Cars are ‘better value for money’ than they were

value for money
New MINI has much more kit that its 60-year old predecessor (Picture MINI)

If you’ve decided 2020 is the year you’ll upgrade your motor, you could be in for a nice surprise. On paper, cars might look scarily expensive. But they’re actually more attainable for most of us than they’ve ever been. And new research suggests they offer better value for money too.

When we buy a modern car, there’s a very good chance it’ll be safer, comfier, more reliable, better equipped, more environmentally friendly and use less fuel than its equivalent from previous decades.

Car maker Mini has found proof of how the real cost of cars hasn’t really increased over the last 60 years, despite dramatic improvements in technology.

The cost of cars in 1959

Mini’s research found that the average price of a family car in 1959 was £780. Adjust that for inflation and the figure is the equivalent today of £16,784. But 60 years ago, the average wage was £595 or £12,803 in today’s money. More importantly, the cost of the car came to 307 per cent of the average family’s disposable income.

value for money
The original Mini was very basic inside with no winding windows (Picture MINI)

What did cars have back then?

Look at the Mini of 60 years ago and you’ll see a motor that is basic at best. There are certainly no luxuries such as air conditioning and satellite navigation was way in the future. Neither are features such as seatbelts, ABS anti-lock brakes or power steering present. And while we take electric windows for granted today, the first Mini had sliding panes of glass; storage bins in the door meant there wasn’t room for a window winding mechanism.

What do cars cost now?

According to Mini the average cost of a new car today is £18,139. But the UK’s average wage has grown to £28,189. And the price of a car is 88 per cent of the general household’s annual disposable income – just over a quarter (29 per cent) of what it was in 1959.

What do cars have now?

Today’s three-door Mini hatchback costs £16,195 and appears better value for money as it’s packed with standard equipment. There are eight airbags plus ABS and Autonomous Emergency Braking and of course all four seats have seatbelts. If the car is involved in a crash, its doors automatically unlock and the fuel pump shuts down. It has bright LED lights front and rear, rain sensing windscreen wipers, a 6.5-inch in-car screen, and a DAB radio plus Bluetooth for linking your mobile phone to the car.

How unreliable were cars in 1959?

value for money
Production techniques have improved since the original Mini’s time (Picture MINI)

Aside from the amount of equipment on a modern car compared to its ancestor, the motors we buy nowadays have other benefits. Barring the odd exception, they’re more comfortable and more reliable than their predecessors. Production techniques have improved meaning cars are better built so last longer. Some components that used to be mechanical and would need adjusting and wear out are now electronic. Tyres too are stronger and some even self-seal if they get a small puncture.

How unsafe were cars 60 years ago?

In 1959, there were 6520 road deaths in the UK as a result of road traffic accidents. According to the Department for Transport, the most recent figure was 1782 (from 2018). Of course some of this is because speed limits are more rigorously enforced now. And serious measures have been taken to slow traffic around town centres and schools. But much of the reduction in fatalities will be because today’s cars are stronger and boast far more in the way of life-saving technology.

Compared to their predecessors, Mini’s findings suggest modern cars really do represent better value for money.

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