By on January 18, 2012

When German cars reached the ripe age of 8.5 years on average, mentions of “Kubanisierung” (Cubanification) made the rounds. They did not shame customers to put their old cars in the shredder. Then, Germany put a bounty on old cars AND launched its “Abwrackprämie” (cash for clunkers,) The average age of all cars on the road immediately dropped. To 8.3 years.  If 8.5 years qualifies as Cubanification, what do you call a country where the average age of  all cars on the roads is pushing 11 years?

You call it America.

“The average age of a car or truck in the United States hit a record 10.8 years last year as job security and other economic worries kept many people from making big-ticket purchases such as a new car.”

So says The Associated Press (here fittingly via Northjersey.com.)

The trend towards aging cars is nothing new. Since 1995, the average age of all cars kept creeping up. Coincidentally, in 1995, the average age was smack dab in Cubanification territory: 8.4 years.

The data come from a study performed by the Polk automotive research firm, and it bases on state motorvehicle registration data.

Polk analyst Mark Seng looks at the bright side of the hooptification of America:

“The increasing age of the vehicle fleet, together with the increasing length of ownership, offers significant business growth opportunity for the automotive aftermarket. Dealer service departments and independent repair facilities, as well as aftermarket parts suppliers, will see increased business opportunity with customers in need of vehicle service.”

Polk doesn’t see an immediate end of the aging, but hopes that “the rebound in new vehicle sales in 2011 and for the next couple of years will most likely slow down the aging rate seen in the market over the past three years.”

How could we better illustrate this story than with a choice selection of Murilee Martin’s Down On The Junkyard series. Murilee is a prophet. Let’s age with dignity.

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147 Comments on “Land Of Clunkers: America Breaks New Hooptification Record...”


  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    As long as I am deleveraging, my 11 year old wagon and my 7 year old minivan will have to do. I don’t plan another new purchase until the end of 2013. Got Mom a 2012 to replace her 2002.

    As Tom Joad made due with his Model T during the Great Depression of the 1930s, we will be doing the same during this Great Depression.

  • avatar
    chaparral

    Tom Joad drove a Dodge.

    I figure a car gives 17 years of good service now, so why not keep it?

    The older stuff has better steering and suspension setup than the newer stuff, and they run tires that don’t go flat all the time and cost a fortune to replace.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    There are two main factors at work here. First off, cars last a lot longer than they used to, so any given vehicle less than 10-15 years old rarely needs replacing short of a wreck or lifestyle changes. Second, styling as a purchase motivation has largely evaporated. A 1957 Desoto was an embarrassment in 1972, but a 1997 Accord barely elicits a notice in 2012.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    America has easier inspection systems, people willing to do their own repairs, and a spirit of thrift brought on them.
    Japan is like Germany in that it costs too much to get it inspected, the Japanese are not about to wrench on their own cars, and consumption is the name of the game.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      Just got my 99 Accord Coupe through inspection by cleaning a clogged intake manifold myself and picking an independent repair shop that doesn’t spend much time looking for problems. The original exhaust probably is due for replacement and the original A/C compressor will likely fail in a year. However, the main reason I’ll replace it this year is because the paint is wearing out. There is still a social stigma against an old car with primer showing.

      • 0 avatar
        87CE 95PV Type Я

        I look at wearing out paint as giving the vehicle character and I do not plan on letting it tear me from my wheels even if society thinks I am white trash in a minivan.

        Also, Japanese vehicles are known for not being that great at resisting UV Rays, just look at all the older than 5 years Japanese vehicles in Dixie. It starts with yellowed headlights and then morphs into failing clear coat and so on and so forth.

      • 0 avatar
        87CE 95PV Type Я

        I bet Historically plated (Year of Manufacture plated too?) vehicles do not count toward the average age.

        I am not a hipster, but I was driving an older vehicle before it was common and/or cool you could say, but that just sounds like I am grasping at straws.

        Now if only appliances were built to last since i just had to replace my circa 200 refrigerator last year after the compressor went out. The 1984 Washer, 1992 Dishwasher, and 1982 Refrigerator as well as other older appliances are doing just fine.

  • avatar
    86er

    If 8.5 years qualifies as Cubanification, what do you call a country where the average age of all cars on the roads is pushing 11 years?

    You call it America.

    Or, Saskatchewan.

  • avatar
    MZ3AUTOXR

    Cars have been getting better, plain and simple.

    Back in the early 90′s when I was just out of school, your best bet at a used car was a Honda, because they had the reputation of running forever, rusting out before anything. Honda traded on that reputation to grow their business.

    Other manufacturers took notice. Now, the expectation is that if you purchase a car, the power train will last 100K with even moderate levels of maintenance. Manufacturers know that the car has to last through two owners now or risk a shot at their reputation.

    Heck, the only non scheduled repair on my 3′s motor after 110K has been a solenoid purge valve. Set me back about $50 and I replaced it myself.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    These days, 100K miles is considered ‘nicely broken in. I have no doubt at all that my new BMW will go just as far as it’s garage mate ’93 Volvo, currently at a nicely running 236K. And cost less to maintain along the way, and be more reliable too. Despite being 3X as complicated.

    • 0 avatar
      srogers

      Good one! You are kidding, right?

      • 0 avatar
        srogers

        Don’t take my comment too seriously. I am aware that you’ve bought an new 3 series wagon and that is a vehicle that I would enjoy very much myself. It’s just that a modern BMW is commonly considered as less than a paragon of reliability.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        I had the same thought – really? REALLY?!?

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Nope and I don’t take your comment too seriously at all.

        In my experience, and I have owned 30 or so mostly well-aged European cars (Alfas, Volvos, Saabs, VWs, Peugeots, Mercedes, BMWs, and Triumphs), the reality is that they are nothing like as troublesome as legend would have it, provided they are properly maintained. Which Americans rarely do. I ordered this car with the expectation that I would keep it a LONG time – realistically that is the ONLY way to justify to myself spending $43 large(with tax) on a car. So I specifically avoided things that have been proven troublesome on these cars. It’s a 328i, so no high-pressure fuel pump and no turbos. No iDrive. No adaptive Xenon headlights. No sport package. Manual transmission. Relatively simple, as these things go. The 328i has proven a very reliable engine in the e9Xs, and most of the electronic bugs have been worked out over the years. Always better to buy the last of a model than the first.

        And since I have owned it since it had 3.3 miles on it, it has been maintained to my standards since day one. It got all of the drivetrain oils (engine, trans, and diff) changed the day I got it home from re-delivery at 2600 miles, and another oil change at 9000 miles. No ‘lifetime fill’ and 18K oil changes for my $43K car.

        And as others have said, the Internet is the real secret to car ownership these days, 20 minutes on a forum will tell you what to avoid, and what to expect. My car will get a new electric water pump and thermostat before 120K, which is when they typically go bad. Very nice DIY with pictures on e90post.com. Similarly, it will get a new battery on it’s 4th birthday, and I use a trickle charger when I am out of town for more than a couple days. Preventative maintenance = reliability. I also know which bushings in the suspension to keep an eye on, and that they will likely need replacing in the 60-75K mile range. Small price to pay for this level of ride and handling. I do most work myself, I have invested in a LOT of tools, a lift, a hydraulic press, etc., etc. Lets me keep a garage full of interesting cars without going to the poor house paying mechanics labor.

      • 0 avatar
        Chicago Dude

        “In my experience, and I have owned 30 or so mostly well-aged European cars (Alfas, Volvos, Saabs, VWs, Peugeots, Mercedes, BMWs, and Triumphs), the reality is that they are nothing like as troublesome as legend would have it, provided they are properly maintained. Which Americans rarely do.”

        10.8 > 8.3

        Interesting. I suppose Americans are just plain luckier than Europeans because we clearly don’t deserve to have reliable cars, given our inability to perform “proper maintenance”.

