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Simplest car w/ fewest gadgets?

Just as a hypothetical question, wondering what is the simplest current generation car w/ the fewest electronic gadgets that can break down?

Criteria, must still have decent safety features and be a reasonably reliable car rather than quality of a Yugo.


Current generation? I really don’t know of one. You’re not going to find anything without a computer, air bags, ABS, and a lot of other junk. The simplest is probably some kind of low-end truck, but it still won’t be simple enough.

That’s why I drive a '82 benz (my wife has the new car, an '83).


Because clean air mandates make electronic engine management a must, every car has an on-board computer (or two) to manage things. Air bags must be managed electronically also.

If you truly want a car with the minimum of electronic equipment, you should probably look for the most basic Kia or Hyundai–the ones that do not have ABS as standard equipment. And, of course, the Chinese-made cars and the Indian-made cars that are promised for our market within the next year or two will have less standard equipment, by virtue of their very low list price. So, if you want to compromise quality, those upcoming Chinese and Indian cars might interest you, although I predict VERY low quality for those products. Or, if you can find a bare-bones Kia or Hyundai without ABS, you can currently find a car of decent quality with less than the usual electronic equipment.

But, if you are looking for a car without an on-board computer and without air bags, you will have to look at cars that are…perhaps 20 years old…if not older.

20 years is too new to avoid most of that crap, you really have to go 25-30 years at this point. Finding and maintaining a car of that age as a good daily driver is not cheap.

Actually not looking for a car as I bought the 2007 Chevy Impala last Nov. I like it but with having dealt w/ two warranty issues on the electronic wizardry, it got me to thinking about cars less likely to have such things go wrong.

First prob was the remote fob/tire pressure sensor and antenna. Second prob is the airbag sensor.

Just thinking in terms of how $$$$$ it gets to fix such probs once warranty runs out. Actually thinking of pricing an extended warranty on electronics.


re chinese cars:

plus, you’ll have to worry about the possibility of lead in the paint on the cars :stuck_out_tongue:

Not to mention the abysmal quality of Chinese components like brake rotors. I don’t think that I can afford to save that much money.

Nice, I always wanted a car made from tinfoil,

Noooooo thanks. Remember, I specified reasonable QUALITY.

Okay folks, just toss some hypothetical tomatoes at me for posing such a hypothetical question. LOL


The Clean Air Act (emissions) and the Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency (CAFE) laws guarantee that all new vehicles will have at least a certain level of sophisticated complexity.

However, it’s been my experience that a longitudinally mounted 4 cylinder engine with a rear wheel drive setup that uses shock absorbers rather than struts and has a timing chain rather than a timinng belt and with the absolute minimum of options is easier and less labor intensive to maintain and to repair. Changing components on a longitudinal 4-banger with few options is generally far easier than changing components on a transverse mounted V6 with a turbo and bunches of junk stuffed in around it (blah!).

By the way, the only vehicles I know that fit my description are small pickup trucks.

All new cars have safety features such as 2 front air bags, side impact bars in the doors, collapsible steering columns, etc. The simplest, most reliable cars would be the entry level cars from Honda, Toyota, Mazda, Hyundai. The least expensive base cars do not have anti-lock brakes (expensive to repair), traction control, side air bags, have 2 wheel drive, single exhaust, cheap but sturdy steel wheels, simple radio/CD players, no remote door openers, manual trunk release, and so on.

In other words, just ask for the cheapest car from a reliable manufacturer.

Items to avoid are ABS brakes, traction control, ride control, electic seats, auto climate control, built-in navigation systems, power windows, sliding roofs, dual exhausts, turbochargers, and so on.
The worst possible choice is a loaded gadget barge from an unreliable manufacturer.

As a general rule, all European cars have less than reliable electronics and gadgets, and have very high repair costs. All the cars I listed have basically good electronics, sturdy engines, good bodies, and have average repair costs.

North American low end cars have below average reliability and most have ABS or remote door openers.

The best and simplest car for the money is Toyota Yaris (base model) or the cheapest Honda Civic coupe with “power nothing”. These cars will last virtually forever if cared for, are cheap to service, and extremely reliable. You don’t need to forgo automatic, since you will likely have fewer problems than with a stickshift.

But, as per the previous post, all engines have computer controls and fuel injection in order to meet emission and fuel economy standards. On most cars, these sytems are quite reliable and need less service than carburetors.

Thanks Mountainbike and Docnick.

To get a car that my elderly dad could get in and out of and ride in with the least discomfort narrowed my choices to larger cars that come w/ more gadgets standard.

Guess I’m just nostalgic for the simplicity of the retired '87 Olds Ciera. Yes it had rear window defroster, tilt wheel, cruise control, power windows and locks. But all else was simple. Basic radio, a/c, heat w/ incredibly easy/intuitive controls that didn’t require programming, working through computer menus and all that silliness.

Just think of me as a Luddite!


As mentioned, your basic bare bones pickup truck, large or small has few options, an easy to service engine/drivetrain, and easy to get into and out of. These vehicles used to be called “strippers” in the auto trade and did not provide a lot of profit to the dealer or the manufacturers. They are now called entry level models, much more elegant.

Overseas you can still buy really barebones vehicles. I rode in a Toyota Jeep in Bolivia which had no crash padding no collapsible column, no seat belts, no emision controls, the heater hoses ran along the floor exposed, etc. It felt like I was in war surplus store. You don’t really want your father to drive something like that.

“I rode in a Toyota Jeep in Bolivia which had no crash padding no collapsible column, no seat belts, no emision controls, the heater hoses ran along the floor exposed, etc. It felt like I was in war surplus store. You don’t really want your father to drive something like that.”

Tell me where to sign up.

Ford Ranger XL. It’s as basic as you can get. I think they even have rubber floor mats. Steel wheels, no AC, manual windows, AM/FM without cassette, the only way you could get more basic would be to remove the starter and attach a crank to the front of the motor.

Oh my, that’s a bit toooooo basic for my taste.

Of course, with gas prices what they are, I keep doing more walking, which I like anyway. Just may see if I can find an old-fashioned pair of “saddle-bag” baskets to hang on my 1968 Schwinn bicycle and start riding it to and from the store in good weather!


On a serious note, obviously I’ve got a fallacy in my thinking. Guess instead of thinking about the simplest car I should think more of the most reliable car w/ low maintenance costs.

And that subject has long been well covered here on the board many times.

Anyway, not unhappy with my Impala, just trying to think ahead about electronic glitches as it gets beyond warranty in a few years down the road.

Time to retire this line of questioning and go back into lurk mode just reading and learning.

Thanks all for the feedback.


There is no simplicity anymore and it’s going to get much worse. Everything on a car from the rear view mirror, angle of the windshield, surface area of the taillights, along with any and all emissions/safety features, etc is all mandated and controlled by the government.

There’s a lot to be said for a 61 Chevy. One little tote box of basic tools takes care of just about everything on it.

Base level Grand Marquis or Crown Victorias are pretty simple. That is one reason that old folks like them.

NOW you’re talking! Proven reliability is what you want, whether the vehicle is “simple” or not. Check out Consumer Reports for reliability ratings. Two words you need to know when car shopping: “Honda” and “Toyota.” These two manufacturers have consistently produced vehicles with the best over-all reliability ratings.

That’s not to say they are perfect. No car-maker is perfect, but Honda and Toyota are about as close as you can get right now. Even the electronics in these cars work reliably, year after year. Who’d have thought?