By on August 9, 2013

Heartland-Advisors-Average-Age-of-Cars-in-US

The age of the American car and light truck fleet is the oldest it’s ever been, according to data firm R.L. Polk. Polk said in 2012 the average age all light vehicles on U.S. roads was 11.4 years, up from 11.2 years in 2011, and 10.9 years in 2010, the eleventh straight annual increase.

 

The average is based on registration data for 247 million vehicles. If you go back 11.4 years from 2012, you end up around 2000-2001 when 17.2 million vehicles were sold, the all-time record for the U.S. market. Sales in 2004-2005 were almost as good. Combine those figures with the 27 year low of under 10.5 million units sold in the recessionary year of 2009 and vehicles’ increased durability with 200,000 miles of usable service a fairly common occurrence nowadays, and it easy to understand why the fleet is aging. Cars last longer and for economic reasons Americans are trying to eke out a few more miles from their current vehicles. Still, the phrase “pent-up demand” is starting to be heard around the industry. Polk predicts that registrations will increase 5% by 2018, to 260 million cars and light trucks, surpassing the previous record of 250 million in 2008.

 

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66 Comments on “American Fleet Aging, Polks Says Average Now 11.4 Years Old, A Record...”


  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    Can another cash for clunkers program be coming? After all, there are a lot of mandatory “features” lacking in pre-2005 cars, including tire pressure nannies and the traceable electronics needed for pay-per-mile to work.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      Oh gosh, can’t stand the pressure moniters, that and seatbelt chimes, does no one realize that driving around the land doesn’t require a seatbelt?

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      I never get the hate over tire pressure monitoring sensors? Most of it seems to be the ”I check my air pressure so I don’t want or need the added expense imposed by the feds” which I can understand but the tpm sensors offer added convenience in much the same way an oil pressure gauge and water temp gauge do when a vehicle is travelling down the road as it continuously monitors the pressure in the tire.

      I’ve yet to meet a person who; a) can reach outside the car with a gauge and measure the pressure while driving down the road and b) the person who religiously checks the pressure in their tires at a pre determined amount of time or distance or even see people checking their pressure as part of their normal routine of filling the tank ( I’ve seen more people check the oil in such a case) or hitting a rest stop ( with the exception of somebody carrying a trailer, especially an overloaded one).

      I check my tire pressure monthly, but I rarely inspect the tires ( as in jack a corner of the car up and thoroughly inspect the tread for punctures or damage ) with the same frequency unless there is a/glaring issue and in a couple of cases the tpm sensors have saved me a costly tire replacement as previously unknown tire punctures surfaced after the object was ejected from the tire ( which they tend to do when you go really damn fast) or at worst being phone or dash can fodder.

      • 0 avatar
        jhefner

        1. TPS sensors are throwaway sensors, moreso than others. The end result is false positives and needless worry, which is what my wife has with her Durango.

        2. Hers at least does not tell you *which* tire is low; so you need a tire gauge anyway. It is more of a bother than a help.

        • 0 avatar
          dolorean

          Totally disagree. I’ve had TPMS on three cars now and have found them invaluable; to the point that I may ask Ford to retrofit my ’95 Cobra with them.

          • 0 avatar
            th009

            The ABS-type TPMS systems do not indicate actual pressure but can tell you which tire has low pressure.

            And they have no throw-away sensors.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            They may as well be throw away, rarely will all 4 last the life of the set.

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        I disagree, besides the in reliability, they don’t know what I want my tire pressure at, our work trucks have them, they don’t need 60+ psi that may be needed if the 3/4 was towing, therefore I have to decide if I want a better ride or an annoying light.

        Same for the beach, I drop the pressure down for the sand and tend to leave it low even on the roads around, 20 psi is fine if ill only be putting 500 or so miles on it going to attractions, grocery store or w/e else that I have to leave the beach to get to.

        I can tell if a tire is low, aside from feeling it in the steering I can SEE if it needs more air, it doesn’t know what I want.

        • 0 avatar
          raph

          Dodge if I remember correctly had a switch in the glove box for that as they are one of the few manufacturers that list tire pressures for commuting and hauling.