    • 0 avatar
      jason

      “In my experience, and I have owned 30 or so mostly well-aged European cars (Alfas, Volvos, Saabs, VWs, Peugeots, Mercedes, BMWs, and Triumphs), the reality is that they are nothing like as troublesome as legend would have it, provided they are properly maintained. Which Americans rarely do.”

      What you are not saying is that proper maintenance for these cars was more frequent and, unless you do it yourself, significantly more expensive. Americans often did not maintain these cars to the correct level, but that was a symptom of those cars’ nature.

      I currently own a 1997 Toyota 4runner with 200k miles and a 2002 bmw 352i with 100k. There is no comparison: the bmw needs relatively constant attention for small repairs, which I do myself. Leaking plastic cooling system parts, leaking gaskets and hoses, etc. The toyota has no such problems. The bmw also has needed several larger repairs that are the result of well known deficiencies in the quality of it’s high tech parts. Vanos variable valve timing unit failure at 60k miles. I did this myslef, but it would have been a very large repair bill at a shop. Suspension bushings shot at 50k miles on smooth FL roads, rear tail light wiring melted from insufficient wire guage from factory. The toyota does not have any similar weaknesses of basic systems.

      So, as an American who does maintain my european car to the ‘level it deserves’ I say–its excessive and unnecessary. BMW’s are high maintenance becuase BMW does not see a problem with this type of contant maintenence and designs their cars for maximum elegance of design, not to be low maintenance. These cars EARNED their reputations. I love driving the bmw and it is a solid car overall, but its an expensive and/or time consuming one compared with an average Japanese or American car.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        The way I see it is if you have “constant leaking hoses and gaskets” you are not maintaining the car properly. Properly is that at 100K miles, you replace ALL of those things, all at once. Not one bit at a time as they fail. The originals lasted 100K miles, the new ones will too. if you are going to do it half-assed, don’t whine about it.

        Yes, BMWs are not perfect. No car is. But they are very, very nice to drive. If that is important to you, as it is to me, then price you pay is the added cost of owning one. Sure, they could be better in this regard, but then they would be even MORE expensive to buy than they already are. I’ll take a little bit of pay-as-you-go. If how it drives doesn’t matter to you, then Toyota will cheerfully sell you a Camry. TANSTAAFL always applies.

        And finally, now that ALL cars have the same sorts of sophisticated basic systems, ALL cars are very expensive to fix. The gulf is not what it once was when fuel injection and ABS brakes made a BMW exotic.

    • 0 avatar
      jason

      krhodes, because I can’t leave a debate unchallenged…’Properly is that at 100K miles, you replace ALL of those things, all at once.’ ALL of the hoses and ALL of the gaskets on the engine? Seriously? I guess if pulling the engine and resealing it and entirely replumbing it at 100k is your version of ‘resonable maintenance’ then we just will have to agree to disagree, but I would venture to say that most people would find that unreasonable.

      ‘Yes, BMWs are not perfect. No car is. But they are very, very nice to drive. If that is important to you, as it is to me, then price you pay is the added cost of owning one. Sure, they could be better in this regard, but then they would be even MORE expensive to buy than they already are. I’ll take a little bit of pay-as-you-go.’ What you have said here is that a BMW is both more expensive initially and that you should expect more repairs along the way. Well then they have rightfully earned their reputation as expensive and higher maintenance even if maintained perfectly, which was my point the whole time.

      Third, yes all cars have complex systems that are expensive to repair. The difference is in the quality and durability of those systems. In my opinion you pay the premium for better performance for a BMW up front. After that point there isn’t any reason that it should tax you thoughout its early/mid life with more frequent parts failure than other manufacturers–in fact, they should be better than their competition.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Yes. The usual issues with an e46 are that the plastic cooling system parts are due to be replaced at ~100K miles. Typically the valve cover gasket as well. Call it the radiator, thermostat housing, water pump, expansion tank, and the hard plastic hoses. In a hot climate, replacing the rubber hoses is a good idea too (for any car). This will run you $6-800 in parts, and a Saturday of easy wrenching. Not unreasonable for another 100K miles, given the alternative is buying a new $40K car. Change the gearbox oil and diff oil while you are at it. And at 100K the car will certainly need some suspension attention if you want it to drive properly. Call it $2500 to make it have the drive and reliability of a new one.

        THIS is maintenance, and I just don’t see why the average person has such a hard time understanding the concept. The average person doesn’t do a damned thing to a car except MAYBE change the oil until it actually breaks down. It is not “dumping money into a car” it is investing in reliability.

        I’ve said it before, I treat my cars like one would treat an airplane – replace things BEFORE they break, on a schedule, as they will inevitable break at the most inconvenient possible time.

        All I can say is that if Toyota could make a car that drives like a BMW AND is as reliable as a Corolla, they would. They have not, despite years of trying. More complex cars will by definition have more issues, there is simply more to go wrong.

  • avatar
    Polishdon

    Well, if I add up all my cars:

    2003 Jeep
    2006 Chrysler
    2007 Dodge
    1975 Dodge

    and divide by 4, I get 14.25 years !

    • 0 avatar
      Prado

      A perfect example of why ‘Average’ or Mean age is a misleading figure. An old extra vehicle can greatly distort the average. What I really want to know is the Median (i.e. the middle) age of vehicles on the road in the US.

      • 0 avatar
        Polishdon

        My 1975 Dodge is fully licensed and driveable. I CHOOSE not to drive it in the winter.

      • 0 avatar
        texan01

        Mine if you take all of them into effect;

        1976 Chevy
        1986 Pontiac
        1995 Ford
        2000 Ford
        1977 Chevy

        Comes to the average age of my fleet was 24 years old.

        Currently it comes to about that now with the 95 Ford and 77 Chevy. That Ford is just shy of 300,000 miles and I plan on keeping it a while longer. the 77 Chevy is driven like a regular new car, right down to driving it in the rain and ice on occasion. (It sucks at ice)

    • 0 avatar
      Omnifan

      And my 5 cars end up at 17.6 years! Plus tons of money saved by not having collision/comprehensive insurance on any of them :)

    • 0 avatar
      cfclark

      In my case, my ’03 Subaru and wife’s ’11 MINI average out to 5 years. What that means, I don’t know, except that having a new car means far more to her than to me.

  • avatar
    turbobrick

    Am I supposed to feel bad for driving a fleet of vehicles ranging from 1988 to 1998? These things just don’t rust in Texas and they’re relatively inexpensive to keep around when you do your own wrenching.

    I would say that the Internet is actually a big factor in all of this. It improves the availability of parts and most of all, it improves the flow of information. Back in the day you bought a Haynes comic book and tried to muddle through it. Now you go on a forum and someone will tell you what to do and even show you pictures.

    • 0 avatar
      fvfvsix

      Haynes comic book – LOL!
      That reminds me of my days as a poor college student wrenching on my ’83 Camaro RS in my apartment parking lot using one of those things as a guide… What a POS (car and manual)!

      I feel really old when I say that kids these days don’t know how good they have it. You can pick up a decade old car, beat it like a rented mule, and it will still get you where you need to go.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        That’s the reason why my father-in-law insists on keeping his 70-something Suburban 2500 454 4X4. He beats it like a rented mule and he can fix it if it ever breaks. No computers, sensors or fuel injection. Only raw mechanicals.

        Plus…. when you own a 454…. there is no replacement for displacement.

        None of the current Suburbans can come near this old jalopy. The new ones are gutless by comparison.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    One big factor in the increased lifespan of cars is that rust has been slowed to a crawl. In the 70s, cars often rusted out before the engine or tranny quit dispite that fact that the running gear in those days was nowhere near as durable as now.

  • avatar
    srogers

    Our two regular vehicles are a 98 Altima and an 02 Focus. So an average of 12 years.

