Coffee heat rising


Toyota_Sienna_--_07-09-2009So the car broker dude got back in touch yesterday. Wants to know if I want to come over to his lot and view the 200+ vehicles he’s trying to peddle. I like the guy a lot and am sorely tempted to run straight over to his shop and buy something from him.

driverlesscarBut…lookee here! Google is making great headway with its prototypical self-driving car. And I do want one of those. That thing is gonna keep me out of the life-care community and, with any luck, out of assisted living until I’m ready to shuffle off this mortal coil.

Happened to glance at the Dog Chariot’s odometer yesterday: 131,000 miles. And change. Hm. That car is 15 years old, far more antiquated than any vehicle I’ve ever owned.

Normally, I figure I put 10,000 miles a year on a car. But…

131,000 miles/15 years = 8,733 miles per year

And to what do we attribute this anomaly?

Looks pretty obvious to me: since I got laid of my job back in 2009 and no longer had to make a 40-mile round trip four or five days a week, I’ve been driving a LOT less.  Even when I was teaching face-to-face, it’s only a 24-mile drive to and from the college, and that was two or at most three days a week.

The 40-mile trip to Tempe alone added up to 10,000 miles a year (40 x 5 days a week * 50 weeks a year), although as a practical  matter I often worked from home; probably on average I really drove out there four days a week.

I think what this means is that since I “retired” to 60-hour weeks served almost exclusively at my own computer in a home office, my mileage has dropped enormously. In addition, because the car is so old, I no longer drive it out of town.

So…hm. I’ve been doing a lot of my shopping on the way home from my weekly meeting in Scottsdale and have limited the Costco trips to one a month. Assuming I drive out of the ‘hood to a more upscale Costco outlet, what do we have here?

It’s 24 miles RT to the Scottsdale venue; add 4 miles to that for a shopping trip that takes in Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Sprouts, Walgreen’s, Safeway, and if need be a Staples, a PetSmart, a Fry’s, a Nordstrom’s Rack, and a FedEx office. Assuming I did that once a week — in fact, I don’t shop for all those things that often, so this will inflate the figures — that’s 1,400 miles in 50 weeks (there are two or three weeks when we don’t meet around the holidays).

It’s three miles to the church, but choir only meets about 9 months a year; so 6 miles per trip x (9 months x 4 weeks) = 192 miles. Hm. Am I making a mistake here? Can this be possible?

Okay, let’s add a trip to the credit union once a month, plus a couple of trips to errant Costcos: To the Costco on the 1-17 via the credit union is about 30 miles, RT. That would be 240 miles a year, right (30 x 12)?

How about a trip to the Mayo once a month, much as I hope never to see the inside of that place again? 50 miles RT. Actually, it’s unrealistic to think I’d have to go there every month; once a quarter would be a lot. So 50 * 4 = 200 miles a year.

Okay, let’s add an occasional junket around town: restaurants with friends, extra shopping trips, whatever: maybe 10 miles a week; that would be 520 miles a year.

That would put my base annual mileage at around 2672 miles per year (!!) assuming I’m don’t have to run out to the Mayo every time I turn around.

Chuck thinks the car will run at least to 150,000 miles; other guys at his shop think it should run to 200,000. Assuming Chuck, the grand old man of automobile mechanicdom, is right, that’s at least 19,000 more miles.

19,000/2622 = 7.2 more years in the vehicle’s life!

Can that possibly be right?

What if we figure I drive 5,000 miles a year, half of what I used to drive when I had a job and the car was spry enough that I felt safe driving it out of town?

19000/5000 = 3.8 years

That’s still almost four years. And if the car makes it to 200,000 miles (heavens to betsy!!) it could (in theory) run almost 14 more years! At 5,000 miles a year.

That’s assuming I keep it in good repair, keep throwing money at it, and never drive it very far.

There’s an outside chance these self-driving cars will come on the market in four or five years. If I’m still living in 14 years, they almost certainly will be available.

And that is what I want for the next car. A car that would drive me around town would moot about 90% of the reason for having to go into an old-folks’ warehouse. As for day-to-day care, it would cost one helluva lot less to have Gerardo come here every week and a cleaning lady or other caretaker come to the house every week — or even more often — than it would to pay four or five grand a month (or more!) to live in one of those places. One of those contraptions could very well make aging in place possible.

Keeping the Chariot is an inconvenience, of course. It has to be serviced more often than a newer car, and it’s pretty confining not even to be able to drive to Prescott or Bisbee. If it gets into a fender-bender, the insurance company is going to total it, and then I’ll be forced to hurry out and buy a car I don’t really want.

