CARS AND CONSUMERISM

"You can automate the production of cars but you cannot automate the production of customers".
Walter Reuther (1907-1970)

"What happened!?"

Pumping money into the hands of the enemy?

Dig those prices.

Dig America's grave with your accelerator foot.

How long before $5 a gallon?

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How does a privileged wealthy person of the West who is "forced" to own an automobile by our lack of effective public transit or rural isolation do so with minimum environmental impact, oxymoronic as that concept applied to car ownership is.

We're not going to repeat the homilies about car pooling, errand consolidation etc..You've heard and seen all that by now..... What follows is a hands on approach to "environmental car ownership",

Before you buy another car, used or otherwise, do the math and figure out EVERYTHING that you've been spending per year and per mile on your last car. Then figure how often you really need to use the car and how much it would cost to rent a car or take a cab for those times. While it is not an easily avoidable cost, don't forget the portion of your rent or mortgage that pays for a driveway and parking place or garage that you could convert into liveable space and rent out.

If there's a Dollar difference either higher or lower for the car ownership, figure how many hours of your pretax labor could be saved for yourself or used for other more worthwhile things such as education or leisure by not owning the car. The numbers will surprise you.

Just in case you want to see studies of the
true cost of cars to society:
and another one:

Economic advantages of buying used cars:

What Does Driving Really Cost? by Art Ludwig

Carfree living is possible:


Consider a "car-in-common". E.g. a pickup truck is used by members of our extended family and friends. They use it for projects and then gas it up and do some small thing like vacuum the interior or another user will wash it or change the oil if using it a lot. The truck has zero maintanance costs to the owner and dozens of people keep it working. Most importantly dozens of people don't have to purchase a second vehicle or pump money into a rental agency. Because everybody knows each other, the vehicle doesn't have a dent in it and is very well cared for.

Gas prices may be low for now, at least by American standards. Before you buy that 2 ton Sport Utility Vehicle Grocery Wagon, you may want to peruse the following.
A review of BEYOND OIL: The Threat to Food and Fuel in the Coming Decades. and
The Hubbert curve This is not the happy face news that you're supposed to watch.


If you still want the car:

MECHANICAL Consider a car not as an integral whole, but rather a housing or a moveable platform for parts that normally wear out after a certain number of miles. Purchase an inexpensive, USED, simple, strong and reliable vehicle, that is not leaking oil or producing high levels of pollution, maintain it well and run it until non-structural parts such as brakes, tires, shocks, hoses, water-pump, and starters are worn out, then replace these with either used junk-yard parts where possible or the highest quality (longest lasting) new parts available.

Consumer Reports Magazine, an excellent old standby of the consumer rights movement, geared to the purchase of new things, has an good selection of books about used car models, reliability, and other information needed to select the most reliable model and year. Borrow the used car guide from or buy it for your local public library.

What about buying a new car? Don't they pollute less and have recycled/recyclable material in them?

Yes, but consider the embodied energy used in the manufacture of yet another car and the abandonment of that contained in the used car that you're not buying.

Registration, taxes, insurance and repairs are usually higher for new vehicles than they would be for an older simpler car.

New car's prices include the cost of
absurd advertising like this:


Finally, new car prices are going to tumble, so why waste money on depreciation and gimmicks? For every 80 cars that can be made, there's only demand for 60.

The system's great Achilles Heel of oversupply is nicely illustrated by
some quotes from William Greider's masterful One World, Ready or Not: the Manic Logic of Global Capitalism. Simon & Schuster, 1997. If you are going to take the trouble to read one book about the economy, make this it.

Here's a 10-3-97 article by William Greider discussing deflation and declining demand.

Another take of the ongoing financial folly of owning a car:Stop the Nonsense Denial of Consumption II: Cars

 

Advice about what to look for in a car if you just have to have one:

 

Standardization is important because it means that different years and even models made by a manufacturer will share many of the same components and thus the parts will be easier to find in a junkyard or in parts stores. Another aspect of this is that many more manufacturers will make the parts for sale in parts shops and garages and prices may be lower. Watch out for foreign-made junk though, especially bad are Brazilian brake drums, made from soft low quality iron, strip-mined in rain forests, and ALL Taiwanese and Chinese parts.

A few generalities:

Chrysler Slant-Six engines made from the Sixties through the eighties, are reputed to be the best engines made in recent times, but not necessarily all the cars they power.

***Volvos (1978-1990) with the 4 cylinder fuel-injected gas engine are good strong cars. The 6 cylinder Volvo engines made by Renault are junk. The Volvo Turbo is a gimmick for extra power and assures extra maintainance expenses and lower fuel economy.

