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Old 11-14-2009, 02:09 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Recycling the whole car by keeping it on the road

I'd like to hear other peoples' thoughts on this... (sorry if it's been discussed, I didn't see it)

Ever since I heard it quoted that the average car, counting classics and counting those wrecked during their test drive, stays on the road about 8 years I've figured that every year you keep a car on the road past 8 you're "recycling" the whole car, effectively preventing it from being scrapped and preventing a new one from having to be built and shipped to your local dealer.

I don't know that the figure of 8 years is accurate, a quick google search brought all sorts of answers from "experts" that varied from 6 to 16, and I didn't see any that seemed to be derived from actual DMV registrations. I know there are regional differences too, life's probably harder for the average Kalamazoo car than the average Fresno car. I'm willing to "buy" 8 years or 10 as a good average. The average car on the road might be older, but that's not directly equivalent to the average car's life span because the ones that died young aren't on the road anymore so you don't see them.

So what do you think? Does it make sense that for every 8 years you keep a car running after the first 8 you've effectively recycled the whole car? If we're to assume that a 40mpg 1985 econocar in good running condition pollutes similarly to a 40mpg 2009 econocar, is there a down side to keeping the old ones on the road?

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Old 11-14-2009, 04:11 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Your assumption would be at least partially incorrect, regarding pollution. Sure, there's the overall level of pollution that's probably similar, but the components of the exhaust will differ greatly from then till now, with newer and "improved" (haha) fuel formulations, etc.

I completely agree that it's almost always better to spend the money on keeping an older car on the road. Afterall, there's only so many things that can go wrong before everything's been replaced. I can often almost entirely rebuild a car for less money than the dealer's price of a new car, not counting fees for delivery, etc.

This is why the only requirements I have for buying a new car are:

The price is no more than 3 digits, preferably (but not necessarily) including the decimal point.
The body isn't inexplicably rusty, or rusty beyond average repair means.
The total cost of repairs doesn't exceed (vehicle cost + title/licensing)*3.

I give in on the last one alot, since I usually find junkers for $100-$200 that people just won't let go to the junk yard.
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Old 11-15-2009, 01:42 AM   #3 (permalink)
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shovel, I agree. Why scrap a good car to replace it with something similar. The 40mpg 1985 vs the 40mpg 2009 comparison, sure the old car may not have the OBDII and later computer, emissions controls, etc, but think of the replacement cost in pollution. The junkyard equipment and steel/aluminum mills to recycle scrap metal and process ore into new metal, the various chemical plants to process plastics, factories making the new car parts, trucking the pieces to the auto plant, assembly at the auto plant, painting, transporting by railcar to various cities, transport to the dealers by car carrier... think of how many workers along the way drove their car to work to build that new car also. No way can the total energy/pollution cost pay off to junk a roadworthy old car. Keeping it running beyond 8 years also lessens the cost of transportation (few hundred bucks in repairs vs a $25,000 car loan). So yes, the longer a car is kept on the road, thats one less new car that needs to be built... reduce, reuse, recycle all at once.

And consider the fuel used for most of the equipment/trucking/railroads for that new car... diesel. Pretty bad pollution tradeoff to get a new "green" car
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Old 11-15-2009, 01:00 PM   #4 (permalink)
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All you need is a really good vacuum/steam cleaning of the interior, and a spray can of "that new car smell" :-)
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Old 11-15-2009, 01:19 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Plus older cars usually have had the bugs worked out of them, and have cheaper replacement parts. Parts for my Buick are dirt-cheap in comparison for other cars. Yeah, it doesn't do so well on gas. On the other hand, it's cheap to maintain and insure.
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Old 11-15-2009, 02:40 PM   #6 (permalink)
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With what new cars cost, and some of the "land mines" embedded in them, refurbishing old cars makes enormous economic sense.

I am looking at my 1996 Impala SS. A "like-kind" replacement ( a Camaro SS) costs $45,000 and gets the same MPG, and requires gymnastics to get into (thanks to a lowtop sill) where the Impala requires none.


My Impala is in great shape. For $15,000, I could get a "rotisserie" restoration and would not be ashamed to put it in a Barrett-Jackson auction. I might break even, but that is not the point of my exercise.

For about the same, I could bring it to the structural, mechanical, electrical, and cosmetic standard of a new car. LS3 engine, Tremec 6060, autocross suspension, etc. A bit more for Brembo brakes. Not to "Barrett-Jackson" bodywork and documentation standards, but a car good for another fifteen years of regular road service, and would probably get better MPG than the newer car.

There is a lot of pollution involved in steelmaking for cars. As a rule cars require high-quality steel that cannot be made from scrap, so somebody has to smelt some taconite (a dirty process) to make the new car. The old car already has the high-quality steel, made into the appropriate parts.
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Old 11-15-2009, 02:56 PM   #7 (permalink)
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shovel -

I agree. As long as the car's emissions are legal for your state, then I think you are doing your part.

Part of the irony of "my old car" is that I've learned a lot about keeping my specific drivetrain alive. If I lost my car tomorrow, I would want to give another used version of the same car a chance because I know how to take care of it. I have a "vested" interest in my drivetrain because it's what I know.

Your equation makes my car 25% recycled, .

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Old 11-17-2009, 12:17 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tim3058 View Post
shovel, I agree. Why scrap a good car to replace it with something similar. The 40mpg 1985 vs the 40mpg 2009 comparison, sure the old car may not have the OBDII and later computer, emissions controls, etc, but think of the replacement cost in pollution. The junkyard equipment and steel/aluminum mills to recycle scrap metal and process ore into new metal, the various chemical plants to process plastics, factories making the new car parts, trucking the pieces to the auto plant, assembly at the auto plant, painting, transporting by railcar to various cities, transport to the dealers by car carrier... think of how many workers along the way drove their car to work to build that new car also. No way can the total energy/pollution cost pay off to junk a roadworthy old car. Keeping it running beyond 8 years also lessens the cost of transportation (few hundred bucks in repairs vs a $25,000 car loan). So yes, the longer a car is kept on the road, thats one less new car that needs to be built... reduce, reuse, recycle all at once.

And consider the fuel used for most of the equipment/trucking/railroads for that new car... diesel. Pretty bad pollution tradeoff to get a new "green" car
good points. i forget what it is to drive a trochoid oil pumped (100psi) 3 main boxer...
they have not, and may never again return real integrity. todays cars are not integrity, they are an evil tugging at us all.
you could go back to a 283 with thick bores super stoiching its way to 75 years...
or the beetles, vanagons,
and I did not and never will mention a long running inline four.
It is not for the sake of being cheap, as my reasoning for ecomod. I found a "best" and it aint changing.
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Old 11-17-2009, 03:42 AM   #9 (permalink)
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If we *all* whole-heartedly engaged in the 'cash for clunkers' and 'scrappage schemes' in current vogue, I think there'd soon be a world shortage of raw materials of all descriptions.
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Old 11-17-2009, 05:28 AM   #10 (permalink)
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If 8 years is true, as in off the road completely, that is pretty sad. 99% of the vehicles I've ever owned were 8 years old or older when I found them.

My latest purchasing criteria:
1. stick shift
2. electronic fuel injection
3. reasonably small
4. inexpensive

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