New, very basic cars

Is it even possible to get a car with “just the basics” for commuting these days?

I’m not really in the market, but I was curious. With everyone selling more and more options as standard equipment these days, are there any makes and models being sold in the US geared toward people like me, who think all that extra fluff is just more stuff to break down, and would rather not bother with it.

What do I mean?

I mean a car without:
power steering,
anti-lock brakes,
traction control,
air conditioning,
an automatic transmission,
power windows,
security systems

Basically, no more electronic gizmos than necessary to make the thing go down the road.

You can, but don’t try to get a loan for it.

Banks are hesitant to lend money for a car without AC, for example. It dramatically lowers the reseal value. Yeah, you can still get a loan, but you will have a larger down payment and higher interest rate, unless your credit is so good that you don’t need a loan and could pay cash.

Almost all cars today have FWD and rack and pinion steering. You don’t want not to have power steering with this arrangement; it is pretty much a requirement.

Automatic transmission; yeah, they cost more, but a standard transmission severely limits the potential buyers. Sure, on some cars, standard transmissions are avaialble, and may even cost less, but that is not the majority or US vehicles.

Power windows, security systems, yeah, you can have them omitted, but it hurts the resale value, so why bother.

The cost of these systems is greatly reduced by making them standard. They increase the cost very little, but make it much easier to sell the car, either on the showroom floor or as a used car. If you were buying a fleet of cars, say for rental or company cars, then you can save some money by deleting some of these items, but otherwise, the sales commission is greater than the savings, meaning the salesman could very well throw those “extras” in for free to get the sale.

I knew a guy who has a car without security or remote locks or power windows. He curses his decision to buy the car, since these things are a PITA to deal without.

excavating (for a mind)

The Tata Nano is the car you’re looking for. But I think some features are required by law: seatbelts, airbags and engine immobilizer.

I know that you can go without the security system, as I declined to buy it on my new car. But I think the electronics are built in, so when I turned it down, they removed a chip to disable it. (The advantage is that when someone’s car alarm is blaring, I can rest assured that it’s not mine.)

A Smart ForTwo meets most of your criteria but it isn’t much of a car and gets surprisingly poor gas mileage given all of the performance and size trade-offs it has to make.

http://usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/cars-trucks/Smart_Fortwo/

I question some of your list. Anti-lock brakes and traction control are valuable safety features rather than superfluous add-ons for example. I wouldn’t want a car without them unless it was a sports or recreational vehicle.

Power windows used to be touted as a luxury item but they are generally standard now because they are actually cheaper to make than manual windows. The manual cranking mechanism is much larger than the electric one and most car doors aren’t designed to accommodate it even if someone did want manual windows.

The maker also recommends premium gas, which you may not expect.

Ditto. And I question some of your other ideas too. Example: Why would you think that power steering is not so important for a commuting vehicle? I’d think that it is MORE important for day-to-day short rides; where many turns are at low speeds, that’s when the power-assist is most needed. It’s the weekend long drives down the highway where power steering is unnecessary.

My 1st thought as well. Why would someone go out of their way to ***avoid ***safety features? :confused:

Here’s a pretty good (if somewhat rambling) article about why you can’t get a “basic” car anymore: http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/avoidable-contact-airbags-killed-the-am-radio-star/

I think you can still get something like a Versa or a Fiesta with hand crank windows, no A/C and without ABS/Traction/etc. Power steering is the only thing you won’t find anything without (other than the Smart), and maybe arguably the security system since the immobilizer is pretty much integral with the FI system. You can also still get some pretty stripped-down pickup trucks, although you’re more likely to find them at a fleet auction than a dealer’s lot.

A/C and ABS are standard equipment on the Fiesta. But you can still get hand crank windows on the very basic model.

Ah, so it is. I think I’ll change my story on that a little. It looks like the tire pressure monitoring became mandatory as of 2007 (I didn’t realize that since I have a 2007 MY truck that doesn’t have TPM or ABS, so it must have just squeaked by). Most indirect TPM systems use the same sensors as the ABS and TCS, so making the TPM mandatory has made ABS and TCS essentially standard even though it isn’t technically required.

I have had a vehicle without power steering before. A 1996 Saturn SL. I never had a bit of problem steering the thing, even in tight parking lots. Power-assist is overrated, in my opinion. Just another “feature” that can break down and cause problems.

We just bought a Toyota Corolla and it has A/C, anti-lock brakes, power steering, etc. But we got manual locks and windows instead of automatic. I’m not willing to give up safety things or A/C but I don’t need automatic locks that can be opened with the key from 50 feet or heated seats or any of that nonsense.

Excellent! Thanks!

The article linked to above said that tire-pressure monitoring was becoming mandatory and therefore ABS would be common. I thought it was the other way round, that ABS was required, and that ABS systems required you to monitor the rotational speed of the tires, which means that tire-pressure monitoring is implied.

I don’t think you can get a new car in the US without many of the things you mentioned. Traction control and anti-lock brakes are safety features that you really don’t want to live without. The closest thing to what you’ve described is a base line 4 cylinder Toyota Tacoma pickup, and even it has some of the things you mentioned.

Financing the vehicle is no problem. If you have a 700+ credit score, and a regular income you’ll get many offers for low interest financing.

Personally, I can’t imagine driving a car without power steering. Hope you never have to parallel park it if you get it.

I have a 2012 Fiesta that had sat on the lot for awhile and I couldn’t figure out why as they are a very good seller because they are small and get excellent gas mileage. It has all the bells and whistles (heated mirrors, heated seats, Sirius, etc) but the guy doing the ordering forgot to order cruise control. :smack: I didn’t mind though (obviously as I bought it), but it would be nice to have.

I had a 1967 Chevy BelAir with manual steering and it always seemed to steer to the left easier than the right until I got the (original) ball joints replaced. And I had it in the early - mid eighties!

Some of this is anachronistic - what you’re describing as electronic gizmos are “just the basics” now. It’s like asking for a car with carburetors - fancy option in their day, de rigeur now. Power windows are so cheap to install it’s not worth offering roll-ups.

You also need to bear in mind the US-bias - there are bare-bones cars sold elsewhere that car makers insist Americans don’t want. The original Smart Fortwo made sense - all the contradictions Americans grouse about were changes put in to sell it here. There are more basic, cheaper Fiat 500s and Minis sold in Europe that we don’t get. BMW and Mercedes-Benz also have basic commuter models we don’t get. Heck, Ford has cheapo models they won’t even attempt to sell here, and they’ve got the advantage of a large existing dealer/parts network to slot them into.

Taking all that into account, there’s also our demand for instant gratification - North Americans like to walk onto the lot and leave with a car, whereas elsewhere dealerships are mostly small storefronts with a sample or two of each model and customers order the car to suit their needs. So dealers order the colors and options they think people want, and people take them because they don’t want to wait (and dealers aren’t exactly enthusiastic about helping you). Of course, they had one barebones car to advertise for “only $8000” or whatever, mysteriously sold before the ad printed. I think there’s a Hyundai you can order for under $8k new with manual trans, no AC, radio, etc., but it’s like a 3-month wait to order one, and down the line trade-in will be brutal.

You might want to have a look at light commercial vehicles. They may not meet all your criteria, but they are often quite Spartan by passenger car standards. Of course some of them don’t make much sense as a passenger car, but others do.

Almost all cars had rack and pinion steering 40 years ago. Unassisted rack and pinion arrangements are generally heavier than recirculating ball arrangements, but in anything smaller than a Town Car a person of ordinary strength will have no trouble operating it.