Yeah, I knew an AV guy at Boston University who still used his U-Matic at home (this was around 2007) because he couldn't find any other recordable format that was as reliable, and apparently the generational loss is way better than any of the later analog formats.
Worked on these things for years, it was a lot of work to keep them looking half decent on a modern TV set.
When I first started on them a head drum cost about 300 dollars and lasted about 2500-3000 hours on a playback deck. Then Sony started to try and force people to into DVCAM or up to some flavour of betacam or whatever by upping the price of parts and making them shittier at the same time.
Capstan rollers cost twice as much and came from the factory glazed over.. head drums cost 700 dollars and lasted only 1000 hours, etc...