By on November 22, 2016

Old car vw bug

The life expectancy of the average automobile was only 6.75 years in 1930. It is almost double that now and shows no signs of stopping.

As cars and trucks have continued to become longer lived, the number of operational vehicles in the United States hit a record high this year. Despite the automotive genocide that was Cash for Clunkers, the average vehicle on U.S. roads has grown in age since the financial crisis. Either through necessity or personal preference, Americans are currently holding onto their cars longer than ever before.

According to IHS Markit, the average age of light trucks and cars reached 11.6 years in 2016. The information analysis firm, which collected and analyzed registration data, estimates that the increase in age also accounts for the record 264 million light vehicles currently on U.S. roads.

Even though the rate of increase has slowed against higher-than-average new car sales, IHS Markit Director Mark Seng expects road-going cars to continue getting older. Why? Manufacturers continue improving the build-quality of new vehicles, and consumers seem more willing to maintain them.

“Quality of new vehicles continues to be a key driver of the rising average vehicle age over time,” he explains.

The new-car market also seems to have peaked this year. Reduced interest in new vehicle sales should create an acceleration beyond its traditional rate, just as it did in the early days of the recession. Seng anticipates vehicles aged 16 years or older to grow 30 percent to 81 million units by 2021. He also expects over 20 million registered to vehicles to be a quarter-century old in roughly five years.

That’s 20 million cars and trucks eligible for historic plates by 2021.

With more cars on the road getting older by the minute, there is money to be made for anyone in the parts replacement, repair, or automotive service industries. AutoZone has seen shares of its stock nearly double in the last three years and servicing centers are frequently the most profitable portion of an automotive dealership.

“Increasing numbers of vehicles on the road builds a new business pipeline for the aftermarket,” Seng said. “A larger fleet means more vehicles that will need repair work and service in the future.”

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151 Comments on “The Average Road-going Vehicle is Now Older Than Ever...”


  • avatar
    OldManPants

    Hmmm…same color as my sister’s ’68 but that curvy windshield makes that a Super Beetle, ’72 or later, no?

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    I know a lot of Beetle purists hate the Super Beetle, but I like the Super Beetle.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    Average or median?

    The most common age is always 0-1 year, unless there’s been a new car sales collapse.

  • avatar
    raph

    I just can’t fathom personal preference for the majority. Boomers are at the fixed income age and generally it seemseems nobody takes inflation into account when they plan thier retirement or its simply impossible to save that much? The number I’ve seen floated for financial freedom in the geezer years in the early 20xx years is 2-3 million. For the schmucks unable to attain financial freedom it’s 10k per year you plan to subsist in addition to entitlements and your quarter century old auto.

    For the rest it seems even a moderately well equipped vehicle is now in the realm of the aspirational transportation ( once the domain of pony cars, sports cars and so on ).

    • 0 avatar
      OldManPants

      “For the schmucks unable to attain financial freedom”

      Stop it! Your heart needs that blood!

    • 0 avatar
      JuniperBug

      2-3 million is way more than you need for financial freedom, unless you expect to need $80-120k per year in retirement.

      The generally accepted rule of thumb in early retirement circles is “The 4% Rule,” whereby you don’t withdraw more than 4% of your savings per year. If you can do that, you have something like a 95% chance of your nest egg outliving you, assuming the stock market continues to ebb and flow similarly to the last 100 years. Google “Trinity Study” if interested.

      If your mortgage is paid off and you don’t live like a consumer whore, you can live quite well for well under a million in savings.

  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    Are Autozones complete anarchy where anyone else lives? I went to one not so long ago. I’d called ahead, and was representing a company whose business Autozone expends much effort and money trying to attract. I was greeted by one AZ employee trying to help some morons in the parking lot and the other one cowering behind the counter staring vacantly at a line consisting of everyone in the store while the phones rang incessantly and the commercial counter was unstaffed. The sole employee abandoned the line of sullen customers to search for what I’d come for, and had been reassured would be waiting for me. Eventually it was found and the inability to create accompanying documentation was conceded, allowing me to escape a scene straight out of Idiocracy.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      Autozone and Advance are universally awful for me. About the only reason I’ll go there these days is a tool rental.

