Nobody Wants Old Carz

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on January 28, 2018

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As regular readers Inside the Diner know, a couple of months ago my long time dependable wheelz the 1989 Mazda MPV finally gave up the ghost as the right front strut gave out from rust.  I have owned said vehicle for over a decade, and it was one of the best Used Carz I ever owned, nothing ever went wrong with it, I only replaced the tires and battery once (unfortunately quite recently).  This occured in a very fortuitous location, just as I was pulling out of its parking spot in front of my digs.  Had it occured while I was driving at any speed at all above around 30 mph, it could have been a very nasty accident.  As it was, I just backed it into the spot again and jumped in one of my other Old Carz a 2002 Ford Explorer SUV to go on my Prep Run to Walmart

Cost for repairing the strut and other stuff in rusty condition on the underbelly of the vehicle estimated at a minimum $1000 by the Car Doctor.  This is $100 MORE than I paid for the whole car in working condition a decade ago!  Since I also own two other old carz, keeping the 3rd one around was overkill even before the strut gave out, and it DEFINITELY did not pay to fix it up!   So I left it sitting in the spot while I debated with myself what to do with it?

The tires and battery I put on last year by themselves were around $500.  I have hardly driven the car all year, they are still practically new.  Then, the innards are still real good, engine and tranny very dependable.  Always started even in the coldest weather.  So it must be worth SOMETHING for the parts, right?  So I go over to a couple of the local car fixit places and see if they will take it and give me something for it.  One place said they wouldn't take it at all, the other place said they would take it but not give me any money for it, and I had to pay for it to be towed there.  I did not take this offer, and the vehicle remained sitting in its parking spot as winter arrived.

I then tried to GIVE the car away to my Taxi Driver James and one of the Maintenance Men in my complex Tanner who dropped in a couple of weeks ago to fix my boiler.  James expressed no interest, Tanner had some interest because he fixes carz himself and probably could have got it road worthy again for the cost of just the struts.  However, he decided he had too many projects already he was working on, so he didn't want the car either.  So at this point I have no means of divesting myself of this still pretty good vehicle without paying to do it.  So it sits some more in the parking spot as winter sets in.

Then, last week on Friday I get a FINAL NOTICE from the management company here, your vehicle will be TOWED!  It is ILLEGALLY PARKED.

First off, I never got even a preliminary warning notice before this Final Warning, coming on a Holiday Weekend.  Second, it's not illegally parked, it's registered and insured just needs fixing. The management company of course has their OWN rules regarding inoperable vehicles, but this is not a part of the code of law.  They don't want their parking lot cluttered with inoperable vehicles, and I don't blame them for that.

So on Tuesday I drop in to visit with the Property Manager to make my complaints about lack of adequate warning and the fact the vehicle is not illegally parked, which of course go nowhere.  The car will be towed regardless.  So then I investigate finding a junkyard that will tow it for Scrap Value, and find ONE such place in the Mat-Su Valley, Rusty's Auto Salvage.  The internet website promises they will take ANY car and give you some money for it.  Actually getting through to this place on the phone was quite difficult.  They are part of a National Chain of such places, and if you sit too long on hold on the phone call the system automatically transfers you to some call center down in the Lower 48.  They of course will not pick up carz residing in Alaska or Hawaii.  I can understand that.

When I finally do get through to them after about the 6th try, there is some dickering about having the Title on hand, which I had to find so then I had to hang up and call back after I found it, which amazingly I did!  Now it takes another few tries to get through again, but I am persistent if nothing else so finally I get Rusty's on the line again.  After all of this, now they tell me they won't pick it up because "You are not in our area of service".  WTF?  This place is in Wasilla (home of Sarah Palin) which borders Palmer where I live, and I am right on the Palmer-Wasilla border!

I finally do get the TRUTH out of the phone dickhead, which is that the car is simply too old and they make no money on such cars, it costs more to pick them up than they can get for them on the scrap market.  The scrap market is currently totally in the toilet, at least here in Alaska.  I still think they could make some money on just the practically new tires and battery, but that is irrelevant because they just won't come get it.  I should sue them for False Advertising, but I don't need ANOTHER legal headache.  So, I am back to square 1, which is to either pay myself to have it towed off the property, or just let whatever company the management SUPPOSEDLY has contracted to come get these rusting hulks of Industrial Civilization and send them to the Land of Away.

