 16,743
    "Beaters" as you define them, are illegal on the highways of my home state of New Hampshire. Any car with massive body damage or a rust hole larger than a quarter, broken windows etc. will not pass the required annual safety inspection. IMO that is as it should be, I was surprised to find that some states have no such requirement..

    You don't define severe oil burning but I doubt any car with visible oil smoke would pass inspection here.

    2000 BMW 528i, 2001 BMW 330CiC

  • steverstever Viva Las CrucesPosts: 41,891
    I understand that the Japanese have to have a mandatory (and expensive) maintenance check when their car reaches 3 years of age, and then every other year after that. (link). It gets so expensive that many people just buy a new car after 4 or 5 years and the creampuff gets resold to buyers in other countries.

    Every state inspection I've read about in the US is universally hated and politicians tout them at great risk of being defeated in the next election cycle. When I lived in TN decades ago, the program was eliminated.

    My sister grumbles a bit about the annual inspection required in Virginia - it looks pretty thorough (for the US anyway - link) but I don't think she's ever failed one.

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    Minivan fan. Feel free to message or email me - stever@edmunds.com.

  • boaz47boaz47 Posts: 2,750
    If your vehicle passes your states inspection requirement it should be allowed on the road. If not it should be retired. But I would hate to see a clean 55 Chevy Short taken off of the road just because it was old. I would also hate to see all diesels taken off the road because the smell.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 34,294
    Sometimes I think if there was a TÜV-style organization in my area with actual enforcement power, traffic volumes would fall by about half. There's a lot of dodgy looking stuff out on the road all the time.

    In Germany of course there are age exemptions for emissions etc just as in NA - when a car is considered old (in a good way) must only be structurally sound and have proper safety materials (tires, brakes, unbroken windows, etc). This would cover oil burning as well, as these cars can puff a little here and there and be well within original specs - and it's not like the few remaining fintails, 55 Chevys etc are in use enough to actually impact pollution anyway. Germany has an active car restoration hobby just like in NA, and it is all with legal registration.

    An impact to this similar to Japan is German used cars that don't pass muster end up in export markets, usually to eastern Europe and especially Russia. I think most MB W140s are there now.

    This type of setup would probably be a benefit...I have to wonder how many crashes are caused by unsafe vehicles themselves - and I suspect a lot of the iffy ones aren't insured to begin with. However this might not be entirely so easy - as cars get better over time they age better, so a car might not have rust etc but still have physical or safety faults.
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,693
    if you had an aggressive program like this, you would find that half the cars checked would either be unregistered or uninsured. I am all for it. The oil smokers are particularly obnoxious. I was behind a 6 or 7 year old Taurus the other day that was blinding everyone for a quarter mile, the smoke was so bad.

    I also don't think there should be an option for "resurrecting" vehicles totaled by insurance after a wreck. That is just begging for trouble, since you KNOW many people don't properly fix them, they just do enough to get them back on the road. There has to be a safety hazard to other motorists lurking in there somewhere...

    I have always wondered why California has such an aggressive standard for checking smog compliance but no visual safety check.

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

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,939
    Yes that always puzzled me, too. I walk past any number of cars and wonder how the hell they ever got registered. I saw one today (which inspired this topic!) in my rear view mirror ---- right headlight completely missing, windshield cracked right across the center, left headlight with bungie cord wrapped around it. I can't imagine what the tires and brakes were like.

    SAFETY CHECKS: Great idea, I'd like to see this in every state.

    SMOKING DIESELS: That's just neglect. There's no reason they have to smoke that badly. Mostly that's dirty or worn injectors and/or bad pump timing.

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  • boaz47boaz47 Posts: 2,750
    Every school bus I see smokes when leaving a light. And there is no diesel manufactured and sold in California today that you can't smell if you have your window down or are venting fresh air.

    Still smoking diesels neglected or not should have to pass the state standards and if they do, they should be allowed on the road.

    I thought California had a clunker buy back program?
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,693
    It does, but it only presently covers cars that are more than 20 years old. I would submit that many a neglected car gets to be a clunker WAY before the age of 20. Anyway, that program mainly exists to get smoggy cars off the road, because smog standards 20 years ago were so much lower than today's.

