CC Outtake: Cheap White Cars, Then and Now

This Corolla and VW Beetle make a nice pairing. It was the Corolla that effectively killed the Beetle as America’s favorite cheap import after it arrived here in 1968. This 1971 VW basic Beetle listed for $1845 ($11,568 adjusted); the 1971 Corolla was even a bit cheaper, at $1798 ($11,273 adjusted).

The Corolla has grown a lot over the years; this outgoing generation is a legitimate no-compromise fully-fledged automobile, a comfortable, quiet, smooth-riding sedan that seats four adults surprisingly commodiously. It’s far from just minimal transportation, but then even the first Corolla was noted for being a bit more refined than average in its class. A 1971 Corolla would have won Car and Driver’s small car comparison if it had a bit more power, which came along within a year or so in the form of the new 1600cc engine.

So how expensive is a new Corolla in comparison?

I bought a nicely equipped new 2017 Corolla LE a year and a half ago for my daughter’s group home. I paid an out-the-door price of $15,300. This was a very good deal, but Toyota was having to make deals to keep sedans moving out the door. There’s no way possible to compare a 1971 and a 2017, as they’re worlds apart. The recent ones are more like what a Malibu would have been back then. But given their impeccable reliability record and the general greater longevity of modern cars, it would be easy to say that the 2017 was actually cheaper in the long run than a 1971.