Why do I say "supposedly"?  Well, because it is now Wednesday the following week after the "Final Notice" and the vehicle is STILL sitting in the parking spot!  I suspect the management company has exactly the same problem as a corporation that I had as an individual trying to dispose of this automobile, which is that it doesn't pay for anyone to pick it up for FREE.  In fact I don't think anyone but Rusty's, the same folks I tried to get rid of this vehicle even will DO this job at all for free, and the management company doesn't want to pay towing costs either!

So I am just letting the car rest to see how long (if ever) somebody comes to tow it away?  There is another car to the right of the Mazda in the Winter Picture that had a Tow Notice dropped on it over a year ago, it is still there as you see. lol.

The really sad thing here is that Mazda is still actually a very good car, and could provide transportation to a relatively poor person here in the FSoA for just around $1000 in fixup costs.  Less if you know how to fixup carz yourself.  If I didn't have 2 other carz currently in good working condition, I probably would invest the $1000 to fix it.  I have an emotional connection with that vehicle and it saddens me to see it go to the Land of Away. 🙁

The issue with carz though for poor people is not how much they cost to BUY, because you can buy quite good ones quite cheap if you shop around.  The issue is how much they cost to run and maintain.  At $3/gal, say you have a 15 mile commute to work every day.  That was how far I had to commute around when I first moved to Springfield, MO during my super-broke period in the early 1990s.  Springfield has REALLY BAD public transportation, none of which took me anywhere near my job, which actually was in 2 locations for a while, one on the east side of town, the other on the west.  In the middle of the day I had to go from one location over to the other one.  My TOTAL commuting distance around town for the day was around 30 miles.  I arrived in Springfield on the plane with no car, but I brought my bike along.  For the first 6 months I was there, I operated with no car, just the bike.  If it was today with a car that gets say 20mpg, it would have cost me $4.50 every day to go to work.  As it was, I did it for free on the bike until I had enough $Moolah$ saved up to buy a used car, my treasured 1989 Toyota Tercel 4WD which I picked up for $1500 and then another $1500 to fixup the transmission.  That car lasted me around 15 years, all through my years of trucking and also as an itinerant gymnastics coach.

Mine was Blue with rust around the wheel wells, but otherwise the same car

After the daily gas expenses, you have the maintenance issues.  New tires alone cost you $100 a piece these days, and you can't buy just one when you have a blowout.  At the very least you need to buy two, front or back so they match up for handling reasons.  Really though, to do it right you gotta go all the way round and buy all 4 new ones.  When (not if) you get hit with this catastrophe, it wreaks havoc with the monthly budget of the poor person.  More money goes on the Credit Card, another day Deeper in Debt.  You also have regular oil changes to do, every 1500 miles or so @ $70 a pop now around here these days.  Not a huge expense since it is usually just once a year or so unless you do a lot of willy-nilly Happy Motoring, but it adds up.

Then there are the legal expenses for keeping an automobile.  Insurance is the biggest one, even with my SPOTLESS driving record of over 1,000,000 accident free miles including 18 wheelers, with just basic liabilty insurance no fire, theft or flood it costs $1000/year.  Then you also have vehicle registration fees with the DMV, and in most places you need to have it INSPECTED on a yearly basis. The inspection cost isn't usually too high, but INVARIABLY the garage you bring it to for the inspection finds something costly that "needs" replacement, like the brake pads for instance. They won't pass the car for inspection unless you replace those worn brakepads!  You are now captive to the system, just like with the folks running the medical racket.  We won't make your car "healthy" and "legal" unless you PONY UP!  In the past, mechanics did very well running this racket.  Not so good anymore though.

So incrementally, there are fewer people all the time buying in the used car market at the SAME time there are ever more of these old vehicles being dropped on the market.  Sense a Supply-Demand imbalance here?  The Junkyards can't sell the parts, not enough buyers.  Scrap metal prices have cratered also.  So they are not making any money on this bizness anymore, at least here in Alaska.  If it was profitable, they would be here in the blink of an eye to pick up the vehicle.

You can see where this leads of course.  As time goes by, more people will simply abandon their cars if they can't sell them to some greater fool out there.  Nobody will come pick them up for free, even if they work OK.  If it is a large parking lot arrangement like a Walmart, if Walmart doesn't pay a tow company to come get it, it just will sit there.  Just lonely abandoned carz, nobody loves them anymore. lol.

The techno-FUTURE of Elon Musk of course says that we will be substituting his less-than-reliable and very EXPENSIVE EVs for ICE powered vehicles.  However, if increasing numbers in the population can no longer afford even Used Carz they can pick up for $1000 and under, HTF are they going to affor Tesla Model 3s coming in at $30K and up?  That's the El Cheapo model also, and isn't doing too well in terms of production and reliability so far.  Most of the Tesla models go for a good deal more than this, coming in at 6 Figures as playtoys for the 1%.  You don't make much profit just selling expensive carz to Doctors and CPAs though.  The market isn't big enough.

