What Do You Think About Long-Term (20+ Years) Ownership Potential Of Modern Cars?

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Path 2: You buy and hold an older car (or cars) that you can fix.

Like I mentioned above, I think my plan is to assemble a family fleet of vehicles that were in very common use (or use parts-bin parts) in their day, but are from the late 90s or 00s. Things like Pather body Fords, Full Size trucks from the big 3, etc will have parts available for decades and decades because of the sheer volume of production, minimal changes over long life-cycles, and size of the aftermarket. With this approach, when you need a car you go out and you buy the nicest, cleanest, lowest mileage example of an older car that you can afford, and you maintain it with the goal being to keep it as long as you possibly can.

I honestly think that in the next 20 years there is going to be a huge run on the market for 90s/00s cars because I know I'm not the only one who considers them the "sweet spot" in terms of safety, tech, comfort, etc. Just new enough for airbags and fuel injection, just old enough not to have the insane level of tech. I personally would rather start buying up the cars I want from this vintage now while they're cheap and plentiful than wait until their values start climbing and availability tanks.
Nice analysis. I've followed the same path as you. I decided that the 2002 and 2003 Volkswagen TDIs with the ALH (million-mile) engine was the one to own. Simple engine and fuel injection system, manual transmission, minimal emissions equipment, abundant after-market parts availability. Excellent fuel mileage. Corrosion is a problem but not as bad as pre-1999 ones.

I've got two for my own use (a Golf bought new in 2003, the other a low-mile '03 Golf in 2014), one for my sister and her family (an '03 Jetta wagon bought in 2018), and recently a nephew picked up a nice '03 Jetta. Lately I've noticed that rust-free well-maintained TDIs from that era are slowly rising in value, even as more of them exceed 300k miles.

Edit: you can still find excellent rust-free well-maintained examples for $3000-$5000 if you wait for the right one to come along, and you insist on one with a manual transmission (the automatics suck). Take care of them and they may serve you well for another couple of decades.
 
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Knock on wood but I think Ford Fusions and other fleet vehicles (used by municipalities and rental car companies) can go for twenty years with proper maintenance. There are lots of cheap aftermarket parts and used parts. Avoid turbos, and things should be fine. The FFH has been racking up hundreds of thousands of miles as taxis. Even a dead APIM or ECU can be replaced with a used part for a few hundred bucks.

The electronics on new cars may make them less reliable but also make them safer. ABS, two-stage airbags, side curtain airbags, electronic stability/traction control, blind spot monitoring, backup cameras, etc. That's not even to mention creature comforts like adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, auto high beams, auto-dimming mirrors, auto wipers, remote start, cooled seats, Android Auto or Apple Car play. All that is available on a used 2019 FFH Titanium for $21,000 with fewer than 40,000 miles.

Heck, even the electric steering on the Fusion makes a noticable difference in drivability. I remember driving my Fusion through a road I knew had heavy cross winds. However, the Fusion was solid and didn't require all those small steering wheel inputs to center in the lane. I looked it up and apparently, the electric steering system can determine that you are in cross winds and automatically account for it.

There's also heavy survivorship bias in this thread. We are only talking about cars that made it 20 years and not the clunkers. My parents had cars in the eighties and nineties that were junk. Renault, Plymouth, Pontiac. Can't remember the names but transmissions slipped, and the engines consumed as much oil as gas.
 
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I think right to repair will also be a huge factor going forward with how long vehicles can be kept on the road. Not only will repairs be more software based, but if the manufacturer locks down the software and a dealer is your only option, many people simply won't be able to afford to get their vehicles fixed.
Tesla is the big offender here but for Fords and Mazdas you can get a clone that will work with the dealer software. Can upgrade modules and do electronic testing to your little heart's content.
 
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Tesla is the big offender here but for Fords and Mazdas you can get a clone that will work with the dealer software. Can upgrade modules and do electronic testing to your little heart's content.
For now. ;) My point was many manufacturers allow you to still access the software if you are an indy shop with a scan tool, and some offer DIY solutions, but the whole right to repair debate is about that stuff being taken away because of possible "data security" issues according to the manufacturers.
 
