How old is your car?

My car seems quite new [to me]. And yet I realized that, since it is 6 years old with 85,000 miles on the clock, nobody else would think in those terms. I did a little research and discovered that the average age of a car on the road in the UK is a bit over 7 years; in the US it is over 11 years!

So, by some measures, my car is not so old, but there is more to it than this …

I had not owned a car for about 25 years. For some of that time, we just ran one car [my wife’s]. Then I got a company car. A company car sounds very nice – someone else paying all the bills and sorting tax, insurance and all the boring stuff. However, I gradually came to understand the high price that I was paying: the tax on company cars in the UK is astronomic. I realized that I would save a lot of money if I took my employer’s monthly car allowance, which is just taxed as income, and ran my own car. I have a spreadsheet that illustrates that this was a very wise decision.

The car was the first new vehicle that I had ever owned personally. I went out to purchase it with very little knowledge [and not much interest] – just a broad idea of what I wanted the car to do for me. I made a good choice, as I still like the car 6 years on and, if I needed to replace it, would simply buy another one the same.

This brings us back to the age thing. Having not owned a car for so long and having no vehicle lifetime expectations, I had no concept of a car’s age. As long as it works OK and is not falling to pieces, what is the problem?

The fact is that the average age of cars is steadily increasing. The reasons, apart from the economic climate, are simply that cars are built to last. The engines etc. are incredibly reliable. My wife’s car, for example, needs a service every 2 years! The bodywork is also more resilient to the ravages of age – i.e. corrosion. Although most of us cannot afford cars with aluminum or galvanized steel bodies, the treatment that modern cars get ensures that “rust buckets” are becoming a rare sight.

In the UK, cars are required to undergo a road-worthiness test [called the MOT Test] every year, once the vehicle is 3 years old. So, my car is about to have its fourth test and I am quite relaxed. Some years ago, I recall my wife had a similarly aged car that needed quite a lot of welding to get it into a MOT passing state. It seems that those days are past.

It is common to hear people talking wistfully about a time in the past when things were made properly. For some products, I think that is fair. But for cars, not so much.

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at https://blogs.sw.siemens.com/embedded-software/2013/09/19/how-old-is-your-car/