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Discussion Starter #1
The reason cars slowly become worthless over time is because they do.

We were out for a family trip in our Y reg Espace yesterday and I realised after some time out and about that I had not see another 'year letter' car. As it happens I did finally spot an X reg car, but that was it, mine and this other car (it was a perfectly respectable and neat Ford Focus, as it happened, neater than our car!).

It set me wondering.

The Espace is due for an MoT next week and there are plenty of opportunities for costly things. recently I have spent at least £70 on parts on it, which is about 50% of its market value.

That's funny as it is, that £70 is 50% of a viable car's value, but the world is sooo wasteful. I mean, let's say the MoT reveals £500 of repairs. If the car was 3 years old you'd not think twice about paying that (if essential and market price for the repairs). But for a 17 year old Espace? Maybe not.

errrrr.... why? Oh, that'll be because the car isn't worth £500. Yeah, but why isn't it worth £500. errrr...that's because it might need £500 of repairs on it. errrr... yeah, lots of cars need £500 of repairs on and the owners don't bat an eyelid because it is worth £10,000. OK, but why is that car worth £10,000 and the other <£500?

The old one might need repairs. It might need more repairs. Really? Is there any evidence for that? Yes, the evidence is that old cars get scrapped more often due to the repair costs. Yes, but that is because of the market value, not because of the cost of the repairs (which are usually a lot cheaper than the same repairs for new cars).

The thing I am getting at is that if a viable car gets scrapped because of a repair cost more than a few hundred pounds, then basically the entire fleet of cars would end up as >20 year old cars that are cheap t repair, because anything that's around 4 to 5 years old dealers want £200 just to look at it!

I think what has happened is that 30 years ago cars that were 10 years old had usually rusted to hell and not worth repairing. These days, cars jut don't rot like that and keep going. But the market momentum has kept old car prices low and so they are not seen as worth paying for little repairs and eventually all the little repairs add up and a decision has been made not to bother with the effort of repairing them all, rather than the cost.

In other markets where cars have never rotted, 2nd hand cars hold their value very well. And that means people take care of them better, spend more on them, and they last longer still.

Who's got it right? Those markets, or ours?
 

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If you can repair your old car for £500 or put the £500 towards a newer, ‘more reliable’ one, what would most people do?

c.f. All the old cars in Cuba. They can be made to work well if you have no other options.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
If you can repair your old car for £500 or put the £500 towards a newer, ‘more reliable’ one, what would most people do?
We can figure what they would do. My question is why they would do it?
 

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So a few more years and I can pick up a Leaf or Zoe for £200...

I suspect "10 years and it's worthless" won't be the case for electrics.
 

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Donald, your overall question is very fair, but you know the answer. The law of conservation of income/expenditure states that if you save money on your cars, it will be spent in other places such as hairdressers and shoe stores. We owe it those working in car factories to dispose of our income thoughtfully.
 

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The old one might need repairs. It might need more repairs. Really? Is there any evidence for that? Yes, the evidence is that old cars get scrapped more often due to the repair costs.
Your argument seems to be centered around this.

But parts wear out, the older the car, the more parts needs to be replaced / repaired. For example, a 20 year old car will probably need a new suspension arm, coil springs and another new set of brake pads.

Because parts wear out, sometimes break at the worst time. The older the car, the less reliable it would seem. So the old car have less value.

It's not to say keeping an old car on the road is fruitless, if the car is maintained by yourself, no labour costs, the cost of motoring is will be very low. Repair cost is only prohibitive when you have to pay someone else to do the repair, often more than the cost of the part.
 

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It's not to say keeping an old car on the road is fruitless, if the car is maintained by yourself, no labour costs, the cost of motoring is will be very low. Repair cost is only prohibitive when you have to pay someone else to do the repair, often more than the cost of the part.
I found this running a 10 year old Lotus Elise. When I had a garage it was all very cheap to run. As soon as I had to pay a specialist I couldn’t really afford it.

Of course I probably spent any savings on tools. :)
 

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In other markets where cars have never rotted, 2nd hand cars hold their value very well. And that means people take care of them better, spend more on them, and they last longer still.
There's a few factors in that beyond more favourable climate. Lower labour rates can swing how worthwhile a repair is. Lax (or no) safety inspections allow cars that would fail MOT here to go on running until things actually rust through and break. Taxation also plays a big part - if cars are more expensive to buy (look up how much a regular Golf or Focus costs in countries like Denmark) people are discouraged from buying as many new cars - secondhand ones hold their value better. Ongoing taxation (like our VED) also can discourage keeping older cars - there must be lots of higher CO2 cars scrapped because a £500+ annual bill makes no sense once the car's value comes down towards that and there are newer, lower CO2 options with a fraction of the annual tax.
 

