Home Pop Culture Why are Americans obsessed with used cars?

Why are Americans obsessed with used cars?

Americans obsession with used cars
Americans obsession with used cars.
Americans used cars
Americans obsession with used cars explored. Pictured, used Honda Toyota Camry.

Americans obsession with used cars is here to stay. What compels most US car drivers to favor a good used car than that of new automobiles? Think culture, attitude, frugality.

The car has been an unrivaled star in the American lands for traveling to and fro within a large metropolitan city, a small-scale town, or the blissful farmlands. The car has stayed true to American roots for over a century now.

The US is the hot breeding ground for all the automaker giants worldwide, with every European, Japanese and Korean automaker investing more than 75 billion dollars. The Americans also dominate the majority of the automotive sales and production in the globe, accounting for almost 20-35% of the global population of cars.

Cars constituted a major part of American culture back in the days of the industrial age and are still a major part of every household. Americans love the fresh scent of a new car straight out of a dealership. There are many used Toyota Camry for sale and Americans choose any day over a brand-new car like the 2021 Toyota RAV4. So what are the major factors driving Americans to settle even for a used car?

American automotive culture

The car is the ultimate symbol of American dignity and freedom. Back in the days of the Industrial Age, Henry Ford first brought forth the versatile Ford Model T. The world’s first vehicle conveyed its main selling point of convenience very well to its initial customers. Henry Ford’s dream that every working man must be able to afford an automobile turned into reality only after World War II.

By the end of the 1950s, one out of every six Americans were involved with the automotive industry in one way or another, according to Wikipedia. No automobile parts were produced during World War II, owing to more emphasis on the production of war-related items. Most of the automobiles after the war were in a depleted condition. The decade of the 50s signaled a new era for automobiles, with more than 8 million vehicles manufactured within the first year.

Americans obsession with used cars
Americans obsession with used cars explored.

Businesses that adapted to the growing trend of the automotive industry saw huge profits in their balance sheets. This includes the likes of new drive-through restaurants or drive-in movie theatres catered towards customers with automobiles. To support military transport, the US Defense expanded the National Highway system into various Interstates. These interstates became a new means of quick travel, with almost no stoplights on the way.

We also witnessed various hints of the Space Age and the Space Race in contemporary American automotive styling. Tailfins were a hot styling trend for cars, giving them a Space Age-inspired fashion statement that appealed to most Americans of that age. Hot-rodding and aftermarkets also became a thing, which still is popular among contemporary Americans to this day.

Americans’ love affair with cars

The major reason why cars have stuck around for so long remains their unbeatable factor of convenience. In the late 1950s, the very American idealisms of freedom and suburbanization began to cross the minds of all middle-class folks. Many middle-class individuals and affluent people fled the large cities to escape the harsh reality of living standards. They settled in the quiet and carefree neighborhoods of the suburbs and began to live a peaceful life there.

Owning a car became an absolute necessity for those who escaped to the suburbs. With public transportation almost non-existent in the suburbs because of the sparse population, Americans would face no choice but to settle for the trusty conveyance of an automobile. The very fact that an automobile is always ready for you, right on your schedule tempts the free minds of Americans.

Over the years, train networks have widened, new airports have been developed. Today, just-in-time transport services like Uber have also taken over. But all of them make you wait around, which isn’t convenient for the busy schedules of the modern man. The humble car is still the top-draw means of American transport in the modern era.

Why Americans will also settle for a used car

Americans need a car for their daily endeavors, be it visiting their local grocery store, doing their regular gas station fill-up, hitting the gym, or taking their kids for a weekend ride. There don’t exist many small neighborhood stores or businesses within the suburbs, probably because of the stringent zoning laws in neighborhoods. Most have to undergo a drive of more than a mile even for a simple task like buying groceries.

Also, the independent nature of the American working class is always enticed by a terrifying recession or pandemic induced reason for a used car rather than the latest brand-new car. Americans love to express their willingness for personal frugality. Hence, there still are a lot of first-gen pickups from the 70s or 80s still roaming freely in a remote American town.

In their annual Car Brand Perception study, Consumer Reports surveyed its respondents on their willingness to consider a used car for sale.

The results were truly surprising, as 2-3rds of respondents said they were willing to consider a late-model used car. When asked if they would opt for a late-model used car over a brand-new car, 71% of the respondents gave a positive response with almost half of the respondents giving a very likely thumbs-up. On the basis of gender, 75% of men were open to buy a late-model used car while 67% of women gave the same response.

Buying a used car over a new car has its share of perks. Every wise American who owns a used car knows the tons of depreciation that he is avoiding by avoiding new-car ownership. A used car also enables higher auto loan rates and less risk of damage altogether. Overall, Americans love embracing used cars as it lends them more financial security and a sense of peace.

A bitter-sweet love story?

Besides the widespread affection for cars, there is no denying that they are the ultimate prodigal sons of wasting money and fuel. The ingrained inefficiencies of the internal combustion engine have raised global warming levels to new heights. Not to mention the widespread vehicle pollution, that is causing Americans to lose 10 years of their lifespan. The American streets are a literal war zone, with the death count averaging 400,000 per year.

Despite all these setbacks, Americans still embrace cars as an extension of their own personality. The car is the unrelenting star of the American economy and is here to stay as an American icon for the next century or so.