          Unfortunately Ford and GM don’t make the same distinction and their TPMS systems reflect that.

          And while it might be easy for you to tell in a truck when tires are low or flat, the same isn’t necessarily true for vehicles fitted with low aspect ratio high performance tires (especially cheaper brands that utilize much harder rubber in the sidewalls to enhance cornering) where the tire doesn’t readily communicate its low pressure until the tire has suffered significant structural failure due to low air pressure.

      • 0 avatar
        Reino

        My hate over TPMS has nothing to do with those mentioned. It is because of the extra $7 per tire that Big O charges me every time I swap my summer and winter tires. That turns a $50 expense into a $78 expense (thats a 56% increase for those playing at home). It is a government mandated racket that tire businesses are happy to employ.

      • 0 avatar
        Power6

        The hate of the TPMS is for those who switch wheels around.

        I’m a fan of the TPMS but it was a pain in my WRX, I had summer and winter wheels/tires. I had to pay extra to buy a second set of TPMS and put them in the spare wheels. Then I have to take it to the tire shop every time I switch wheels, so they can set the TPMS sensors. If I want to do it at home, I had to buy a $100 tool to program the TPMS IDs into the computer. If the sensors are already inside the tires and I need the sensor IDs to enter into the tool, I need to buy another $100 tool to read those. So it was about $400 investment to have another set of wheels with snows.

        I realize some other cars remember 8 or more tires, let you set the sensors yourself, etc. but any mfr that takes the cheap way out (Subaru did) does not have that capability, the requirements from the gov have no provision whatsoever to make the whole thing owner-friendly.

        The ABS based systems were easy, but didn’t directly read pressure so don’t meet the law. However it appears VW has found a way to meet the letter of the law here without sensors, my coworker showed me his Golf has a button in the glove box for tire pressure reset. It uses an ABS system, as long as you use the reset button when you set the pressure, it can tell you when a tire is too low. Good on VW for getting around it, if my Subaru had a useful system like this that worked with any tires I put on the vehicle, I would have been ecstatic.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      TPMS should show pressure in each wheel, which mine does, and once you calibrate its reading vs a more accurate pressure gauge it’s good to have.

      • 0 avatar
        SunnyvaleCA

        I wish I could recalibrate mine. My new set are reading about 4 PSI low. If I inflate to the manufacturer’s recommended amount, the TPMs are likely to go off (because of reading 4 psi low). This not only sounds an annoying alarm, but makes the system useless because the alarm doesn’t sound again if the tires go any lower.

        Why on earth can’t the sensors have a replaceable battery? This, to me, is absolutely insane. Porsche, being Porsche, charges $200 per sensor. I got 3rd party ones for a “mere” $45 per. Sensors typically last 5 to 7 years, so that’s a considerable expense.

    • 0 avatar
      ezeolla

      Don’t worry, the NHTSA will just recall all of those cars so the new technology can be put in

  • avatar
    morbo

    Damned Panther love. Indestructible cars ruining the economy.

  • avatar
    FractureCritical

    I have a 12 year old car.
    well, I have most of it.
    NJDOT’s policy of salting to clear running water has somewhat diminished the car’s curbweight over the years.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    I can say with relative confidence that the average car on sale today will last longer than the average car of five, ten, or fifteen years ago. While a lot of the aging might be people hanging onto their cars longer, that’s only possible because fewer cars are rusting out and/or dying young.

    • 0 avatar
      Power6

      I’m interested why you think that? I am thinking maybe late 90s early 2000s was a sort of peak when the mfrs mastered engine control, suspension systems etc, to the point that they work well no matter what future conditions and run durably. Since then it seems the focus has been on reduced manufacturing cost, cheaper materials, the usual emissions and economy concerns, and technology.

      For example I can’t think of anything, lets just pick say a BMW, that a 2013 3-series has that makes it more reliable than a 2001 3-series.

      I might be biased from driving around in a 2001 Lexus, but it looks to use thicker panels, durable and probably less environmentally friendly paint that doesn’t chip easy, trivial rust so far. Interior materials are simple but durable. Engine works great, good ol 4 speed automatic chugging right along. I really can’t think of anything the newer car has to be longer lasting, though that stuff can be unseen. The newer cars do have more speeds, more power, more screens, better handling, safety features of course.

