When it comes to cars I’m almost average

By: 
Dennis Warden
Publisher

I paid cash for the first car I purchased in 1977. It was only three years old — a 1974 Chevy Nova with around 20,000 miles on the odometer. I was able to do that because I started working when I was 12 years old.

The job list included, among other things, mowing grass, chief custodian at the newspaper (75¢ per hour), life guard ($1.00 per hour) and working a summer at Brown Shoe factory. 

The price for that one owner used car was $1,600 — after inflation that would be $6,761.50 today.

If you know of any three year old cars with less than 30,000 miles priced under seven grand, chances are there is something seriously wrong with it. If there’s not, let me know I may be interested in buying it.

I am pretty frugal when it comes to cars. Over my lifetime (I’m 59 years old) I have personally owned only 11 vehicles, and since Connie and I were married in 1986, we’ve had two or three cars at time.

So with that in mind I was not too surprised to discover that, according to IHS Markit, the average age of vehicles on the road in the USA today is 11.8 years — the highest since that figure started being tracked in the early 2000s.

Today there are 278 million cars, SUVs and light duty trucks on American highways. To put that in perspective, the US has a current population of around 330 million people.

If you include vehicles that Warden Publishing owns for our three newspapers, and my two personal cars, I currently pay insurance on seven of those 278 million vehicles — I think I should get a fleet rate. 

These cars average just over 12 years old. So, I’m just over average. Out of all those vehicles, four vans and three cars, only the 2010 Transit Connect has under 100,000 miles on it.

Although I didn’t pay much for my Nova, it did require more repairs than today’s modern cars. I remember having to replace the water pump and the fuel pump before the Nova reached the 60,000 mile plateau.

It’s amazing how the quality and value of cars has increased since the 70s and 80s.

A 2009 Chevy HHR that Jacob drives for the newspaper has over 230,000 miles tacked on the odometer.

15,000 miles a year is considered an “average” number of miles per year. So in this case the HHR is way over average, and not in a good way.

Same with the 2012 Cruze the newspaper owns which has averaged over 17,000 miles per year.

I really don’t actually know how many miles our 1998 Dodge Grand Caravan has because it’s cluster — all the gauges which includes the odometer — has been replaced three times. It’s probably getting close to 200,000.

When it comes to cost I’m just as frugal with my purchases. I have yet to spend over $22,000 for a vehicle. I’ve spent less than that on each of the three cars I own that were purchased new — ‘09 Caravan, ‘12 Cruze and the ‘10 Transit.

According to an article I read on cnbc.com, Chevy is coming out with a new vehicle that will cost over $100,000 — and it’s not a Corvette — it’s an all-new version of its heavy-duty Silverado with the new High Country trim package. That’s the price of a house. For that price it should come with a driver.

The industry average for a new full-size pickup is $45,260.

A piece of advice: Except for collectables, cars are not an investment. They are an expense and are simply a way to get from point A to point B. No one needs a $100,000 truck, but there are those who will buy them.

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On another note I took some time out of my schedule to take a 15 minute flight on a Ford Tri-Motor out of the Rolla Airport on Saturday. At $77 it was well worth the ride to fly on a piece of history.

“The Tin Goose” as it is called left the ground using around 900 feet of runway. By comparison a modern Boeing 747 requires 9,199 feet of runway to become air-born. 

We went north of the airport flying over the Gasconade River before circling back to our staring point.

This particular plane was built in 1929. There were only 199 built at a cost of $55,000 each. This plane had three Pratt & Whitney air cooled radial engines each producing 450 hp.

Jacob and Roxie also took the trip. You can see their photos and stories in this week’s Advocate along with their videos on our Facebook pages.

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