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For now. ;) My point was many manufacturers allow you to still access the software if you are an indy shop with a scan tool, and some offer DIY solutions, but the whole right to repair debate is about that stuff being taken away because of possible "data security" issues according to the manufacturers.
The issue isn't the reading, the issue mainly involves programming and software updates. R2R has not been a great thing for every manufacturer. Certain manufacturers such as Nissan have introduced R2R complaint solutions that are barely usable and are severely "Hindered" compared to the real factory platform. There are some OEM's that have been extremely forthcoming with their service tools and data (GM, Ford, Toyota) and have essentially allowed the aftermarket to have the same access to factory software as dealerships; I wholeheartedly support those brands.
 
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The issue isn't the reading, the issue mainly involves programming and software updates. R2R has not been a great thing for every manufacturer. Certain manufacturers such as Nissan have introduced R2R complaint solutions that are barely usable and are severely "Hindered" compared to the real factory platform. There are some OEM's that have been extremely forthcoming with their service tools and data (GM, Ford, Toyota) and have essentially allowed the aftermarket to have the same access to factory software as dealerships; I wholeheartedly support those brands.
Yep they also allow schools to access it as well. When I was in high school automotive we done Ford and Toyota training and got all the certifications for each one. Which never expire as well so I am fully certified in Ford and Toyota not that I can remember much about the Ford ones lol.
 
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Anyway, I have a 2011 Prius as a daily driver. Fairly "Modern" vehicle compared to most of the examples in this thread. Hybrid, brake-by-wire, etc. It has 212K. The car has been fairly reliable with the exception of a head gasket failure at 185K which is common for the 10-15 1.8L's. 212K can be 20 years of driving for some people. Repair information and factory tooling are easy to access, but parts are pricey. I think it is a car that can be kept for 20 years when owned by someone who has some DIY experience.
 
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Yep they also allow schools to access it as well. When I was in high school automotive we done Ford and Toyota training and got all the certifications for each one. Which never expire as well so I am fully certified in Ford and Toyota not that I can remember much about the Ford ones lol.
And then you have some mfg's like VAG who will only grant ODIS access to individuals holding a LSID.
 
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Anyway, I have a 2011 Prius as a daily driver. Fairly "Modern" vehicle compared to most of the examples in this thread. Hybrid, brake-by-wire, etc. It has 212K. The car has been fairly reliable with the exception of a head gasket failure at 185K which is common for the 10-15 1.8L's. 212K can be 20 years of driving for some people. Repair information and factory tooling are easy to access, but parts are pricey. I think it is a car that can be kept for 20 years when owned by someone who has some DIY experience.
what issues did it have that signaled a bad HG?
 

Kestas

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My 1995 Mercedes E320 has over 20 computers in the vehicle. A number of them have already gone bad. This car may likely end up in the junkyard one day with the body and drivetrain in great condition because the computers will get too costly to replace.
 

Msmith68w

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I'll tell you one thing. I'm at my wits end with the suspensions on modern vehicles. My '14 Charger has 95k on it and it has ENDLESS suspension issues. It clunks like mad over bumps or rough pavement. When you get under it with a pry bar, nothing whatsoever is loose. Following the common fixes on the forums I've replaced the sway bar links and bushings, front "torque arms" (which were visible bad), both front upper control arms, tightened the strut tower bolts (which I guess the factory forgot to do properly), and put on a brand new set of tires. The result? Still ****ing clunks.

The issue I think is with the ******** Unibody construction of basically all modern cars. Because there is no isolator bushings between the suspension components and the cabin, any minute imperfection in the suspension results in massive noise being transmitted into the cabin all the **** time. With a BOF vehicle the part has to get noticeably bad before this happens, but with unibody it could just be a random body somewhere not quite being tight enough (although tight enough not to move when pried on), or a bushing being still in tact but slightly worn and oblonged inside and the ride is totally ruined.

I hate unibody...I hate it. I hate it. I HATE IT.

Not only that, but everything has to have 20s or 22s on it now, so tire sidewalls are the thickness of rubber bands. It's no wonder suspensions are wearing out in record time.
 
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Not only that, but everything has to have 20s or 22s on it now, so tire sidewalls are the thickness of rubber bands. It's no wonder suspensions are wearing out in record time.
I always think it's stupid when I see uptrimmed all wheel drive cars that come with big wheels on them, it's like, do manufacturers not realize that the people who buy all wheel drive cars tend to live in the north where there's ice and snow and the accompanying potholes and in a game of pothole vs wheel with low profile tires the pothole's gonna win.
 