    If I include our 84 motorhome, the average goes all the way up to 17. We’re doing our part to raise the average vehicle age in Canada, but only drive about 30 000km (19k miles) per year total.

  • avatar
    pgcooldad

    I’m at 166K miles on my 2001 and plan on keeping it ’till the next timing belt change at 240K. Averaging 17,500 miles a year, that translates to another 4.2 years.

    I think I better flush out the heater core with hydrochloric acid again this summer, I don’t know if I can do another 4 winters on a Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder with it partially clogged.

    On a better note, I just found out I’m average.

  • avatar

    You guys should check out the average age of personal airplanes in America. Aftermarket opportunities? Last Saturday I talked to a guy who installed a Garmin 696 in his 1950 Bonanza V-tail. I cannot imagine driving a 1950 car, but he flies that all over the place (I remember it because of the distinctive yellow-orange paint scheme).

    • 0 avatar
      bunkie

      And the average Beechcraft has fewer *hours* on it than the average car…

      Airplanes are actually more like houses than cars. They cost about the same and they tend to get remodelled rather than replaced.

    • 0 avatar
      cognoscenti

      Never mind the fact that airplane manufacturers actually stopped producing single-engine aircraft for a while due to out of control liability insurance. What we’re left with is simple supply and demand economics. However, what really burns your pocketbook now isn’t the cost of the plane, it’s the cost of maintaining, operating and insuring it!

    • 0 avatar
      Japanese Buick

      As the owner of a 1982 model airplane, I concur. Someone else mentioned the break in manufacturing until 1997. Planes from before that time are valued like cars. Planes from after that time are valued like houses, so it’s not a surprise that the fleet tends toward the old.

      Example, Cessna 172.,the Camcord of the general aviation fleet, a new costs about $300K, a 1982 one is about $40K. Guess which model most buyers own?

      • 0 avatar
        Landcrusher

        Most buy used Cessnas, but it’s supply, not really demand. At any given time, the number of used 172′s for sale is several times that of the modern annual output.

        They used to make tens of thousands a year. IIRC, today, less than ten thousand light aircraft are built per year! That’s not per model, that’s all models, all manufacturers, worldwide certified aircraft. Non certified and experimental are now a larger percentage of what is still a paltry number.

    • 0 avatar
      Landcrusher

      OMG, don’t get me started. I used to be a plane broker. It’s no longer liability causing the problems since that got factored into the market over a decade ago.

      Right now you can get insane deals on used aircraft. And, they don’t last forever. If you can afford a post 1990 plane it’s likely a good investment. 40 plus year old planes are best used for parts. For decades planes have appreciated at the rate of inflation after they depreciated for their first 4 years while the new wore off. Until they get over 30 and they start to lose value.

      Now, class warfare, manufacturer lobbying, failure for Congress to do it’s basic job, union lobbying,FAA ineptitude, changing tax laws, NIMBYs,etc. have destroyed the plane market (new and used). The US used to own light aircraft manufacturing almost exclusively. We will soon be a minority player if this stuff keeps up. And, it’s just about time the technology has gotten so good that light aircraft can be a reasonable transportation choice through air taxi services which haven’t been seen in 40 plus years for most of the country.

    • 0 avatar

      Actually I meant to ask if what is going on with very old airplanes lays in our car future. This is very relevant, sorry that I did not make myself clear. It was decried that younger people are not as intrested, miles driven goes down, etc. Well, isn’t it the same in airplanes, only in grotesque ways that let us see the future trends? Eventually the few remaining driviers will either keep 2010 F-150 on the road, or buy factory-new 2050 Volt.

      BTW, the cheapest new-built American certified piston single is not a Cessna anymore. The American Champion Aircraft’s Champ is. The 2011 model was $109k, the 2012 got a small price hike to $116k. Among LSAs, the cheapest is probably still X-Air for $76k. Cessna’s own LSA, the model 162, is $145k for a stripper. I cannot imagine who buys those $300k 172s these days, it’s the price of a Maybach!

      • 0 avatar
        Landcrusher

        The plane thing is not ever going to happen to cars outside of oppressive states, or superior tech changes the game.

        I can see a niche manufacturer of longer life cars being successful in today’s market, but most modern cars are planned to be obsolete.

        Anyways, the 300k cessna is a low volume phenomena combined with lack of innovation, over regulation, and a supply of planes that is dwindling more slowly than the supply of qualified pilot/buyers. Pilots are mostly people with the self confidence to take personal responsibility for themselves and their passengers, but too many of that type person is now scared off by a randomly and incompetently run aviation system where legal and economic threats come at you uncontrollably. Yes, people in dictatorships have to worry about random government murders, but even in the US you can get randomly picked as an example by the Congress, Local government, Homeland, FAA, IRS, etc. BECAUSE you are a pilot or aircraft owner.

  • avatar
    azmtbkr81

    Aside from the fact that this is partially caused by a distressed economy this is refreshing news. Appliances, electronics, tools, etc are all built to be disposable these days – it is welcome news to hear that cars are built better and last longer than they did 30 years ago. I wonder why the greenies aren’t playing this up? Maybe they like their shiny new Prii too much…

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      electronics…etc are all built to be disposable these days

      30 years ago a TV repairman was still a busy guy. When was the last time anyone had an issue with their TV?

      • 0 avatar
        Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

        Google ‘lcd cheap capacitors’ sometime :p

      • 0 avatar
        bunkie

        As a former TV repairman, I could see the writing on the wall back in the early ’70s. Manufacturers stopped emphasizing servicability. This is both good and bad. Sets got more reliable but harder to fix when they failed. The poster child for this was the Sony Trinitron whose power supply was more complicated than the Pentagon bureaucracy. It was designed for global markets and could easily handle lousy third-world power (it could run on 90VAC). But when it broke it was a nightmare to debug.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        I’ve spoken with a local TVVCR repairman who’s been in the business for decades, he told me that he’s had to fix more HD TVs than regular TVs.

        As for greenies? Being “greens” more of a fad, you’ll find one greenie who genuinely cares and another who claims to care but only for trends sake.

      • 0 avatar
        azmtbkr81

        I don’t know anyone who has problems with their TV but I also know few people with TVs older than 5 years. TVs are so cheap that it hardly makes sense to repair any but the most expensive sets.

        Have you ever tried to replace the rechargeable battery on an iPod? It can be done but it is a PITA. Apple would much rather you throw out your “dead” iPod and buy a shiny new one.

        Even the suspension on my 5 year old mountain bike can’t be repaired because the manufacturer no longer makes replacement parts.

        As far as my 16 year old truck goes I can find what I need in stock at almost any hour of the day or night and with the exception of major drive train components few parts cost more than $50.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        The fact that folks have only heard of others having a problem – seems to indicate problems with TV’s are pretty rare.

      • 0 avatar
        Chicago Dude

        “The fact that folks have only heard of others having a problem – seems to indicate problems with TV’s are pretty rare.”

        Seriously. If I have to use Google to find people with TV problems we have come a long, long, long, long way in product reliability.

      • 0 avatar
        Marko

        “Have you ever tried to replace the rechargeable battery on an iPod? It can be done but it is a PITA.”

        I’d agree that it’s hard, but if you’re inclined to do it yourself, there are plenty of picture guides online. The tradeoffs of technology…

      • 0 avatar
        dhanson865

        Every TV I’ve ever bought in the last 10 to 15 years still works. From the 27″ tube TVs in the exercise room and bedroom to the 32″ LCD downstairs to the 42″ LCD upstairs (and the 42″ got hit by me when I was Wii boxing).

        I’ve never had a modern TV fail in any way. Now the remote controls on TV’s may have been an issue 10 years ago but universal remotes have made that a non issue. I’m not sure how many years ago it was that I had to deal with a faulty remote instead of just buying a $5 to $10 replacement that worked better than the original.

      • 0 avatar
        Steven Lang

        Same here.