This also affects the total Carz Economy through declining sales of gasoline and less taxes being collected on those sales.  The Highway Trust Fund gets its money from these sales, so there is less revenue to maintain the roads, which then means more blown tires and damaged shock absorbers and higher maintenance costs for the vehicles.  So at some point this economy will collapse under its own weight when there are too few people driving too few carz too few miles using too little gas.

Old carz aren't the only abandoned vehicles of the Age of Oil that are being discarded and left to rust into oblivion over the next few centuries, old airplanes also have their final resting place as well.  Here's an airplane boneyard in the Mojave Desert.

As you can see, quite a decent percentage of these are military aircraft.  These are planes you and I paid through the nose for with our taxpayer dollars, and many if not most of them never got used at all except for training missions for the pilots.  However, like the carz, they need to be replaced on a regular basis to get the latest, greatest technology in your Death from Above machines.  You also of course have to keep the aircraft manufacturers like Boeing & McDonnell-Douglas bizzy.  So like the carz, these old machines keep piling up in the junkyards, the flotsam & jetsam of the Age of Oil.  For the planes, at least so far they are getting shipped to the Land of Away, out of sight and out of mind in the Mojave Desert.  However, considering the fact they are made mostly with an aluminum skin that doesn't  rust and the desert doesn't get much rain, these hulks will be there for a LOOONG time to come.

Interesting to imagine what some future Species of the Genus Homo will make of them in 10,000 years?


12 Responses to Nobody Wants Old Carz

  • Morongobill says:

    Maybe the Craigslist free section might get some results.

  • godofredo aravena says:


    Probably because I have children (I have two), and thinking in the long term, and the limits we face, spending money in keeping a car in good shape seems to me it worth the money. There are more important things to keep in mind behind that action than the value of the money (or what you sacrifice). If I am going to have a car, I have to keep it operational for as long as possible. It is some sort of obligation of current times of crisis. Otherwise, I somehow transfer the problem to the next generation. Times have changed.

    I have a car that is already 10 years old, and try to keep it in perfect condition. That means paying the cost of replacing worn out parts, or general regular maintenance. I do it for two reasons: reducing pollution and being less part of the consumerism. In this way, at least there are two or three less cars around, cars that I am not buying.  It is a way to recycle or re-use. On the other hand, I know the car is OK and I know what requires (and will require) attention. Besides, with this action I am helping some people to make their lives out of repairing, instead of selling or making new. In the future we will need these people. when everything breaks down. In the long term, keeping a car in good condition is cheaper than buying a new one. Besides, why to change a car that is running OK, doing its job, by another one newer that will do the same thing?


    Godofredo Aravena

    • RE says:

      If this was my only car, or even just my spare care I would have fixed it and put the $1000 or so into it at the shop.  However, it’s my 3rd car since I purchased my full size raised roof van SaVANnah last summer.  That vehicle is a 1999 and almost 20 years old in great condition, no rust even.  Purchased for $5000.  My other main vehicle is a 2002 Ford Explorer 4WD SUV I bought 5 years ago for $5000 also.  That one is 16 years old but has a little rust.  Operates fine though.  Keeping 3 cars in running condition all the time is just overkill and a pain in the ass.  It gets cold here and the batteries will go dead quickly if you don’t drive them every day, and I don’t.  In fact I only drive anywhere on average of 3 days/wk.  So with 3 vehicles even rotating them evenly it is over a week between drives.  Then tires will go flat and you have to air them up.  Oil Changes and regular maintenance at least need to be done.  So as much as I loved that car, I said goodbye to it.

  • Bobtail says:

    Changing a strut is very easy,  5 easily accesible bolts. But its not something that normally rusts out because it is a wear/service item replaced every 60k miles. It must have been rarely driven if you didnt do enough miles that it was old enough to rust out. Although it looks ok in the foto, the chassis parts that are there since 1989 would be rusted to buggery then and this would probably be a death trap. You might have thanked the roadworthy inspector for saving you falling through the floor in that case.  There is strong demand for good 2nd hand parts, advertise the headlights, tail lights and panels from the Explorer or van and you should see the demand, precisely because so many people cant afford full accident insurance or to pay a repair shop out of pocket, so repair things themself. I parted out a car i crashed long long ago and was surprised how i could have sold everything several times over, bumpers, indicators, panels, motor and gearbox. I think 10 to 20 yrs old is the sweet spot for demand there. Newer and theyre covered by insurance, older and theres almost none still running. I recently needed a tail light for a small merc and without buying new or from a wrecking yard that would want at least 100$, pickings on ebay and gumtree were surprisingly slim. 


