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I just googled it, and it looks like cars.com is a good source for info such as original MSRP on used cars. Here's their page for the '02 Accord: http://www.cars.com/honda/accord/2002/
It lists an '02 LX sedan at $18,890, but doesn't mention which transmission that would be. My guess is that if that's for a manual, then your price of $19,700 for an automatic would be reasonable. It also lists a destination charge of $460.
I wonder how much the manufacturers save these days, by not doing annual styling changes like they did back in the day? Plus, a lot of styling features are simpler. For instance, the grille on my 2012 Ram looks like it's just one big piece of cheap, black, semi-flexible plastic, with a logo stuck on. In contrast my '85 Silverado, while still plasticky, has a few more pieces to it, and is more intricate in design. And while I don't think Chevy necessarily changed their truck grilles every single year, I think the '85 was different from the '84 and '86. I'm sure the Ram's grille has been the same since 2009.
Oh, as for more inflation trivia...my 2000 Intrepid had an MSRP of $20,950, which included a $560 destination charge. Now, I bought that car in November 1999, so I don't know if I should use 1999 or 2000 as my start point, since it was so late in the year? Anyway, adjusting from 1999, that would be $29,294 in today's dollars. Adjusting from 2000 would be about $28,342.
For comparison, a 2014 Charger SE MSRP's for $27,990, including the $995 destination. And that's for a car that's going to have a better engine (3.6 versus 2.7) more advanced transmission (5-speed versus 4-speed), ABS/Traction control (my 'Trep didn't have that), most likely more airbags (mine just had the two up front), 17" alloy wheels (mine had 16" with hubcaps), keyless entry (I had that installed, with an alarm, after mine got broken into, for about $350), dual zone manual a/c (I just had single), 6-way power driver's seat (mine was manual adjust), 60/40 folding rear seat (mine was stationary), tilt/telescope steering wheel (mine just tilted, but I have a feeling the Charger uses that clunky setup where you slide the lever, position the column where you want it, and then slide the lever back to lock it in place), 6-speaker stereo with a CD (mine was 4-speaker with a tape player, but I had the dealer throw in a 12-disc CD changer). My Intrepid was EPA-rated 20/29 at the time, but under the new ratings was downgraded to 18/27. The Charger rated the same, despite having 92 more hp (292 versus 200) and about 500 pounds more weight (~3900 versus ~3400)
1999/2000 doesn't seem that long ago to me, but throwing these numbers into an inflation calculator shows just how much of a toll inflation can take over time, even during periods of seemingly low inflation.
@MrShift@Edmunds said: But you know, many of those combinations went begging. The reason some 70s and 80s cars are very rare is because nobody ordered them.
Another reason there were so many options, in the 1970's at least, is because of California's stricter emissions requirements that sometimes caused the manufacturers to offer some engines only in CA and high altitude areas, and other engines in the remaining areas.
For instance, my '76 LeMans came with the choice of 6-cyl (A Chevy 250) or FIVE different V-8 options. They were the Olds 260, Pontiac 350-2bbl, Pontiac 350-4bbl, 400-4bbl, and 455-4bbl. The 350-4bbl, which my car has, was a CA/high altitude engine, as the 2-bbl version couldn't meet the stricter CA standards.
Also, in those days, you pretty much had the choice of fuel economy or performance, but rarely both at once. Plus, a car had to be more of a jack of all trades in those days, able to be a solo commuter car, something to haul a family of six around, perhaps even tow a trailer on occasion. Plus station wagon variants if you tended to haul a lot of cargo/passengers. So that predicated a wider choice of engines. So, all of that pretty much required a wider choice of engines.
Nowadays though, most people buy a truck or big SUV if they need to tow, and a minivan, crossover, or again, big SUV, if they need to haul a big clan around or cargo around. And, since they can get passable performance even out of the base engines, and respectable fuel economy out of the larger engines, they can usually get by with just 2-3 engine choices for a car these days.
It looks like the automakers are continuing to weed out unnecessary engines, as well, for cars and trucks. For instance, in 2012 when I bought my Ram, the engine choices were a 3.7 SOHC V-6, a 4.7 SOHC V-8, or the 5.7 Hemi. They were all EPA-rated the same...14 city/20 highway. Well, I could understand offering the V-6 for entry level models. But, you could get the Hemi so cheap that it made the 4.7 seem redundant.
Well, for 2013 they started using the 3.6 DOHC for their V-6, and it was a lot more powerful than the old 3.7. It made the 4.7 seem even more unnecessary. So, for 2014, according to the EPA's website at least, it looks like the 4.7 has been dropped, leaving just the 3.6, rated at 17/25, and the Hemi, rated at 14/20 with a 6-speed or 15/22 with an 8-speed.