Why are modern cars so expensive?


#1

In another thread bscar provided a link to this Popular Mechanics article:



http://www…expensive?



IMO it’s pretty factual, but there is some exaggeration and a bit of misleading.



To wit:

At the start the author states the article’s main point:

“with the ubiquity of computers and electronics, taking a car to the shop is more expensive than ever”.

Yet from my own experience, the posts on this and other forums, etc. it seems that most people are having car problems that are mechanical in nature.

Plus the expenses increase due mainly to ignoring symptoms, lack of maintenance and poor troubleshooting skills.

Are the electronics really to blame?



It seems more spectacular to state a 1965 Mustang cost $2,500 without pointing out the difference between 1965 dollars vs 2010 dollars.



It’s implied that every mechanic in a dealership needs a $7,000 OBD scanner.

In 2010 one can still get slap-dash body work with Bondo.

There was a right way and several wrong ways to do AC work before and after the demise of R-12.


#2

I think if you look at the cost of living and the average wage, automobiles like most “appliances” are quite in line. They have to be…people could not afford to buy them otherwise. We ask much more of our cars today and due to electronics, they are marvels compared to the cars of yesterday. You don’t think do ? Try market a car with the 65 Mustang overall safety/performance/economy/longevity and see how many you’d sell.


#3

Car prices have exploded because of Government mandated emissions and safety “features” that consumers must buy whether they want them or not…


#4

Assuming the average wage in 65 was about $5000 to $6500 with the average car price of about $2600 and the average wage today is $40k to 50K, with average car price is about the same %, I couldn’t say that govt. mandates are the reason car prices are that much higher…it’s plain old inflation !
I would argue that you get a much better deal, from today’s auto as it does so much more and last much longer with fewer repairs and less maintenance.


#5

New cars are not really more expensive, the dollar is worth less (e.g $1,400/oz gold).


#6

In 1965 I bought a repossessed '65 Plymouth Valiant for about $2,000. I put $100 down and financed the balance for 18 months with the payments a few dollars less than a weekly check from a 40 hour pay check. It seems that it would be much more difficult to afford buying a comparable car today at minimum wage.


#7

It seems more spectacular to state a 1965 Mustang cost $2,500 without pointing out the difference between 1965 dollars vs 2010 dollars.

What cost $1000 in 1965 would cost $6728.82 in 2009


#8

Good analysis. If I shopped here for a car to resemble my 1965 Dodge Dart, it would be a complete stripper built in India or Eastern Europe, and sell for about $11,000 vs the Dart’s $3100 price tag.

Wages, in the meanwhile have increased 5 fold since the mid sixties. A car equivalent to the Dart would be now about 3 months wages, whereas in 1965 it was at least 6 months.

And you get a better, longer lived and safer car.

When I travel overseas I often see very barebones cars of dubious quality selling for about $6000 or so. These would be equivalent to the mid sixties cars we built here.


#9

That’s a 572.882% increase in 45 years or 12.7% per year. The reason is the added safety, longevity, additional standard equipment and the expensve emission controls in today’s cars. All in all, you get mnore car for you dollar or your month’s wages.


#10

Lets not forget how the price can get bloated when some manufacturers bundle things together and charge you for it. Like if you just wanted heated seats, you might be forced to buy the upgraded stereo system and/or a sunroof. So your heated seats wind up costing you $1200 extra because of that stereo or sunroof.


#11

Modern cars are not more expensive. A dollar in '67 is very different than a dollar today. The number of work hours needed to buy a basic car today is the same number of work hours needed to buy a basic car in '67. Todays car is safer and less polluting, and cost the same in terms of number of hours worked to buy it.


#12

It’s a combination of things; clean air, countless bells and whistles, increased complexity of everything on the car, increased transportation costs, etc., etc. and that W word; warranty.

Every car leaves the factory with a set amount budgeted for warranty work. The factory is gambling that the worst case scenario will be a wash at the end of the warranty period.
Cars are for more complex and the consumer is paying for that budgeted amount in the MSRP of the vehicle; they just don’t know it.