        Only TV I bought was a Black Friday special for $89 about 10 years ago. The other two TV’s we have in the house were given free from a family member, and donated by a friend moving out of town.

        It seemed to me that the 90′s thru early 00′s offered TV’s (the traditional ones) that would last around 15 to 20 years without a major repair. Given that we only use the TV’s a small fraction of the time, it hopefully won’t be until 2020 that we buy another one.

        On the cheap of course.

    • 0 avatar
      Patrickj

      Us greenies have been busy in the central planning committee meetings drafting Obama’s announcement for Friday afternoon. Any car that doesn’t get 40 mpg will be carried off to the crusher by a black helicopter and replaced by a unicycle.

      As for this greenie, because I’m on the inside, they’re letting me keep the 03 Corolla.

  • avatar
    Sammy B

    that’s the funny thing about averages.

    2006 Toyota Matrix
    1996 Infiniti G20
    1984 Toyota Van

    16.67 average. If I replaced both of the newer vehicles with 2012 models…I’d drop all the way to 9.33 — still in Cubanification!

    As people keep collector cars or other “spare” old cars around, even while having newish daily drivers, the average stays high. Not sure if there’s a way to exclude those limited-use vehicles in the data?

    Also consider that the current average means the “average” car is from the mid/late 90s. Mid/late 90s Toyotas & Hondas will last a good long while [and sold very well too]. So we’re in the thick of that era.

  • avatar
    skor

    Yes, cars are older now because they are generally better made….better rustproofing is a big part of it. When I was a boy lots of cars were replaced because they would dissolve after a few Northeast winters. On the other hand, from what I’m seeing lots of folks are hanging onto cars because they have no choice. Sure, it’s easy to rationalize that hanging on to that 15 year old car makes good senses money wise, but I know most of those people would really rather have something new.

    I grew up in Northern New Jersey…Bergen County…..I’ve watched the middle class…which made up the solid majority when I was a kid…….dry up and blow away. The county is now split roughly in half North and South. The Northern part is still well to do. The Southern part is mostly people who barely scrape by.

  • avatar
    JMII

    My garage consists of…

    ’03 Nissan 350Z
    ’02 Dodge Dakota
    ’08 Volvo C30

    All of which are in “like new” condition. I’ve owned the Dakota since new so I’ve kept it serviced properly despite the fact that I don’t turn the wrenches myself. The other vehicles were bought used after wading thru MONTHS of used car listing at cars.com and autotrader.com. For example my Z is a garage queen with only 20K on the clock, took 8 months to find her, but the next gem is just a click away on the ‘net.

    Forums have a wealth of info thus you know the pitfalls and how to fix almost anything without getting raped by the dealer. Thus an old car can live on. With platinum plugs and electronic fuel injection there isn’t much “service” to do on a modern car. 100K on an engine which was once only possible with a little Honda is now commonplace.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Average age for my finance vehicles is right around 13 years.

    A long list of technologies, designs, and assembly processes have helped push the longevity envelope since the late 1980′s.

    These days a car should last 20 years on average if it’s been given reasonable care. This is of course assuming that tin worm isn’t a huge issue.

  • avatar
    340-4

    Lessee… ages are 45, 37, and 10.. for an average of about 31!

    Wow.

    Wonder what the breakdown is by income? That would be a fun list to see. My money is on poorer people keeping cars longer, if what I see out my office window each day is any indicator of what’s going on in America today.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    01 Elantra
    05 xB
    09 Sedona

    = 7 yrs old average. Guess I’m doing better than I thought.

    The aging fleet should make mfrs take a closer look at the transferability of warranties. On one hand, you want to increase the resale value of your vehicles (better reputation), but on the other hand you’d prefer not to pay out for high-mileage warranty repairs.

    So the answer is to just keep building better cars and control costs, but expect that volumes will be lower due to economic distress.

  • avatar
    dejal1

    “what do you call a country where the average age of all cars on the roads is pushing 11 years?”

    Smart?

    We are in a big enough hole as it is. We would be in even worse shape if we were churning through cars at a faster rate.

    If you can’t 200K plus out a car then you aren’t trying very hard.

    • 0 avatar
      JuniperBug

      I agree. As a culture, North America is way upside down on how much money we allocate to our vehicles. On one hand we’re crying about a recession, and on the other we insist on *needing* a huge new luxury SUV for our 1.5 kids. And we *need* 200+ hp in our family sedans for that “high-speed” 70 MPH work commute. Buying these things is fine if you can afford them, but many people nowadays can’t, yet somehow still insist that they need/deserve them.

      If people’s cars are still serving them well and are saving them money versus buying a new one, why should we care that the average fleet age is creeping up? We’ve got much bigger problems to worry about.

      I’ll be hanging on to my very clean ’99 Miata for as long as I reasonably can, even though I could swing the payments on a new one if I wanted. The old one is lighter, looks nicer, and will handle better with the addition of aftermarket suspension, anyway. And then if an aftermarket turbo were to enter the equation…

      • 0 avatar
        Chicago Dude

        “On one hand we’re crying about a recession, and on the other we insist on *needing* a huge new luxury SUV for our 1.5 kids. And we *need* 200+ hp in our family sedans for that “high-speed” 70 MPH work commute.”

        The data suggests that this is more stereotype than reality.

      • 0 avatar
        JCraig

        I remember when 200 hp was quite impressive.

    • 0 avatar
      Toad

      Smart is my answer as well. Thanks in part to more education, more information (internet, Consumer Reports), and possibly Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman many people have figured out that spending $500+ per month in perpetuity on a car is foolish. Buying a quality vehicle and keeping it for a long time is becoming the norm for most middle class people.

      Maybe many of us have seen people that spent lots of money on cars and toys go broke; most middle class people I know now don’t want to be seen as financially reckless.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    I suppose I fall into similar territory, with a 2009, a 2003, and a 1984. The fact that I only bought one tankful of gas for the old RX7 last year doesn’t impact the statistics.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Another reason for this could be because most people aren’t fans of the overly complicated engine bays or safety features of modern cars.

    I say this after speaking to many, many people during my time looking for a used car. They simply don’t want 20 airbags, ridiculous styling, nor cluttered engine bays.

    Modern cars are made to last, but serviceability is laughably difficult.

  • avatar

    Here is a businessman who took his fleet of 1978 Ford trucks to the extreme on long service. http://www.mystarcollectorcar.com/3-the-stars/star-truckin/1350-december-2011-star-truckin-the-first-family-of-1978-ford-ranger-xlt-trucks.html

  • avatar

    You’d think Polk would know better than to use the arithmetic mean for average for a thing like this. Median would be much more meaningful.

    It obviously doesn’t take into account miles driven, either. “Mean age of registered cars” maps pretty poorly to “age distribution of cars you’re likely to see on the road”.

    But since we’re at it:
    ’64 Falcon daily driver
    ’69 Wagoneer backup/dirtwagon
    ’00 Wrangler (for sale!)
    ’12 Mazda5
    = 25 years

  • avatar
    boltar

    In addition to cars being more reliable and longer lasting than in the past, there’s also the fact that we’re obviously on something of a technological cusp. Gas prices are no doubt going up over the next 10 years and the new tech (hybrid) cars are just now clearly getting a growing foothold across the market. Gas mileage numbers for the bulk of cars over tha last few years have been amazingly unchanging: 20s city, low 30s highway. That logjam is only now starting to break.

  • avatar
    Cavalier Type 10

    This may also have a lot to do with people unable to get credit. Ten years ago, a corpse could get a car loan, but then the banks have tightened things up a bit.

    I know of a lot of folks have to keep their cars running, because they wrecked their credit to the point where they can not finance a replacement.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    2002 CR-V
    2004 Impala
    2007 MX5

    The MX5 is a toy of sorts, but I/we drive it as much as reasonable. Her commute is less than 10 miles a day while mine is 100. All our cars are maintained by the book – severe duty.

