Enemies of the poor.

ndancendance Member Posts: 323
edited March 2014 in BMW
I was just musing about how used cars can be a real anchor around the neck of the working poor. Since we've built an economic geography which requires an automobile to hold a job, and (for some unfair reason) the lower the wage scale, the more punctual one has to be, reliable/individual transportation is a must.

In addition, due to increased labor rates and complexity of used cars, high repair bills seem to smack these folks pretty darn often.

Here's my start for a list of cars that seem to nail people the most, combining the charm of high parts cost and maintenance difficulty (in #2's case)...

1) BMW 320i
2) early '80s Toyota 4WD trucks


  • ghuletghulet Member Posts: 2,628
    First, we are on a 'classic cars' message board, not exactly the place to start a 'used cars are bad for poor people' socio-political soapbox (used car market and 'classic car' market are not the same, quite the opposite).

    Second, what's a better alternative for poor people than a used car? Should 'poor people' get themselves over their heads, as so often occurs, making payments on a cheap car to avoid the 'expense' of repairs? I know from experience this almost never works out (financially) in the end. Unless you spend about $3-4k a year on repairs for a used car, there will be no savings realized buying a new car.

    Also, if someone is stupid enough to buy a twenty year-old BMW as a 'cheap' used car, they're in for some big surprises.......
  • badtoybadtoy Member Posts: 368
    you need to take a shop class. Those trucks are still on the road for a reason -- they're nearly indestructible.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    I look at this as a stream-of-consciousness BS session so if this is topic drift it doesn't bother me.

    How about an '80s Jaguar sedan? Looks like you can get a presentable, running example for $3500 or less. That's not a poverty level price but it's well within reach of the working poor (most of us) and from what I hear, that's a car that could keep you poor indefinitely. Plus it's got the fatal attraction of an old status symbol.

    Speaking of aging status symbols, 4WD SUVs will be very interesting used cars ten years from now.
  • badtoybadtoy Member Posts: 368
    Both of those comments were right on the mark!
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 24,633
    back in college, there was a family at my church that had two jaguars: an '83 and an '86. This was around 1991-92. Well, I had mistaken their '83 for the newer one, because it had been repainted! And it was a non-metallic black. How in the hell do you make a non-metallic color that goes bad in 8 years and has to be repainted? Usually those colors are still nice and shiny even as the rust is poking up and spreading like cancer across the body of the car! The '86 was kind of a rose/pink metallic color, and its paint was just about shot.

    These people were hardly "working poor", at least judging from the size of their swimming pool. But it just looked kinda funny, with that peeling Jag sitting out in front of that nice, newly remodeled 4-bedroom colonial with its finely manicured lawn! Mighta looked more at home over at my grandma's house in the boonies, parked next to my Dart or something!

    As for old cars in general, well I can imagine that the current crop of cars, when they're about 10 years old, are going to be much more complicated to fix and maintain than, say, a 1991 or so model year car today. So for people who can barely afford to buy an old heap right now, it might get worse.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Actually, the point is well taken, if we stick to the car issues themselves and not politics.

    I think for some people a car is most certainly a necessity in America, no matter how poor you are. Even some homeless people LIVE in cars for shelter.

    Hopefully, even in ten years there will be enough cheap domestic used cars around that can be patched up from wrecking yards. But they are going to be harder and harder to fix and I think the scrapping rate will go up.

    What this will mean is that a good used car will cost more and more money as time goes on. I think we are already seeing this.

    Old luxury boats are always tempting to poorer folks since they convey a certain amount of status. But really, a shabby jaguar or Benz really doesn't convey status at all. Still, even if it looks shabby and chugs around, it's a nicer ride than a beater Monte Carlo.

    People are always asking me if they should buy this 15 year old Benz or that 20 year old BMW, and I always tell them the same thing:

    Buy it really cheap, and when something big breaks, walk away and buy another one. If you're lucky, you will have gotten a good year or so out of it, maybe two, and for $3,000 bucks that ain't bad for a deluxe ride.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    What'll really be interesting is if car tastes change significantly in ten years (likely) and the hordes of big SUVs on the used car market have all the cachet of '59 Imperial.

