Which are more reliable? Old or new?

6 replies [Last post]
Joined: 2011-07-02

Martin's report on his Fiat 500's MoT made me wonder, what's more reliable? Old cars or new cars? My Audi S4 is nearly new, and I have already suffered issues with the A/C and DSG 'box. This wouldn't affect me on, say, an Audi Quattro. Most classic cars are very simple by modern standards; you could even call them crude. But with simple, rugged mechanics, the parts are designed to last, and, quite frankly, there's less to go wrong with an old car.

You could look at it the other way. Manufacturers have come a long way since, well, whenever you think classic cars actually begin, but that's a completely different story. They have been able to hone and refine technology. Concepts and prototypes allow them to iron out the mechanical creases in their product. You could say that carmakers have learnt from past mistakes, and that their cars are now absolutely dependable.

In my opinion, older cars actually make the more faithful friend, but mind you, they do have to have been looked after properly. If you look at reliability surveys for new cars, the top places are dominated by companies from the East, especially ones who specialise in budget cars. Manufacturers such as Hyundai, Kia, Chevrolet and Honda, who use basic mechanics to power their cars (in most cases, at least). This backs up the theory of less equals less to go wrong.

I'm sure many of you, like me, have many stories to tell of old bangers letting you down, which goes to show that if you want to rely on an old car, then it needs plenty of TLC. Look at Irv Gordon. His 1965 Volvo P1800 has achieved nearly 3,000,000 miles, and could probably do it again, and that's an example of a well looked after classic refusing to go easily.

So, what do you think? If you want a car to depend on, would it be new or old?

plastic penguin
plastic penguin's picture
Joined: 2011-06-14

If something drops off on a new car you can sling it back to the dealers. Old cars, generalising, are difficult when it comes to sourcing replacement parts.

If you're nostalgic (like me) and have endless patience (unlike me) then older models are the biz. That said, every car, regardless of age, has its merits...

Gawd, I'm starting to sound like politician.

Sir Driftalot
Sir Driftalot's picture
Joined: 2011-05-24

Following comment is based on a) being pretty paranoid with respect to having a breakdown, when you really don't need it (far away from home base, on crowded intersections in rush hour etc.) and b) working in the automotive supplier business for 13 years. Even being a lazy guy maintenance-wise, I only had three total breakdowns with classic vehicles in more than 25 years (gearbox everytime, I need to rethink my shifting technique...). Comparing with modern vehicles, technological (say electronical) complexity plays a huge role, of course. Add cost-conciousness to that, and you get the picture. It is hard to comprehend, how extensively development and testing costs have been cut in the recent years. Keeping that in mind, I'm perversely looking forward to my next far trip in my 34 year-old Giulia...

"Why doesn't someone tell Pedro it's raining" - Chris Amon, 1000km Brands Hatch 1970
Joined: 2011-11-20

SPAM! Deleted.

Nuno Granja
Nuno Granja's picture
Joined: 2011-09-13

From my point of view (i live in portugal) modern cars are far more reliable than most classic cars and when a modern go wrong its more easy to find a mechanic and parts. If not most of people will drive classics. All cars came to an end and classics are more closer....

The exceptions in reliability terms came from some Merdedes (123...) or Toyotas (KE20...)

By my experience, cars as Audis and VWs (both aircooled or liquid cooled)  if well restored and maintained, can give miles and miles of trouble free, but we need luck, pay attention to the signs, do preventive maintenance and almost every month put some money on the cars as there is allways something to fix. A good mechanic is vital too, as i don't trust in my skills and 99&% of the jobs are done by propfessionals. I d'ont trust in amateurs, of course there are exceptions and i know  few, but in general I only see endless troubles with cars that never run properly, even with simple cars as aircolled vws.

British, french  and Italians cars in general have great lines, some are fast, some make great noise and i love a lot of this cars, but i don trust them (sorry its my opinion) and i'm convinced if had done all the my miles in such cars i will had a lot of trouble.

I love classics, almost never had a car with less than 20 years old. The exception to that fact are the 1973 VW 1303 LS  i had buyed at Zurich in 1986 or my blue 1981 Scirocco purchased in 1999 at Oporto. The VW 1303 came from Switzerland to Portugal by road, few days after the purchase.

I drive my cars all year around, all over the country and all over europe, I don't do daily commuting, only small leisure and shopping trips in town or to go surfing. 

At least twice a month I do 600/1000km in a few days, most are business trips but sometimes in holidays or to visit the family. I'm very careful with maintenance and the quality of oils and parts, but i drive the my cars as if they are new.

A few times I had comeback home on a shoestring, and some times that shoestring is very close to the breaking point, but I have been lucky all those years.

Until today i have only called the recovery twice. One time in Spain in 1997, due to a engine general faillure when coming back home from Biarritz in my 1963 VW Type 2 Split. At that time i had already done that trip e few times and the van have around of 100.000km  in my hands only. The other situation happens close to home originated by a general electric failure in the Audi, after a few days with alternator light on and voltmeter on the red (every day i said tomorrow I gona fix it...)

A few days before the breakdown the Split at Hossegor and the Scirocco at the same place in 2006

Early morning in the 90's somehere in the midle of France. The white/green Westefalia was a swiss van that we meet on the road and spend that night in the same place.

nuno granja

Nuno Granja
Nuno Granja's picture
Joined: 2011-09-13

There is a problem with some modern cars.

When a modern trendy car with a self image conscientious driver at the the wheel broke down, it becomes absolutely  necessary a compatible tow car...

(spotted today at lisbon)

nuno granja

Joined: 2011-12-31

 hi im 43 and have 24 year of driving experience and have owed over a dozen cars and if its a reliable classic your after it has to be mk1 hondas , according to garage stats in american mk1 1 civic and accords are the most reliable cars ever made , less time in a garage per cars sold than any other car , they gave honda its reputation for reliabilty 

i recentlly was fortunate to find a mk1 honda accord hatchback 1979 its very comfortable and handles great and brings a smile like no other car i,ve driven apart from a porsch 911 v8 on super car day trip in nuneaten one day,

i purchased for only £300 with it needing onlyy new sills and a bit of a paint job to bring back to its former glory costing me £900 in total

i would trust this car like no other car today you feel you can drive it anywhere with no worries compared to new cars with there ecu sensors and there limited time life of parts compared to classic hondas ,

the mk1 honds are the most underated cassic cars i no for what they offer you,,