Ford had recently taken a controlling interest in Volvo whose cars are starting to look like Fords and suffer from poor reliability. Consumer Reports doesn't think that they are such good cars as they used to be, either new or used.

***FORDS ARE GARBAGE. Yes...but....I...

Fords are garbage. We have lots of experience with Ford trucks at our work. There is a tendency of their vehicles to last just about as long as the vehicle depreciation period for income tax purposes and no longer. This benefits the business purchaser and screws the consumer.
Flaming Fords why you should have your Ford truck insured for fire.
An example of Ford's greenwashing propaganda.

 

Pol wants police to ban Ford cruisers even police are afraid of being incinerated in Fords.

 

How about those Ford Explorers outfitted with Firestone junk tires? Ford is trying to pretend that they didn't know....give us a break! Talk about corporate criminals.


****Own a Mercedes, go into debt. Germany's ultimate revenge on America. While there may be some good independent garages that service these cars with competent mechanics, the cost of new parts and dealer service will put you in the poorhouse.

Except for some region's body rust, there is no reason that a good used car won't last for decades if properly cared for. It's just a machine. Take good care of it and then pass it on to someone else and thus help prevent the squandering of further resources in the manufacture of a new vehicle.

This way you can make a car a long-term, durable tool, rather than a transitory fashion barge that reflects your ego , susceptibility to advertising and willingness to spend fair sums of money for a short-lived veneer of newness.

From our "2 families compared" page.

"A new car, usually junky quality and a heavily advertised brand, is bought every few years by this family to temporarily ressurect their self-image. The vehicle usually is loaded with gimmicks that inflate the price and repair costs. The depreciation of the car robs it of much of its value in the first year. Registration, taxes and insurance are higher for this new vehicle than they would be for an older simpler car. It has little trade-in value because of faddish design and lack of durability."

  ~*When buying new car parts, look for those with lifetime warranties, keep all your receipts and allow the warrantor to show you just how long their parts actually do last while giving them an opportunity to honor their warranty when you wear them out. Midas Muffler replaced a friend's muffler 4 times for free after he wore it out. See the next paragraph.

~* If you're going to junk an old car get the useable parts to those who need them. A friend of ours sold his throughly worn out '69 chevy nova with 300k miles on it to an oil company that crushed it along with other older cars in exchange for the right to stall on cleaning up their refinery. He got $750 for it. But first he sold the hood, grill, right fender, back window, reupholstered seats and a door for $550 to several folks and then swapped their damaged parts (except the window), onto his car which looked like a rolling junkyard before it went to the crusher. He got $1,300 for a worn out car, (that he only paid $800 for in 1978), provided parts to others that extended the life of their vehicles and spent $1,200 for a perfectly useful volvo wagon that he'll repeat the parts process on a decade from now.

This man will have spent a total of $700 on rolling stock for 30 years of driving if the wagon lasts 10 years. That's frugality!

~* When replacing fan belts, keep the old belts as spares in the trunk. If a belt breaks on the road you have a ready spare. This can save you a tow to a garage and the high cost of an emergency replacement.

~* When replacing tires, first consider good used tires available at some tires shops. If buying new tires, utilize the (new) spare tire and wheel (if full sized) and buy one less tire. Keep the wheel with the least worn of the old tires being replaced as a spare.

~*If your car burns oil, wait until it is a quart low before changing the oil. This saves the quart you would put in and produces one less quart of waste oil.

OIL IS OIL. Recent in-depth laboratory studies by Consumer's Union, July 1996 Consumer Reports Magazine have shown that within a given weight or viscosity of oil, ALL BRANDS that have the starburst seal of the American Petroleum Institute perform at the same level of lubrication and engine protection that normal drivers ever encounter, except in absolutely severe service, such as New York taxicabs. This means that all advertising for brands of oil is money spent on nothing and you the consumer pay for it. Buy oil based on its price and the qualities of the merchant selling it that you want to support. back to "Resisting Consumerism"

If you are still thinking of buying a new car:
Here's a (long) article on the disadvantages of buying a new car.
Many valuable observations but be aware that this fellow is
trying to get you to buy a book.

Hate S.U.V.'s? So do
these folks and they are doing something about it! Want to give a ticket to S.U.V. drivers? Print your own.

 Ideas, suggestions or other things that you would
like included in ongoing changes?

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Overcoming Consumerism Index      Consumerism's bad effects

O. C. Accomplishes?     Active Resistance      Hands on methods

2 Families compared       our personal consumer choices

consumption chart      resources to overcome consumerism

radical anti-consumerism      | cars |     

How to raise food     How to raise trees

eliminate polystyrene products

Corporate officers and their interlocking interests