    Impala and CR-V have been trouble-free, believe-it-or-not, but it’s true that when you get older, you tend to be easier on your vehicles.

    We don’t plan on replacing anything anytime soon, as when we bought these two older cars, we determined that they would be ten-year-cars at a minimum.

  • avatar
    Lokki

    Hmmmm. I think I’m an example of one-foot-in-boiling-water-one-foot-in-ice-water-equals-average.

    I have a 2011 328i with 5K miles on it. Unlike KRhodes above I won’t be keeping it for longer than the warranty as while I’ve had no problems with this one my last two warranted following the “don’t own one of these out of warranty, kids! ” They aren’t as bulletproof as the old E36′s were, which brings is to:

    My wife’s car is a 1998 328i with 61K. She loves it and it’s immaculate. I can’t see any advantage in replacing it given how far she drives per year, its condition, its value, and the cost of a comparable new car. I’ve burned through 3 3-series while she’s owned it.

    As has been said earlier, here in Dallas there’s no rust and if you have covered parking at work as well as at home cars age very gently. I think it’ll last until she gets tired of it and so far, she’s still happy so I just replace anything that even looks wobbly.

    So let’s really skew the averages by adding my 71 Alfa Spider to the mix

    That makes my fleet average 18.3 years old.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      We seem to have similar tastes, I have an ’86 Alfa Spider. And an ’86 GTV 6, and a 74 Spitfire. With the ’93 Volvo 965 that puts my fleet average age at 22.

      Modern BMWs are pretty rust resistant, and I have no commute so I expect mine will age quite well. I use it mostly for long trips.

    • 0 avatar
      texan01

      Yup, my ’95 Explorer still looks newish despite the beginnings of a failing clear coat on the roof. I wax it about once a quarter and it used to live under covered parking all the time, but now it sits outside all the time.

      The climate is harder on interiors in Dallas than it is on metal. Thanks to the average 140 degrees inside temp on a hot summer day.

  • avatar
    theonewhogotaway

    Nothing wrong with older cars. Our 3 cars are:

    ’94 325i vert (made in 10/93 – so it is old enough to vote)
    ’96.5 Cherokee
    ’07 SX% (purchased in ’06)

    That averages out to 13.3 years

  • avatar
    ringomon

    I would like to see the average weighted per miles driven in the most recent year. (That might come out close to the mean, or overemphasize the kind of cars that people use that drive a lot. Not sure until I see it.)

    It’s like the average age of a basketball team. You gotta weigh it by the minutes played on the court, not just the age of all the players on the roster to really know what’s going on.

  • avatar
    Ubermensch

    Unfortunately the tin worm claims a lot of cars around here at or before the 10 year mark. Many are still drivable, but who would want to drive around in a rust bucket unless they have no choice?

    • 0 avatar
      azmtbkr81

      Conversely here in Arizona I see 20 year old cars everyday that have near perfect bodies – I would suspect our average age is much higher than Minnesota or Vermont’s. Engines and transmissions still wear out but those are easier (and often cheaper) to replace than rusted out body panels.

      • 0 avatar
        theonewhogotaway

        back in the days I lived in MN (late 80s, early 90s) pretty much everyone had a “disposable” winter beater car to drive in the winter and kept their newer vehicles in the garage taking them out only on non-salty on the road days… People kept those for a winter and maybe 2 if they were lucky and the things lasted that long.

  • avatar
    cc-rider

    I have a 1995 Mercedes W124 wagon with a C36 engine swap and the wife has a 2003 Corolla. I am working on picking up/rescuing an obscure 89 Mirage turbo.

    Our fleet works out to: 13 years

  • avatar
    brokeguy

    I just sold a 2006 Chevy HHR, so the household fleet looks like this:

    2011 Kia Sorento
    1999 Isuzu Rodeo
    1996 Pontiac Bonneville
    1991 Chevy C1500 pickup

    12.75 years

  • avatar
    DIYer

    I used to donate my older running vehicles to charity, but in 2005 the IRS got tougher and changed the rules. Now, I drive them until the wheels fall off. I have (4) vehicles all purchased when new, all in good condition, with an average age of 14 years:

    ’93 Pontiac Bonneville
    ’93 Firebird Formula
    ’95 Chevy S-10
    ’12 Chevy Silverado 1500

    A salesman from the dealership where I purchased the Firebird stopped by last fall with some discount flyers and business cards, and asked me if I was ready to trade my ’93 in on a new Camaro or Corvette. I told him I’d probably keep driving it another 5 or 10 more years… Not what he wanted to hear.

  • avatar
    j3studio

    Hmm …

    1985 Corvette coupe
    2003 Corvette convertible
    2004 Jaguar X-Type sedan
    2012 Corvette coupe (daily driver)

    So, 11 years. The hilarious thing is that I believe our order of miles for 2012 from most to least will be 2012, 2003, 1985, 2004.

  • avatar
    Dipstick

    My ’98 Explorer failed the safety test because of worn out front brakes and lower ball joints. Got it fixed for $850 tax included. This has been the most I have had to pay for repairs on this car. Now that I think about it you could count all the repairs on one hand.

    1. serpentine belt
    2. Battery cable
    3. Rear brake
    4. Stabilizer bar
    5. Lower ball joints and front brakes

    Never done anything to it beside change the fluids on schedule.It’s been a very reliable car. The interior is leather and in perfect condition. Paint is still shiny – I only wash it once a year.
    I feel guilty only thinking of replacing it. Why should I?
    I mustn’t.
    I won’t.

  • avatar
    alluster

    My Average is right at the national average

    91 Trans-Am : 21 yrs old
    02 Focus : 10 Yrs old
    04 RX-8 : 8 Yrs old
    09 Acadia : 3 Yrs old

    Total 42 yrs divide by 4 cars = 10.5 Years !!
    Sometime this year, all the first three will be replaced by some 2012 model. That will make my average go from 10.5 Years to 1.5!!

  • avatar
    JCraig

    It used to be that every decade made the prior decade’s cars obsolete. Whether technology and/or styling there was a clear distinction. Not the case anymore. The 2000′s cars didn’t do much to make the 90′s cars look bad. They got a little bigger, little more power. I prefer the ’95 Camry over an ’05. So far the 2010′s are doing even less to make the last decade of autos seem obsolete.

    I remember getting my first car in the later 90′s. There was a clear distinction that made 80′s cars obviously old and undesireable. As mentioned above you generally sought out an 80′s Japanese car for your first ride, hopefully one in reasonable shape. Anything else from the 80′s was getting past the experation date. Today, driving around in a 2002 Camcord doesn’t feel terribly different from a new car.

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    Well since everyone is doing it.
    57 chev 210
    91 S10
    2011 Nissan cube
    77 yrs total
    25.66 average
    90% of the miles are on the cube. Intend to drive that till the wheels fall off. 30+mpg.

  • avatar
    Ubermensch

    Wow, you guys own a lot of cars. The wife and I share 1 car and that is enough for us.

  • avatar
    Jellodyne

    Looks like I’m average

    2010 Honda Fit daily driver
    1992 Roadtrek RV (Driven 2-3 weeks a year)

    11 Year Average

  • avatar
    jimperial

    OK, let’s see…
    1966 W112 300SE Coupe 46 years
    1968 W108 280S Sedan (daily driver) 44 years
    1979 W116 450 SEL 6.9 33 years

    All still fit for purpose, by the way.

    Average, somewhere south of Cuba at 41 years. What argument shall I choose to make with this data?

  • avatar
    grayj

    My company vehicle [home builder] is a 2010 Explorer. In the garage is a 2002 Porsche 911 [32k] and my late wife’s 2001 Honda Accord [30k]. I change SUV’s every 6 years. I’m starting to appreciate driving the Accord. Neither the Porsche or Honda has had any problems and both should sit in the garage for a while yet.