      Fluids, wiper blades, and bulbs are cheaper at Wal-Mart or Target. Quick/urgent part selection and customer service is better at NAPA. General part selection is better on the internet. Tools are better online or from Sears/Lowe’s/HF.

      • 0 avatar
        dukeisduke

        And their parts are mostly cheap garbage (can you say Valucraft?) from China. I’ll go there to buy cans of B-12 Chemtool, and to recycle used oil, but that’s about it.

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        FWIW ;

        Being a Counterman in a Parthaus isn’t easy, not matter what it takes time and few really care to do a good job .
        .
        I know some of the Countermen at my local Autozone and they’re friendly but not really sharp .
        .
        My local NAPA Store is far better with mostly good help, they co$t more but have quality products and are supporting many of the local back yard indie shop guys .
        .
        I was in Auto Parts for a long time and enjoyed it more often than not .
        .
        Especially helping those who were stuck .
        .
        “I work behind the counter in an Auto parts Store

        Sometimes I’m called a Genius, sometimes much much more .

        I claim to be no Mechanic, yet when the job goes sick,

        They always come to ask _me_ ‘ what makes this darn thing tick ?’ .

        I’m supposed to remember the numbers and specs of nuts, bolts and gears and what not oh My Lord, for every car that’s been made for over fifty years .

        My Job would be a pleasure and I’d grin from ear to ear ~ if only the Customer would tell me :

        THE MODEL

        THE MAKE

        And THE YEAR ! “. =8-)
        .
        -Nate

        • 0 avatar
          v8corvairpickup

          The auto parts counter is less complicated than working a parts counter in the RV industry. At least a Ford is a Ford unless it’s a Mercury/Lincoln. A guy comes in with his Itasca Suncruiser asking which air filter is used, which replacement roof vent lid is used, which replacement refrigerator is used. Damn. too many OEM choices. The Chassis could be a Ford or a Workhorse. The roof vent could be a Fantastic Vent or a ventline. The Refrigerator could be a Dometic or a Norcold. The roof A/C could be Coleman or a Dometic. The Water heater could be a Atwood or a Suburban. Because of factors like those, nothing would be easily interchanged, no parts commonality, sometimes no aftermarket replacement parts. Manufacture dates, serial numbers, weight ratings, back-orders… good luck ordering the right thing the first time. God, I don’t miss working that place’s counter. I think that the worst part was the complete lack of support or resources from the company I used to work for. The techs in the shop ran the place. They could say and do anything. Yell at customers, yell at employees, throw tools, yell at management but the company thought they “were too valuable to lose.” It was like the lunatics ran the asylum, if they didn’t want to do a job it didn’t get done.
          Now, I work as an administrative assistant in a state office and love having a “nothing” job.

        • 0 avatar
          DubTee1480

          Good Lord, this. I couldn’t begin to put a number on how many people came in without basic information regarding their vehicle. Or since I worked in a rural college town, the number of people driving 80’s GM sedans with powertrain swaps from another car in another GM division that potentially had one of the legacy division specific engines (Pontiac and Oldsmobile V8s). They needed an engine specific part but couldn’t tell you the year, make, model or engine type of the donor. I once fielded a call from a woman asking for a “Cadillac convertible for a Mercury Mesquite.” People frequently identified their cars as “Bruicks.”