    If things like headlights and glass are missing, there is no doubt in my mind that stuff like brakes, suspension, and tires have been equally neglected, making the beater a rolling missile on the road, just waiting for the first unanticipated traffic problem or light rain to torpedo someone into oblivion.

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

  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 29,162
    The high cost of vehicle registration and smog checks in CA is a good reason to buy an old beater to drive. I got our 1990 Mazda 626 smogged this year before we sold it. Still passed with flying colors. The tester told me there is not that much difference in a 1990 and a 2000 car. He said he has had 5 year old cars that tested worse than our 18 year old Mazda or our 1990 LS400. We got them both smogged the same day. PZEV, ULEV and SULEV are regs that are only now becoming standard on many cars. Most of the states are still not requiring those levels of emissions.

    I agree that a car running down the road with a rusted out fender flapping in the breeze should be ticketed. I guess it is not a problem in CA, at least not So. CA.
  • oldfarmer50oldfarmer50 Posts: 6,807
    Have you ever considered what eliminating all the beaters would do to the millions of working poor who use these cheap cars to get to work?

    Most of the beaters I see on the road are going to low wage job sites. For many of these folks public transportation is not available.

    Personally, I think that if the car is able to pass a safety inspection (we have a very tough one here in NY) you should be able to put it on the road. The only other alternative would be some sort of buy back program like someone mentioned exists in CA. BTW, how does that work?

    2009 PT Cruiser, 2008 Eclipse, 1995 Mark VIII, 1988 GMC Van

  • boaz47boaz47 Posts: 2,750
    That many beaters like the ones described driving down the road. Now if we are talking about cars with body damage, dents, missing rear or front bumpers you have a point. I see many newer cars even looking like that. We have a bigger problem with those cars than that in many cases. The reason they look like they do is they are uninsured.

    A few years back they had an article in the LA times about unregistered or uninsured cars on the streets of LA. Many of us are afraid to drive our car without insurance just knowing we will get caught and have to pay a fine. Many un documented aliens and people that just can't afford insurance simply take the risk finding that quite often they don't get caught or if they do the fine is less than it would cost to insure the vehicle.

    It is true that some cars in Southern California look like they shouldn't be allowed on the road. But they are a pretty small percentage. I am sure we have more people driving while under the influence on our highways than we do driving cars that won't pass smog or safety. The real beaters just stand out and make the problem look worse than it is.

    Just last year I had an old beater 1978 Ford F-250 I used to haul trash to the dump that I had to sell to the junk yard because it wouldn't pass smog. So some are taken off the road.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,939
    Driving is a privilege not a right. You have to step up and do the right thing in order to be allowed to drive. Anybody with a job can buy a decent,old car in America for around $2,000. You don't need to drive a death trap. It might not be so pretty for $2,000, but it'll have glass, lights, brakes, tires and steering and doors than open and close and a trunk that works.

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  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,693
    "The only other alternative would be some sort of buy back program like someone mentioned exists in CA. BTW, how does that work?

    It is a program designed to get old yet operational cars off the road (because the smog standards when they were built were so much lower than today, and a car is only required to smog to the standard in existence when it was built). Therefore, if your car is 20 years old and registered for the road, they will pay you for it and come and haul it away. When the program started the price they would pay was only $500, but I think it has gone up to around $1000 over the years.

    Not a huge incentive to junk your old car, but if you are facing the prospect of an expensive repair, for instance, or you get to the annual renewal and it is going to need work to pass the smog check, getting the state to pay you to junk it might look like a pretty good option.

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

  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 22,138
    It is a program designed to get old yet operational cars off the road (because the smog standards when they were built were so much lower than today, and a car is only required to smog to the standard in existence when it was built). Therefore, if your car is 20 years old and registered for the road, they will pay you for it and come and haul it away.