  • avatar
    mikey

    I have an 2009 Impala LTZ
    2009 Cobalt 2dr Coupe
    2008 Mustang V6 Convert
    We are in our late fifties, and wifey no longer drives. The Mustang sleeps all winter. The Cobalt, and Impala, are oil sprayed every fall.

    Parts, and repairs, for all three cars are cheap and available.

    I figure with carefull maintenance, and a little luck, I may never have to buy another car.

    • 0 avatar
      skor

      “The Cobalt, and Impala, are oil sprayed every fall.”

      Oil sprayed? Explain.

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        http://www.autorepairwiz.com/when-should-i-oil-spray-my-car/

        My Dad should have done this to his A body Celebrity and then it wouldn’t have been iron oxide so quickly.

      • 0 avatar
        mikey

        @ I live in Southern Ontario they use lots of salt on the roads.

        So…you get a pro to drill stratigic holes to excess quarter panels,inner doors etc. Then you spray a rust inhibting oil everywhere. Floor pans,shock towers, rocker panels. Fuel, and brake lines, are a must.

        The downside is a oily sticky mess,on your drive way. The oil seeps out of every nook and cranny. Nothing a little TLC and elbow grease can’t fix though.

        The upside?….You will get a lot more years out or your vehicle.

        Rust will eat a BMW as quick as it will an F 150.Yearly Oil spray is the only treatment.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Oil spray? Huh. I’ve heard of Z-Bart – not sure if they’re even around anymore, but I have never heard of that – and nice to see you post again. It’s been a while!

      I have not seen that offered in the Cincinnati area.

      While I “enjoy” (yeah, right) my 100-mile R/T commute, wifey only has less than 10 miles R/T. Go figure…

      • 0 avatar
        zenith

        Ziebart is crap! I made the mistake of buying a ziebarted Plymouth Voyager years ago and the idiots who applied it it Kansas City, plugged body drains, resulting in rear quarter rust-out.
        The famous “guarantee for life” didn’t state anywhere in it that 2nd owners had to register in 30 days or they are out of luck, and customer dis-service at the national level was no help.
        Further, the spray got into the window risers–not noticeable til the first sub-freezing day when the windows took 2 hands to crank.
        Taking off the inner door panels and dissolving the mess in copious amounts of WD40 helped a lot, but given that the door panels weren’t THAT hard to remove and that Ziebart charged hundreds of mid-80s $ for their “service”, they should have removed inner panels and carefully applied the product instead of drilling holes all over and indiscriminately spraying. This applies to 1/4 panels, too as the inner plastics there weren’t that difficult to remove/replace, either.
        I sincerely hope that those a–holes are out of business by now.

  • avatar

    I’m doing my part:

    1937 Plymouth
    1959 Ford
    1967 SAAB
    1967 SAAB
    1968 SAAB
    1978 KV
    1980 KV
    1981 HMV (legally a motorcycle, but three-wheeled and fully enclosed)
    1982 MG

    Their average age is just over 43 years, which is also pretty much the median. Curiously it’s the oldest and youngest (both completely stock) that see the most use as daily drivers.

  • avatar
    Syke

    If we’re talking fleet averages, I have to include my motorcycles, as they’re used in rotation with the automobiles for the daily commute. For obvious reasons, I’m not counting the ’69 Honda Super 90 (it’s workday commute is one or two days a year):

    ’69 Triumph Bonneville
    ’87 Porsche 924S (127k)
    ’95 Triumph Trident (108k on this puppy)
    ’98 Harley Springer Softail
    ’03 Ford Ranger
    ’05 Scion xB

    19 years average

  • avatar
    AJ

    I’m actually surprised by the (only) 10.8 years? I can see that growing. As much as my wife wants a new WK2 (Grand Cherokee), I’m to the point that I’m done with car payments. Their such bad investment and I’ve spent too much on them to begin with. :)

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

      @AJ Your not alone in your thinking. In our working years,it was a constant car payment/payments. I paid cash for a couple of vehicles,then got killed on resale.

      These days, money is not so plentifull.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Here it is: the populations older, drives slower and makes the ride last longer…

  • avatar
    Wheeljack

    My “fleet” (all mine – no spouse to drive them) includes:

    1988 Merkur Scorpio (owned since 1998)
    2002 Jeep Wrangler Sahara (owned since ’05)
    2003 Dodge Stratus (bought used in ’03)
    2006 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon (Bought in early 2010)

    Seems I’m a bit above average thanks to my old Merkur.

    The Stratus is my winter beater/daily driver, although if I can fix the A/C in the Merkur for a reasonable cost, it may become the daily driver in the nice weather to spare some miles on the Stratus. Can’t live without A/C around here. AirCon notwithstanding, everything else on the
    Merkur actually works and once I get some new tires, I would drive it anywhere without fear.

    The Jeeps are my toys and both are modified to one degree or another. The ’02 is a bit more dog-eared than the ’06, and as such it sees harder off-road use. The ’06 was the end result of a 8-month long quest to find the rarest of the rare among 1997-06 Wranglers – a Rubicon Unlimited. They were only made 2 model years and number around 12,000 in total production. Mine had a mere 9,300 miles on it and was in perfect condition when bought, and today only has about 3,500 added to that.

    The ’06 Rubicon is a vehicle I fully intend to have when I’m eligible to retire in about 20 years, and I plan on minimizing the mileage it accumulates in that time all while lavishing it with excellent care. It’ll be interesting to see the reaction to it when the time comes. In the meantime, the ’02 Wrangler can satisfy my occasional desire for a top-down cruise on a nice day or a hard charge down a trail or crawl through a rock garden.

  • avatar
    FuzzyPlushroom

    The ’92 745T is my daily driver, built two decades ago last autumn. With my former-DD-now-project ’89 244DL added in, they average 21.6 years. That’s only twice the American average, though, and clearly some folks here put me to shame.

  • avatar
    AoLetsGo

    Better rust protection and reliability has already been mentioned and I think they are the two biggest factors. I also think leasing is also playing a part since the Big 3 (2.5 whatever) have cut way back on their cheap lease deals the last few years. Personally, since I have a Detroit mixed marriage (my family is 3 generations of Ford workers and hers is all GM) we have always had one of each on the best lease deal going at the time.

  • avatar
    steveua

    What’s with the new car hate? I love my new car purchases. I understand depreciation, the loss of capital, money spent never to come back, but I look at it like a hobby, an expensive hobby that gives me great joy and satisfaction and enjoyment. I enjoy driving and owning different new cars on a regular basis, when possible, and it is a little hard to spend my money when I am six feet underground.

    My new car hobby is no different (or less appreciable) than say,somebody who owns a 12-year old Accord, but is obsessed with say, motorized RC cars, and spends thousands a year on h[is][er] expensive hobby. Or owns horses. Talk about a money pit.

    Apparently it is okay to own an ancient car in the name of frugality, only to leak thousands a year on other BS like premium-package cable, your WOW obsession, the fastest internet connection possible, a new iphone every year with the requisite $130/month 2-year contract, eating out every day, $4 latte’s every day, etc. The emperor’s new frugality.

    Cars are not an investment, it should always be understood that the money spent on a car is never coming back. But unless you want to drive around in a 10-year T-bond, it should be viewed as an investment in something that gives you great joy and happiness rather than a physical artifice of fiscal safeguarding. I love cars, and I buy them all the time, and that is why I read this blog, not to hear a bunch of altruistic crowing from a group of niggardly skinflints bragging on the mean age of their purchases.

