Vintage Cars

If you have seen this page before, please read the update at the bottom of the page.

I have yet to figure out why people like old clocks and want them repaired, but they must have the newest cars. Buying an old vehicle in good condition and having it repaired is much less costly than buying a new one: a new vehicle depreciates at an average rate of 20% per year for the first ten years or so. This means that if you buy a new car for $20,000, the first year of ownership will cost you $4000, the second year $3,200, plus the interst you pay on the loan, (very few people pay cash for a new car), and the sales tax on the purchase (here it is 6% for vehicles). For the cost of the first year's depreciation, you could buy a good vintage vehicle, and not have to make payments for five or six years. It is smarter to invest your money in mortgage payments, because your house goes up in value (more often than not), rather than car payments, since your car goes down in value (always).

After considering the issue of cost, the second issue to consider is durability. While the new vehicles are designed to require less maintenance, they often cost two to three times more to repair than pre-computerised vehicles (made before 1980) because of the high cost of parts and labor (more complicated engines require more time to repair). The cost of repair soon exceeds the value of the vehicle, so you trade it in for a new one. An older vehicle that is simple to repair can be driven for many years.

Once you have a good vintage vehicle, you need good sources for parts, such as the LMCtruck catalog and Hemmings Motor News, though most parts are readily available from local parts suppliers like Van's Auto Parts and Auto Zone, and a good mechanic.

Below are two examples that show the numbers. The first example is the 2012 Ford Focus, one of the least expensive new cars on the road today. has a "true cost to own" feature that is quite sobering. If I compare the numbers to the numbers for my 1981 Toyota Celica, which I have owned since 2006, the difference in cost to own becomes obvious, caused mainly by depreciation, insurance and taxes. If you subtract the cost of gasoline, the new Ford Focus costs more than FOUR TIMES as much to own over the next five years than my old Celica. The cost of fuel should be similar for both vehicles. My Celica gets 30 mpg.

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The second example is the 2012 Ford Supercrew truck, which I chose because it costs less than a Ford Expedition V8, but more than a Ford Explorer V6. Compared to my 1978 Chevrolet Caprice Classic, the new truck costs FOUR AND A HALF TIMES as much to own over the next five years, if you subtract the cost of gasoline, than my old Caprice. The cost for fuel should be similar for both vehicles. My Caprice gets 15 mpg.

Comparing the numbers reveals that buying one of the least expensive new cars available would cost you almost $5000 more per year for the first five years, when compared to keeping your old car: you could save almost $20000 by keeping your old car for the next five years! This is much more than I had been expecting, before doing these calculations.

The costs escalate when you buy a more expensive new vehicle: you could save almost $28000 over the next five years in the second example.

Anyone interested in buying an old car or truck should look up its repair records in the pages below. These pages from old Consumer Reports issues are discoloured and deteriorating, but the information is worth preserving. The repair history provides clues as to the vehicle's reliability, even decades later. The data shows that most vehicles had all kinds of reliability problems, which is still true today, so it makes sense to choose carefully. Another issue to consider is that most European vehicles use parts that are now difficult to find and expensive. Most luxury cars have very complicated electronics that are difficult to repair and have reliability problems after 25 years or more, so a simpler car will be easier to maintain. Here are some examples of some great vintage vehicles.

1983 - 78
1977 - 72
1973 - 70
1971 - 68
1968 - 63

most Toyota and Honda models 1976 - 1981
(BMW 320i 1982 1983)
Buick Century 1971 1975
Chevy Chevelle 1974 - 1976
Chevy Monte Carlo 1973
Buick Electra 225 1979
Buick LeSabre 1974
Chevy Nova V8 1970
Chevy Camaro 1970 1971
Ford LTD Custom Galaxie 1972 1976
Ford pickup trucks 6 cyl 1970 - 1973
Ford Thunderbird 1973
Lincoln Continental 1973 - 1976
(Mercedes Benz Diesel 1970 - 73)
Mercury Marquis 1972 - 1977
Oldsmobile Cutlass 1970 1972 1976
Oldsmobile 88 98 1972 1978
Pontiac Catalina 1975 - 1977
(Porsche 911 1972 1973)
(Volvo 1800 1973)
(Volvo 240 DL 1978)

Newer vehicles:

Buick Regal 1996
Buick Bonneville 1996
Buick Park Ave 1996
Buick Roadmaster sw 1996
Cadillac Seville 1996-8
Cadillac Fleetwood 1992
Cadillac Escalade 2003
Cadillac Eldorado 1999
Chevrolet Camaro 1996, 1998-01
Chevrolet Caprice 1996
Chevrolet Suburban 1993-6
Chevrolet Venture van 1998
Chrysler 300m 2001
Chrysler Grand Voyager van 2000
Chrysler minivan 2000
Ford Taurus wagon 1997-8
Ford Mustang 1997-02
Ford Focus and wagon 2000-4
Ford 500 2005-7
Ford F150 1996-99
Ford Crown Vic 2000-2
Honda Accord 1996-7
Honda Civic 1994-6
Jeep Grand Cherokee 1997, 2006
Jeep Cherokee 1995-7
Lincoln Town Car 2006
Lincoln Town Car 2002
Lincoln ls 2001-4
Lincoln Continental 2002
Mercury Villager van 1994-00
Mercury Sable wagon 1997
Olds 98 1996
Olds Ciera sw 1995-6
Toyota Tercel dx sedan 1996-7

COROLLA (Joel) 2001
Suburban (325 v8) (customer) 2004

2015 cars to avoid:
chevy silverado
ford escape
fiat 500L
nissan pathfinder
ford fiesta is #1 worst, least reliable

best 2015 cars:
vw beetle
honda accord
vw jetta

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