    I dunno if California does this, but Maryland actually makes the emissions tests more stringent with each passing year. I noticed this in early 2002 when I took my '79 New Yorker in for its emissions test. I still had my old emissions results from a 1979 Newport I'd had, that I had to take in back in 1997. I forget the exact figures now, but the limits were considerably lower for 2002 than they were for 1997. So theoretically, a car that passed in 1997 might not pass in 2002, using the same numbers.

    Also, some of those old cars would surprise you at how clean they run. My 2000 Intrepid has just gone in for the OBD-II scan the past two times, but the first time I had it tested, they put it on the treadmill and got actual pollution results. I still have the results from my grandmother's '85 LeSabre, and my '85 Silverado still has to go on the treadmill test. While the Intrepid put out considerably fewer pollutants, the LeSabre and Silverado were still clean enough that they would have passed by the stricter standards imposed for the Intrepid.

    Now I'm kinda curious...I'm going to have to dig up the pickup's emissions results and see if they still change the standards like they did with the 1979 cars. My truck got tested in early 2003, 2005, and 2007.
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 29,162
    I see more and more old beat up cars from Mexico every day. Mostly compacts from VW, Nissan, Chrysler and GM. Many are smoking. I would imagine none have any smog devices. How do you propose we police them, when we cannot even keep illegals from coming into the USA? There is a neighborhood handyman that comes around here looking for work. He drives an old beat up Neon with Baja plates. He lives in Tijuana and comes across every day looking for work. He has worked in this neighborhood for at least 5 years.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 34,294
    On that note, I suspect neglected trucks on the roads are even more of a hazard than cars - because more are coming up from Mexico, and because trucks seem to be held to ridiculously low standards to begin with.
  • volvomaxvolvomax Posts: 5,274
    You can thank NAFTA for that one.
    Not only are Mexican cars allowed, but Mexican big rigs as well.

    Not all of them are beaters however.
    I see a bunch of new Renaults, Peugeots, Fords, Nissans etc.
    We even service Mexican Volvo's
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 22,138
    here's an update on my earlier emissions post. I found my old emissions printout for my '85 Silverado from when it was tested in 2003, and when it was just tested this year. Looks like they left the standard alone. For 1985 vehicles, it stands at 2.8 GPM for HC, 80.0 GPM for CO, and 5.8 GPM for NOx.

    In comparison, for 2000 vehicles, the standards are 0.7 GPM for HC, 15.0 GPM for CO, and 1.8 GPM for NOx.

    Hmmm, I just found the old printout for my grandmother's 1985 LeSabre. It lists slightly different standards: 2.0 GPM for HC, 30 GPM for CO, and 3.0 GPM for NOx. So I guess they're more lenient for trucks? Isn't that a shocking revelation... :P
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,693
    They WERE more lenient on trucks forever and ever. Beginning right now for the '09 model year (IIRC) they have changed it so that both must meet the same standard.

    It may be that already took effect for the '08 model year, I forget the exact effective date. It's either recent or coming up soon though.

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

  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 22,138
    They WERE more lenient on trucks forever and ever. Beginning right now for the '09 model year (IIRC) they have changed it so that both must meet the same standard.


    Good, I'm glad that day has finally come. Seems like trucks have been getting away with murder for way too long. Now I don't think they should be singled out and punished excessively, but a little equality would be nice. I could see the argument back in the day when trucks were used mainly for work, farming, etc., but the automakers have been exploiting those loopholes for all they're worth.

    Interestingly, in spite of the more lenient truck standard, my '85 Silverado actually did better on that emissions test than Grandma's '85 LeSabre! Probably because they're similar-sized engines...a 305-4bbl and a 307-4bbl. The pickup has an oversized air filter too, which might help it turn better results by breathing better? I guess those more lenient pickup standards let them keep putting those 350/351/360 and 454/460 sized engines in trucks long after they dropped them from cars, though.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,332
    I think that if you asked ten motorists to define just what constitutes a beater, for purposes of this discussion, you'd get multiple answers. For example, some would include cosmetics, or age, while others wouldn't. To cite a specific example, most people would probably say that a '57 Chevy, '65 Mustang, or MGB in #1 or 2 condition isn't a beater, but someone else might say that, in terms of safety, it should be taken off the road, unless it's retrofitted with disc brakes and air bags.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,939
    Well "beater" is a very descriptive word---something that looks beaten up, or IS beaten up daily. I don't think the word offers much confusion. Words like "dangerous" would be confusing, I agree with you, but BEATER means a very raggedy-[non-permissible content removed] car with bruises, missing parts, rust (acne?), obviously held together with duct tape, wire and string.