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We have a 42 year old Citroen 2CV4 which is going up in value. Now worth about £7,000 it is one of two left in the world, 60 MPG, also no road tax or MOT required and fully comprehensive insurance is under £100 a year. That is the way to go.
 

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Yes, some cars become priceless over time, I wouldn’t mind one of those!
Priceless, but also extremely expensive to maintain as spare parts become more rare, or stop being manufactured.
If you have to go to a specialist to have a spare part made from scratch or repaired then that can make the car undesireable or force it off the road.
 

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There's also the issue that 30 years ago people had to take out personal loans or HP to buy a car if they didn't have cash, and in real terms, cars were more expensive. That meant people were more likely to keep cars for longer, plus being mechanically so simple, it was easier to do DIY maintenance. In addition, these days, a lot of people don't know a spanner from a screwdriver. I fix bikes, and at events, I've had dads approach me asking me to take stabilisers off their kids' bikes as they say they don't know how to do it!

Now, 90% of all private car purchases are via PCP, so the deals simply encourage people to get a brand new car after 2-3 years.

The result is that cars are now no longer owned outright and are seen as a throw away commodity. Unfortunately.
 

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I'm not crazy, the attack has begun.
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Discussion Starter #14 (Edited)
Your argument seems to be centered around this.

But parts wear out, the older the car, the more parts needs to be replaced / repaired. For example, a 20 year old car will probably need a new suspension arm, coil springs and another new set of brake pads.
This is axiomatic [and probably in error] and I don't accept that cars over 8 or so years old have any more repairs than cars up to 20 years old.

There is a thing called the 'bathtub curve' in which initial failures (due to mis-design and mis-manufacture) get eliminated by 'infant mortality' and once through that point the curve of failure rate is flat until the equipment gets to the rise and the 'wear out' period'.

The thing is that most of the parts that hit wear out within 20 years have already hit the wear-out curve after 5 or 6 and they are on borrowed time at that point.

As a complex system, to maximise the value and output of a car, you want to wait long enough that every single part on it has reached the wear-out period, by replacing parts during the car's overall mid bath-tub lifecycle.

Cars are nowhere near their wear-out period at 10 years and are still way off it at 20 years, unless they have done mega miles as well.

I do not say this merely with a reliability engineer's hat on, I have bought many cars over the years in the 5 to 10 year range, and for the most part I receive them with between none and lots of faults on. Within a year or two I may have ended up spending quite a lot on them, but then after that they are virtually fault free for the next 5 or 10 years.

So the argument that 'cars' have more faults when they get older seems bogus to me and I'd like to see the evidence for that axiom. For sure, there are a number of components on cars that fail, but until those components that see early failures are replaced a couple of times, the car is no-where near its whole-system wear-out period.

I have replaced the springs and brakes on the Espace a couple of times now. They are mid-life repairs to a vehicle system that could be perfectly serviceable after a further 17 years, so long as the same money is spent on the car in those next 17 years as was spent in the previous 17 years.

So the real reason why cars drift into valueless-ness is not an engineering one, it is because we live in a profligately wasteful society that seems to specialise in throwing serviceable things away because it is not the social norm to keep stuff. By changing the things we own we change ourselves, repainting the house brings new life and changes us for the better (so the considerable pressure of commercial advertising teaches us). Those photos of nice new cars with surf boards and bikes sticking out of the back, if we get that car it will change our lives. heh... as if a 17 year old Espace with potentially 8 cubic metres of cargo space in the back couldn't do that better?!
 

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I do not say this merely with a reliability engineer's hat on, I have bought many cars over the years in the 5 to 10 year range, and for the most part I receive them with between none and lots of faults on. Within a year or two I may have ended up spending quite a lot on them, but then after that they are virtually fault free for the next 5 or 10 years.
That's exactly my experience, you buy a second hand car and you find out pretty soon that some things have to be repaired, like an airco not working which the dealership didn't notice when they traded the car in, or suspension parts which although not immediately dangerous would benefit from replacement. After a year or so it's only roughly one repair a year (plus sometimes tyres or brake parts ). Our petrol Volvo XC90 is now 12 years old and has done 155K miles, don't see a reason why it won't be here in five or ten years time. Well, unless I sell the distillery to Bacardi that is :D
 

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This is axiomatic [and probably in error] and I don't accept that cars over 8 or so years old have any more repairs than cars up to 20 years old.

