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Detonation: Is the Price Right?

Detonation

John Lehenbauer
Aug 8, 2018
Photographers: John Lehenbauer
I think most people will agree that the price of a new diesel truck has gotten a bit out of reach for many of us. Buying a fully loaded, four-wheel-drive, fullsize crew cab pickup can run close to six figures, once all the taxes and dealer expenses are tallied up. Of course it would be really nice to roll around town in a ride with the newest engine technology and all the fancy features and gadgetry. Seriously though, a lot of us will be driving older trucks for some time to come. Hopefully, all of us that want a new truck will have an opportunity to buy a least one in our lifetime (I can dream). But until that happens, we will continue to keep our old pride and joys going.
There is this thing called inflation that causes the price of most things to go up a few percentages every year. It is part of the reason why new trucks cost so much. Normal inflation is one of those realities we have come to expect and live with. It seems that price increases for automotive products have significantly jumped. I don’t fully understand the exact reasons why, but I do know that some of the price hikes are linked. For instance, as the cost of crude oil raises, it affects the price for the manufacturing of fuel, tires, motor oil, and other petroleum products. Those higher production costs then get passed on to the people who use those products, like transportation companies. Then, the cost of shipping things by truck, train, and ship goes up, which causes the value of the products being transported to be inflated in order to cover the increase and so on.
Photo 2/2   |   With fuel costing more than $4.00 per gallon, just driving down the street for a burger is getting expensive.
One way that many of us have saved money over the years is by owning older trucks with no monthly payment, and doing most of the repairs and maintenance on the vehicles ourselves. By doing the work yourself, you are not dishing out hard-earned funds to cover the price of labor and marked-up cost of parts that some shops hit you with. However, over the past few years, even doing the work yourself has gotten expensive. The inflated price of oil and materials turned what used to be a relatively cheap endeavor into a more costly effort. It is nothing to drop close to two hundred dollars on just materials (oil, filters, fluids, etc.) for routine maintenance on a diesel engine. Then, when it is time to do a more extensive service (transmission, differentials, power steering, etc.) on the vehicle, the cost jumps even higher because of the numerous different fluids and filters needed.
Another factor that affects expenditures is the use of the synthetic fluids that newer trucks require. Synthetics historically have been a bit more expensive than the traditional petroleum-based products, but, like everything else, they continue to increase in price. A plus side to good synthetics is the extended service intervals.
Along with keeping up with the cost of regular maintenance, there is the expense of the items like brake parts, tires, hoses, and belts that wear out with normal use. Prices for these parts also continue to elevate. Of course, as the oil burner and the truck it resides in begin to age, bigger repairs are inevitable. The parts for those big repairs can run up a bill quickly, but the flip side and the reason why I like older trucks, is there is no payment. Repair costs do not come close to the amount that all the monthly payments would be for something new.
An addition to the increased prices for parts, the cost of fuel definitely has not followed normal inflation standards. Since the time I started driving, fuel cost has literally tripled, which is a big hit to the wallet if you have to drive any type of long distance. It is interesting how a single substance like crude oil has such a huge impact on the automotive industry and vehicle owners, especially when its value dramatically changes.
I wish I had the knowledge to come up with a good solution for stabilizing the ever-increasing costs of owning a diesel truck. Unfortunately, it is a bit too complicated for a mere magazine editor to resolve. There is a certain amount of supply and demand that goes with cost increases. As the demand goes up so do prices. If fuel demand diminished worldwide, the value of a drum of oil would too.
The simple fact of the matter is, we drive our trucks for good reasons, regardless of the costs that we incur for doing so. The rigs haul parts and tow the trailers that we use for enjoyment and work. They do the jobs that a Toyota Prius would never be able to accomplish. The costs we endure for owning diesel-powered trucks are small, when you consider the amount of satisfaction we feel when we’re in the driver’s seat.

John

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