          But about AutoZone the company and not their customers:
          The company is run for the stockholders. This is why there are only two people working the entire store on a Saturday afternoon, they want the labor percentage to look as good as possible. This is why the WITTDTJR (what is takes to do the job right) program is now based mostly around cheap packets of grease. A commercial associate once came out of a meeting with a district manager bragging about how AZ made over 300% profit on them and how good it made the profitability numbers look. Redshirts have a 3.00 “batting average” to maintain when it comes to WITTDTJR parts so when you sell 5 quarts of oil, you are pressured to sell an oil filter and at least one other tune up item with it. Brakes, lube, fluid. Spark plugs, wires, dialectic grease. There was also an average transaction level to maintain ($15 in the mid 2000’s) so a few customers coming in to buy just a quart of oil could ruin your day. So you push specials on fuel system cleaner, funnels, shop towels, etc (this is why the complementary single use paper funnels went away). The Valucraft line exists to bring in customers with low prices and then attempt to upsell them on a better part. There was a high return rate on the Valucraft batteries and electrical components but some of the other parts were good quality. I continue to buy my batteries and (new) alternators and starters there while avoiding the sensors. There is rarely any experienced staff as AZ simply isn’t willing to pay them or give them enough hours. We used to say we would train them and then O’Reilly’s or Napa would hire them away. I eventually became a store setup/remodel supervisor as an hourly employee and was promised a big raise and a promotion to management when I returned from the road. I ended up quitting dismayed at what they offered me to manage and never looked back, especially once I was finished with school.

          • 0 avatar
            -Nate

            @ DubTee ;
            .
            Just so , here’s a couple real life Customer stories from the early 1970’s :

            ‘I need spark plugs for my Chebby Mon ‘ .
            .
            Yessir ! what kinda Chevy do you have ? .
            .
            ‘Uh, a _red_ one, Mon ‘.
            .
            Customer ‘ need points for my ’67 Camaro ‘.
            .
            Yessir ! what engine does your Chevy have ?
            .
            (Angrily)’NAW, Man ! I ain’t got no damn Chebby, _I_ have a _CAMARO_! ‘ .
            .
            And so on ……
            .
            -Nate

          • 0 avatar
            DubTee1480

            @Nate

            Awesome, haha.

            The Camaro guy reminded me of a customer that asked for a set of replacement points… for his 1994 Explorer.

            I have more AutoZone customer stories than any other customer service related job that I’ve ever had and I spent the shortest time there by far compared to other jobs I’ve held.

          • 0 avatar
            -Nate

            @DubTee ;
            .
            To the chargin of my Parents I always wanted to be a Tradesman and have enjoyed the solid Blue Collar Middle Class life it gave me .
            .
            I do so love the bull sessions where various Tradesmen swap Customer stories =8-).
            .
            Sadly, most of the ones I experienced personally you really had to be there to fully grasp the irony .
            .
            Nate

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        alja well said. I drop off my oil there and sometimes buy touch up paint there, maybe some particular wax or cleaning agent if Meijer doesn’t have what I want. Back home NAPA was my brother’s go-to when we were in high school and first started wrenching. The old hands in there always had helpful advice, versus the similar-aged highschoolers working the counter at Autozone.

    • 0 avatar
      RHD

      The Autozone nearest to where I live is chronically understaffed. The last time I was in there, it was raining and the roof was leaking. The water was dripping on a high shelf full of merchandise. One employee was at the counter, while directing the other, on a ladder, who was trying to salvage the boxes from the water.
      They finally gave up on that, and said that it would be a few days before the company could have someone there to fix the leak.
      Ask any Autozone employee about their staffing levels – you will invariably hear of their chronic frustration.
      With the internet making much better pricing and fairly quick deliveries, companies like AZ need to provide a better experience to stay competitive. Experience has shown that as long as the company makes a profit, no one besides the customer or the counter staff care in the least.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      And know you know they are known as Autozoo.

