There are some things we replace, and other things we repair. I have no qualms replacing a toothbrush every couple months, or buying a new pair of running shoes after a few hundred miles. When it comes to more expensive items, however, my point of view shifts dramatically. Companies like Patagonia have made a strong push against disposable merchandise, offering repair services for their products and encouraging shoppers to fix their gear rather than just throwing it away and buying replacements. It’s a commendable, environmentally friendly decision—and considering the price tags on Patagonia products, one that’s appreciated by shoppers, too.
Of course, when it comes to repairing vs. replacing, nothing trumps the auto industry. Drivers spend hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars per year keeping their cars on the road and, try as a I might, I just can’t visualize disposable cars showing up anytime soon. YourMechanic.com connects car owners with mechanics and in doing so has amassed an impressive data set breaking down the average cost of ownership by brand and specific model, including the maladies that most commonly afflict each brand.
There’s an interesting quirk happening in used car buying that could affect new car sales for years to come. Almost half of all buyers want the car they buy to last at least 10 years.
The survey from AutoMD.com showed the majority of buyers are thinking pre-owned, or what we mortals would call used cars, crossovers, SUVs, and pickups. Price was the most important factor, but so was making sure the car would last a decade.
As you might have heard, the state of Washington is currently on fire. As it so happens, the state of Washington is also where I currently live.
While flames have not directly threatened my family, countless others have been evacuated from their homes or lost them altogether.
The resulting smoke in the air has been suffocating. Even in cities miles from the fires, smoke chokes out residents as embers from burned trees fall from the sky. Flecks of white ash cover cars.
My family and I, desperate to escape the heavy blanket of smoke, packed up the car and left the state to find a place where we could breathe some clean, crisp air. We ended up at Priest Lake, deep in the forests of North Idaho. The first day was perfect. On the second day, though, we discovered that Idaho is on fire, too.
I only tell this story because there’s an important lesson to remember here about cars:
I’ve grown up believing that the service department of a car dealership is the most expensive place to get your car repaired or serviced. I attribute that to my Dad, who taught me at a young age to always take my car to an independent repair shop to get the best price.
I carried that belief into adulthood, and only now am I starting to realize that’s not always the best approach.
To be fair to my Dad, maybe that was true 20 years ago. Maybe dealerships have realized they need to be competitive with other shops to keep customers coming back. Whatever the case, it’s time to give car dealerships another look for service.
I love snow. I’m honestly a little jealous that a good majority of the country got buried this winter while I sat and watched my local ski hill warm up and close for the season by February.
If you live anywhere other than the West Coast, odds are good that you, and your car, experienced record snowfall. If you’re one of the many car owners who simply gave up and let your vehicle slumber under the weight of the white stuff, you might have some special maintenance to do once spring does the dig-out work for you.
The first thing to know is that a few weeks buried in snow and cold probably isn’t going to do any major damage to your car. There are a few areas to take special care of, though.
Burning oil in a 1973 Cadillac seems legit.
Drive an old boat like that around for long and you’ll stop at every gas station and put in a quart of oil. Worn engines simply burn and leak oil, often causing heavy smoke and the putrid odor of crusty black tar.
Drivers of those old cars don’t get too angry at the oil consumption because they know it just comes with the territory of having the pleasure of driving a Nixon-era automobile.
A 2013 car should never burn a quart of oil between oil changes.
Road trips often lead to interesting conversations about cars.
There are two cars in my family, a 2013 Subaru Legacy that was purchased new and now has 16,000 miles on the clock, and a “new to us” 2008 Audi Q7 with a shade over 80,000 on the odometer. Driving across the state yesterday, the conversation turned to what constitutes high mileage on a vehicle. The Audi drives as if it’s just been broken-in even though the dreaded 100,000-mile mark is only about two years away.
As we spoke, the rain poured hard and we were passed by a fast-moving semi truck. Even with the wipers at full force, the tidal wave of water rendered the windshield useless.
But that truck sparked a question:
I found myself thinking about Irv Gordon yesterday.
If you’re not familiar with the name, you will be shortly. I thought of him as I drove my aging 2004 Jaguar X-Type through the pothole-ridden streets of my city. My car has 111,000 miles on it, along with all kinds of suspension/steering clunks and a frustrating occasional loss of power due to a vacuum line problem. On most days, the car purrs like the day she was new, but the old cat has recently shown signs of distress.
Its mileage isn’t terrible for a 10-year-old car, but I don’t know what kind of repairs lie in her immediate future or how much longer we will have together.
That was my train of thought when Irv popped into my head.
As modern civilized humans, we expect quick results with nominal effort. We want magic weight-loss pills, we want to get rich with the simplicity of buying a lotto ticket, and we want to find love by posting a picture on a dating site.
Of course, there’s no quick way to guarantee any of those things. You just have to work hard and keep your mind intent on what you want. The mentality of instant gratification and quick fixes has fueled many marketing campaigns. Companies have learned how to tap into the minds of consumers and get them to part with their cash in exchange for products that promise to make life easier and better while solving a multitude of problems.
The cars we drive are certainly not immune to such marketing. Products that promise to increase fuel mileage, clean your engine, keep your gas from freezing, and more line store shelves. But are these products worth the money?