Cars That Last Forever

Found this in the local airwaves…

Just a basic confirmation of the daily encounters we run into here. The brothers have their usual input.

We all know that cars have designed in life expectancy. Corollas and Civics best friends are the coastal communities and the rust belt, both keep their cars from hanging around too long. Besides, if you don’t have an excuse to turn your car over, how are going to play your IPod through your old car radio…with an 8track adaptor ?

The article is mildly entertaining, but–as usual–it ignores the issue of maintenance.
So, in the belief that they are buying a “bulletproof” used car, some folks will simply buy one of these models because of its reputation, and give no thought to how it was maintained by the previous owner(s).

Simply naming certain makes and models as “cars that last forever” can cause those who are not knowledgeable about cars to assume that they are also maintenance-free.

If you look at ONE INDIVIDUAL car…then YES you should consider maintenance. Only a fool would think a Civic that’s NEVER had it’s oil change is going to as reliable Malibu that had an oil change every 3k miles.

But when if all things are equal…then I suspect the Civics and Corolla’s are about as reliable a vehicle as you can buy. Maintenance is PART of the answer. How well it’s designed and manufactured is the other part.

Mike–You grossly misinterpreted what I said.
I never suggested that the named models are not reliable.

My point was that, by failing to mention in the article that buyers need to verify good maintenance when buying a used car, those buyers may be lulled into a false sense of security, and may not consider the issue of maintenance. In other words, while the article contained some good information, it omitted some equally important advice.

As to the, “only a fool”, comment, by now you should realize that there are a lot of fools out there, as evidenced by the constant stream of posts from people who never lift the hood between oil changes, those who go 13,000 miles between oil changes, those who buy obviously flawed used cars–but failed to do a pre-purchase inspection, etc.

Instead of media stories that just talk about reliability, we need more media coverage of the need for good maintenance. If we had more awareness of this need, perhaps we wouldn’t have so many people being so foolish when it comes to taking car of their cars.

Mike--You grossly misinterpreted what I said. I never suggested that the named models are not reliable

I didn’t say that. I understand what you’re saying. Maintenance should ALWAYS be considered. I can show you many examples in this forum that I’ve said that maintenance is KEY when buying a new vehicle.

As for the article failing to mention maintenance…Well I’m not sure that was the scope of that article. When you try to compare TWO vehicles…then maintenance is going to be key. But when you’re comparing a whole class of vehicles (Say Civic to a Malibu). If you did a survey of 10,000 owners of each vehicle then you’ll find out that the percentage of people who performed good maintenance will be so close it won’t make a difference.

There are those who make fun of me for driving a Civic with a manual transmission and roll-down windows, but it’s nice to see a mechanic echo my sentiments when he says “it’s a simple car, and my father used to say the more stuff on a car the more there is to break. Honda’s CIvic is a nice simple car.”

My clutch is finally showing signs of age after 240,000 miles and 14 years, but I just got a quote of $800 to get a full clutch replacement. I probably shortened its life by teaching a couple friends how to drive a stick, but I can live with this kind of repair, especially if I can get it done before the clutch fails.

@Whitey–I think you have the right idea with your manual transmission Civic. I have a research collaborator and she won’t buy anything but a manual transmission Civic. We drove to a convention to present our research and were assigned a Honda Civic Hybrid from my institution’s fleet. Just for fun, we checked the gasoline mileage and it was good, but no better than what my colleague gets on her manual transmisison Civic and her Civic is a lot less complicated than the hybird Civic.

Just FWIW, I tinkered with a 1934 Rolls Royce many years ago and found that they were reliable because they were built with redundant systems. There were 2 fuel pumps, one mechanical and one electric. There were 2 independent ignition systems, a distributor and a magneto with 2 plugs per cylinder. And as for maintenance, there was a cartridge type grease gun built in under the dash with hard lines connected to all the chassis grease points except the U-joints but there were access panels in the floor to lubricate them. And there was a hand crank in the tool box in case the electric starter failed.

The article avoided mentioning parts availability including those needed for maintenance. I still have my 1980s VW diesel, bought new, that may indeed last forever if the next owner does what I have done. That would be storing it in a garage when not in use, not driving it in winter road salt and not crashing it. I could not have guessed when I bought the car, how easy it is to get parts now. The lack of major electronics is a definite advantage in my view.

I could not begin to guess what new car a person should buy now for ease of keeping it 25 years from now. Possibly the best one could do now is to buy two new identical cars; one to use and the other for spare parts when needed parts are no longer available from the usual sources. It sounds crazy but that way it could be economical in the long run to keep a car running indefinitely.

Agree that it all boils down as to how well the car was designed, and how well it was built. Simpicity adds to ease of maintenance and relaibility.