    Is that website, www.beaterz.com still around?

    Nope, gone.

    Oh wait, here's one!

    http://www.molestedcars.com/beaters.html

    PERFECT examples of what I'm talkin' about. :P

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  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,204
    I consider my 1988 Buick Park Avenue a beater merely because it's got bad paint and a few small dents here and there. However, it is neither dangerous nor unreliable as I keep all the mechanical and peripheral systems as well as the brakes, tires, and exhaust in excellent working order. The sheet metal is very much rust-free.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,939
    Nah a beater has to look REALLY bad. Without duct tape, crunched fenders, broken glass, Saran-wrap windows, a trunk held down with rope or wire or string,and shovelfuls of bondo here and there, you simply don't qualify. I'm sorry you didn't make the cut. :cry:

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  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 22,138
    Dang...so my $500 New Yorker doesn't really deserve to be called a "Beater" then, either?

    I guess I just put it in that category because I got it so cheap. And it has plenty of little issues. Power seat fore-aft adjust broke, but fortunately in the position I need it to be in. One of the power windows in back quit working. It also leaks sometimes around the padded opera windows in back, when it rains hard enough and the wind blows just right. The chrome is starting to peel off the rear bumper as the aluminum underneath deteriorates. The struts for the trunk are off of some little subcompact import model that just happened to sort of fit, but aren't strong enough to hold it up, so the previous owner kindly left a broomstick back there for me to use as a prop rod.

    So, like Lemko, I guess I need to try harder, too? :P
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 29,162
    Nah a beater has to look REALLY bad.

    I have to disagree. My 1999 Ranger PU is my beater truck. It does not have a dent in it at 109k miles. I just do not worry about throwing things in the bed like I did with my 2005 GMC PU truck that was spotless. I bought it to be my BEATER truck. Takes a beating and keeps on truckin'.

    In San Diego it is rare to see a really beat up vehicle. A few stake bed trucks coming in from Mexico is about it. They come up and get a load of old appliances or tires and head back across the border. They still have the old Freon down there to recharge that 25 year old reefer. Then that is a whole different subject.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,332
    Yeah, your '88 Buick PA is what some in the snow belt would call "winter cars," lemko. Although I would say Philadelphia borders on the snow belt, in terms of weather if not latitude, I imagine you're familiar with this term. Winter cars are more common in places like the upper Midwest and New York state, New England, and Canada. It makes sense, especially if your good cars are expensive.

    The automotive writer for Road & Track magazine, Peter Egan, drove a ('88, if I recall correctly) PA to keep the road salt off of his newer cars. He lives in Madison, WI. His Buick was a several years old low mileage car, in excellent condition, when he bought it, and he got a lot of good use from it. He used to refer to it frequently, in a very positive way, in his columns, but since he hasn't mentioned it for a while, maybe he sold or traded.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,939
    But that negates the entire meaning of the word "beater". It's supposed to look "beat-up".

    It would be difficult to enforce a law against vehicles that required all kinds of subtle interpretation. If you look at the cars on the website I posted, there's really no DOUBT what they are.

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  • andys120andys120 Loudon NHPosts: 16,743
    In parts of New England winter cars are commonplace and they're often referred to as "beaters" even though their condition may be closer close to Lemko's Buick or Gagrice's P'up.

    IOW your "beater" is what you drive to keep your Corvette or Porsche out of the salt
    and slush.

    Driving a structurally or mechanically dubious car in winter conditions is even less advisable than doing it in good weather

    2000 BMW 528i, 2001 BMW 330CiC

  • fintailfintail Posts: 34,294
    Ha! Hilarious site. I see it is relatively local to me, based on the plates on most of the cars...maybe I'll see one of those monstrosities.
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