      I just can’t see what advancements in reliability have been made, and why an automaker would care when the loans are 6 years at most and then the second owner can deal with it. Toyota and Mercedes may have overbuilt their cars in the past but not anymore.

      • 0 avatar
        dont.fit.in.cars

        I have a 02 camry v6, full kit, 160k, averaging 25 mpg and for he life of me I cannot find any new car (v6) that is better. New Interior design is maddening. The god forsaken center console has risen enough to simulate a fighter cockpit and I do not physically fit. My world for a 2000 Buick LeSaber

  • avatar
    wreath and crest

    But at the same time,at some point,expensive electronics will financially total some cars.Especially high line cars

  • avatar
    brettc

    I guess I’m partly to blame on this. We own a 2000 Jetta TDI that we bought used in 2004. It has 185xxx miles, so there’s still lots of life left on the engine. But we’re looking to replace it because the wife is getting kind of bored with it and its crank windows after 9 years. We’ll likely buy a new Jetta at the end of the year (I’m hoping to get a deal on Dec. 31). We will be going to test drive the new 1.8TSI Jetta tomorrow. Might even test drive a Dodge Dart just for S&Gs. Won’t buy until December though because we want to save up longer to minimize the amount financed.

    So if a 2000 Jetta (supposedly one of the crappiest VWs in the recent past) can last for 14 model years with regular maintenance, what do the car companies expect with what they’re selling now? They better get used to a long fleet life. I guess this means there could be more cash dumped on hoods to move product in the future, or another cash for clunkers like Lorenzo suggests.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    I think the “pent up demand” theory is wishful thinking, not sound economics. The price of a new car takes a bigger piece of someone’s income today I(hence the 48, 60 and 72 month loans), so people –as a group — are going to keep them longer. And, yes, it does help that running a car for 100,000 miles is not a big deal today and does not require heroic efforts as it did 20, 30, 40 years ago. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, my father, not a spendthrift by any means, never managed to keep a car more than 6 years (’57 Chevrolet). His first Volvo (a 1970) he kept for over 10 years; but it became my parents’ second car after they bought a new Volvo in 1977.

    As the owner of a 2001 BMW, I can’t really see the case for a newer car. Yes, the newer ones get a little better fuel economy and have spiffier “entertainment/infomatics systems” but, being a troglodyte, I don’t give a damn about them. I have a cell phone with a Bluetooth earpiece; and the new version of Google maps for the I-phone is far easier to use and better than my Garmin GPS . . . and who in the world would pay $1,000 for an in-car navigation system?

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      I agree that the ‘pent-up demand’ theory is wishful thinking.

      Reality tells me that the aging car fleet is due to a weak economy, nothing more. There may be troglodites like you whose practicality makes them hang on to old cars just because they’re still OK, but most Americans have a ‘get it now’ mentality. If people’s wallets were flush, they’d be buying newer cars. Today’s longer payment terms validate this.

      • 0 avatar
        J.Emerson

        “The aging car fleet is due to a weak economy”

        If that’s true, then how do you explain the graph at the top of the page? This seems to be the logical progression of a long-standing trend, through both good times and bad.

        The same goes for lengthening terms of loans. If a car isn’t junk at 6 years old anymore, I see no reason why loan terms shouldn’t reflect that. The length of the term reflects the useful life of the consumer good as much as it does the creditworthiness of the consumer.

        • 0 avatar
          dolorean

          I believe this may be in part with the trend of the youth-unemployment bulge (much higher with 18-26 yr olds than to higher ages) and the new tendancy for those of that age to not purchase a car or even go for a driver’s license. That’s a significant amount of possible consumers not shopping for the now glut of used and new cars and the growing trend for the big car makes to go back to fighting for the once snubbed entry-level, sub-compact market.

