One Car for Life Decision

In Warren Buffett’s biography, The Snowball, a lesson in longevity that Buffett shares with college audiences is retold. He asks students to ask themselves how they’d approach buying an maintaining a car if, when they turned 16, they had the option to buy any new car on the market that year.

He gets into how you’d put more thought into picking the right car. Then after buying it, how much of a better job you’d like do maintaining it since it has to last your entire lifetime.

In the end, he applies the life lesson to how you should take care of your own body since it’s the only one you’ve got.

But, back to cars. I decided to look up what the top cars were the year I turned 16 (1990) to see what may have been a good choice at the time. Here are the top-10 from 1990 according to a 19 year old article from Car & Driver magazine:

– 1990 Acura Legend Coupe
– 1990 Diamond-Star Turbos
– 1990 Ford Taurus/Mercury Sable
– 1990 Honda Accord
– 1990 Honda Civic
– 1990 Lexus LS400
– 1990 Mazda MPV
– 1990 Mazda MX-5 Miata
– 1990 Nissan 300ZX/300ZX Turbo
– 1990 Nissan Maxima SE

I haven’t been able to figure out how to get back into my 16-year-old mind, but based on my observations over the past 19 years, I think the Honda Accord or Civic would have had the best chance surviving this long.

Which car from the year you started driving would have the best shot at still being on the road today?

9 thoughts on “One Car for Life Decision”

  1. Also from Car & Driver, the top 10 cars in 1994 were:
    1994 Acura Integra GS-R
    1994 BMW 325i/325is
    1994 Chrysler Concorde/Dodge Intrepid/Eagle Vision
    1994 Ford Probe GT
    1994 Honda Accord EX
    1994 Honda Prelude VTEC
    1994 Lexus SC300
    1994 Mazda RX-7
    1994 Nissan Sentra SE-R
    1994 Nissan 300ZX Turbo

    Probably the Honda Accord, though 16 year old me probably would have picked the Lexus or Acura.

  2. My first car actually was from 1990, a Toyota Corolla, and if I’d taken better care of it, I still might be driving it around today.

  3. My answer’s close to Gabe’s, except the car is a 1965 Mustang, and it’s parked in my sister’s garage (original base price $2,368). She (the car) has had a bit of work done, though.

  4. Circa 1977, there wasn’t much on the market that lasted even five years without turning into a rust-bucket! Among the popular cars that year, though, was the Datsun Z-28 (known as the 280-Z in Japan). I suppose that car would’ve been worthy of lifetime maintanence vs. an Olds Cutlass or Chevy Nova from the same year. Living in Vermont at the time, it wasn’t uncommon for me to see 15-20 year-old Saabs in great shape, still on the road. (Sure, maybe needing an extra quart or two of oil.) Those Saabs were built to last.

  5. Interesting prospect, having to stick with the car you could get when you were 16. Back then, gas was $0.29/gallon and cars were made of extremely rustable steel…remember ‘planned obsolescence’, the auto industry didn’t invent it, but they may have perfected it…that is until the Japanese Hondas and Toyotas came in here and ate american auto makers lunches (and soon enough breakfasts and dinners too).

    So, the first thing that came to mind was that I wouldn’t want my car to arrive on my December birthday, since it would have to suffer through a rusty winter, so I’d delay it until March/April. (Even at 16, I was practical like that.)

    But then, I would have had to have a serious gut-check–take a muscle car (sorry Charlie, my aunt had a Mustang and they handled for crap in winter…so no way would I have bought one), a ’72 Dodge Charger or Chevy Chevelle would have been hard to pass on though. Or, would I have had the foresight to see the gas crisis or even the problems with reliability or trusted those new-fangled Honda Civics? Or even a family, would I have gone for a family sedan like an Impala or even a station wagon at 16?

    Then, there are environmental considerations…no, not Earth Day, rather the north woods auto dealers–there probably wasn’t a foreign auto dealer in the entire northern half of Wisconsin back then. And as for family environmentals–mostly sedans and pickup trucks.

    So, all being considered, is there any doubt–I probably would have ended up with a Ford 15 0 or Ranger pickup or a Chevy Impala–something that came through the familiar line.

  6. I drive a 1991 Ford Escort, I will keep driving it till it stops wanting to take me places. The car has been payed off for over a decade. We are a two car household so only having one payment is a nice bonus.

  7. I’m gonna go with the 1990 MX-5 Miata, only because I know how awesome the 1993 Miata was, without any major changes. I know for a fact that the miata was incredibly overbuilt–meaning that it would far outlast its competitors. And face it Ed, when was the last time you really cared that more than 1 person rode in you personal car (oh yeah, thanks for driing the 4 of us back from the drunken bar night last summer)…

  8. I would have taken the Maxima – still know people with them running well, and wouldn’t have been embarassed to drive that car as a 16 year-old. Turns out, my Ford Ranger gave me 115,000 almost totally uneventful (in a good way) miles, but at some point I needed more cab space and less truck bed space, so it’s gone.

    I often look more at what’s still on the road now when I look for quality cars, and less about JD Edwards reports, etc. Some cars, Volvo, Mercedes, Audi, for example, might have a few hiccups along the way. But, those are cars you still see on roads for years to come. Maybe it’s because people overspent on them and keep them on the roads to justify their original purchase. Or, maybe they’re well built cars that will last forever if well maintained. Course, if you want to spend the least amount of money long term, you probably just suck it up, buy a Lexus, and never buy a new car again.

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