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Should "Beaters" Be Taken Off the Road?

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  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 29,094
    which car were you driving? Hope it is not serious.

    I steer clear of those beaters whenever possible. Not so bad with a truck or big SUV. I straddled a big piece of something yesterday out on Interstate 8 I thought it was going to hit something underneath when I ran over it. Thank goodness for 9 inch clearance.
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,693
    Yeah, I was in the Echo, I think it has about FIVE inch clearance. But then, this piece that broke off was BIG. Chances were good it would have snagged on something underneath and dragged no matter the ground clearance. :-(

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

  • boaz47boaz47 Posts: 2,750
    I am sorry to hear about your mishap my friend. It is no fun when something happens to your ride. How much damage did it do and will it be hard to fix?

    Getting back on track I sometimes worry about what some people call a beater. My second car is a 92 Sun Bird with 32,000 miles on it. It gets 26MPG and works very well as a daily driver. I can save the Tahoe for bad weather, weekend trips and going out to dinner with friends. I have kept the Pontiac in good shape yet still some people call it a beater.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 22,108
    Getting back on track I sometimes worry about what some people call a beater. My second car is a 92 Sun Bird with 32,000 miles on it. It gets 26MPG and works very well as a daily driver. I can save the Tahoe for bad weather, weekend trips and going out to dinner with friends. I have kept the Pontiac in good shape yet still some people call it a beater.

    I think "beater" is one of those words that can have multiple meanings, like so many words in the English language. For instance, if you see some dogpile driving down the road, losing parts and spewing chemicals along the way, that's one definition of a beater. But in another sense, when you have a car to drive and run into the ground and keep the miles off your good car, and you really don't care if something happens to it, then that's your beater. Even if it's in good shape.

    For example, my uncle's '03 Corolla, which he bought to keep the miles off his '97 Silverado, is his beater. And I'm sort of to the point now where my 2000 Intrepid is my beater. Even if it's my newest car!
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,693
    Well, I think there is a difference between your own car that you call a beater, and what others seeing your car might call a beater.

    YOUR beater is probably an older car with low maintenance and operation costs that you use in foul weather and to keep miles off your newer ride.

    OTHER PEOPLES' beaters have to meet one of the following conditions, IMO:
    - belching smoke every time it moves
    - enough body damage to cause its sheet metal to extend beyond its original "footprint" (applies to my miscreant of yesterday)
    - body damage causing it to have inoperative or patched-together lights, reflectors, or signals and/or missing glass - my little "friend" from yesterday qualified on this count too.
    - riddled with rust
    - brakes and/or suspension that is shot (this one is less evident to the casual observer), or bald tires (and I mean BALD, not just worn)

    My incident yesterday smashed one of the underbody trays - it is plastic and should be cheap to replace, I figure it is not urgent. However, that in turn connected to the left front wheel well, where the inner wall is now hanging down in such a way that whenever I go around right-hand turns, ti rubs on the tire and makes a loud noise. That's probably not urgent either, mechanically speaking, but it is annoying me every time it occurs, so I will probably get it fixed next week.

    I'm sick of beaters, and I'm sick of car owners being so irresponsible about the upkeep of their vehicles. :-(

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

  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,198
    My cars fall into three categories:

    Good Car = 1989 Cadillac Brougham
    Everyday Car = 2007 Cadillac DTS Performance
    Beater = 1988 Buick Park Avenue

    My newest car is practically becoming another good car like my Brougham as I don't like driving it in the winter as it is black and a royal pain to keep clean in inclement weather. It doesn't help that the city recently threw down an ocean's worth of salt on the streets.

    I would drive the 2002 Seville STS just about every day when I had it and reserved the Park Ave for really bad weather or excursions into the less desirable parts of the city. My Park Ave has been driven 99.5% of the time these days.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,708
    I think "beater" has to have cosmetic implications, like "salt car" does. In other words a true beater has to look BAD.

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  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,198
    ...I never let a car get to the point of being a beater to the point it was offensive-looking, offensively polluting, overtly unreliable, and downright dangerous to be on the road. I would either get rid of the car or scrap it before it got to that point.
  • oldfarmer50oldfarmer50 Posts: 6,773
    "...In other words a true beater has to LOOK bad..."

    That's a slippery slope my friend. I could classify your car as a beater simply because I didn't like it's LOOKS. Subjective classifications like that lead to snobbery.

    I don't care how a car looks as long as those looks don't indicate underlying safety concerns. I drive some pretty beat-up vehicles but they all are maintained.

    "You can have my beater when you pry the steering wheel that just came off in my cold dead hands" ;)

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

  • steverstever Viva Las CrucesPosts: 41,633
    "If it's cheap and it runs," it will find a home in Mexico, Zavala said.

    That's precisely what is worrying environmentalists and new-car dealers, who say falling trade barriers are fueling an invasion of smoky junkers. More than 3 million late-model vehicles have rumbled legally south of the border in the last 2 1/2 years. Millions more are on the way, thanks to the North American Free Trade Agreement.