    I feel like I am reading a bunch of blog posts from my grandad “damnit son, don’t flip that lightswitch, that’s one less time that lightswitch will work.” If I was reading the ‘new depression era blog of awesome money saving’ that would be fine, but I am ostensibly ingesting a rag about the greatness that is the car, not glowing praise for how long can you make your vehicular appliance run. if you had purchased a Vincent black shadow, and wanted to share how you had kept it running and like new for 45 years, awesome. But please, I cannot share your enthusiasm for your 1997 Honda Accord or your Volvo 240d. This is not the great depression, and we are not tom joad. And this is not the ‘rage against the new car machine’ blog. At least I thought, anyway.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      Or owns horses. Talk about a money pit.

      Or my uber-frugal friend with the boat. Dude – it’s a hole in the water into which you throw money – you might want to get off your high horse.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      I don’t hate new cars. Well, not all of them, anyway. I bought my Mazda3 new, in 2004. I can’t imagine ever reaching the point where I don’t want it anymore. At this point, it’s like an old friend. It has been with me through a lot of good and bad times. I’ve never paid anyone else to touch it, and I feel I know it quite well mechanically. I’ve also made many modifications to get it to the point where very little about it annoys me (it still needs an LSD though). A new car would have even more annoyances than mine did when new, with all the extra nannies that would have to be disabled. I just don’t understand how you can reach a point where you no longer love your vehicle enough to keep it, unless it’s simply worn out. Did you make some mistake in purchasing that particular vehicle in the first place? Is it unreliable? Have you put no effort into making it work exactly how you want it to?

      I wouldn’t mind giving it a brother or sister – like a Miata or S2000 or NSX or a Forester XT for winter fun – but I can’t afford to have two vehicles right now. If I could, I’d still have my ’98 Pathfinder 5-speed for winter use.

      I’d also much rather drive a manual transmission 1997 Accord than any new Accord!

    • 0 avatar
      JCraig

      Agreed! Although my current car is the first one bought new fresh off the boat, it is the latest in over a dozen I’ve had the pleasure of owning over the last 14 years. Some people have a passion for their car, and some have a passion for cars. The more cars I try out the better. No descrimination here, so far they’ve included just about every make and type of car. I just want to try them all! Grand Cherokee, Accord, Tacoma, Avenger (coupe), 9-5 wagon, BMW, a few Mazdas, even a Beretta, and now my second Hyundai. It would take some concentration to think of them all, and I enjoyed every one. And guess what, maintenance costs have never been an issue for me! Not claiming that this has saved me money overall but it’s a lot more fun to just buy something else instead of dumping money into a car. If you can find something to love in a Beretta then you MUST love cars!

      To each his own, but a love of cars is not always a rational thing, and life is short.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      I suppose one thing that helps to scratch any itch is all the test driving I’ve done to help friends choose vehicles. The latest purchases among the group have been two B8 MT S4s and a C6 Z06. Certainly fun to drive occasionally, but they just don’t feel like home the way my Mazda does. I hope the owners enjoy them enough to keep them for a long time though. One of the S4s replaced a beat-up ’97 Civic with a dead cylinder. The other replaced a Pilot that was originally purchased only to make the wife (now gone) happy and is no longer necessary. The same guy bought the Z06 as a toy, joining an ’02 SLP Firehawk that was purchased new with plans to keep forever, so I don’t expect he’ll ever want to part with the Z06 either.

      I also happen to take pleasure in having an old car that works better than the day it was purchased. It doesn’t take much effort or money if you simply take care of it in the first place.

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      Whatever floats your boat. I happily drive a ’99 Honda (CR-V 5MT) at 235K miles. The luxury marques? Nice for certain… Not nice enough to want to pay for them but nice. I’m concentrating on our mortgage payoff, not cars. Not daily drivers anyhow. I have two antiques that I am restoring but they’ll pay for themselves if I ever need to sell them b/c I am doing the work, not paying a shop $50-$75 per hour to restore them for me.

      I think if you want to admire expensive toys you’ll need to join a social club that attracts well-to-do folks with similar disposable incomes – see the turn of the 1900s – b/c it looks like for the foreseeable future, there will be a sizable number of people content and only able to drive 10+ year old cars.

      Sure, I come to TTAC to read about fancy cars but I also come here to read about people’s solutions to life with a modest daily driver too. $50K luxury cars are nice but I can read about them all day in the magazines – especially marque specific mags like “Excellence” (Porsche). Then i can read about factory correct restorations that take into account every last detail imaginable. Cars so nice they don’t get driven, cars so perfect that the 19 miles on the odometer since it was built 50 years ago are from rolling off and on the trailer – accumulated 20 feet at a time. No thanks.

      What is great about TTAC is a helping of the fancy cars AND a helping of the everyman cars too. Tell me about that 1987 Honda Accord. I had one too. Tell me about that Chevette, my grandfather stubbornly drove one when he could have afforded so much better. Tell me about that Olds diesel that everyone still points at as a GM failure that no one born before 1990 will forget.

      My family can afford a nice new car if we want to. We don’t want to yet – not enough to pay for one yet when the old daily drivers are doing fine. We’ve been steadily employed, isolated from the recession through careful planning and a helping of luck. We’ve cut our family miles, incorporated carpooling over the past few years, and frankly at the pace we’re raking up miles now, we’ll get another decade out of our old CR-V I think. And the mortgage will be long gone.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    I blame Dave Ramsey, God Bless Him!

    That, and the fact that we are going through a bad styling phase, IMO. It seems to me that there are not a lot of attractive new cars out there. Not attractive enough to make me get all romantic and forget that keeping my old Land Cruiser is just too darn cheap compared to a depreciation on a new one, or anything else.

    We will be getting a new A5, which actually is a good looking car, because my wife is younger, and still in love with having a beautiful car, but for me I can’t seem to find anything that will be worth upgrading. I refuse to go back to the Germans and their planned obsoloscence. I refuse to support the UAW. The FJ cruiser looks nice, but my 97 is more comfortable and cheaper to own.

    I may just have to have it rebuilt. It’s getting about that time, and it simply may be the smartest move. My other thought is to go even older and get something chipless. That defeats most of the regular repair bills and reduces all the rest. I am not much of a mechanic, but I can see through most BS repair salesman when they can’t hide behind those damned codes.

  • avatar
    redmondjp

    Well, let’s see:

    1979 Chevy K20 (for sale, but driving it now during Snopocalypse 2012)
    1990 F350 (the “new” truck, at 11mpg for occasional use only)
    1996 Civic LX sedan (my DD)
    1996 Passat TDI sedan (dead in driveway, waiting for IP seal)
    1996 Passat TDI sedan (parts car, no engine)
    2000 Odyssey (parts car, dead cylinder and tranny going out)
    2001 Odyssey (wife’s DD)
    2001 Lesabre (my alternate DD when I need an American big car fix)

    My newest cars are now 11 years old, and I’m perfectly fine with that. No $300 ignition keys, PAX tires, and infotainment systems that will be obsolete in 5 years. And NO car payments, ever!

    I plan on keeping at least 2-3 of my existing cars running for another ten years. No joke. No plans on buying anything else, unless some screaming deal comes my way. And I’ve never paid more than $7K for a car in my life.

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      Wew’re going to keep driving our well worn daily driver and back that up with our second well worn daily driver. We car pool so we seldom need the second car. Today is the first time the second car has been at work in six months.

  • avatar
    namstrap

    This must really be Cuba North.
    My wife has a 1989 Grand Caravan with about 260000 kms on it, and I drive a 1993 Suzuki Swift that I wish I’d bought brand new and not allowed to be misused. Absolutely love that little car. Leaks air through the door seals, and a whole bunch of other little bothers, but one of the best cars I’ve ever owned. I just put
    a new timing belt and water pump in it, and as long as rust doesn’t completely take over, I expect to drive it for another 100000 kms.
    It just seems to have more character than any new thing I’ve driven.
    I work for a dealership so I get to drive new stuff, but somehow it doesn’t interest me.