    Not only does wretched excess go in and out of fashion, the means of expressing it does too. SUVs don't even have fins going for them ;-).
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 24,633
    ...that SUV's are going to take a pretty hard hit, eventually. Regular pickup trucks tend to hold their value pretty well, because they're designed to perform a task, namely hauling things, and the ability to do that task does not diminish with styling fads that come and go. A 2001 Silverado will be just as useful for its purpose 20 years from now as it is today, provided it's not ragged out. But SUV's for the most part are bought because they're trendy or "cool". Most people aren't going to take them off-roading or haul stuff in them because they're not going to want to damage the leather seats, cut-pile carpeting, or scratch up the body-side cladding, or get the aluminum alloy wheels dirty. For the most part too, SUV's simply have no endearing style either. They're just big boxes on wheels, and one's not that different from the rest.

    I can see years down the road, people picking these thing up dirt cheap, and then ragging out their leather seats, nice carpeting, etc, because they didn't pay that much for them. Much in the same fashion that this old guy who had a '79 Bonneville I was interested in at one time used it to haul around mulch and other heavy stuff. C'mon, he wouldn't use his 300M for that, would he?!
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    If SUVs are a large part of the new car market, you can assume they'll be a large part of the used car market (unless gas goes to $10 a gallon anytime soon). If full-size SUVs are say 30% of used car inventory in ten years but few people want them what does that do to demand for (and the price of) the remaining 70% of inventory? Or does falling demand just mean that SUVs will be scrapped at a quicker rate and that their percentage of used inventory will go down quickly as well?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    We're already there. You can pick up early 90s Explorers very cheaply at auction.
  • badtoybadtoy Member Posts: 368
    with OEM tires.....!
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    Yeah I'm starting to see some ratty Explorers, and some ratty drivers to go with them. Same with early Cherokees. That's okay, it's just that I'm more used to seeing them driven by Early Adaptors.

    I hope they're geting them cheap enough to offset the operating costs.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    What's an "early Adapter"?
  • mminerbimminerbi Member Posts: 88
    Early adopter is a marketing term used to refer to individuals who have a pattern of buying the newest items. They're the relative minority of pioneer buyers, as contrasted with the majority who prefer to buy after they learn about the experiences of early users.
  • ndancendance Member Posts: 323
    Couple of notes....

    ghulet: sorry for ruining your Christmas and New Years. Since the other areas of Edmunds are almost exclusively for new cars, this forum is essentially the cleanup one in my mind. I'll try to suit your sense of propriety in the future. Please accept my humble apologies.

    badtoy: What I've run into with mechanic friends of mine (since I live in an area where a 4wd does make a lot of sense) is non-smogging trucks with carb issues = quite a lot of money plus just the general difficulties in dealing with issues like clutches in the highly crammed in environment of any small 4wd truck. It seems pretty easy for one repair bill to exceed the value of the vehicle (which is kind of the point of the whole thing). Keep in mind of course that the average person is *not* a mechanic. Honestly, the champion bad 4wd truck buy I seem to run into is the Isuzu trooper.

    So...are older cars (ie early '70s and before) a superior answer for folks with little money? or is someone just getting by better off with newer stuff. The later model cars having better reliability overall, but nasty bills coming out of (seemingly) nowhere. Hell, I suppose you could make the case that the working poor are better off just buying a new, cheapest model, Honda (financing being easier to acquire) and having a known monthly tithe to the automotive demon.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    What we need is a return of the basic VW, if anyone would buy such a car anymore. Probably the monthly payments on a $8,000 new car wouldn't be much worse than trying to keep some old heap running safely and well.
  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Member Posts: 1,711
    You are absolutely correct in your analysis. Bring back the Chevrolet Caprice!! Why can't more and more people drive these long-lasting, plebian cars these days? Why do they have to buy some unattractive Lexus or Acura??
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    Only the wealthy can afford old beaters ;-).