    The vintage metal is rattling Mexico's retail car market. Sales of new vehicles have stalled at 1.1 million a year as used imports have overtaken them. Sales of new subcompacts -- the most popular class of cars in Mexico because of their price -- skidded 16.4% last year as buyers snapped up cheaper, roomier used vehicles from the U.S."

    In Mexico, old U.S. cars find new homes (LA Times - if you can't view it, try a Google News search for the headline.)

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

  • boaz47boaz47 Posts: 2,750
    It has to be more than looks. If it were looks the xB starts out as a beater. :P

    But in truth there are some vehicles we see that should be taken off of the road. Not like the Japanese do however. We don't need to retire a vehicle just because it is old.
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 29,094
    I can tell you for a fact what many vehicles are used for. I traded a 1978 Honda Accord to Drew Ford here in San Diego. My ex-wife had driven it from Minnesota to NM then here for 3 years. She never got new tags. I traded it in on an Escort for her. In 1987 it still had 1983 MN tags. Never stopped in CA or NM. In 1990 the Highway Patrol called and said they had our 78 Accord in San Jose. It was being used to smuggle illegals from Mexico. It still had the 1983 MN tags. I explained that I had traded it in to Drew Ford and never heard anymore about it.

    That story I am sure is duplicated over and over with wholesale car auctions. Cars get sold and re-sold over and over. Used in who knows what kind of clandestine operations.

    PS
    It was a beater after about 3 years.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,708
    It's not subjective. They call it a "beater" because it looks like somebody BEAT on it with a baseball bat. That's the whole cognitive function of the word.

    But yes "beater" also implies a lack of safety and a strong aura of neglect. It is MEANT to be a derogatory term.

    Just because you have a grass stain on your Levis that doesn't make you a bum, so a couple dents in your car doesn't mean you have a "beater".

    But if you have red tape on your tail light lenses and Goodyear Bald Eagles on your rims, you could be driving a beater and not know it! :P

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  • oldfarmer50oldfarmer50 Posts: 6,773
    "...But if you have red tape on your tail lenses and Goodyear Bald Eagles..."

    LOL. I love it. "Goodyear Bald Eagles". How much does a set of those cost. :)

    I have a 1985 F-150 pick-up that I use for farm work that looks like it has been through a war. It ain't pretty but I keep everything fixed and up to specs. If you just went on looks it would be taken out and shot. I bet it is safer than some of these late model cars that have never had the oil changed and go years without service or inspections.

    I've got no problem taking dangerous cars out of service but it has to be more than a beauty contest. If junkers are endangering the public it is up to the respective states to enact inspection laws. The laws here in New York are a PITA but they tend to weed out the really bad vehicles.

    I worry that if we set the bar too high the burden will fall hard on people who are too poor to afford better.

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

  • jlawrence01jlawrence01 Posts: 1,828
    Good.

    Let's retaliate. Let me go down to Mexico, purchase and import one of the many subcompact models that are readily available down there ...
  • jlawrence01jlawrence01 Posts: 1,828
    If junkers are endangering the public it is up to the respective states to enact inspection laws. The laws here in New York are a PITA but they tend to weed out the really bad vehicles.

    If you are going to have a state inspection where the car has to undergo inspection once a year for safety issues like in Virginia, I am all for it.

    If you are going to have an inspection like in Missouri where honest shops like WalMart fail 35% of the vehicles and other places fail NOONE, forget about it. It irritates me when my car fails inspection when there is a crack in my headlight plastic yet another vehicle with MAJOR front-end damage (including a missing headlight) passes.

    BTW, I see some great looking 1980-1990 Chevy Caprices and older GM cars with no rust and in good shape in Chicagoland. Unfortunately, I never make it to the estate sales that they are offered at.
  • steverstever Viva Las CrucesPosts: 41,633
    Let me go down to Mexico, purchase and import one of the many subcompact models that are readily available down there ...

    I sort of like the Ford Ka (no one else did - it's no longer offered in MX as of last month due to poor sales) and you can't beat the old VWs (I guess they finally quit making them a few years ago).

    For real, I could see myself driving an Nissan X-Trail. Nissan sold those in Canada too but I don't know if they are still on the market up there. Boxier than a Rogue, more like an old Cherokee.

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

  • jlawrence01jlawrence01 Posts: 1,828
    Personally, from Mexico, I liked the Nissan Tsuru and the Pugeot 206 and a few others.
  • bumpybumpy Posts: 4,435
    Sadly, this is the last year for the Tsuru. 18 years is a good run for the B13 Sentra.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,708
    YEAH. Peugeot 206 turbo diesel. Nice little car.

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  • jlawrence01jlawrence01 Posts: 1,828
    YEAH. Peugeot 206 turbo diesel. Nice little car.