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    Eleven years, that’s a 2001 model. That was a pretty good vintage for cars. Air-bagged for safety, but not overcomplicated with “infotainment,” “connectivity” and “interfaces.” Most cars has better visibility than now, and no dashboard video screens making simple tasks more distracting. “Bangle” wasn’t yet a verb. For these reasons and more, I expect I’ll be driving 2000-2005 cars for a very long time.

  • avatar
    AoLetsGo

    One more plug for leasing:
    I don’t have a garage, fancy tools, or any mechanical aptitude.
    I drive them hard in the salt, snow and heat and leave em outside wet and filthy.
    Interior spills and dirt – who cares.
    No dealership outrageous repairs or listening to lies from the local shop mechanic.
    They measure miles not hours so get the remote start for a warm car on a cold day.
    It’s fun to shop and just hand over the keys and get a brand new one every 2 or 3 years.

  • avatar
    pdieten

    Could have something to do with the general aging of the American population. I think many older folks maybe don’t trade vehicles so quickly as when they’re younger.

    My parents are still keeping their ’01 Chrysler Voyager maintained instead of trading it in. Dad says this is because it’s not worth anything in trade even though it’s still in like-new condition, so no sense getting rid of it. But I know he looks at new cars sometimes. Still, Mom’s comfortable with the van, so there it is.

    My mother-in-law is tooling around in a ’92 Roadmaster and she won’t give it up either. She drives it all the time, yet it still hasn’t gotten rusty up here in Wisconsin. I don’t know if she can even get a new vehicle anyway. She has trouble climbing into vehicles with wide door sills like my Taurus, and all cars seem to come that way now.

    I guess I’m below average. ’04 Durango, ’09 Taurus. But they’ll both be around for quite a long time yet. For whatever reason I tend to get sick of cars when they hit about 11 years old and 150K miles, that seems to be when they need enough expensive maintenance that I’d rather just get something newer. Maybe it will be different with these two and they’ll stick around longer.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      Actually I think it has a lot more to do with the current economic situation in America.

      By some estimates more than 29 million people have been directly affected by the current downturn and are either unemployed, under-employed, or totally discouraged and no longer looking to be employed.

      If you factor in the people age 62 and older who chose early retirement, because they could, that eliminates another sizable group no longer buying new cars but who choose to keep their old cars going and keep money in the bank.

      And everyone knows that you can keep any car running forever if you replace the broken or worn-out parts in them. That’s why retailers like Autozone, O’Reilly’s, Kragen, RockAuto, et al, do such a booming business. I’ve given them all a lot of my money over the years to keep my cars going. But no more. None of my current cars are older than a 2008 Highlander.

      I have a friend in a nearby town who owns a 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee, but he also has a 1989 Camry and a 1993 Chevy S-10 that he has kept running for decades.

      And although he’s got the money to buy one, he’s not going to buy a new truck until the wheels fall off his S-10. He figures he’s got so much money tied up in that truck to keep it running that it he can’t afford to replace it.

  • avatar
    oldyak

    8.5 years???
    I can only surmise that the Germans have such a wealth of great cars that they don’t need to keep the old ones…
    And they have little or no love for a foreign brand in their home country.
    While I don’t think of my 12 and 15 year old BMW`s as being anywhere near the end of their useful lives,this is the U.S. where if it looks good and drives good..why replace it?
    Maybe this somewhat explains why Saab wasn’t saved buy the Swedes..they just have so much to choose from.
    my 2 cents

  • avatar
    Xeranar

    Light trucks are killing the average more than anything else. When the top 2 selling vehicles in the US are the F-Series and Silverado they are inevitably going to drive the average fleet age up as most of them end up in service for 20+ years. I see far more mid-90s clean Silverados/F-Series than I ever see of Accords or Camrys. If anything I see an overwhelming number of new cars and SUVs and 10+ year old trucks. I would imagine if we removed light trucks the US would probably be YOUNGER than Germany simply because of our lifestyle and economic choices.

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    It ain’t cheap, but it is easy. Sometimes you don’t want a new car, but new parts in your car.

    The science of rebuilding a vehicle’s powertrain was perfected decades ago, and the proliferation of adjustable aftermarket suspension systems means you can bring an older car’s ride to equivalence with a modern family sedan, if not today’s high performance variants. Replacement door seals and aftermarket sound deadening provide modern levels of noise insulation, and replacement upholstery materials are superior even when compared to what the best luxury cars of 15 years ago were equipped with.

    An older vehicle can be quickly brought up to today’s power and efficiency levels with a plethora of fully warranted crate engine and transmission packages featuring fuel injection, variable valve timing and cylinder deactivation technology. The more talented hot rodders and car crafters have created their own traction and yaw control systems integrated with retrofitted ABS, and it won’t be long before some enterprising individual will figure out how to offer that level of functionality in a user adjustable box for the market. If you wish to keep an older engine series under the hood there are numerous ways to modernize its induction system, from the popular Megasquirt DIY EFI circuit boards to self contained TBI units designed to replace the carburetor atop an existing intake manifold.

    While the shaft-mounted aftermarket radio has gone to the same graveyard as the DIN.5 GM/Chrysler specific chassis (yes, I know there are a few shaft-mounted kits now but I forget who makes them), today’s single- and double-DIN units provide similar levels of modern convenience when compared to new automobile offerings, with integrated Bluetooth, voice and on-screen navigation, traffic and weather alerts, HD Radio/DAB extensions and Android/iOS application compatibility, not to mention standard MP3/WMA/WAV and USB compatibility (and any radio which can’t support those isn’t worth mentioning anyway) and the aftermarket has already skipped ahead by abandoning SD card slots in favor of Micro-SD card readers.

    For those who enjoy their older motor vehicle, or who wish to update their classic or clunker, it’s not cheap to roll your own, but it can be even more fun than buying new. You also get to paint it the color you truly want.

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      Yes, the classic can be updated but visit YouTube and watch the crash test between a 1958 Chevy and a 2008 Chevy. We have classic cars in the family and I think of that everytime I climb in one. Even with the updates and upgrades – if you go back far enough – the old cars are no where near as safe as something built since ABS and dual airbags became standard on most cars. I’m currently restoring an antique with another on standby. I have done a fair bit of soul searching about whether I want to put my family in that classic and go anywhere over 20 mph.

      I feel safe in the vehicle. I’m not going to run off the road. the vehicle is not going to suddenly explode. Something is not going to spontaneously fail. It’s the other guy that worries me. Too many distracted drivers with no sense of self-responsibility. Maybe cars have gotten so safe that we take our safety for granted.

  • avatar
    dhanson865

    If you count my dad’s truck sitting in my driveway right now (that I’ll likely inherit any day now as he is 71 and in poor health) my household fleet is:

    1992 Nissan Pickup D21
    1998 Saturn SL2
    2005 Toyota Prius

    20 years old truck (engine has been rebuilt twice)
    14 years old car (no major repairs in the last 7 years* at 118K)
    7 years old car (no major repairs in the life of the vehicle 86K)

    So call it 14 years average or median with the truck in the mix or 10 years average without the truck.

    * The Saturn does use oil now. It’ll likely still be a drivable car down the road but I’d rather not have to top up the oil between oil changes.

    Odds are when the old man goes we’ll try to sell the pickup and the Saturn and grab another fuel efficient used 4 door car like the Prius. Dunno if it’ll be another 2005 or something newer.

    Lets say in 2014 my fleet is

    2005 Toyota Prius (105K)
    2005-2007 Toyota Prius (95K)

    My average car age would be 8 or 9 years but then I’d be keeping both until they wouldn’t run at all. I’m expecting the Prius to stay worth repairing well into the 300K range and assuming no accidents or unexpected failures I could drive that 2005 until the 2015 Prius C becomes the equivalent of today’s Saturn SL2 (a cheap beater). I don’t think I’ll ever change the brake pads on it but if I do it’ll be worth every penny because at that point the car will be well past the highest mileage vehicle I’ve ever owned.


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