    When you're making EZ payments on a car under warranty you're basically amortizing your car expense. You're banking that there won't be any unpleasant surprises that could put a big dent in your life, like your transmission starting to slip and it's been a while since you've seen a commission check.

    There's a kind of sweet spot in the price/warranty curve, usually around $30k but it can be less depending on the make and options. That's where you make the jump from a 3- to 4-year warranty, and they may even pay for routine maintenance.

    That's one of the things that makes the Infiniti G20 so appealing to me, especially with transaction prices in the low $20k range, but they depreciate quickly so there's no free lunch.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Caprice is too big but I suppose it doesn't cost much more to build a big cheap car than a small cheap car. Of course you eat more fuel, tires, brakes, etc.

    Could be a good barge for large families. The metal isn't what costs, it's all the other fancy gadgets.
  • im_brentwoodim_brentwood Member Posts: 4,883
    OBD-2... Dual Air Bags, Electronic Engine Management..etc...

    It all costs. Heck, look atthe really CHeap KIAs...

    I sure as heck wouldnt want to drive one!

  • ghuletghulet Member Posts: 2,628
    No offense intended, I just thought the 'tone' of the topic was a bit....strange, extreme, alarmist.
    Ruining my Christmas and New Years? Puh-leeze don't assume anyone on a message board has that power, it's not that serious. I didn't mean to sound terse, can we agree to both 'lighten up' now?

    Back to the topic at hand. A big reason some 'working poor' have old cars is because of bad credit (first hand experience speaking). Even if I could find someone who would finance a new car for me, I would likely have a 20% APR or something like that. The idea of a $500 monthly payment on an econobox certainly appeals to me less than having a nicer, older car and having some random, fairly infrequent repair costs. I have yet to have an old car that cost anything like $3000-6000 a year to keep on the road, there's no comparison in the cost versus even an inexpensive new car.

    BTW, are we talking about 'older' as in classic cars, or just your run-of-the-mill beaters anyway? Old cars are 'simple' mechanically, but anything made thirty or so years ago is going to break down, no question, and likely use twice as much gas as most ten to fifteen year old cars in the process.

    With any used car you're hedging bets. Some logic and discretion goes a long way. If we're only talking dollars and cents, a $1500 88 Honda will likely cost less than a $1500 73 Cutlass.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Well, I guess we genuises came to the conclusion that if you are poor in America you drive what is at hand and don't have much choice.

    I'd have to agree. If I were behind the 8-ball financially I'd try to grab the first old Toyota I could find and hang on to it.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    I've concluded that our upcoming generation of beaters, the 10-mpg mechanically complex SUVS, will give the working poor yet another opportunity to get poorer. Kind of like the lottery only without the feel-good spin ("It's for the schools!").
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonMember Posts: 20,350
    It's often the people with the marginal credit and low paying jobs that HAVE to have it all.

    I'll try to steer them toward something practical but, nope! They demand the EX models, top of the line, HAS to have a sunroof, leather, etc...

    And they wonder why they never get anywhere.

    The old VW Beetle comments were interesting...I grew up with these and drove mine many a mile.

    Back in the late sixties, on most cars options like power windows, air cond ect were very rare.

    Today, buyers demand these things and more! they have to have ten cupholders (?) and power everything! Add airbags and federal mandated safety and emission equipment and there you go!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Well sure, if you are outside the candy store looking in all day long, you want a piece of candy, too. Hopefully someone will help you get some so that you don't throw a brick through the window.

    SUVs--the next generation of beaters! I LOVE IT. Please, God, make this happen.
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 24,633
    ...it just might happen! For example, I've heard that it's often not a good idea to give a kid a monstrous-sized beater as his first car, because its massive size will make him feel invulnverable, so he'll take more chances. Still, I think I'd rather see a cocky 16 year old in a ragged-out '72 Impala than a ragged-out Excursion or Suburban!

