This saying got started in the 70’s, near as I can tell, and has really gotten traction lately. It also feeds right into the OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) wishes which are for you to buy a car every 3-5 years.
Now my rants always slant more toward finding a vehicle you like and keeping it forever. I do not like buying cars every few years because I loathe payments. Sure I like the latest widgets and styles but paying $40k for a car or more is abhorrent to me. If this is not you, and you really enjoy trading out every few years then stop reading this.
If, however, you would like to see your money go for other things than to banks to pay for your ride, read on.
Modern cars are designed two fold
First, to hide or mask problems so they do not bother you. This gives the illusion of quality. Second, to be disposable. 80 to 100k miles is all the manufacturer really wants you to be able to get. Think about this. If the average person in New Mexico drives 15 to 18k miles per year then in 5 years you will have 80 to 90k miles. Just about when the media is saying you need a new car.
It has been my experience, with several personal vehicles, that 300-500k miles is really achievable. And relatively easily as well.
Now, let’s talk about not fixing what ain’t broke.
Remember earlier I said that modern cars are designed to mask problems so they do not bother you. They achieve this with sensors and computers. If one part is weak four other parts pick up the slack. That way you are kept unaware of any issues until they are so expensive to repair that buying another car becomes a real option.
Here are some examples of how manufacturers are building non maintainable cars
- Cars with nonserviceable fuel filters. You never have to change the $50 to $75 filter but rather the $800 – $1000 fuel pump.
- Cars with 90k mile rated spark plugs instead of 30k miles. Only gig is they bury the spark plugs under the intake manifold so the tune up is more expensive than ever before. Of course if you ignore this service the car gets increasingly less fuel economy, less horsepower and the catalytic converter gets stressed, the coils get stressed, the interior of the motor gets gunked up and if you own an engine like the Ford 5.4 liter the plugs actually weld themselves into the head. Good luck getting that to run right ever again.
- Some brakes being manufactured no longer come with squeakers so you cannot tell when they are low and you end up grinding the rotors thereby doubling the cost of the brake job.
- What about lifetime fill transmissions? What a joke. Whose lifetime. Certainly not the car’s. Some cars are now being built without transmission dipsticks or any way to check or service the transmission at all. Again, when (not if) the transmission fails it is perceived cheaper to just buy another car.
- Maintenance free batteries. Again what a joke. This is what the whole automotive industry is going to though. These batteries are maintenance free not because they are better but because the manufacturer sealed the battery. Now you have to replace it instead of service it.