If you avoid all the gizmos and buy a reputable car, you will have many years of trouble-free driving.

My bet is on a stick-shift, no air, manual windows an nothing else Civic or Corolla. A Yaris will also fit that bill. My personal choice would have power windows, air, auto, cruise.

I would love a car like that and for that reason am glad tractors are owner serviceable. But sadly, many just don’t claim to have the time when it comes to cars.

These days, I seriously doubt you can get a Civic or Corolla without power windows or air conditioning, but if you really want a base car like that, I’d suggest looking at smaller manufacturers, like Hyundai, Kia, Nissan, Suzuki, etc.

Hmmm, why would I want to still be driving a 1960 Morris Minor or a 1959 VW Bug, even if they still ran?

The premise of that story is a bit far-fetched. I know a lot of mechanics and have never known one who hated a car because it was allegedly reliable. They usually hated them because of:

  1. Some chronic repairs were a pain in the neck to perform.
  2. Warranty pay guaranteed it was a losing proposition from the get-go.

Apparently the people in that story have never faced things like the following as just one example.

The “forever” part of driving the same car implies a plentiful availability of parts and mechanics that will fix it.

Back in 1972, a Minnesota hardware salesman was written up as having a record 548,000 miles on his 1957 Chrvy Bel Air 4 door sedan. Needless to say, they asked his “secret”. His answer in 1972:

  1. Buy a car from a manufacturer with a reputation for quality. That would have eliminated Fiat, Renault, British Ford and GM, and a number of others. Today that would likely be Toyota, Honda, Mazda, Hyundai, and maybe a few others.

  2. Buy the best selling model in the mid price rage. That would have eliminated GM, and Ford compacts which had many design shortcuts at that time. The “best selling” meant lots of spares and experienced mechanics. Today we would have Camry, Accord, Mazda 6, and Hyundai Sonata, among others.

  3. Be religious about maintenance, don’t skimp! No comment neeeded here.

  4. Take it easy the first half million miles!! Many owners stop maintaining after the warranty runs out.

No mention of simplicity here, the guy’s 1957 Bel Air must have had some comfort items for that amount of driving.

A simple car with a lousy reliability record and a bio-degradable body will not last nearly as long as a loaded Toyota or Honda.

Any 25 year old car with major electronics needed to keep the engine running would be useful for local trips only and a gamble on a long trip. Can you imagine going on a cross country vacation with your 25 year old Toyota and then suffering a failed ECM? Where and how soon are you going to find a replacement? Would you be willing to pay for a replacement auto trans for a car that does not meet the expectations of a collector?

@WhaWho The ECM is one of the most reliable items on a car. I’ve taken a 7000 mile vacation trip with a 10 year old Buick with 110,000 miles on it. I needed one new spark plug wire halfway into the trip.

We took a lengthy trip with our 19 year old Chevy Caprice; no trouble whatsoever.

We just sold a 19 year old Nissan Sentra which my wife took on long trips without any problems.

I would never take a long trip with a NEW car. You only go on a trip with a car you can TRUST. If you are far away from home and your 25 year old car finally needs an expensive repair, you just leave it there and sell for parts.

A few years ago, a friend in Houston inherited a Jaguar XJS from his late father-in-law in Chicago. He bought a one way ticket to pick it up and planned a pleasant drive back to Texas. Two weeks later and $4200 lighter he arrived back home. The car was only 7 years old. The difference here was a basically unreliable car, few spares available, and no maintenance by the previous owner.

The reason to buy a high volume best selling car is to be able to get your hands on parts and mechanics anywhere.

Yep,just like I told a guy back in the 70’s,when asked to name a good saw to buy then(buy this make,easy to get parts for then(hint it -had the same name as the the guy that designed the supercharger for a 57 Ford) anyway he wanted one you didnt need parts for,of course they have improved since then,But the point is ,you want to keep something runninghave parts availible for it-Kevin PS,I’m partial to Hondas also,a real good mechanic can actually repair some of the silly little things that may get broken,by ham fisted individuals,such as my self

It is true that the ECU is one of the most reliable parts on a car, but it is also the part that could more quickly become unavailable in the future.

If you were trying to make a 1934 Rolls Royce or a 57 Belair, you would have a much netter chance of finding replacement parts say 50 or a 100 years from now for either of them than an ECU for 2005 Camry. On a car from the 30’s, almost every part can be made at a machine shop and for the 57, most of the parts can also be made locally if needed.

But the ECU’s are made with microchips and with advancements in microchip technology, old chips stop being produced, and once production stops, it stops for good. But then manufacturing processes are also evolving so one day, a facility may be able to call up an old design and make one chip for replacement when needed at a reasonable cost.