There is a thing called the 'bathtub curve' in which initial failures (due to mis-design and mis-manufacture) get eliminated by 'infant mortality' and once through that point the curve of failure rate is flat until the equipment gets to the rise and the 'wear out' period'.

The thing is that most of the parts that hit wear out within 20 years have already hit the wear-out curve after 5 or 6 and they are on borrowed time at that point.

As a complex system, to maximise the value and output of a car, you want to wait long enough that every single part on it has reached the wear-out period, by replacing parts during the car's overall mid bath-tub lifecycle.

Cars are nowhere near their wear-out period at 10 years and are still way off it at 20 years, unless they have done mega miles as well.

I do not say this merely with a reliability engineer's hat on, I have bought many cars over the years in the 5 to 10 year range, and for the most part I receive them with between none and lots of faults on. Within a year or two I may have ended up spending quite a lot on them, but then after that they are virtually fault free for the next 5 or 10 years.

So the argument that 'cars' have more faults when they get older seems bogus to me and I'd like to see the evidence for that axiom. For sure, there are a number of components on cars that fail, but until those components that see early failures are replaced a couple of times, the car is no-where near its whole-system wear-out period.

So the real reason why cars drift into valueless-ness is not an engineering one, it is because we live in a profligately wasteful society that seems to specialise in throwing serviceable things away because it is not the social norm to keep stuff. By changing the things we own we change ourselves, repainting the house brings new life and changes us for the better (so the considerable pressure of commercial advertising teaches us). Those photos of nice new cars with surf boards and bikes sticking out of the back, if we get that car it will change our lives. heh... as if a 17 year old Espace with potentially 8 cubic metres of cargo space in the back couldn't do that better?!
While I whole heartedly agree with your last paragraph on the current society. But I feel you are ignoring the elephant in the room. Parts don't wear out at similar times.

Each and every component have different bathtub curve. You can have a coil spring that is rated 10M compressions but the suspension arm can only take a dozen big pot holes. So although as a whole system, the car is still repairable, the chance of needing to repair and replace parts increases as the car age.

Take my wife's Fiat Panda for example, everything works very well except for the automated manual semiauto gearbox. Sometimes while driving (!) it would say "gear not available" and loose power. I diagnosed this to be the clutch hydraulic accumulator issue by collecting OBD readings as the problem occur. Although the part itself is cheap, but getting to it requires gearbox removal, some garages even quoted a whole new gearbox, costing more than what we paid for the car.

Unlike oil filter, timing belt or coil springs, there are parts of cars that is supposed to last "life of the car", so has not been engineered to be easily repaired. The older the car, the more chances of those things needing replacement. The labour cost of repairing those may not be worth it.

Hence the older the car, the less valuable. But it's not to say £1000 cars are completely worthless, it all depends on luck. I wasn't lucky with the Panda, you have more luck with a Honda Jazz (I hear they are very reliable)
 

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Take my wife's Fiat Panda for example, everything works very well except for the automated manual semiauto gearbox. Sometimes while driving (!) it would say "gear not available" and loose power. I diagnosed this to be the clutch hydraulic accumulator issue by collecting OBD readings as the problem occur. Although the part itself is cheap, but getting to it requires gearbox removal, some garages even quoted a whole new gearbox, costing more than what we paid for the car.

Unlike oil filter, timing belt or coil springs, there are parts of cars that is supposed to last "life of the car", so has not been engineered to be easily repaired. The older the car, the more chances of those things needing replacement. The labour cost of repairing those may not be worth it.
I've said this in another thread recently discussing why it's good that EV's only have single speed gearboxes, but in a modern well maintained ICE, it's likely to be the gearbox that condemns it to the scrap yard at a certain point, not the engine, as both fully automatic and semi-auto gearboxes (manual but computer actuated) have a limited lifespan and they are not designed to be easily removed or repaired. It is very expensive, very specialist work, especially for a traditional full auto box with torque converter.

And by the time they do go kaput, the value of the car is low enough that the expensive repairs required simply aren't worth the hassle. In the case of an automatic gearbox even the "buy a second hand gearbox from the scrapyard" route is no good - you'd have to have your head examined even to fit one from a scrapyard that hasn't been overhauled first as the torque converter clutch etc are almost certainly badly worn by the time the car is in the scrapyard and you are taking a huge gamble fitting an auto box of unknown provenance.

