30 May 2017

No More New Cars!

, ,

My solution: a 1992 Toyota Land Cruiser. I’ve mounted a 1930s Alvis Hare mascot on the hood.

Eric Peters warns that buying your next car new could be a terrible mistake.

t’s a great time to buy a used car as far as the deal you’ll get.

It’s a smart move, because of the hassle you’ll avoid.

Maybe not right away but down the road — probably just after the warranty coverage expires.

What’s happened is we’ve crossed a kind of engineering Rubicon. It has happened over the past two or three years — and there is probably no turning back, not unless regulatory reasonableness returns — and that doesn’t look likely. If anything, it is likely to become less and less reasonable.

The car companies have had to resort to design and engineering measures just as desperate and extreme as the financial measures to which they are resorting to fluff up sales. But in the case of the design and engineering measures, it is to placate federal regulatory ayatollahs, who continue to demand, among other things, that new vehicles achieve ever-higher fuel economy — and lower “greenhouse emissions” — irrespective of the cost involved.

It is why, next year, BMW will append a four-cylinder/hybrid drivetrain to all 5 Series sedans — and eliminate the six-cylinder/non-hybrid versions.

It is why every new-design car has a direct injected (DXI or GDI) engine rather than a port fuel injected engine. Automatic Stop/Start systems are pretty much standard equipment, which you can’t cross off the options list.

The latest automatic transmissions have eight — or even ten — speeds. Turbochargers, sometimes two of them, are the new In Thing.

Bodies are being made from aluminum rather than steel.

And, of course, there is “autonomous” driving technology — cars that semi-steer and park themselves, accelerate and brake on their own.

None of these things materially improves the performance — or even the economy — of the vehicle in a way that’s meaningful to the owner.

A car with DI and an eight-speed transmission might give you a 3-4 MPG uptick on paper vs. the same basic vehicle without these technologies.

That’s not nothing, of course.

But it doesn’t cost nothing, either.

Not much is said about the fact that the car costs more to buy because it has these technologies. You “save on gas” — by spending more on the car. The same logic used to peddle hybrids.

It’s interesting that this other side of the equation is almost never discussed and that the ayatollahs who smite us with their regulatory fatwas — so seemingly concerned about how much we’re spending on gas — never seem much concerned about how much we’re spending to cover the cost of their fatwas.

Up front — and down the road.

These turbocharged, direct-injected, stop-starting cars — with their eight and nine and ten speed transmissions and aluminum bodies — deliver the goods (MPGs) when new. Enough so that the car companies achieve “compliance” with whatever the latest federal fatwas are, at any rate.

But what happens as they get old?

I’ve written before about what’s already happening. About relatively young cars — less than ten years old, sometimes — becoming economically unfixable (that is, not worth fixing) when, for instance, the uber-elaborate transmission fails.

You have an otherwise sound car: an engine that will probably run reliably for another 100,000 miles, an un-rusty body and paint that still looks great. The overall car’s not a junker — but the transmission is junk. So you have it towed to the shop, expecting to get the tranny (not Caitlyn) rebuilt. And the guy tells you they don’t do that anymore. Rebuild — or repair.

They replace.

You must buy a new (or “remanufactured”) transmission, because they’ve become too complicated and time-consuming to deal with on a work bench. You are faced with spending $5,000 on a replacement transmission for a car that’s worth $8,000.


Older cars made with economically sane five and six-speed transmissions remain economically repairable. But they do not make them new anymore. Not many, anyhow.

And not for much longer.

It is not just that, either.

Last week, I reviewed the last of the Mohicans — as far as full-size trucks. The 2017 Toyota Tundra. It is the only current-year, full-size truck you can still buy that does not have a direct-injected engine. This means it will never have a carbon-fouling problem — as Ford and others who have added DI to their engines, to squeeze out an MPG or three more, to please Uncle, have regularly been having.

Actually, it’s you — if you own one of these DI’d rigs — who will have the problem.

And be paying to un-crud your direct-injected engine, which may involve partial disassembly of the engine. This is not like changing the oil. Nor will it cost you $19.99, either.

Ford’s solution to the DI blues? It will be adding a separate port fuel injection circuit to its direct-injected engines next year. So, the vehicles will have two fuel injection systems. You’ve just double your odds of having a fuel system problem at some point.

The point here is it’s not just one thing; it is a synergistic multiplicity of things that are bringing into actuality the Planned Obsolescence people used to grumble about — but which was mostly not the case. Until just the past several years, most cars were usually economically repairable well into their senior years. It made sense to put, say, $2,000 for a rebuilt (four or five-speed) automatic into a car worth $8,000.

But with all the complex, fragile, non-serviceable, and hugely expensive-to-replace-when-it-fails stuff they are grafting onto cars to make them Uncle friendly, they become not worth fixing long before the cars themselves have reached their liver-spotted years.

The truth is that probably every car made since about 2015 is a Latter Day Throw-Away. It will run beautifully for about ten years. Just a bit longer than those $500/month payments we were making.


I reached the same conclusion after buying my last BMW. It came with no dipstick. (You get to rely on the computer, which is useless and wrong anytime your battery is low, the temperature is too cold, the wiring gets wet, &c., &c.) It also came with no spare tire. Instead, we got run-flat tires which set off flat-tire warnings all the time on dirt roads, which had terrible traction on wet roads, and which were good for 10K miles. I’m used to getting 50K miles on normal Michelins.

