Old cars and aging drivers — we’re classics

Finally! I’m above average.

Or at least my car is.

The average age of vehicles on U.S. roadways is 12.1 years, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

I find that surprising. Not the age of the cars — but that there’s a Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Somebody has to keep track of how many orange traffic barrels are left so that we don’t run short.

The official standardized formula — which I just made up three minutes ago — to convert car years to human years is to multiply by five. That makes the average car 60.5 years old, humanly speaking.

I putter around in a 2003 sedan with 280,000 miles on it. My wife sails along in a 2003 SUV that’s logged 250,000 miles. At 18.5 years old — 92.5 in car conversion year — our cars border on becoming crumpled and creaky clunkers — I mean “classics.” Like us.

The Bureau of Transportation Statistics says that in 1969, the average age of a car or pickup truck on American roadways was 5.1 years. By 1990, it was 7.6 years. In 2000, the average climbed to 8.9 years; in 2010, 10.6 years; and last year, 11.9.

Now our average autos top 12 and are tooling into their teens.

That means that today if you’re zipping around in some flashy model from 2015 or 2016, you’re snooty. We above-average folks wouldn’t think of driving anything so new.

(Actually, I think about it all the time. I particularly think about a brand new Corvette, perhaps in rapid blue or torch red. But my rain-cloud gray bank account tells me to think again. I remain under water and above average.)

Here’s where it gets crazier — according to vehicle tracker company Black Book, used vehicle prices shot up 30 percent.

Remember what you learned about depreciation and how your new car lost value the moment you drove it off the dealership lot? Not anymore. Some used cars are selling for more now than they did brand new.

I am not making this up. People would rather pay more for your old junk than to buy brand new for less.

The Associated Press reported that the original sticker price on a 2019 Toyota Tacoma SR double cab pickup was just less than $29,000. Now, dealers are paying close to $30,000 for used Tacomas and selling them for more than $33,000. Used!

Experts blame the coronavirus pandemic (why not?), which caused a global shortage of computer chips needed to install in new cars to properly ensure that your “check engine” light blazes away on your dashboard.

Sadly, dealers don’t seem to want to pay me $30,000 for an 18.5-year-old wheezer. But once they hit 25 years, Ohio cars can be licensed as historical vehicles. Then it’s off to the ancient artifacts — I mean, classics — market.

A couple years ago, I received my Golden Buckeye Card, which is sort of the historical license plate for humans. I’m not only above average, but now, as is my car, I’m maturing into a true classic. Vintage.

As a philosophical T-shirt put it, “It’s weird being the same age as old people.”

Unlike the great philosopher Yogi, I may not be smarter than the average bear, but I’m definitely above average.

Anyone want to buy a used classic car?

Contact the above-average (aka, “relic”) columnist at burtseyeview@tribtoday.com or at www.burtonwcole.com.


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