  • avatar
    greenbrierdriver

    I can see this happening. Here in Texas, where the cars, er, pickups dont rust out from under you, you can, if you are at all handy with a wrench, keep them running forever. Our newest car is a 2013 Mazda5, followed by a 97 Explorer (in decent shape with 187k) and my 64 Greenbrier. Sure, I like some of the neato features on the newer cars, but quite frankly, one car payment is all I care to have and with the cost of insurance here, I dont want something newer on the policy.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    I went from average (a 4 year old car and a 20 year old car averaging to 12) to two 20 year old cars. It’d funny to think about the fact that both of my daily driven vehicles are two decades old, they feel and drive modern enough, I don’t really feel short changed by them most of the time (hell I prefer it in a few crucial ways namely interior quality and visibility and styling). Back when my family first immigrated we owned a then-10 year old Civic Wagon (an ’82 in 1992), it was rusty, burned oil, and pinged unless you used premium fuel. We later bought a ’77 Corolla from a friend a few years later as a second car so that would have been a 18 year old car. Even rustier than the Civic and more primitive with manual everything (steering, 4spd manual transmission).

    My two current ’96 cars I wouldn’t hesitate to drive across the country, and I’d be comfortable doing it. Neither burn an appreciable amount of oil, and only the Lexus has a few small patches of rear quarter panel rust. Both have plenty of life left in them.

    Let me add: I have the same functionality of a new $35k 4Runner and a $20k midsize sedan (minus some fuel economy) for peanuts relatively speaking. No car payments, no expensive insurance. Just maintenance and some wear items to replace. I was new/lightly used car shopping after I dumped my Maxima, before buying my Lexus for basically the cost of sales tax on that new car. It gets me to work comfortably and safely and I enjoy driving it (more than many new cars I test drove). What more could I possibly want?

  • avatar
    mmreeses

    see stagnant after-inflation wage growth for the bottom 80-ish%.

    • 0 avatar
      bikegoesbaa

      See also the fact that cars are much better made and far more reliable than in the past, and therefore can stay in service much longer.

      It wasn’t all that long ago that the OEMs didn’t even bother to put a 6th digit on the odometer, because cars were considered to be “used up” at 100k miles.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        Actually, that odometer story is a fallacy. Imports had the sixth digit because a kilometer is quite a bit shorter than a mile. So a five digit KM display would turn over at 63K miles, hence the extra digit. When the cars were calibrated to miles for sale in this country the extra digit stayed – it made no sense to eliminate it. Detroit added the extra digit to be the same as the imports as some used to say it implied a longer life….

        • 0 avatar
          Luke42

          But those Japanese cars really did last a lot longer than their American counterparts. My Dad’s 1991 Honda Accord went until it was wrecked at 199,800 miles — which beat the family record by a big margin.

          The 1991 Accord is car that converted him from being a GM man, and he never looked back.

          The 2016 Civic (which we just bought for my wife to drive until our Model 3 is delivered) seems to carry that 25-year-old torch pretty well.

          • 0 avatar
            DearS

            Interesting fact about Accord: they are built my Americans. Its great to remind myself of that. I love Japanese cars made both abroad and in the U.S.

      • 0 avatar
        John

        It’s both – cars last longer, and US middle class income peaked in 1973-74.

  • avatar
    threeer

    My son still drives his 1997 Toyota Tercel (now well over 230k). It’s paid for, dead-nuts reliable and easy to fix (not that much has broken on it). I can see the appeal. At 25, he has no car payment. Smarter than I was at that age.

    Ironically, my Deputy Director (who could easily afford just about any car he wished for) still DD’s his 1974 Beetle. Granted, he keeps it in very good condition, but even in the heat of an Alabama summer, that little blue Bug can be seen chugging into our parking lot each morning.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Would be more beneficial if there was more detail. For instance the average age in the south where there is no snow and therefore no salt.

    And what is the average and/or median distance?

    Just low long can we expect a vehicle to actually last based on that measurement?

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    I’ll never forget my trips (plural, now) to Seattle and areas much further outside of Seattle in the Pacific Northwest.

    I’ve never before seen so many 10 to 25 year old vehicles (with at least 1 out of 4 appearing to be a Subaru of some type) that looked remarkably clean, without a speck of rust, being hustled about.

    I’m sure that the lack of road salt, absence of searing heat/sunlight blare, and smooth roads has much to do with this.

