Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Keeping the old cars kicking

My cars are old. Decrepit even, by today's standards. I'm still driving around in my 2002 Honda CRV that has just a hair under 70,000 miles on it. But, from my standpoint, it's as good as new. Sure, it doesn't have the fancy bluetooth, automatic cellphone pairing, big screen satellite XM radio and other whozywhatsits on it.

But, it does have a functioning air conditioner, radio and CD player!, cruise control and automatic windows and door locks. I've kept the exterior and interior pretty newish looking, so you wouldn't be able to tell that it's 17 years old. It has all wheel drive (AWD), which is worth something or other. This will be more useful the more time I spend crossing Snoqualmie Pass and hanging out in snowier territories than Seattle, which rarely sees snow.

My other car is a 2013 Fiat Pop. It's yellow with black racing stripes and we call him Luigi. Because, that's his name. He has a paltry 15,000 miles on him. I really don't need two vehicles these days, but I figure that some day, one of my kids will want to learn how to drive. And the trade-in value for him is remarkably abysmal. Like, less than a new, full-suspension mountain bike. It's freaking crazy, really. So, it makes no sense to sell him. Plus, he's super easy to drive and park in Seattle - I can squeeze into spots that no other car can, except maybe a Smart Car.

Both my vehicles are 5-speed manual transmission, which is hard to come by these days and were actually difficult to get when I bought them (both were special ordered to get the manual transmission). This fact also makes them seems like relics from the ice age. They are, however, great conversation starters when I drive anyone around who is less than 35. Or European. Or both. Oh! And, more importantly. Both of my cars are paid off.

I took the CRV in to get emissions tested on it the other day. It passed, fortunately. I did find out that the state of Washington will no longer be requiring vehicle emission testing starting in 2020. The reasons for it are actually good:

1. The air is cleaner
2. Fuels are cleaner
3. Newer engines run cleaner

What underlies this good news is possibly some bad news. A 17-year-old car probably doesn't have a newer engine that runs cleaner (although I suppose it does compared to a classic car from the 60s), but then again most people don't keep their cars around for 17 years. Cars these days can run for 200,000 miles or more but the average American replaces their vehicle every 11.6 years.

I was actually surprised to hear this average because my experience with friends and family has been more like them replacing their cars on the 6 - 7 year average. The average has gone up, I think, because the cost of a new car has gone up faster than inflation over the years. I cannot even fathom spending more than $21,000 on a new car. And, even that seems ridiculously high.

How old are your cars (if you have any)? Do you buy new or used when you do replace a vehicle?


Anonymous said...

I'm with you on keeping the older cars. It's very true, quality cars can go a long, long time before their repair costs get excessive. We own:

- a 2003 Ford F150, 80,000 miles (work truck, only used when needed)
- a 2006 Toyota Prius, 180,000 miles, purchased used at 115,000 miles
- a 2010 Subaru Outback, 110,000 miles, purchased new

When the work truck dies (from rust, not from mileage/repair costs -- I live in New England!) I won't replace it. I'll get a used 5' x 10' trailer and that will do what I need, and I can pull it behind the Subaru (or its replacement, someday).

I've probably bought my last new car. When cars from Toyota (and others) last 200,000 quality miles, why buy a new car? But a used one w/ 50-100k miles at a very reduced price, and run it into the ground!

Anton said...

For most appliances, I agree that keeping them running for as long as you can makes the most sense, financially and environmentally.

However, there are some caveats with cars. In general, cars of all kinds have been getting more fuel efficient. A car bought now will likely have substantially lower fuel consumption than a car of the same class from 10+ years ago.

Since a car is the most polluting appliance that most people own and regularly use, it may therefore reduce one's environmental impact to upgrade to something newer, provided that you prioritise energy efficiency when you buy.

If your situation allows it, it is the most environmentally friendly to replace your gas car with one that's electric. This is especially sensible if you have multiple cars. You can find a good used EV for well 15k, and the amount you save on gas (particularly versus an older car) will have your EV pay for itself within a few years. Beyond that, you'll only have savings, both financial and environmental, especially in the pacific Northwest, where most electricity comes from renewable sources.