        • 0 avatar
          OE Supplier Veteran

          J.Emerson (Ozzie..?), I echo your thoughts with respect to what the graph is telling us. And it’s pretty easy, for me at least, to understand why. I own three vehicles, 4, 9, and 17 years old respectively (which averages 10.0, not 11.4, but I digress…). They were chosen for specific reasons (styling, function, performance) and all are reliable, comfortable, and for the most part rust-free (NB: in Canada). I feed them gas, oil, filters, tires, brakes, and the odd tie-rod end, and they perform their respective remits without incident. I have no compelling reason to contemplate transacting any of them, even though I could afford to, and therefore their average age will increase one year per year for the foreseeable future. I suspect some variation of this thought process is playing out on a larger scale.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      ….And, yes, it does help that running a car for 100,000 miles is not a big deal today and does not require heroic efforts as it did 20, 30, 40 years ago….

      Make that 30 or 40. By the mid 80s when fuel injection helped solve cold start fuel washdown wear, things started looking much better. Couple that with designs that did not rot out, high mileage became much easier to attain. One of my cars is 21 years old and still reliable.

  • avatar
    Nick_515

    Blame? You are partly to THANK for this. More cars on the road is terrible news from just about every perspective.

    Glad to hear about your Jetta… but I can imagine it also clatters pretty noisily in cold mornings at this point. Good luck with your plans for a new one. I didn’t even know the 1.8 TFSI has descended upon us.

    • 0 avatar
      brettc

      Yes, it does clatter very loudly, which is one of the things I miss about my 2012 TDI and something I liked about the Cruze Diesel. Our dog always knows when my wife is close to the driveway… We’ve joked that he won’t know what to do when she gets a new one.

      The 1.8TSI has just started showing up at dealers in the 2014 Jetta. My local dealer has 5 on the lot right now, along with a ton of 2013s with the 2.5 but we have no interest in the thirsty 2.5. We could wait until next summer to replace it, but the boss wants something a little sooner.

  • avatar
    Speed3

    Likely a combination of multiple factors: weak economy, flat and declining wages, better reliability, and more expensive cars.

    The chart shows a pretty linear increase in the age of the fleet…If the economy was the ONLY factor, then the rate that the average age of cars increase should at least slow during quicker times and speed up during recession.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    Cars in the late ’90s and 2000s were actually rust proofed for one thing. It is rare to see an ’80s car as a daily driver, but no one looks twice at a ’96 Accord.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Hondas of that vintage still tend to rust around the rear fender–the way the bumper wraps around to form the lower portion in back of the tire traps moisture and crud between it and the steel quarter-panel. The red stuff usually follows by this point unless one is careful to keep that clean.

      It seems as though beginning with the 7th-Gens (2003-2007), the rustproofing or steel was of better quality, as I’ve yet to see any of those Accords with rust in that area, even here in salty Northwest Ohio.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Yeah, this is mostly a combination of cars lasting longer, and the steadily rising expense of replacing them with new(er) cars. And there are some of us who push up the average by having vehicles from 2007, 2000, 1997, 1992, 1991, and 1966 on hand.

  • avatar
    Prado

    I’m like a broken record when commententing on these vehicle age reports, but why the heck does Polk report ‘average’ instead of ‘median’. Why the intential spin to make the fleet sound older than it is? So here is my attempt at ‘the truth’. According to Polk there are 247 million vehicles registered. Now how far back do we need to go to get to the middle (median) of that (124 million). Let us count…(sales numbers from Wards)…. the answer is 2005 or 8.5 years. maybe a little longer since some newer vehicles get scrapped due to accidents.
    2013 9,144,335
    2012 14,785,936
    2011 13,040,613
    2010 11,772,219
    2009 10,601,368
    2008 13,493,165
    2007 16,460,315
    2006 17,048,981
    2005 17,444,329
    Total 123,791,261

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      Someone please get Prado a ceeegar!

      R.L. Polk is in need of some more competent statisticians.

      And by the way, my perpetual doom or realism (take your pick) tells me that a massive percentage of the “rebound” in vehicle sales since the bottom of 2009 has been more the function of an E-Z peazy quantitative easing & ZIRP, where the financing (in terms of credit quality, rates and duration of loan term) is eeeaasy.