    In general terms, I’m quite confident that the aging of Americans’ vehicles is being driven (pun, ha ha) by a) improved reliability/durability + b) the ongoing extinction of the the class formerly known as “middle.”

    I read what appeared to be a credible analysis approx a year ago that essentially stated that, based on the median new vehicle price and Americans’ median wages (in inflation-adjusted terms), the only region of the nation where new cars were affordable by historic norms was inside the cesspool-Beltway that is Washington D.C.-Virginia (likely Fairfax County, with its high concentration of federal employee/contractor parasites).

    • 0 avatar
      bikegoesbaa

      I have a similar experience when I travel from the South to the Rust Belt, but in reverse.

      Northern examples of <10 year old cars that would still look new down here are terminally rusty crapcans. Rusted gaps fenders, perforated frames, and not a cab corner or rocker panel to be seen.

      Some of them even manage to rust out on parts that are far away from the road surface, like gas doors and window trim.

      They seem to be in worse general mechanical shape, too. I think it's a combination of deferred winter maintenance, rough roads, and a poverty-centric economy.

    • 0 avatar

      Our host in San Francisco was very amused at my almost obsessive search of his Volvo 240. Not a button of rust on the whole car. Front seat was worn out, and the biggest problem is that he can’t find a new one…NLA at volvo and all the cars in the crusher have sacked front seats too.

      Amazing. Random cars in SF and LA made me cry, they were so clean.

      Living in the NY area, you get 10 years before rust, then it becomes “how much do you accept”…my 2003 is showing serious rust, the underside of my 2008 is beginning to at edge and corners, but my 2010 is still clean.

      The roads make a huge difference. I used to be amazed at the NYC taxis when I lived there…a shop fixed only cabs back when they were all Panthers or GM Impalas, and the cars were just hammered. I will NOT buy a used car that lived in NYC or commuted into NYC every day. The same car in Albany or Pennsy, or Mid-CT will be in way better shape at the same age/mileage than the car in the Bronx.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I know of several Volvos right here in a PA yard with better front seats if one were to make the effort. I also know 850 seats will fit a 240, and there should be a dearth of them still floating around in yards.

      • 0 avatar
        GeneralMalaise

        Yes, we in California are very fortunate, at least in that respect. A lot of older cars known to dissolve in other climes can be found in reasonably good shape out here.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @DeadWeight – there was a study done based upon 20% down and a 5 year loan. The area you mentioned was one of the few regions that could afford a new vehicle under those terms.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      My dented, scratched ’88 Accord survived for almost two decades in Portland and Seattle without meaningful rust.

      Then my ex took it to New Hampshire with her. Three winters later, it was a rustbucket good only for the crusher.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Average age of our motorpool is 13-1/4 years.

    Of course the ’85 throws the math off.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    well in my house we have a 04 volvo xc wagon which replace a 01 xc wagon this year and a 04 saab 9-3 vert a summer car and a 05 honda pilot and a 11 vw TDI wagon that is going back I think to vw which will be replaced by a used something, I have look at a bunch of new cars but nothing is making me sign on for a payment. The honda was bought new and with 102,000 has been great for us, sure my wife would like a new car and I said fine what do you want and again she could not really find anything that said ok lets write a monthly check. my fleet is fine and still runs well and does not look like a rusted out POS so they will continue to be driven, having no car payments is the rule we try to live with when we have collage payments. We could afford both if there was something we really liked, like say a MB e class diesel wagon.

  • avatar
    TTCat

    2000 Wrangler TJ – 88K miles
    2005 Audi TT Quattro Coupe – 125K miles

    Both running strong and nothing available today even peaks my interest, so they aren’t going anywhere, anytime soon…

  • avatar
    Chi-One

    ’16 Challenger
    ’14 JGC
    ’12 JGC

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    This article is about the American average age, not “list the cars you own.”

    So let’s not turn it into a Facebook post.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    To go along with the increasing age of the motor fleet, people are also holding on to their new (and used!) vehicles longer before trade-in.

