Saturday, July 14, 2012

Will Your Car Go Three Million Miles?

If you want to spend 1/4 of each year, for 46 years, driving a car, you might make it to 3,000,000 miles.  But why on God's earth would anyone want to do that?

One posting I made that gets a lot of emotional responses is "Will Your Car Go 300,000 Miles?  Probably Not".  Many people took me to task on that, with friend-of-a-friend stories about how someone's car went 300,000 miles.   And as I pointed out, they often do - if you drive them 30,000 miles a year.  Most of us choose not to do this.  If you want your car to go to high mileage, you have to spend a lot of your life driving it.  This is not a desirable goal, as driving a car is not a profitable venture, unless you are a truck driver, courier, or taxi driver.

And yet others were also angry, and pointed out that their Camrys or Hondas had already gone 150,000 to 200,000 miles, and surely will go to 300,000 miles before calling it quits.  But, as I pointed it, these were 15-year-old cars, and the owners were expecting them to last another fifteen years and go as far as they had already gone, which was not very likely.

As I mentioned in "Will Your Car Last Forever?", getting esoteric electronic and "soft" parts for newer cars is dicey.  Airbags, ABS computers, immobilizer modules, engine management computers, and even instrument clusters, are very expensive and hard to find, even at a dealer, once a car is over 15 years old.  Door seals, headliners, door panels, and carpeting for modern cars are not offered by the aftermarket, in many cases, and from a dealer are hard to find and staggeringly expensive.  A interior door panel for my 1997 328iC was $3000 at the dealer.  Yes, you could keep driving the car with  a peeling door panel, but eventually, it gets to be too much.  Who wants to ride in a car that is falling apart?

In the recent news, a fellow from Connecticut is making a Guinness record by driving his 1966 Volvo 3,000,000 miles.  This seems like a staggering feat and a great endorsement for Volvo, but it really is neither.  Any car can be made to run forever, if you are willing to throw money at it.  Any car can get high mileage if you drive it all the time.  And Volvo no longer makes 1966 Volvos, so I am not sure that the cars now being sold under the Volvo name, but made by a Chinese company, are going to go three-million miles.

And of course, Volvo is paying this fellow to drive the car, and they are using it for publicity.   So, he is getting paid to drive it and getting parts is not a problem for him, particularly when the factory is sponsoring you.   And of course, a car made in 1966 is a far simpler beast than the cars made today.   The amount of electronics in a 1966 Volvo is pretty small - the radio is the most sophisticated electronic instrument in it.  Not a single microprocessor or semiconductor chip!

And of course, he is driving the car - a lot.  To make the three-million mark, he had to drive that car a staggering 65,0000 miles a year, more than four times the national average today, much less than in 1966.  And he admits to driving over 100,000 miles every year, as of late, as part of his job promoting Volvos.

Think about this, at an average speed of 60 mph, he has spent 50,000 hours or or 2083 days or nearly 5.7 years behind the wheel of this car.  And since most cars have an average speed of about 30 (taking into account local traffic, time at stop signs and lights, etc), it is more likely double that.  At an average speed of 30 mph, he spent three months of each of the last 46 years behind the wheel of that car.

In other words, he set out to make a talisman of this mileage thing, and it dominates his life.

To me, spending your life behind the wheel of a car is not a good use of a life.  And yet I know people who do this - even so-called "progressives" who drive their politically-correct cars from one city to another to commute.  They burn gas and use up resources, while arguing that that rest of us are raping the planet.  It makes no sense at all.

Not only that, but spending long hours behind the wheel of a car is so bad for your physical health - blood clots can form in your legs, and you get no exercise at all.  Sitting for long hours is bad for you.

And the cost is staggering as well.   In terms of gas, oil, tires, repairs, and of course the cost of successive cars (because, let's face it, it really isn't realistic to expect a car to last 46 years) you will spend an enormous percentage of your income on car-related expenses.

And disturbingly, the amount driven by the average American has increased steadily in the last four decades.  When this fellow's car was made, most Americans drove less than 10,000 miles a year.  Today, the number is closer to 15,000.  And not only that, more of us drive.

As I noted in another posting, there seems to be a direct correlation between miles driven and poverty.  Poor people drive all over the place, perhaps because they have nothing else to do.  Or perhaps they are poor because they spend so much money driving all the time.

Wealthier folks make the smarter decision to move closer to work.  The very wealthy do not commute at all, and thus have more time to spend being productive and actually enjoying life, as opposed to driving to and from it.

Alas, it is so sad to see how most Americans live.  They spend two to four hours a day driving around, trying to get somewhere to do something, and then another four to five hours a day watching the TeeVee - watching other people actually do things.

Funny thing, though, the folks who are actually on the television often have two things in common:  They don't spend hours driving around, and they don't actually watch television.

That alone should tell you something.