      If I’m more correct than not, we will see a) manufacturers increasing incentives relatively dramatically, b) the FRBNY along with turbo Treasury acting in concert to keep the fed discount window shoveling essentially free excess reserves the banks way as a means of backstopping/offsetting high-ish risk auto financing – or – c) manufacturers cutting capacity at now maxxed plants (since they were hesitant to build new factories versus adding shifts to existing ones – who could blame them?) when yet another credit fueled hangover arrives and has to be quickly delevered.

      Vote now by texting *Realism or *Pessimism via your mobile phone.

      • 0 avatar
        hreardon

        If the fed starts tapering and/or interest rates start climbing and manufacturers have to pull back on 0% APR incentives you’ll start to see the ‘pent up demand’….stay pent up.

    • 0 avatar
      mik101

      You’re the man. I couldn’t believe I had to scroll so far to find someone calling out the statistics. The folks with classic cars screw the average pretty greatly. Yay outliers.

      I guess right now both of my cars are 15-16 — and I come from the land of sea salt snow and rust. :)

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    I’m stuck with ’99 to ’07 work trucks and personal cars because of their low miles, they still work perfectly and look sharp. Today I’ve got less money to buy new, but less business means my fleet stays preserved.

    The US fleet is living longer, but cars are aging better and built better. And they have less miles on the clock (on average) than historically. As “delorean” mentioned, today’s youth aren’t so interested in jumping into the used (or new) car market and taking them off our hands.

  • avatar
    Dave W

    We did our best to help bend the curve in 2011 replacing a 2002 elantra with a 2005 Focus and a 1996 Wrangler with a 2011 Fiesta. I have seen our old Jeep on the road in the last year, but if our elantra is still on the road someone got screwed.

  • avatar

    My Lexus SC400 will have its 20th birthday in December. It runs great and looks good. I have enjoyed it for twenty problem free years.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Congrats, one of the few Japanese cars I would legitimately chase after if an ownership opportunity came up (also clean LS400, clean 87-90 Cressida, clean Accord wagon, clean Prelude).

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    A lot of factors here:

    1) Continued weak economy

    2) Credit standards that have been tighter (getting pretty darn lax)

    3) Cars are just built better. 200K miles is the new 100K miles

    4) The quality gap is pretty narrow, the worst car you could buy today is still a pretty good car

    5) Increasing average transaction price for new car purchases over $30K with over two decades of wage growth stagnation – it just isn’t easy to buy a car

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      “5) Increasing average transaction price for new car purchases over $30K with over two decades of wage growth stagnation – it just isn’t easy to buy a car”

      I’ve read its been closer to three to four decades as wage stagnation began in the 70’s

  • avatar
    pragmatist

    There are a number of factors contributing to this trend. The economy is a bit shaky and it can easily be justified to hang on to what you’ve got, rather than commit to years more of payments. If you’re out of work, you can cut expenses by simply avoiding excess driving.

    The price of cars is rising faster than wages (A recent survey compared incomes in various parts of the country to the cost of relatively ‘basic’ cars and found that a huge chunk of the population could not sensibly afford to buy a new car), partly because of of government mandates and partly because of the endless gimmicks being added by the manufacturers. While it is true that significant improvements have been made in engineering, there’s a lot working against us, again to some degree by government mandate. Can you really expect a small highly stressed turbocharged engine to be as durable in the long run as a large displacement NA engine? Just the elimination of the turbo and related parts is enough to eliminate a whole lot of failure points. Now, 8 & 9 speed automatic transmissions. I would hate to face a repair bill for one of those things.

    Then there’s electronics. Complex interlocking vulnerabilities. Even the ‘anti theft’ systems can cost thousands of the electronics goes out.. you can’t simply replace a single part. And forget junkyard parts.. they won’t work. More and more types of repairs are becoming ‘dealer only’ (it’s a good thing it’s so economical to get your work done at the dealer –not)

    I like cars, or I should say, I like driving them, but I have no desire to tie my savings up just for the novelty of something new (most current cars on the market are pretty boring anyhow). I’d rather spend that money going someplace in the car. I bought my ’89 Jeep a few years back for $2700. After putting about 110K on it, I blew an oil seal last year at 240K and rather than put that old engine back in, I got a $2400 remanufactured from Jasper. Now I’m solid again for a number of years more (had a great road trip this year). My wife has an 87 Mercedes 560SL which has character, partly because it’s unusual, has a lot of class. Certainly more interesting than a spending thousands on a low end Toyota.