There is, each year, more and more expensive crap built into automobiles, and fewer and fewer choices left to the unlucky car owner. I never wanted seat belts to begin with, let alone air bags.

Personally, I intend to go even farther back into automotive history than the author advises. My next car is going to have no computer at all, but will have a distributor and carburetors, and be much easier to work on.

4 Feedbacks on "No More New Cars!"


While I would agree that so much of what the government has mandated and what the auto companies have implemented is just wrong. I do think the problem is overstated. I am an old mechanic raised on cars from the 40’s and 50’s and can appreciate the simplicity of them by comparison with cars made today. But I just bought a 2017 vehicle and I fully expect to keep it for 10-15 years and put 200,000 plus miles on it. There is a lot to complain about and certainly I wish that the government and auto makers would do some things differently but it isn’t “that bad”… yet.


Early melanoma isn’t “that bad yet.”

Wait until you have to retrofit your 2017 in 2025 to keep it up to government mandated items.


In my own experience, and after I owned and tried all sorts of cars ranging from the least expensive to some top-of-the-range’s, there are always been reliable and (relatively) cheap to own cars and unreliable and costly ones. As it wasn’t always about which brand was reputedly reliable and which one was not.
Some reputedly good brands happen to produce from time to time cars plagued with various and chronic sorts of problems, sometimes exotic or unlikely, that can be awfully expensive to fix, or with just one or two major flaws that will inescapably cost hefty sums to their owners.

You are talking about your sorry experience with BMW. But it is known, since long, that this brand relies a great deal to the hype (largely subjective and irrational) it has created for itself, initially based (longtime ago now) on car racing. The incredible recipe of BMW was how to convince someone who is buying a slightly above the average and square-shaped ordinary sedan that he will own “a real sports car!” Not only this unlikely marketing formula proved to work amazingly well, but BMW was (and still remains) equally successful in fooling its customers into paying much more to get some options that are common equipment on many others much less expensive cars. And that’s not all since this brand has never made for itself a reputation of building cars as reliable as Mercedes’ truly were until the year 1999 exactly (the legendary reliability of all Mercedes series knew a definitive end from the year 2000 onward, and things never went back to “normal” since then, which explains in passing why taxi drivers in European countries and in many other parts of the world no longer buy Mercedes!).

Rolls Royce has always managed to keep a reputation for its cars as the best of the world, but this did not apply to reliability and running costs by far; which, in turn, truly make a Rolls Royce perhaps the most expensive and the best finished car among all, but certainly not the best of the world!
At the opposite side of the price spectrum, recently, the inexpensive new Fiat 500 has been rated as the worst used car to buy today, although there is not a lot of electronics and computer driven things inside. Thus a Fiat 500 as much in common with a Rolls Royce.

As other examples in the realm of the unexpected, one could be surprised to learn that Porsche cars are often very reliable and not really expensive to service and repair, against all expectations the name of this luxury brand may suggest. That the same remark may apply to some particular series built by brands as expensive as Ferrari, Aston Martin or even Lamborghini (there is a record of a guy who did more than 350.000 miles with his 1980’s Ferrari Testarossa without any major problem, riding it everyday). A luxury sedan such as the VW Phaeton is a very reliable car, capable of reaching 400.000 miles without any major problem, although it is literally filled with an incredible amount of electronics and computer driven gadgetry (if one has been cautious enough not to buy one built before 2006 since their air suspension may need to be replaced at an expensive cost if built prior this year). The very similar Lexus LS is an equally very reliable and long lasting luxury car (if properly serviced), but mostly because it is built by Toyota, best among all brands about reliability as everyone knows it.

Circa 1970, the French and reputedly reliable brand Citroen introduced on the market the fantastic series SM, a luxury car powered by a 6 cylinders Maserati engine. This car was all at the same time futuristic in its design, very comfortable and extraordinarily pleasant to drive, very fast at that time. But it was plagued with all sorts of major flaws that made it a nightmare to own, although there was near to none electronics onboard.
From 1984 on, the Lincoln Continental Mark VII had a fully digital dashboard with a computer inside. It was a very technically advanced car for the 80s, but it has proved to be reliable and not expensive at all to keep in good working order.

Of course, the way one drives one’s car exerts a strong influence on its running cost and reliability anyways, no matter how reputedly reliable its series is. Equally, on what kind of road and through which usual weather conditions one rides one’s car may have a tremendous influence on these things.

My advice is: Google the name of the car you are interested in followed by the word “reliability”, and take the time to read as much forum threads and responses you may find to know whether your pick is a good one or not.

Soren K

Over the last 4 years, the insurance industry has seen a large spike in the auto loss ratio, the ratio of losses paid out to premium collected. Expect insurance premiums to rise, and rise rather dramatically. Why? Three factors: toys to distract drivers result in more accidents. Fuel costs are low resulting in more miles driven. And lastly, automobile manufactures adding more and more expensive features that will be broken in the simplest of accidents.



Please Leave a Comment!

Please note: Comments may be moderated. It may take a while for them to show on the page.

Entries (RSS)
Comments (RSS)
Feed Shark