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Price Comparisons: Then & Now

Updated on April 17, 2013

New Car Expense 1974

In 1974 a Toyota Land Cruiser sold for little more than $6,000. Today a new model with a new look sells for around $65,000.
In 1974 a Toyota Land Cruiser sold for little more than $6,000. Today a new model with a new look sells for around $65,000. | Source

Brand new Toyota Land Cruiser, 1974 ~ under $10,000. Watching prices rise for the past few years I've caught myself reminiscing of a period a few decades ago when my brand new, red convertible Toyota Land Cruiser cost around $6,000. These days it's difficult to believe such a low price for a 4X4, particularly a Toyota, ever existed. The memory is a reminder of how time flies and how drastically things can change during just one generation. Today a new Toyota Land Cruiser has a completely different appearance and the price is around $65,000.

With that thought, curiosity initiated a search for numbers and data in order to get a better understanding of changing times. An old family proverb had perpetually circulated our family, "He who knows not from whence he came, knows not where he goes." So where was all of this going?

In considering jobs, salaries, consumer goods, services and prices, another consideration is population. With prices and population growing, by the year 2050 who will be able to afford a car? Will there be a sufficient number of jobs? Housing? Food? It's interesting to examine the numbers to find the rates of growth in costs, salaries, house prices, etc.

Moving back through time...

The past few years have been frightening for many folks because of the failing economy and uncertainty of future growth and stability. In 2008 diesel fuel at $5.25/gallon prompted concern for truckers and gasoline dependent industries. How in the world could they survive something like this?

Recalling the gas wars of the early 1970s when a gallon of gas was 25 cents, a $5 increase seemed incredible, even if the increase had come gradually over the course of time to so suddenly and drastically escalate in 2008.

During the gas wars of 1969, gasoline in some areas was 25 cents a gallon.

During the Great Depression local grocery stores provided staples and credit for survival.
During the Great Depression local grocery stores provided staples and credit for survival. | Source

In earlier days chickens were sold live at the store and killed and dressed at home.


The Great Depression was a bad time for bankers.

According to wikipedia, "during the Depression bankers became so unpopular that bank robbers, such as Bonnie and Clyde, became folk heroes."
According to wikipedia, "during the Depression bankers became so unpopular that bank robbers, such as Bonnie and Clyde, became folk heroes." | Source



Goods / Services / Wages
chewing gum
candy bar
ground beef/lb.
fast food hamburger
soft drink
$.10 (returnable)
$.75 (can)
postage stamp
color TV
$200.00 (variable)
music album
movie ticket
doctor visit
$60.00 (variable)
new car
$28,400.00 (2010)
new home
$212,300.00 (2011)
median family income
$49,500.00 (2010)
minimum wage

Time Flies.

What seems like yesterday has become 'thirty years ago" ~ the days during the 1980's when I spent time with my grandmother as she remembered her younger years. I sat and listened, mesmerized for hours. Fascinated by her many stories of the past, she often recalled the Great Depression from a time fifty years earlier in her life. She attributed the survival of her family to the kindness and credit extended by the local store keeper. She spoke of the $1 per week payments made to the store after having lived frugally and saved every penny during the week to "make good on her word." She was a selfless woman until the day she died and her stories were filled with goodness, wisdom and gratitude to be shared in a distant future with the newcomers who would be the added generations of her family.

It's difficult to imagine a time when live chickens were sold at the local grocery store and when a trusting storekeeper would keep a running credit sheet for neighborhood residents. But those things happened and they didn't happen just in our hometown area. Woven with the loving memories of my dear grandmother were impressions of American life and a time neither I nor my children nor grandchildren would ever be able fully grasp because her experiences were exclusively her own.

Depression Era Prices. In those days, spring chickens were sold alive at about 20 cents per pound, and brought home to be killed and cleaned. My mother recalls her father's job was to kill the hens in the back yard and she remembers to this very day the exact spot. Her mother cleaned the birds and then cooked them.

During the Great Depression a gallon of gas was ten cents, and a new car was about $640. A new home was about $7,000. Steak was 20 cents per pound, and sugar was about 25 cents per pound. You could expect to pay around 8 cents for a loaf of bread, and 9 cents for two rolls of toilet tissue. 19 cents would purchase four pounds of bananas, and a quarter would buy about 14 oranges. Bacon was 38 cents per pound. Camay soap was 6 cents per bar.

As difficult as it can be to imagine those "low" prices the general population was desperately poor for the lack of jobs, with an average American salary of $1,500 per year––for those fortunate enough to be employed. Roosevelt put people to work and gradually raised America back to her feet.

So what's a Yellow Dog Democrat?


Just recently people had begun to mumble the word, "Depression"

Depression is a frightening word and since then there have been all manner of "Chicken Littles" warning of the imminent impending doom and of how economic clouds are about to fall on us with the collapse of the entire sky. Some believe we should all invest in gold and silver and some folks have begun to store food readying themselves for survival and unavoidable hard times. Banks have failed in many areas and many people have lost their homes and jobs. One President has moved into office to take over from the one before.

I couldn't help but recall my grandmother and how she said she'd always vote for Democrats, because of Franklin Roosevelt. Why? She explained, "Because he put electricity in the country." My grandmother had been born in a rural area in the mountains and the depressed area had survived without electrical power for years. Her mother's family received electricity because of the Great Depression and because of what she considered the kindness and generosity of President Franklin Roosevelt–– the benefits of his "New Deal."

Roosevelt was very dedicated in getting Americans back to work and he also believed a strong and prosperous farm population was necessary for the health of the entire country. Although my grandmother had since moved to the city leaving her mother's family behind on the farm, she and her entire family were from those days forward known as "Yellow Dog Democrats." She'd rarely and gently share her political feelings with these words, "The Democrats care about poor people." Her vision of the world had been crafted from limited experience and a childhood of poverty accompanied by the happiness that came with the love and support of family.

The question is what will the future bring? Does it promise jobs? Growth? Security? And if the cost of a vehicle grew from $5,000 to $65,000 over the course of 35 years, then what can our grandchildren expect of the year 2050 or 2075?

Those distant years aren't as far away as they seem.

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    • michabelle profile image

      michabelle 6 years ago

      Hello Cred, thank you for commenting. I had a friend with a child in 1977, who, at the young age of 2-1/2 had open heart surgery. The cost was short of $20,000. About 10 years later a man was saying he had triple-bypass surgery at a cost of $180,000. Realizing the two procedures are probably not exactly comparable, and they were also performed in two different geographical areas, still to me this was an outrageous difference in medical costs spanning over a period of just 10 years.

      Everything seems to have exploded in price, and so have salaries and benefits–– for a chosen few. It's difficult to understand exactly where this "runaway train" started, and to figure out whether (and how) it can be stopped.

    • Credence2 profile image

      Credence2 6 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      Hello, Michabelle

      Great article, it makes you wonder what happened over the years? Prices have risen far beyond wages, so what they did is sneak in the credit so that people would not really notice the decline in their buying power. Now that you have a second mortgage on your house and swimming in credit card debt, you attempt to live life normally. But the time bomb went off 3 years ago.

      Greed of the merchants and the financial institutions orchestrated all of this. Things are so expensive today it is almost impossible to live without credit. There are your two parent wage earners and child day care. This has been up on us for a long time and nobody noticed. I can certainly remember the relative economic sanity during the 1960's.

      I lament for the middle class who at this pace will soon join the list of extinct species.


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