    I suspect people are getting more practical. With proper care you can keep a car a long, long time. And enjoy it.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    We’re an old car family…newest car is 8 years old (2005 Chevrolet Classic), oldest is 21 years old (1992 Plymouth Acclaim) with my 1995 Buick Skylark squarely in the middle.

    Typical old car problems…the Buick needed a new window motor, exhaust hanger, thermostat, and needs a new set of rear tires, the 2.5 inline 4 in the Plymouth leaks coolant and oil constantly and has a bad case of piston slap, and the Classic’s Ecotec 4 had to get a new water pump and suffers from recurring computer maladies.

    But that’s what happens when new cars that aren’t tiny econoboxes or piled with rebates are out of your family’s price range.

  • avatar
    SaulTigh

    I’ve been trying real hard to buy a new car, even test driving several and dancing with their respective salesmen. I just can’t seem to pull the trigger. I’ve got enough cash for a hefty down payment and qualify for excellent financing, I just have trouble paying $25k or more for a car. I guess I’m a cheapskate, but I’ve been terribly spoiled by my current ride which will be 18 years old in December, and had been wonderfully reliable and cheap to own. I’m this close to just driving her until she cracks in two in the driveway and has to be hauled of for scrap. I’m probably even going to have the rear window lifts replaced next month, and they’ve been broken for nearly a decade.

    • 0 avatar
      pragmatist

      When I was young I went through that without ever pulling the trigger. It’s been over 30 years since I made a car payment and I have no intention of starting now. Find an older car that fits your preferred style (for me it’s a Wrangler, for my wife it’s her 26 year old Mercedes roadster) and keep it up.

      Personally I think there is a lot of class in a well maintained vintage car.

  • avatar
    CoolCreek

    Dealers make more money off selling used cars then selling the new ones; its where the cash is.

    This doesn’t hurt the economy. And what about the car companies – notice their prices are high and they make money. It’s a winner for everyone, including those of use who drive what we have for a long, long time.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    “Then there’s electronics. Complex interlocking vulnerabilities.”

    And then there is crappy software and horrible interfaces.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      That’s what older cars avoid, since their electronics are relatively simple. If the median age is 8.5 years, half the cars are early 2000s and older. The older the car, the simpler the electrical, making them cheaper to fix and keep on the road, especially since they’re likely paid for, and repairs are episodic expenses punctuating otherwise low operating costs.

  • avatar
    99GT4.6

    I think a big factor in this is that cars are lasting a lot longer and new cars depreciate so fast many people will just buy used and save a ton of money or get a higher end new car for the same as a cheap new one. A 2013 Corolla optioned as I would want (not that I would ever buy a Corolla. No power and just generally awful) is $20700 whereas a 2009 optioned the same with 90000 km on it is less than $9000 on Kijiji. It makes no sense to buy a new one when they lose value so quick. And $20000 will buy you a 2010 Mustang GT with the same number of km on Kijiji. Hmm…. New crappy gutless econobox or a three year old V8 sports car? What would you rather have?

  • avatar
    iamcanjim

    In 1991 I bought my first car as a 16 year old. It was a 1982 Mustang (the one with the straight six that was slower than the four). At the time, no one thought that old wreck of a car was suitable for anything but the scrapper or a stupid high schooler. It was only 9 years old and has 130,000 km.

    A friend at 23 just bought her first car. A 2002 Ford Focus. With 220,000 km. It’s 11. No one thinks it’s unusual a young professional is driving this car. It’s so better than my old Mustang there’s simply no comparison. She took it into the shop to get it checked and it was on its first timing belt.

    I hesitated to drive the Mustang across the city. I wouldn’t hesitate to drive the Focus anywhere.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Evn Lutz said recently that he would not buy a new car, but rather a 2 or 3 yr old lease return with low miles in good condition

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Maybe it’s due to lack of interest. If there’s nothing too exciting to buy, just hold on to what you’ve got until until something comes along that you just gotta have… or until the wheels fall off of what you’ve got, whichever comes first

  • avatar
    SunnyvaleCA

    A large number of people I know just don’t care at all about cars. It’s an appliance. They spend $4k or more per month on housing, so they certainly have the financial means.