    I think smaller SUV's will take care of themselves. For the most part, they're not built all that well, and have a lot of weight-saving components to keep 'em relatively economical, but they can be expensive when they brake. But those big, old, low-tech ones will find a way to endure.
  • ghuletghulet Member Posts: 2,628
    SUVs have already made it into the second-car/beater/kids' car caterory. Since many families trade in cars every three to six years, lots of 91-94 Exploders and Blazers were brought back home when the Ps discovered they were virtually worthless as trade-ins.

    Kinda scary, having sixteen year-olds driving SUVs that their parents never mastered. I don't know if I was any more safe at 16 in 1985, driving a 71 Electra 225 on roads full of K-cars, Corollas and Fairmonts, though.

    For the record, my twin bro's 96 Blazer was a POS from the day he bought it used in 98, IMO. The dealer service has been terrible also.
    He's still paying $450 payments, now owes about $8k on a car worth $4k in trade.

    I'd say, if we're keeping 'on-topic' a used, really old car can be a solid financial decision, IFF you buy one that will be worth 'something' after you keep it some years, and the repair costs are reasonable. It sucks spending big money on a used car and its repairs for years and having a worthless car in the end.
  • badtoybadtoy Member Posts: 368
    you can never keep the thing fixed -- as with my b-in-law's POS Dodge. Thing's a money pit. I keep telling him he'd be better off just cutting his losses and buying something else, but you know how people are....he says he can't afford anything else (but yet he can afford putting the maintenance on his credit card!!!). Doh!
  • lemkolemko Philadelphia, PAMember Posts: 15,306
    The 1977-1996 Chevrolet Caprice. Virtually indestructible, easy to maintain and repair. Parts are plentiful.
  • badtoybadtoy Member Posts: 368
    was, and is, one of the best-proportioned, tastefully designed large sedans ever to grace the road. They are (or at least were) so common that they became kind of invisible. But I think they were a masterpiece of American styling -- the Malibu as well.

    I saw the 91 Caprice at the Detroit Auto Show, and was just bowled over by it -- as were most of the other people there. Unfortunately, it looked like the SS (only in purple!), instead of the pie-plate rimmed, chrome bedecked monstrosity they actually produced. When will carmakers get it through their heads that wheels and tires proportional to the size of the car and the fenderwells is the simplest and most important thing you can do to enhance a car's appearance?

    91-on Caprices tarted up to look like SSs are VERY popular here in LA -- and they still look good. Just really, really large!
  • lemkolemko Philadelphia, PAMember Posts: 15,306
    ...the 1977-90 Caprices look so good is because they were designed by the late, great Bill Mitchell!
  • badtoybadtoy Member Posts: 368
    He was a real one of a kind. Crisp detailing and beautiful proportions. His Eldorado was just sweet.
  • gearhead7gearhead7 Member Posts: 15
    to combat the problems of the working poor having access only to used vehicles, the government should engage in either directly producing a small inexpensive vehicle with tax money, or possibly to simply create an entitlement program whereby they provide basic vehicles to people who qualify, like they do with housing, medical treatment, insurance, and food. If we accept the theory that cars are necessary to survive, then this might be the next logical step.

    - Tongue removed from cheek. :) - makes you think, though. It might even be cheaper and more useful than subsidizing empty buses, empty ight rail mass transit and empty Amtrak trains.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Hey, no Amtrak jokes, I love Amtrak....well, trains....I love Amtrak because it happens to be a train.

    It's not Amtrak's fault. Unlike European trains, they have to share all rail lines with freight carriers. This slows 'em down and beats up the track.

    Amtraks' still great fun. I recommend it to anyone who hasn't tried it.
  • rea98drea98d Member Posts: 982
    Great. Just what this country needs. Another handout to the lazy at the expense of John Q. Taxpayer! Let's just do away with working all together, Federalize everything that has any value at all in this country, and distribute it evenly to all 300 million citizens. Oh wait. The Soviets tried that already, and sent their economy into the TOILET!
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