According to a report from NBC News, 53.3 million cars from before 2000 are on today’s roads. The pandemic, combined with recessions and wage disparities, has compelled people to hold onto their cars for longer. In fact, the average person will keep their car for about 11 years.
As cars on today’s roads get older, auto parts stores are flourishing. The same report noted that in 2014 AutoZone and O’Reilly’s Auto Parts saw a decent amount of sales as people poured money into their old cars to keep them up and running.
Continue reading to learn more about pre-2000s cars on today’s roadways and what it means for motorists.
What Makes Pre-2000s Cars Different from Modern Vehicles?
One of the most noticeable differences between modern vehicles and those from before 2000 are safety features. This does not just refer to things like backup cameras, smart brakes, and other features; it refers to the cars’ frames themselves.
Consider the following:
The Older the Car, the More Likely You Are to Get Hurt
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a report saying the older your car is, the more likely you are to pass away or sustain serious injuries in a crash.
The report noted:
- People driving older cars are less likely to wear seatbelts.
- Seniors driving older cars are especially at risk of getting fatally injured in a crash.
- Older cars also have a high risk of ejecting passengers in the event of a crash.
The study reports that driver behavior combined with less safety features contributes to how dangerous some of these pre-2000s vehicles are.
Newer Cars Have Better Impact-Resistant Materials
CNN Money did a report in 2000 about the dangers of older cars. They said that when teens are shopping for their first cars, they should steer clear of older models––especially pickup trucks and SUVs. This is because:
- These vehicles do not have adequate rollover protection.
- Trying to overcompensate while driving can lead to fatal collisions.
- The airbags in these vehicles may not protect the driver in a crash.
Moreover, pre-2000s cars are built with heavy metal that can impale a driver upon impact. Today, cars are built with lightweight, aerodynamic materials that are designed to collapse around the driver in a crash––not put them at risk of serious injuries.
Older Cars Get Less Gas Mileage
While buying an older car at first may initially seem like a cheap option, in the long run, it could cost you more than it’s worth. The NHTSA says that when it comes to fuel efficiency, newer cars are always better (and less likely to be totaled in an accident).
To prove this point, consider the tool offered by the U.S. Department of Energy. This tool allows you to compare the specs of older cars versus newer ones. For the sake of this article, we compared a 1999 Ford Mustang with a newer, 2016model.
The results were:
- The 1999 Mustang only got 20 miles to the gallon, where the 2016 model got around 25.
- Newer cars had lower CO2 emissions. The newer vehicle released 356 g/mi while the other model released less-than-desirable emissions.
Older cars, in general, also break down more, especially once they hit the five-year mark. The total cost of repairing these vehicles can also get pricey since car manufacturers no longer make certain components.
What Is the Most Common Car on Today’s Roadways?
While there is no clear answer to that questions, information from the Balance says that Toyota Corollas are the best-selling car of all time, with over 40 million units sold since 1966. Why? The brand simply has a high customer service satisfaction rating. They are famous for being reliable, affordable cars that last for many years.
Other best-selling cars (and therefore some of the most common on today’s roadways) include:
- The Volkswagen Beetle
- The Ford F-Series
- The Chevy Silverado
Honorable mention goes to Ford’s Model-T for being the third-best-selling car of all time. It was not included on the list above because many are not in use.
What Should I Do if I’m Driving a Pre-2000s Car?
If you periodically maintain your car, drive safely, and understand the risks, you should be fine. The NHTSA says that vehicular malfunction accounts for less than 5% of all car accidents. Overwhelmingly, the cause of collisions is driver error.
Only a licensed mechanic can answer the question as to whether your car is safe. However, for your own well-being, you should ask yourself the following questions:
- How much money do I spend a year on things like gas and repairs?
- Does the check engine light come on frequently? Does my air conditioning work?
- What is the trade-in value of my car?
- Have I recently been in any accidents that threaten my car’s drivability?
- Has my car been recalled since I bought it?
- Is the exterior of my car damaged? (This includes rust, corrosion, and missing/non-functional parts)
The last statement is especially important. If you were recently in a car accident, your car might look fine on the outside, just a few scratches and dings. But under the hood, an underlying problem could keep you from being safe.
Again, it is best to consult with a mechanic as to the safety of your car.
Will Driving an Older Car Affect My Insurance Rate?
It honestly depends on your insurance provider. Some insurance companies will calculate your rate based on your sex, age, and driving record––without regard to how old your car is. This cannot be said for everyone, though; some insurers have high premiums for older cars simply because they lack modern-day safety features.
Talk to your insurer about your rate. Some companies even offer discounts, depending on the type of car you own.
So, do cars age like fine wine? Not necessarily. Even though thousands of collisions happen each day, their impacts are minimized by conveniences that we take for granted. Although driving a pre-2000s car is not a bad thing, it is wise to consider whether any newer models could promote your safety.