    Saw a lot of them in McAllen, TX. In fact, I was so smitten with the vehicle, I chased the car 10 miles to Reynosa in order to figure out what it was. Heck of a nice looking car and I am not a car person.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 34,189
    Today I got behind what I call a 'Joe Dirt Special' - this time it was an early 90s Chevy fullsize truck, with commercial plates and some junk in the back. It was pretty banged up...and when the driver would hit the gas (from like 0-20), it would smoke worse than a poorly tuned 220D under hard acceleration, a nice plume of thick black smoke. Who knows what else was wrong with it....but this is the kind of thing I see as a beater.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,708
    Ah YES! A true "beater" should smell bad, that's a plus. Or at least smoke badly. But that black sooty belching of hydrocarbons as the car rocks back and forth on 7 cylinders---it doesn't get much better than that! It helps though if the side view mirror is loose so that the glass quivers with the engine. That's a nice touch.

    And twine run through the punched out trunk lock hole is a pretty good credential. And of course, a coat hanger around the tail pipe is...well....classic.

    I think a beater should say something...it should say...."Stay away from this car".

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  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 29,094
    The beaters that scare me the most are the stake bed trucks coming up from Mexico to haul stuff back down. I see them loaded so high with old appliances, leaning like the tower of Pizza. Or enough old bald tires to fill a football stadium, stacked to the heavens. They are usually in the right lane on the freeway headed South. Coughing, sputtering, smoking and swaying their way toward home. I have never seen one stopped by the Highway Patrol. It is like they don't exist.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 22,108
    If you are going to have a state inspection where the car has to undergo inspection once a year for safety issues like in Virginia, I am all for it.


    I've heard though, that those yearly inspections aren't all they're cracked up to be. PA has a yearly one too, and I think West Va might, as well. Here in Maryland, a used car only gets inspected when you first register it. Back in 2001 I bought a 1979 5th Ave from a little sales lot in West Va. The seller said he'd guarantee it to pass inspection in PA, VA, or West Va, but in Maryland, I was on my own, and good luck with that! So I'm guessing the Maryland inspection is a lot more stiingent?

    Luckily, I got through it without too much trouble. Obligatory headlight adjustment, new rear brake shoes, some minor suspension work, and one new tire.

    BTW, I see some great looking 1980-1990 Chevy Caprices and older GM cars with no rust and in good shape in Chicagoland. Unfortunately, I never make it to the estate sales that they are offered at.

    I've always had a soft spot for those old beasts. Comfy, roomy, decent fuel economy for their size, cheap to fix, okay handling with the right tires, and easy on the eye.
  • jlawrence01jlawrence01 Posts: 1,828
    Andre,

    The inspections in Virginia looked fairly reliable. They would adjust headlights and at least, would go through the vehicles.

    The ones in Missouri were a joke. People, hearing that my car failed for something minor, gave me a list of a station where it would pass for a small fee. And of course, never take it to WalMart as they were very straight.

    Drove a 2003 Intrepid this weekend. Wish I had one off lease when I needed a car last year. The gas mileage wasn't that great though.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,312
    I predict that as generic green transportation capsules replace today's cars in showrooms, due to federal mileage and emissions regulations, more people will keep their beaters rather than scrap them. Look for the average age of vehicles to rise.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,708
    That will probably turn out to be true unless air quality starts to deteriorate again in major problem areas. Right now, it's obvious that 40 years of emission regulation has cleaned up the air considerably. If the air quality starts to plunge however, and auto emissions are part of the culprit, then you'll no doubt see a "war on beaters", or at least on gross polluters.

    What we call 'beaters" nowadays are probably still emission-controlled vehicles. It's not like the old days, the 60s, when one car's emissions might be the equivalent of 60 modern car's output.

    I was disappointed that "sniffer" technology never worked out, wherein a state vehicle could sniff the tailpipe of a visually offending car. I often see cars spewing black (not blue) smoke and I know that this vehicle is putting out enough hydrocarbons to drop birds out of trees. These vehicles should be off the road.

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  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,198
    Generic green transportation modules are one thing, but the primary reason people will keep their beaters rather than scrap them is that many can no longer afford new or even late model used cars. Lower-income and frugal people will keep their older cars on the road for a longer period of time, especially during this dismal economy. I intend to keep my '88 Buick Park Avenue as long as possible barring any serious accidents or catastrophic mechanical failures.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,708
    All well and good but nobody has the right to poison the air with a car that isn't running on all its cylinders, for instance. In fact, nobody has the "right" to drive under the law, much less drive a gross polluter. Driving is a privilege granted by the state by means of a license and a registration.

    There are plenty of 8 cylinder beaters to be had for cheap. One doesn't need to be driving a 7 cylinder beater. You can buy running beaters on craigslist for $500 bucks. If you can't afford that, you can't afford insurance, and that is totally irresponsible behavior IMO.

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This discussion has been closed.