|Rare 1955 mercedes 300sl sold at the Barrett Jackson Auction|
The kind of car you buy will affect your annual spending on transportation in a multidimensional ways when you consider all the factors that influence the costs like the vehicle purchase price, depreciation rate, insurance costs, fuel costs, tire costs, brake system costs, repairs due to manufacturer defects, towing, accidents, etc.
How you drive greatly affects the wear & tear on your vehicle, your fuel economy, the vehicle's tailpipe emissions, the longevity of the vehicle & your annual spending on vehicles.
Toyota builds vehicles with the lowest annual costs because they are cheap to repair, relatively reliable, have low total costs of ownership, tend to hold up well over time, have superior build quality in terms of mechanical tolerances, especially true of Toyota's engines, transmissions & drivetrain components.
The Prius is the most reliable car Toyota has released in modern history according to statistics tracking such an esoteric subject. Many fleet Taxi operators chose the Prius because it returns nearly 50 mile per gallon on regular unleaded 87 octane pump gasoline, the cheapest liquid hydrocarbon fuel you can buy in America that is widely distributed as gas station pumps, often blended with up to 10% ethanol (which to my and many others dismay, replace MTBE). The Japanese car makers tend to produce vehicles with the fewest number of total glitches per model because they deliberately set out to produce low defect vehicles in the 1960's in order to gain traction in international sales, and it worked! Unintended acceleration & recalls have plagued Toyota's models like the Camry as of 2012, tarnishing an impeccable history of building low production flaw Camry models for decades.
American & German
BMW often ranks the poorest in terms of long term reliability, annual repair costs, and other manufacturing glitch/ poor design issues : many of which stem from electrical corrosion in connectors that BMW refuses to waterproof for reasons the exceed logic. Ford similarly has a long history of releasing flaw products. A transmission debacle caused many ford models to slip from neutral into reverse without driver input, leading to many fatalities. The Pinto was emblematic of an engineering disaster, put into production with a safety glitch with the fuel tank & filler that was known about in preproduction, that resulting in many people burning to death! The American car makers generally fared poorly with all sorts of early part failure problems, ignition switches at GM, alternators, starters, engine & tranny failures, roll over debacle SUV etc. German car makers similarly have a long checkered history of mixed reliability. Older mechanical German cars seemed to hold up better over time than the modern increasingly electrified models.
Overall modern cars tend to offer better safety, cleaner emissions, tighter manufacturing tolerances & improved long term reliability verse the cars of antiquity. This in spite of increased digital electronic systems galore present in many parts of a given vehicle platform. A lot of the sizzle the sells the steak is also not essential to a vehicle's core functionality. Unless you are talking about airbags made by Takata and consider airbag functional safety essential.
The computerization of modern vehicles makes it harder for a regular person to work on their car DIY style. The OBDII system present in most newer vehicles often requires a special code reader if the owner is to understand why a given warning light came on. Thankfully we live in an online era where you can buy OBD scan & programming tools like the ScanGuageII online easily!
New vehicles are much safer, employing emissions controls to clean up toxic tail pipe fumes into less toxic gas emissions. More airbags & advanced driver assists systems like ESC are helping drivers to maintain better control of their vehicles more of the time! Traffic fatalities per vehicle mile traveled have been on a steady decline despite more vehicle miles traveled per person. Car insurance should become more affordable over time because new vehicle are better able to protect the vehicle occupants from crashes & accidents.
Nothing lasts forever & the noise vibration of harshness of uneven road surfaces & explosions inside the engine, driveline shock from sudden acceleration & hard braking, entropy associated with heat & movement along with accidents mostly caused by driver errors of all different kinds. The problem with humans making mistakes while piloting is causing a cultural pressure to drive the development of technologies that will enable future vehicle models to drive themselves with increasingly sophisticated versions or levels of autonomy, automation, autopilot or self driving modes.
Most of the vehicles you see on the roads of the world today are made mostly of iron, steel, aluminum, plastic, glass & copper, all destined for scrapping & recycling. The Lead, NiMH & Lithium batteries in most vehicles will also be recycled. First to the bone scrap yard for pick & pull recovery of functional components for scrapper DIY types who like to whip up junkyard gems & restore them to real world operation. On a tight budget, sometimes you can save a grip by harvesting a useful part from a similar model in a scrap yard to the broken part in your car, vs buying a new part from an autostore or the OEM supplier.
There are automotive museums & wealthy personal collections of vehicles that keep a few special models in perfect shape, rarely driven, what I call functional ornament mode, hibernation storage or quiescent slow phase change mode / delaying the decay of corrosion from water vapor, salt, UV, heat, freeze cold, thermal cycling, cathodic corrosion from different metals touching (making accidental batteries) and other modes of failures like hoses & belts losing elasticity, cracking & breaking apart. Tires eventually rot as well (really interesting given the mechanical strength of vulcanized rubber!) Storing a vehicle emptied of fluids at about 55 Deg F (~12 Deg C) in Museum Mode in a climate controlled dry air facility with no condensing moisture and tight temp control, no UV & no corrosive fumes or gasses : will enhance the storage life of the vehicle while minimizing entropy in all the components.
Cultivating a Master Collection
I always thought it would be fun to partner up with a billionaire to create a production car collection of real world vehicles cherry picked from manufacturing with less than 5 mi : prep the vehicles for storage & then vacuum bag them in nitrogen purged polypropylene bags, loaded into a robotic storage archive system or warehouse stacking robot retrieval system in a large EMP resistant warehouse: then auction off brand new old models for charity once they become old enough to become valuable. Hybrids, Electrics & Plug in Hybrids are going to be tricky because the traction hybrid batteries have to be carefully partially charged by an automated system periodically to keep the NiMH & Lithium ion batteries from being critically damaged : especially true if they are going to be stored for years, decades or longer in a quasi-functional easily bootable state upon removal from storage.