    TTAC should keep this in mind the next time they belly-ache about 4-year loans no longer being the norm, or talk about how leasing is really the only sensible way to buy a new car. A six-year loan makes perfect sense if the car is highly likely to go a decade without significant repair, and leasing stops making sense (except in rare circumstances) once you plan on owning the car longer than you are going to hold the note.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    ’85 Isuzu Impulse
    ’06 Subaru Forester
    ’09 Pontiac G8 GT
    ’11 Chevrolet Avalanche

    (got rid of the ’05 Saturn Relay this spring)

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Handling by Lotus!

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        The Impulse is a feckin’ unicorn. Original everything, full mechanical restore this spring, even have the original floor mats. Never in an accident, Hell even the glass is original (I am replacing the windshield this spring, seriously pitted, is a liability in afternoon sun). Don’t have the waffle wheels (turbine wheels, apparently they were an “upgrade” and the gorgeous waffles were standard).

        Won a couple of awards this summer. Had no idea a GM T-body could be so fun to drive. Has 51/49 weight distribution and RWD so the car is pretty neutral with just a slight hint of understeer.
        The suspension is certainly better than the Chevette (’85 doesn’t get the Lotus tuning) and it has almost double the HP with a fuel injected 2.0L SOHC engine, a 5-speed manual instead of a 4-speed, and a LSD, oh and the first car with flush glass windows, and airplane doors, and integrated drip rails, and with the door frame integrated into the a-pillar, and luxury features like full climate control — the difference in Japanese versus American build quality is HUGE when you compare it to the lowly Chevette.

        Caved in on finding a Ford Probe that wouldn’t be an endless project, love rowing my own and the car just screams 80’s

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          Very cool! I love the Impulse, and it is a car that was rare to start with.

          My Land Rover Discovery is the same sort of unicorn survivor. Just lovely condition, one owner, in San Diego. Paid too much for it, but it was worth every single penny.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    aging cars = sluggish home economies

    There are many reasons for this, but ‘hanging on to reliable cars’ is not one of them. Cars are certainly more reliable, but if people had money to burn they’d be changing cars like underwear.

    Reasons I see:
    1. Rampant under-employment
    2. Student loan debt
    3. Poor money management skills (lack of parental mentoring + entitlement mentality)
    4. Broken relationships – divorce is going down, but co-habitation is more transient:
    http://brandongaille.com/43-statistics-on-cohabitation-before-marriage/
    This means there are fewer joint finances available for buying new cars.

    Home ownership is going the same way, arguably for the same reasons:
    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-07-28/homeownership-rate-in-the-u-s-tumbles-to-the-lowest-since-1965

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      “co-habitation is more transient”

      You’re so modern sometimes!

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      The marketing wizards of Madison Avenue call this “The Sharing Economy.”

      They could make Human Papilloma Virus sound delicious if tasked with doing so.

      “Get Your Side Hustle On!”

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        You won’t be truly happy until you’re sharing in a co-op apartment with five other mid-thirties authors, working three different contract jobs with no benefits, and scouring Goodwill on weekends for books to sell on eBay.

        • 0 avatar
          DeadWeight

          I had some nasty respiratory thing and went to see the doctor, and was seen by a physician’s assistant.

          I was reading an articoe yesterday that stated that dental assistants are now doing a lot of work that dentists used to perform.

          I am not opining on whether this is good or bad; I could proffer a cogent argument that allowing lesser-compensated individuals in medicine, dentistry, law, etc., to perform routine procedures introduces large efficiencies in the form of savings and in helping to clear personnel shortages (e.g. highly trained specialists performing highly complex procedures), though my cynical self is more likely to believe this will just be another way large corporations, becoming increasingly larger through mergers and acquiations, increase their profit margins and executive compensation and shareholder returns.

          At any rate, it won’t be long now until one’s Uber or Lyft driver also performs a medical or dental or legal procedure whilst driving!

