Cars are really quite amazing these days. Most people buy new cars because they are simply bored with their old car. My 2007 is our newest car and it has 230K and the only thing the dealer has done is change fluids (and replaced the hybrid battery, under warranty at 140k miles). I chose to spend $2000 to have an engine redone after blowing a head gasket several years back (Racing a new Mercedes up a steep grade in 120 degrees weather with AC on is not recommended with a 12 year old caddy). This is something that most people would choose not to do (the replaceing the head gasket part, I mean. Racing the Mercedes up the hill is understandable ;-) ). Fixing an older car is always more economical but has to be balanced with the peace of mind as well as the exhilaration of a new car.
Don't bet on future vehicles to be easier to self maintain. The internet helps with all the available videos on youtube, but I get the impression that the automakers are doing their best to make you come to them for repairs.
Back in the 80's the nick name for the Mopar Duster was the "Ruster" due to a combination of poor or no corrosion treatment of the body parts and the high amount of Salt used on the roads in the winters there.
I have 2 vehicles a 1980 VW Diesel Rabbit with a recently overhauled engine & a ff 5 speed trans in it. And a 1987 Toyota Cargo Van, both have lots of miles on them are still in decent shape & easy to wrok on for tyhe most part.
I have two vehicles, one 13 years old with 145,000 miles and the other 18 with 180,000 miles on it. The funny thing is that both of these cars are, at this moment, better running and of better quality than pretty much any car I've owned before; new or used. I don't see retirement for either of them on the horizon yet.
I'm the only owner of my 1995 truck and can do much of my own maintenance, so that helps, but there hasn't been that much to do. 1995 seems to be a the pinnacle of easy self-maintenance and parts are easy to find and inexpensive.
The late 1970's or early 1980's seem to be the opposite, in terms of both reliability and maintainability. Today's cars don't seem to be doing well in the maintainability, but are pretty high in the quality department. My hope is that in the not too distant future, cars will start to become more modular, and thus, easier to self-maintain.
@drquine I'm with you on the materials innovations that have helped to reduce corrosion on automobile bodies. I owned a Firebird when I lived in Minneapolis, and the body was rusting out in less than five years.
I was astonished to read that the average vehicle on the road is 11 years old. Most of them look new. The most significant point is that innocent comment "vehicle bodies are less prone to rust". Having grown up in New England 60 years ago, that is the understatement of the century. Nursing a car into it's 5th birthday was an accomplishment then. My 7 year old Dodge Dart went through a quart of oil every few weeks ... when the spare quart can bounced through the gapping hole in the rear floorboards. I could inspect my front wheels by sticking my head through the rusted out fender opening. The improvements in maintenance schedules, gas consumption, and safety are also very welcome developments.