    I think now you have notified the property management who owns the vehicle, they will recoup the cost of towing from your bond/deposit in the end, or could even give you notice for breach of terms if they want to be sticklers for rules. If an apartment complex comes under govt subsidised or 'section 8' housing, then they can get away with things like junked cars, as it is meant to prevent people being homeless, so they dont make sure they recover all costs from tenants through rents, bonds and tribunals. 


    Of course not getting rorted on car repairs or accomodation cost depends on experience. When it comes to computers, my trusted guy robbed me blind for years. After selling me laptops costing about 4x more than what i need, i took it in for virus cleaning after looking at porn without up to date kaspersky. Lo and behold the 5 bitcoin numbers acquired when they were cheap then dissappeared. But who can i trust at another computer shop to try and find them and actually tell me if they do? Palloy perhaps.  This computerization bamboozling is linked to the newer cars in finding ways to fleece the average joe. Mechanics will have to be more like programmers and the guys handy only with spanners can not keep the newer cars on the road doing their own repairs over the years.

    • RE says:

      It’s not just the struts, it’s the whole rest of the undercarriage.  This vehicle is about 30 years old.  If I fixed this one, something else would crap out  soon enough.  At a certain point, it no longer pays to fix them up.

  • Efe says:

    I love pre 2000 cars, they are generally not over-engineered, good looking and angular (nowadays all cars looks same), not over-electronic(ECU and tens of sensors). They also use a little more gas and not very safe in a nasty crash. But i think its worth it if you drive slowly.

  • jjgrey says:

    The whole concept when something cant be fixed to be usable is part it out or repurpose it. All thos empty alluminum cylinders could be earth sheltered house frames with little alteration. All those cars could be parked facing south and turned into coldframes for starting a veggy garden. Creativity is what we are going to need in the coming decline. Usng things as they were originally designed to be used will soon no longer be possible. Finding other productive uses for that investment is what we need to do. 

    I do agree though, 3 vehicles is a bit much for a single person to be handling. In my family with 2 drivers we only have 2 road driving vehicles (not counting things like riding mowers and other utility type vehicles) and one camper trailer. 

  • Rebecca Zegstroo says:

    I have a 2004 Honda that I bought 3 years ago because it had fairly low miles. Hoping to drive it a long time, especially since I'll retire this year. It has lots of safety features but not the kind of electronics that tell god-knows-who where I am and how I drive. 

    Now that fracking is going full out and the US will produce crude like it's 1970 maybe auto demand will go straight up … I've seen pigs sprouting wings also. ANWR will be exploited. Offshore will be exploited. (till the money runs out) Climate change be damned. Industrial civ goes screaming and clawing into that good night.


  • q says:

    Around here you can donate your car to public radio, or other charities. They will come pick it up and you can write off the donation from your taxes.

  • Volvo740... says:

    To any young readers out there. Learn something about your car. Sure the tools aren't free, but with a Hayes manual you can do a LOT.  The key is to not be afraid of going wrong.  The repair shops say that the repair is more if you tried yourself first.  That's a scare tactic. I don't buy it.  And chances are you'll succeed.  With this attitude I have over the years replaced driveshafts, valve cover gaskets, spar plugs, thermostats, sensors, wires, timing belts, shocks, struts, exhaust systems and radiators.  

    Have I ever screwed up?

    Sure, once a sensor didn't fit and I filed of some plastic and jammed it in…  Bad idea.  Wife towed me home. 

    But in general?  Drive your car and just buy the parts.  Doesn't get any cheaper, and most repairs can be accomplied in hours, easily rivalling the time it takes to drop off and arrang pickups from your dealer.

    The car I know the best is a 2001 Volvo S40. But I admit that shoud something major go bad that requires opening the engine or the transmission, I won't do it.  It's not going to to be worth it. I'd rather start over with something 10 years newer. And in order to make sure I never have to open the engine or transmission I religiously replace the oil in both of them.  So far so good. 

    Good luck to all of you doomers


    • RE says:

      My two currently functioning carz are a 1999 Ford E150 Conversion Van & a 2002 Ford Explorer.  Both run great.  I don’t work on cars, even before I became a cripple I didn’t do that.  I am pretty good at shopping around for mechanics who are semi-honest though.

Knarf plays the Doomer Blues

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