Overall car repair costs - Cuba, taxis

With the opening up to Cuba, a question arises. I know that the Cubans could not import any cars for the last 60 years, and they are very good at keeping up very old cars, dating back to the 50’s.
Are there any statistics on average car repair costs for vehicles older than 5 years? I am thinking of 5 to 20 years old repair averages. What does it cost to keep taxi cars going, because I know that these are kept in service for up to 25 years too. Does anybody have statistics on that?
Long time listener

I seriously doubt if any such statistics exist. Cuba has been isolated for way, way too long.
I would be willing to guess, however, that the overwhelming majority of the cars on Cuba could never be driven on U.S. roads without major restoration. Because the cars in Cuba are running does not mean they’re safe.

Regarding the cost of maintaining a taxi, I just did a quick search and there is lots of data on that. I suggest a quick Google.

My brother and son have both traveled to Cuba and there is a thriving trade in auto parts brought in by tourists.

Other countries, such as China export copy parts as well. However, Cuba is a very poor country and anyone with a machine shop will make parts (clandestinely) that will fill the bill more or less.

Expect your Cuban 1959 Chevy to have more non-Chevy parts that OEM ones. Needless to say it would be impossible to tally with any accuracy how much it costs to run a Cuban taxi.

As said, safety is at the very bottom of the list of any Cuban driving a vintage taxi or personal car. if you imported one, expect to have a complete rebuild job to make it road safe and even meet 1959 emission standards such as they were.

I know that the Cubans could not import any cars for the last 60 years,

Any cars? Or cars from certain countries, such as the U.S.? Sorry but I have always been unclear on this.

@PvtPublic The Cuban embargo was only by the US, other countries freely exported stuff to Cuba. However, Cubans as citizens could not import cars from anywhere; that privilege belonged to the state who bought mostly Russian Ladas and fed them through the system to taxi and business operators. Mostly by graft and privilege.

The Great Cuban Lie (propagated by Fidel Castro) is that the US embargo caused the Cubans to be poor. However, they could have imported all the things they needed form Europe and Japan, if they had had the money and not mismanaged their economy. Most other countries that turned communist in the past took great pride in not importing anything (officially) from those “Capitalist Running Dog” countries. They imported inferior goods from the Soviet Union, China and North Korea. The lack of hard currency was a factor as well.

At the same time there always was a black market in Western goods in those countries. My brother visited Russia in the 70s and was told before he left that panty hose and non-leaking ball point pens were a prized commodity as well as US cigarettes.

Thank you, Docnick

“My brother visited Russia in the 70s and was told before he left that panty hose and non-leaking ball point pens were a prized commodity as well as US cigarettes.”

That was true throughout the Communist Bloc, IIRC.
I recall reading that, in Romania during the Ceausescu regime, Kent cigarettes were favored over cash for all person-to-person transactions.

It couldn’t just be “US cigarettes”.
It had to be cigarettes of the Kent brand.
Why? I have no idea!

When my BIL went to Norway last summer, he took along a case of Moutain Dew. Prized gifts as it is illegal in Norway. Its for our own good as they say.

I think most people just keep their own cost per mile figures for their own purposed and don’t publish it. I think you can do a gross estimate yourself by figuring the longevity of major items such as engines and transmissions, tires, brakes, etc. I remember having a discussion with a guy who said it was cheaper to fix an old car than buy a new one for high mileage. We just went through the items that would need replacement and buying new was actually cheaper.

Agree. I am not an expert on Cuba but it takes a lot less to keep a car running on an island then it does in LA or the snow belt where the traveling distances are much greater and the weather is such a big factor. Little things like…using water in the radiator, running around on bald tires and rolling the window down for air conditioning makes the cars much easier to keep on the road but way below standards needed for survival here. The Country seems made for the Yugo and Fiat128. American cars are over kill and the simplest ones of old are much easier to keep going then any newer car. IMHO, it tells us that old American cars were not that bad, just built for different times. But, like you intimated, that in no way means they can survive in NE winters or the Texas plains.

Keep in mind that what the Cubans have been driving for 55 years are basically what the Checker Motors company built as taxis for decades. The Checker Marathon was based on a 1956 chassis with a body-on-frame design, 6 cylinder engine (from several sources), solid, leaf spring rear axle and 120 inch wheelbase. Built until 1982 mostly unchanged. That spec sheet would match most of the old American cars running around Cuba. Simple and durable. Well maintained Checkers would outlast more than one engine replacement.

@Docnick - great point about the ‘embargo’ - one could recreate 90 % of a car parts store with nothing from the US. Cuba’s problems are Cuba’s fault.

I recently read an article in an email from Hagerty Insurance Website that many of the 50s cars running around Cuba have Diesel engines from Chinese tractors. If you like classic cars they have interesting pics and articles or videos.

I’m afraid the only real value remaining in the vintage U.S. made vehicles in Cuba is historical value. They would be very interesting displayed “as is” in museums. There could be a few well preserved “gems” that would have collector value. Restoration of the others would cost many times as much as a poor condition vehicle that is currently in the U.S. Plus any restoration performed on a Cuban car would destroy whatever historical value it had. There is also no guaranty the Cuban government will even allow any of these vehicles be exported to the U.S…

“There is also no guaranty the Cuban government will even allow any of these vehicles be exported to the U.S.”

I’m going to go out on a limb with a prediction.
I think that they may well allow export of these vehicles, but will not allow them to be inspected prior to purchase. In other words, pulling the wool over people’s eyes in a manner similar to the Mariel Boat Lift of several decades ago.

I can just see it now…
A US buyer finally gets to lift the hood of his newly-imported '52 Oldsmobile, and finds that it has an engine and transmission from a '70s-era Lada–or some other Russian abomination. When he checks the brakes, he finds that the front brake drums are long gone, and that the only functioning brake is the e-brake. The floor panels are found to consist mostly of semi-rotted plywood…and so on.

In other words, a classic Pig in a Poke