Is Mike Nuts for Wanting a Car That's Built to Last... And Last... And Last...?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Feb 28, 2012

Dear Tom and Ray:

I'm 35, and I would like to purchase a diesel SUV that will last the rest of my life ... ideally, into my 90s. My idea is that diesel engines last longer and that my family and I could rack up 500,000-600,000 miles on whatever we buy during my lifetime.

I was thinking of buying a BMW, Volkswagen, Audi or Mercedes. All of them are around the same price. However, I cannot purchase a car that costs the same as my house. So, I'd probably purchase it used from a dealer or individual. At least, that is what I'm thinking. Am I crazy, or is this doable? I don't like spending that much up front, but if we can realistically keep the vehicle for the next 60 years, it would be worth it.

P.S.: I do not have a garage, so something that doesn't rust out quickly is preferable.

-- Mike

TOM: Are you crazy, or is this doable? I vote crazy.

RAY: I just can't get over what a depressing thought that would be: Buying your last-ever car at age 35. You might as well buy a coffin now, too, Mike.

TOM: Why? His family's going to bury him in the car after 15 or 20 years of having to ride in it!

RAY: Yeah, this is a bad idea, Mike.

TOM: Think about what it would be like to have a 60-year-old car today. It would be something like a 1952 Chevy Bel Air.

RAY: It would have anemic horsepower and a two-speed automatic transmission that got you to a maximum speed of 80 miles an hour, while getting about 16 miles to the gallon.

TOM: It would have no seat belts, no air bags, no anti-lock brakes -- not even disc brakes -- no stability control, an unpadded steering wheel and a metal dashboard to crack your head on in an accident.

RAY: It would have "knee action" front suspension, no power steering, no power brakes, it would be a horrible rust bucket by now, it'd be hard to get parts for, and it would spew 100 times the pollution of anything else on the road.

TOM: Now, a vehicle you buy today obviously will be up to date TODAY, in terms of equipment and technology. But who knows what will be invented in the next 60 years? In fact, I think it's safe to say that there will be far more advances in cars in the next 60 years than there were in the past 60!

RAY: Even in 30 years, all cars may drive themselves by communicating with other traffic. They may all be electric, or powered by extra-virgin olive oil. Who knows?

TOM: Plus, if you force your family to ride in a 25-, 30-, 40- or 50-year-old car, they will end up hating you. And you'll end up not only with an unsafe old heap that's decades out of date, but you'll end up alone -- with no one to help you push. Trust the guy who clung to his '63 Dodge Dart when I tell you this!

RAY: This is just a bad time in history to be trying to predict what you'll need in a car 60 years from now, Mike. You'd be better served by buying four or five modestly priced cars during the same number of years. That way, as safety and technology trickle down into lower-priced cars -- as they always do -- you'll be able to catch up every 10 or 15 years. That'll at least give you a shot at having kids who'll still visit you when you're 90. Good luck, Mike!

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