The other likely causes for going to the scrap yard is rust or an accident of course.

My almost 21 year old Xantia V6 is still running very well and is pretty low mileage for its age at only 86k miles, but I'm acutely aware that the "sealed for life" ZF auto box in these have a bit of a reputation for dying past 100k miles, (as a previous one I owned did soon after I sold it on for parts as I knew the gearbox was on it's last legs!) and it is also starting to get a significant amount of underbelly rust on pipes, suspension components etc that I'm having to try to keep up with...

The motor and everything else about the car is solid so I fully expect it will be either rust or gearbox failure that eventually put it off the road!

EV gearboxes are just a single speed step down gear and differential, and in theory can be made to last hundreds of thousands of miles without any maintenance and very little risk of breaking. No clutches, no hydraulic system, no constant gear engagement and disengagement, moving control forks, syncromesh, no computerised control etc.

Just a single step down ratio usually implemented with three gears - input, idler and output to the differential. It literally couldn't be any simpler or more robust.

An EV will have rotted away on our salty roads long before either the gearbox or motor gives trouble. They literally should last the life of the vehicle and then some.

The battery on the other hand, not so much... The weak point of a modern ICE is the over complicated gearbox, the weak point of an EV for the foreseeable future is going to be the battery!

In both ICE and EV ECU/Electronics failures are of significant concern as well given the highway robbery prices for replacement ECU's, and the pervasive and unjustifiable use of "coding" ECU's to the car to try to hinder 3rd party repairs/replacements without authorised dealer diagnostic tools...
 

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Take my wife's Fiat Panda for example, everything works very well except for the automated manual semiauto gearbox. Sometimes while driving (!) it would say "gear not available" and loose power. I diagnosed this to be the clutch hydraulic accumulator issue by collecting OBD readings as the problem occur. Although the part itself is cheap, but getting to it requires gearbox removal, some garages even quoted a whole new gearbox, costing more than what we paid for the car.
Oh man, you have a Duologic! I had a Selespeed in my Alfa 147. These manual gearboxes with automatic pumps to change gears for you are expensive hobbies to run. Oil leaks from the O rings, multiple bottles of Tutela CS speed and a reconditioned pump was what I had to put into my 2004 (bought in 2010) to keep it running until trading it for buttons (£500) in 2015. I bought the car for £2,800 and ended up spending nearly £2,000 on the Selespeed box alone. So I feel your pain!

Overall costs for the Alfa (and yes, it's an Alfa so bit of a reliability outlier) over three years (including purchase price less trade in value) was £9,300 in 5 years (various things such as timing belts that needed to be replaced every 3 years (and had never been done when I bought it) wishbones, bushes, brake pads, discs to name but some bits that started to fail at different times. The brand new Mazda3 I bought to replace it cost me £8,500 over 4 years for servicing and a couple of replacement tyres.
 

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I've just had some alloy wheels powder coated black and fitted with new tyres, probably worth more than my 16 year old smart car is worth, I put a new exhaust on it for the last MOT to help get it through, I'm just going from year to year, it's given me a lot of fun over the years so I hope it lives for a long time yet.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Guys, all this talk about gearboxes is PROVING the point, not defeating it.

Gearboxes are the most long-lived components of a car, they have few sliding contacts and are well lubricated.

The problem you guys are discussing here are not wear-out processes, they are infant mortality processes, where poor design or manufacture is causing failure. These sorts of failures happen with new cars as well as old cars.

Let me put it this way; let's say that you are shown two cars, one is a brand new car with a Fiat Sillyspeed and another one that is 10 years old with the original gearbox and you know that it has never had a failure. Which one would you trust more to cover the next year with no failures?

So you see, this is the very essence of my discussion here, cars are SO robust and reliable that all people think about are 'early life' failures (design/manufacturing causes) not random wear-out processes. The age of the car is only relevant for the latter failure modes but most of the car never gets to that point.

I say again that once you are into the flat part of the bathtub curve for cars, unless you have changed the service parts several times (all the bits you usually associate with cars 'failing') then you are no where near the end of the car's life. Cars get scrapped due mainly to failures from design defects, which by definition are just as likely in a new car as an old one. The only reason you would not swap the gearbox out in a 20 year old car when you would in a 1 year old car is nothing to do with the car's reliability or longevity, it is purely due to the market value. So the market value cannot be based on costs like that because otherwise it is a circular argument that it's no value because it's no value...... Oh, hang on, that is exactly what the situation is!.....
 
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