#13

I like the fact that most people so far are recognizing the fact that cars simply are not more expensive now than they used to be. As a % of median income, they are right about where they were 10, 20, 50, 80 years ago. I recently purchased a 2010 model that has a some less creature comforts than the 1997 model it replaced, but has a few comforts that 97 didn’t have. It has a TON more safety equipment, is more fuel efficient, and slightly larger. It also cost me LESS out the door than the 97, even without adjusting for inflation.

Often the problem is people are loading up their cars with ridiculous options that used to be considered far-out luxury items and then complaining of the cost. Navigation systems, DVD players, dual zone climate control… even power windows - these things used to be only on luxury or near-luxury models. Now some people think they’re necessary but then complain about the cost.

That 65 Mustang that cost $2500? You could build it today. Do you think people would buy a death trap (by modern standards) that was uncomfortable, had poor fit-and-finish, likely would rust out or break down within 8 years, and, while it had acceptable 0-60 times, was absolutely anemic in highway passing? Just try to get a 65 Mustang to go from 60-80. My 2010 Mazda6 does it effortlessly with a base 4 cylinder. The 65 Mustang would struggle.


#14

The automobile seems to be one of those rare items where the manufacturer treats their product like a commodity and the consumer like a long term investment. It has been a never ending battle to get the manufacturer to produce cars with even minimal longevity. In that respect, I think we’ve been more successful here than abroad, but only because of our buying power and heavy demands because of such diverse climate, higher standard of living and size along with our commuter culture.


#15

Some would argue that given today’s city traffic congestion and freeway system comuting with features like power windows and door locks, air conditioning, power mirrors etc are safety features, especially where kids are involved (minivans). Personally, my fuel consumption drops on trips to uncharted territory when I use the car GPS unit. Driving with a passive child baby sat with a movie occasionally has it’s safety advantages; though definitely not a good child rearing strategy, it has its place.
Car air conditioning in general IMO has killed a lot of the motel business where travel distance used to be restricted to how far you could comfortably and safely drive w/o a heater (that used to be a lux item too ) and air.


#16

“with the ubiquity of computers and electronics, taking a car to the shop is more expensive than ever”.
Yet from my own experience, the posts on this and other forums, etc. it seems that most people are having car problems that are mechanical in nature.

But when you do have an electrical problem, it can be very costly to diagnose and repair! Case in point, I know one guy who had the PCM stuck in jabber mode and screwing up the CAN bus communications. The primary reported symptom was the door locks opening and closing at random. That cost a fortune to diagnose and repair. Plus, not everyone was knowledgeable or well equipped enough to figure it out. This is where the parts swappers come out in force and who pays for that?

In 2010 one can still get slap-dash body work with Bondo.

True enough. But the primary point was that the substructure can no longer be coerced back into position. Once bent, it must be replaced. It’s not like the old days if it’s done right. Take that example of the rad core support they provided…

There was a right way and several wrong ways to do AC work before and after the demise of R-12

Again, they spoke about the good 'ol days where we dumped oil on the ground and vented refridgerant to the atmosphere. Their examples are pre-enviromentally conscious years when refridgerant recovery wasn’t practiced by anybody that I knew. No one owned a recovery machine let alone mandated training, equipment and extra hours of labor to follow these rules.

One other good point they made is about differences in access to repair now versus back then. You could practically sit in the engine bay to change plugs back then! Now I have to be a contortionist and masochist (and a few other 'ists) to perform a routine spark plug replacement. I pulled an alternator from the bowels of a car the other day. You needed a flashlight to see a fraction of the body of it in situ…


#17

A lot of good opints have been made here about the relative value of the dollar and a car’s cost relative to that. My first new car (1972) cost "2300, but wages were comparably lower.

There’s one more point I’d like to add: cars last far longer than they used to. At 100,000 miles one was “pushing the limits” in 1972. Today a car can be expected to last 200,000 and more. And the old cars required a lot more routine maintenance. So we’re really getting far more life and use for our dollar.


#18

How often were spark plugs recommended being replaced versus today?
Yes, some vehicles, especially minivans, it is very difficult to reach some of those plugs. But how often do owners change them? In some cases it may be on it’s 3rd owner before they get changed. Same with the timing belt, though that was almost nonexistent back then.