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...
I'll tell you one thing. I'm at my wits end with the suspensions on modern vehicles. My '14 Charger has 95k on it and it has ENDLESS suspension issues. It clunks like mad over bumps or rough pavement. When you get under it with a pry bar, nothing whatsoever is loose. Following the common fixes on the forums I've replaced the sway bar links and bushings, front "torque arms" (which were visible bad), both front upper control arms, tightened the strut tower bolts (which I guess the factory forgot to do properly), and put on a brand new set of tires. The result? Still ****ing clunks.

The issue I think is with the ******** Unibody construction of basically all modern cars. Because there is no isolator bushings between the suspension components and the cabin, any minute imperfection in the suspension results in massive noise being transmitted into the cabin all the **** time. With a BOF vehicle the part has to get noticeably bad before this happens, but with unibody it could just be a random body somewhere not quite being tight enough (although tight enough not to move when pried on), or a bushing being still in tact but slightly worn and oblonged inside and the ride is totally ruined.

I hate unibody...I hate it. I hate it. I HATE IT.

Not only that, but everything has to have 20s or 22s on it now, so tire sidewalls are the thickness of rubber bands. It's no wonder suspensions are wearing out in record time.

Unibody has been mainstream now for decades. That is a long time to hate something.
 
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483
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I'll tell you one thing. I'm at my wits end with the suspensions on modern vehicles.
...
BOF definitely isolates for NVH much better than unibody. Anything short of a luxury vehicle with a unibody is going to have the same sort of harshness and transmission of road noise into the cabin. All modern vehicles compete to be "sporty" with the low profile rims and super stiff suspension even though most people are only using them as grocery getters. Not a fan of that trend.
 

Msmith68w

Thread starter
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Indianapolis, IN
Unibody has been mainstream now for decades. That is a long time to hate something.
Yes I know, but I've always been too poor to own modern cars, and have primarily had trucks which are BOF. The one car I've owned in the last half decade was a BOF Ford Panther platform, which was great.

BOF definitely isolates for NVH much better than unibody. Anything short of a luxury vehicle with a unibody is going to have the same sort of harshness and transmission of road noise into the cabin. All modern vehicles compete to be "sporty" with the low profile rims and super stiff suspension even though most people are only using them as grocery getters. Not a fan of that trend.
It's awful. Here's the way I see it. If you have a unibody car with a 100% perfect suspension system (like when it's brand new), chances are it will be ok. The issue is that as the parts age, bushings wear slightly, or things come a hair loose, any tiny noises from the suspension are amplified in the cabin because there is no isolation between the suspension and the cabin. Also, the cabin in a unibody car is a cage. Combine this with the good sound deadening in modern cars and it makes the suspension noises SEEM louder than they are because of the acoustics of the cabin.

Now one might fairly say "well then fix the suspension", which is something I am trying to do on this Charger. Unfortunately myself and hundreds others like me on the forums are pulling our hair out trying to source the problem. Some people's clunks go away with sway bar bushings and links, mine didn't. Some with upper control arms and ball joints (mine didn't), many with torsion struts (mine didn't). The sway bar and torsion struts on mine were bad, but fixing them didn't change anything. A very thorough inspection of the suspension reveals what appears to be a like-new, perfectly tight setup. Lots of time with a pry bar reveal nothing of concern, all the bushings look fine with no cracking or dry rot...and yet the clunk and cabin noise persists.

A BOF vehicle can tolerate a little bit of imperfection in the suspension without driving the owner mad.
 
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I'll tell you what I think. I think I have heard this same son and dance about 20 years ago, and before that, about 20 years further back. It's a non-issue and most of what you list as bad are just as replaceable as what you listed as good. And why would you want a car to last longer than that? I had a real eye-opener when I bought a new 2008 RAV4 and the insurance was lower that a 2000 Camry.

As far as parts availability, that's generally a non issue. Junkyards and Ebay have always covered what I was looking for.

20 years from now anything built today will be so outmoded it won't be worth keeping unless it's a collector car. In fact 20 years from now my son will probably not even own a car....just call the service and an autonomous car will pick him up.
 
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