    The main selling features for them are minimal effort (to buy, maintain, and operate), has basic comfort features, and facilitates multitasking (since they certainly aren’t paying attention to driving).

    These friends, however, do tend to buy _new_ cars when they buy them… but that just gets back to minimizing effort: it’s easier to just call the dealer then go down and pick up the car as they drop off their trade-in. Other than a car getting to a point where it might possibly have something inconveniently go wrong, the only other reason to buy another car is that the carpool exemption has expired on their current car.

  • avatar
    redav

    I will freely admit to not reading all the comments, but I don’t think anyone pointed this out–

    That chart shows a remarkably consistent trend, a trend that spans two recessions, cash for clunkers and dramatic swings in total new car sales.

    Granted, this is just a first guess, but that trend tells me that the increasing ave age of the nation’s car fleet is not dependent on economics, i.e., it isn’t because times are hard, and people need to keep their cars longer. However, increased quality would explain the trend.

  • avatar

    The flat line in 1999 to 2000 was a result of your average salesperson convincing your average Y2K fear-based consumer: “Why yes, Mrs. Jones, a new car would be Y2K proof. You don’t want your 1996 Accord to stop working on your drive home from that new years party next week.”

  • avatar
    oldyak

    Its all about maintenance costs…

  • avatar
    AJ

    My wife’s ride is almost ten years old. We’ve never kept cars as long as we do now. First it’s nice not to have any new car payments, but most importantly, with this economy and an uneasy feeling about a job loss for either of us, I just don’t want that added liability.

    Our cars are just fine as is and serve their purpose.

  • avatar
    jimbob457

    A graph that shows any measure of the age of the car fleet advancing relentlessly and steadily for 16 years indicates that economic fluctuations are not that much of a factor. Two things are:

    1. cars do last longer – 200k miles are the new 100k miles – or some such.

    2. this year’s model vehicle is very little better than older models. For example, the plain vanilla Porsche 991 top ends at 180 mph versus 172 for its equivalent 996 built 14 years ago. This makes not a rat’s ass since either speed is faster than any of these vehicles will ever go except(maybe)for a few seconds on track day (at very few tracks, indeed).

    If you doubt this, think how often we try to sell new cars based on their whiz bang electronics. Truth is, aftermarket electronics are, quite often, better and cheaper. Plus, you can get only what you want and need. No bundling. Seriously, am I so goddam stupid that I need a computer app showing (maybe) the nearest gas station so that I don’t run out of fuel on the highway? Don’t answer that!

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      I believe that everyone’s situation is unique to them. People keep their rides for all sorts of individual reasons.

      I have a buddy who still drives a 1993 S-10 as his daily driver and his reason is that he has so much money invested in it to keep it running that he can’t afford to let it go.

      That same buddy has a 1989 Camry V6 his grand daughter now uses because it has been a trouble-free car for all this time and he’s going to keep it until the wheels fall off.

      Same buddy again, also has a 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo 4×4, but like me, he won’t keep it beyond the factory warranty period before buying something new again. He just doesn’t trust Chrysler products based on their history.

      There was time I kept my cars forever, i.e. Towncar 1992-2008, Silverado 1988-2011, F150 2006-2011, and that’s just for this century. Others from the seventies I kept even longer. I kept them running and my kids drove them as daily drivers when my wife and I bought new cars.

      When we bought the 2012 Grand Cherokee for my wife, we kept her 2008 Highlander because it had been completely trouble free. But I won’t keep the Grand Cherokee beyond its factory warranty period. Ditto my 2011 Tundra. I trust these new cars just about as far as I can throw them. There’s no way I can fix them without massively investing in electronic diagnostic equipment and specialty tools.

      My philosophy has changed mostly due to my old age. I’m too old now to tool and wrench on my vehicles to keep them running. That was OK for when I was young, but now I don’t bend so well anymore.

  • avatar
    solracer

    It’s all the fault of Irv Gordon and his 3 million mike Volvo…

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