Inflation in auto parts prices - batteries

Posted On: Thursday - October 3rd 2019 12:34PM MST
In Topics: 
  Cars  Inflation

I'll bring up this inflation topic each time I notice a product or service that is more pricey AND realize that it's been going up steadily with numbers that I can remember. This is such a case. The Advance Auto battery above is one that I have bought recently and fairly long ago, along with times in between.

I remember buying the "silver" quality battery (you really wonder why they just don't make one BEST one of each geometry and cranking-amp-rating, as what is the difference - weaker acid? less lead?) around 15 years back. I didn't want to pay almost $90 for the "gold". That "gold" one is now priced per below. I could not include it all in the graphic, but this is for the very same style (top terminals) and either 650 or 800 cold-cranking-amps (same price per site):

That's right about double. Wait, why do I use the no-core-return price? I'll tell you why - because until a few years back, they not only didn't give money for the core, they didn't WANT the core, and they, in fact, charged a coupla bucks for some disposal fee of a core that they didn't want! WTH was the deal on that? So, before this new deal, I would dispose of these things in my own way. Now, to get a bit on the paranoid side here, could it be that some government (State or Feds, I dunno) has required the collection of old batteries by auto parts stores in order to keep people from acquiring extra lead? For what? Hmmm... Anyway, for an apples-to-apples comparison, I'm using the no-core-return price. That's a 100% increase in 15 years, not exactly any kind of 1-2% annual increase we read about from the BLS. It's in the range of 5-6% That shows what 5-6% does to the value of one's money over only a decade and a half.

"Wait, wait, wait, hold on...", I'm sure the reader may be thinking, "that's just one part of many dozens of common items on a car." You may want to ask a mechanic, as I have. There aren't many parts like the battery that the average car driver would have exposure to the price of, or remembrance of from a bill. Because he charges the customer (and then some!) the mechanic I know best doesn't care that much except for his own vehicles. Yes, many items have been going up, if you can look at parts that can be compared apples-to-apples. One exception could be windshield wiper blades (another one that average car owners may keep up with). They are still dirt cheap, but (getting to this point shortly) how long do the cheap ones last?

As Peak Stupidity noted in this general article on inflation and the switch from American manufacturing to Chinese, there was a big lull in the mid 1990s through early 2000s. I noticed this personally, after a time lag. Additionally, this was a time during which Chinese goods were not as poor quality as today. The corporate world had increased their profits via going to low-cost manufacturing. Later on, after they'd milked that out, to keep the profits ever-rising, they had to start cutting costs in other ways, hence the Cheap China-made Crap.

Some of the batteries ARE still made in America, believe it or not*. I'll admit that it's not the type shown above. I use the example shown above in some cars, out of habit. I've seen a definite decline in the length these things last. I remember having one in the car for 10 years before.** Now, you are lucky to get 5 out of them. As we've discussed in Hedonics in the Current Era of Cheap China-made Crap, taking this reduction in quality into account would make the real apples-to-apples inflation rate even higher.

Then, there are the wiper blades, that, while very inexpensive, rot out in just a few years outside. Tires have the same problem now, per part my experience but also the mechanic's. How about the price inflation on tires, come to think about it? The overt numbers may not be too bad, but then there's the quality thing.

Hey, I'm just noticing stuff. Perhaps it's just Curmudgeonry, as maybe I don't think about the steady-priced items. Peak Stupidity will keep its eyes open on the matter.

* "Interstate" brand batteries are made in either America or Mexico, and their website tells you which ones go where. I do have Interstate batteries in some of the vehicles. We'll see about the quality, but I think I've already had to replace one before its time.

** It's hard to get perfect comparisons, as we tend to abuse some car batteries more than others. Was it a time when I drove a vehicle very infrequently, or left the lights on and had to jump start it 3 different times, etc?

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