But…renting a car for day trips would barely register compared to the cost of buying a newer car. Insurance premiums are rock-bottom. Registration fees are negligible. And it runs like a proverbial top.

(Why are tops said to run so swimmingly? Mine always used to fall over…)


Toyota Sienna: Public domaiin.
Driverless Toyota; Google technology. Steve Jurvetson. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.
A Tough Gang of Spinning Tops.” Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

10 thoughts on “Car?”

    • Isn’t it hilarious that all the accidents were caused by the human drivers? Sorta confirms the aptness of the sobriquet about “my fellow homicidal drivers.”

  1. The “key” to all this is a mechanic you can trust….And it sounds like Chuck fits the bill. For what it’s worth Toyota is a good name and as memory serves the Sienna is very desirable on the resale market. The Dog Chariot has probably depreciated as much as it is going to…and repairs are going to be less than car payments or the “opportunity cost” of taking money out of savings to pay cash.
    I was just having a very similar conversation with DW concerning my 12 year old truck. The truck has 95K miles (avg. less than 8K miles/yr) on it and like you I tend to drive less as time goes by. The truck does have it’s faults. I just redid the rear brakes …. parts were $28. I need to replace the front rotors and calipers…parts should be around $250 max. Then I should be set for another 95K. Recently priced replacement trucks ….$30-$40K….YIKES…..Sooo if I keep my truck til it has 200K miles on it, should be about 25 years old and may be attractive to someone as a “collectors item” and MAY yield more than the original purchase price….One can only hope….My Vote….Keep the Dog Chariot…

    • Chuck is the King of Honest Mechanics.

      Unfortunately he’s as old as I am. The only reason he hasn’t retired, far as I can see, is that being an honest mechanic isn’t a very remunerative occupation. But he can’t keep this up forever…

      Collector’s item…hm. Hadn’t thought of that angle. In 14 years, the Chariot will be 30 years old. It will be almost an antique.

      But by then, will it even be legal to drive a human-controlled vehicle on the roads? As Mrs. Wheat’s link reports, all the accidents the test driverless vehicles get into are caused by morons running into them. Almost all wrecks could be eliminated by mandating that people buy driverless cars and trucks.

  2. ’99 Honda – +250,000 miles – when my children gave the car dudes my number, thought it might be time – never had anything other than regular maintenance – every time I see one on the road I wish I had it back. Bought one as close to what I had as possible. Paid cash – big mistake – you’ll know better – IRS was not my friend.

    • Yes… I’ve also been concerned about paying, as I’ve made it a policy to pay for cars in cash. Deeply, deeply resent having to pay interest on an item that’s necessary today for survival. Because I’ve about run through my cash reserves, I also would have to draw down from investment savings to pay for the thing.

      The IRS is making me draw twice as much as I normally would out of the IRA anyway, so they can gouge me for taxes on it. But that’s money I’m going to need, over the long term, to live on, and I really don’t want to have to spend all that’s left after taxes and then some on a damn car.

      The more you think about it, the more it makes sense to hang onto a vehicle that’s still running.

  3. Have you heard about Google’s self driving car hitting the road this summer? Google thinks they might have them for sale in 5 years. If I had the money, I would be first in line for one of those things.

    • The “have the money” issue is big. Depends on the cost: if it’s under about 35 grand, I probably can afford one. But still…that’s a cliff I’d study carefully before jumping off. I’d like to see how reliable these contraptions are, which will mean they’ll have to be in production for a few years before I’m willing to buy one.

      BUT…that’s still a distinct possibility, if I keep the miles down on the Dog Chariot, planning in-town drives carefully and renting vehicles for out of town junkets.

  4. I have the same vehicle, a 99 model with about 120K. Just put about $1400 into it. I really debated. But the mechanic said they were really good vans and will go to 300K if maintained. So I did it. Most of it was just maintenance items, brakes and tune up. But I did have the exhaust repaired as it had a hole in it. The repair was much cheaper than replacement, which I wouldn’t have done. It is handy to have the hauling space. But I won’t buy another van next time. Overall, this one has been really good. $24K new and now they are at least $34K. Ouch!

    • I did the $1400 service, too. But since then have NOT had another really big bill.

      Three…hundred…k’s???? Really? I think I love your mechanic.

      I will say that yeah, now that I’m not hauling two 90-pound dogs around, and yeah, now that I’m too old to haul loads of bricks or sandstone slabs or collected cans of paint or lumber or plants or dirt or whateverTF around, a van (from which I have removed the back seats) is indeed overkill. It’s overkill in the same way as a coveted RAM 1500 (with leather seats and all the trimmings) would be.

      But still. What it costs to run the thing is a tiny fraction of what it would cost to buy a new vehicle.

      I may have it painted pink…

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