The newest of these old things is the first to bite the dust.
I like old things. By definition, they’ve passed the test of time. They don’t make things like they used to.
Our first microwave, a wedding gift, lasted more than 20 years. We’ve had two or three since, I’ve lost track. The newer models don’t last nearly as long as the oldest one did. Our current one isn’t heating things as well as it once did, so we may need to buy yet another one soon.
I haven’t ridden the bicycle in many years, although I still keep it. The frame is bent and the tires are flat, but I’m sure a good bike shop could get it up to speed. (It has no gears, so its mph isn’t as fast as your 18-speed can reach.)
My parents bought that Schwinn bike for me around 1970. I put a lot of miles on it in junior high and high school. I put more miles on it as an adult, although not recently. There’s some great trails around here, so there’s no reason I couldn’t get the bike fixed up and ride it. One of these days.
It’s the only bicycle I’ve ever owned.
Same with the lawn mower. I bought it in 1988 after we bought our first house. The temperatures were so hot that summer, we lived in that house for a month before I decided the lawn really should get a haircut.
When we lived in Rockford, Ill., in 2013, the lawn mower sat in storage in our locked garage because we rented an apartment that year. After moving to Elyria, Ohio, the next year, I needed to get the mower working again because I would take care of the yard of the house we were renting at the time.
I took the Sears Craftsman mower to a local shop. They told me to get a new mower, that this one wasn’t worth fixing.
I said thanks, then took it to another shop – a family small-engine-repair business I found through our church. Eighty dollars later, Rick had it running smoothly.
That was five years ago. I let him tune it up every year or two, and it’s working fine. Still.
If I bought a new lawn mower today, would it last more than 30 years?
That leaves the car, a 1996 Mercury Grand Marquis. We actually were the second owners of that vehicle. My mother-in-law bought it new in Clearwater, Fla. We bought it in 2006 from my in-laws’ estate after they both had passed away.
It didn’t have a lot of miles on it, then or now. When we traded it in this week, the odometer showed 126,156 miles on it. We don’t measure longevity by miles, but by years.
The horn didn’t work. The AC went out several years ago. The “check engine” light was a problem, especially here, where that would flunk an e-check (emissions check) test. The left front tire had a slow leak that was getting worse – I had to put air in it once or twice a week just to nurse it along. The car fit in our garage, but barely, because it’s so big.
When I had the oil changed in the spring, the mechanic suggested more than $1,300 in repairs: Replace the brakes, replace the serpentine belt, replace the Pitman Arm (whatever that is), flush the coolant and power steering fluids since they were discolored, and take care of that pesky “check engine” light.
We decided the car had reached the end of the line. We didn’t want to put that much money into a 23-year-old vehicle.
I was the primary driver of the Grand Marquis. I drove it into Cleveland and surrounding areas a couple of times a month, around town quite a bit, and on an annual trip to Mason, Ohio, near Cincinnati – not quite a four-hour drive – each of the past three summers. It did great. But I didn’t think the Grand Marquis would make it to Mason and back this year.
The Grand Marquis replaced a Saturn wagon in our garage (we had both vehicles for several years), and before that I drove a Chevette for 18 years. In my entire adult life, I’ve basically driven three cars.
Our other vehicle – usually a minivan – lasts a long time, too. We replaced a 2002 Pontiac Montana with a Mazda5 several years ago.
So, it’s kind of a big deal when we buy a vehicle.
When you keep a vehicle more than a decade, quirky things happen. I had to replace the gasoline tank on the Chevette because it rusted out. The Saturn’s “check engine” light remained on continuously for six years; I got the emissions fixed and that light turned off because our oldest son was taking it to college, and I didn’t want him staring at a warning signal every time he started the ignition.
Speaking of the ignition, I had to replace the Grand Marquis’ ignition system a couple of years ago. When I turned off the engine and pulled the key out of the ignition, the engine continued running. I stripped the gears in my attempt to get the engine to stall. When we turned in the vehicle this week, I gave the salesman three keys for it: one for the new ignition, one for the doors and a third key for the glovebox and trunk.
We just bought a 2016 Kia Soul coming off a lease. We like to buy used vehicles that are like new, so we don’t pay the new-car price but we can keep them a decade or more. We’ve had good luck doing this in the past.
The Soul is 20 years newer than the Grand Marquis. I suppose that’s an upgrade. It fits in the garage better than the Grand Marquis did, and it’s a hatchback, similar to the Saturn wagon and Chevette that I drove a long time ago.
Will the Soul last us 20 years?
Will I live another 20 years?
Good questions, both. I suppose the human track record is better than the mechanical track record when it comes to longevity, but there are no guarantees either way.
The finance guy told us the Soul we bought has 16,000 parts. He was trying to get us to buy an extended warranty to cover all of them. (Kia has a good warranty to begin with.) My Chevette probably had about 500 parts on it. I still tell people that it didn’t have any parts that would break down on the highway. That’s an exaggeration, but compared to today’s improved, highly technical, highly complicated vehicles that trained mechanics can’t diagnose on their own (the finance guy told us that, too) …
Give me simple every time.
Simple doesn’t exist anymore. That’s why they don’t make things like they used to.