By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
The good old days: When sticker shock Referred to new car prices and not routine maintenance
car lot
A used car lot in Salt Lake City.

I have never had to have anyone co-sign for me when I have bought a car.

That said, I almost needed a co-signer Wednesday to pay for scheduled 60,000-mile maintenance.

The damages — when everything was said and done — was $1,315.47.

There was a time back in 1975 when a partial engine overhaul set me back $500.

It was on a 1967 Cougar I bought from my aunt for $700 with 120,000 miles on it as my first car a year earlier.

To be fair, I was making $1.65 an hour working parttime at The Press-Tribune while being paid 15 cents a column inch and $1 a photo for work I did for the weekly Lincoln News Messenger.

I also had a side business shooting weddings and doing portraits.

It was back when two dimes would get you a 12-ounce can of Pepsi from a vending machine.

Today — 7 Elevens and their ilk that have basically replaced vending machines — a 20-ounce bottle of Pepsi is closing in on $3 a pop.

In other words, I get inflation.

Covering the tab will put a substantial dent in my savings.

It also will mean cutting back a bit until I can replace the money.

That said, since my last car payment is in December, it’ll free up $290.84 a month to backfill the financial hit.

The only thing $290.64 a month will buy you these days is a used 1976 Yugo.

If you have no idea what a Yugo is, consider yourself lucky. It is no exaggeration to say that you could put your weight against the door and the metal would give slightly.

My current vehicle is a 2017 Ford Focus that I bought for just over $22,000 with $2,000 down at zero percent interest for 72 months.

I’m convinced that there is no auto manufacturer left on the planet will ever again underwrite a new car loan for 72 months at zero percent.

And since you can no longer buy a newer vehicle in California for under $20,000 it’s likely in a few years that a $22,000 vehicle will go the way of the dodo bird.

In defense of auto manufacturers and inflation aside, there is no doubt overall that cars are far safer, more powerful, more fuel efficient, less problem riddled, more comfortable, and more technical advanced than they were in the 1970s and 1980s.

One example is a 1982 280ZX two-seat T-top I bought new for $16,900. It delivered 145 horsepower and about 23 miles per gallon.

The 2017 Ford Focus has 160 horsepower and my combined driving has been a virtually steady 33.5 miles over the years.

The stereo system in the 280ZX was top-of-the-line. The Ford’s sound system beats it hands down even though it isn’t the cream of the crop in today’s world of automotive sound.

And although I was hooked on T-tops — I had three cars in a row with roof panels including a Firebird and a Pontiac Grand Prix — I’ll take the sunroof on my Focus any day of the week.

The big difference is their value after six years.

Realizing it isn’t what you’d get on a trade-in, but CarMax in Modesto is offering the same model as the one I drive with 54,000 miles on it for $15,998.

I got $15,500 — $1,400 less than I paid for it — when I traded my 280ZX in when it had 60,000 miles after three years. I traded it for a 1985 Volvo 240 sedan.

I know what you’re thinking — was I nuts?

In retrospect, I’d say yes.

But then again, I topped out at 320 pounds when I drove the 280ZX and then for the most of the time driving what my friends called “an old man’s car” I weighed in at 190 pounds.

It was also a time that my visits to dealerships for service or issues of some type often hit four times a year. That didn’t include oil changes that I had done at quick change places.

Now I may hit the dealership twice annually, and in some years that has been only for oil changes.

It reflects two things. The quality of cars in recent years is light-years from where they were at back in the late 1970s and 1980s when I was racking up between 25,000 and 38,000 miles a year

Now I’m just above 10,000 miles a year.

By the time I was 36, I had bought nine vehicles, seven of which were new.

Given I bought my first car when I was 17, you can pretty well figure out salesmen used to start dreaming of a Hawaiian vacation every time I walked on the lot.

In the last 31 years I’ve slowed down a bit.

My last vehicle was a 2006 Ford Escape hybrid  I’d probably be still driving if my granddaughter hadn’t needed a car.

Cynthia thought we should spend $2,000 on a used car to help her.

I wasn’t thrilled about her driving a used car we knew nothing about.

So when I saw the zero financing, I figured what the heck and sold her the Escape.

Rest assured I am in no rush to get a new car.

I’d be more than happy to keep it as long as I had the Escape— 12 years — if not longer

That would put me out of synch with the majority of Americans that, according to research, are keeping their cars an average of 8 years.

The statistic that is more jarring is the cost of buying.

Bankrate reports the average monthly car payment for new cars are $716 a month. It is somewhat lower for used cars that are financed have an average monthly payment of $526.

The average price of a new car by the way is $48,000.

Call it sticker shock if you wish.

But given inflation, advancements in technology and reliability, as well as the fact there are still a lot of solid options out there for under $30,000, it isn’t really all that shocking.

That’s based on what you are getting for what you are buying

That said — even with constantly rising prices every time you turn around — shelling out $1,315.47  for recommended maintenance is still a bit daunting.

Keep all of that in mind as the United Auto Workers negotiations play out. Whatever happens will impact what you pay for a new car. Replacement parts and used car prices are also affected by new car prices.

Rest assured you will feel the impact of a 40 percent pay raise if that happens.

Back in 1914 when Henry Ford began paying his unskilled workers $5 a day, about twice the norm, he said he paid them so much so they'd have enough to buy his Model T's.

He likely didn’t  have fully loaded F-150 Raptor pickups starting at $98,000 in mind.


This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at