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            At my dentist, the assistant does all the work and cleaning, and also looks for any problem areas. Those areas are marked for the doctor, who spends about 35 seconds with me poking in my mouth.

            “All good? Okay see you next time.”

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            And the assistant prob makes 1/4 to 1/6th of what the dentist makes.

            I have two cousins who are physicians, one who is an adjunct professor and who is on staff at a large, university-attached medical facility.

            One of the (many) reasons why hospital stays are so expensive is that they bill bedside “consultations,” whether they take 20 seconds or 10 minutes, at the same flat (and inflated) rate.

        • 0 avatar
          HotPotato

          You’re describing 10-20 years of my life.

    • 0 avatar
      thunderjet

      It’s sad but I feel myself (31) and my wife (33) are some kind of minority: steady employment, minimal student load debt left to pay off, own a home, and a new car. Most of our friends are the same as us. We all have professional degrees, something not everyone has. This puts us at a huge advantage over most of our peer group, and people a few years younger than us.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      “If people had money to burn they’d be changing cars like underwear”

      I’m not sure this is true for the majority. It is for showoffs and gearheads, but I don’t think that’s a major chunk of the population. If I think about all the people I know, the most common pattern — and this includes a number of people with more money than they know what to do with — is to buy a new or lightly used car, keep it (performing basic maintenance but no more) until either something major goes wrong or it really starts to drive like crap, and then buy a new one. That used to imply a new car every five years at most. Now people in that pattern seem to be keeping their cars for more like a decade.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        You make a good point.

        Those who are financially prudent may tend to keep cars longer, but so do people who are broke. On the other hand, financially imprudent people buy cars like crazy (gotta have new!), and wonder why they’re getting killed on trade.

        • 0 avatar
          thunderjet

          My brother-in-law, on average, buys a brand new car every 2.5 years. He’s got so much negative equity that his payments and interest rate are sky high. He wonders why he has no money….

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            Your brother and those with his habits probably provide 80% or more of the profits new car dealerships and their finance departments harvest (not to mention the used car/trade-in side of their operations).

          • 0 avatar
            thunderjet

            At DW:

            My brother-in-law is not what, well, you would call the smartest person. Whether it comes to finances or in his personal life….

            So yeah perfect person for dealers to prey on.

      • 0 avatar
        thunderjet

        I inherited pretty much this exact car buying philosophy from my parents (which also applies to most purchases): if you can buy what you want the first time and hold onto it till it is worn out/has no useful life left in it. It saves you money in the long run. I bought a 2011 Focus brand new. It just rolled 55k miles in 5 years of ownership. I don’t expect to get rid of it for another decade or so.

        Although this is also coming from a person who still owns the first car they bought at the age of 17 in 2002, a 1988 Ford Thunderbird….

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      “co-habitation is more transient”

      Alex, I’ll take oxymorons for 100! LOL

      Depends on the law. In Canada, co-habitation beyond 6 months counts as marriage.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      I don’t know if it all economics. I could certainly afford a new car but why would I?

      I could drop $50K to $60K on a fullsizer that does double duty as status symbol and suburban home owner project material carrier, or I could find a gently used 4 to 5 year old example for half the price, literally.

      I did the latter because it just doesn’t make sense to buy new and take that depreciation kick in the balls. Interest rates are so low I got new car rates through USAA on a used purchase – nothing but win.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I don’t think the average age of cars on the road tells you a thing other than cars last longer. Nobody junks a perfectly good car, they just keep getting sold along until they are used up. That used to take only 5-6 years here in salty Maine, now it is more like 15+. The number of people who own a car from cradle to grave is vanishingly small.

      I think new car sales vs. population would be a better measure of the relative state of the economy. The population of the US has doubled in the past 50 years or so – have new car sales doubled in that period? (I have no idea) Adjusted for inflation, most cars are cheaper now than they have historically been. The very cheapest cars were cheaper back in the day, but they were also completely junk in a way a cheap car today simply isn’t.

      • 0 avatar

        I ran the numbers historical average is 5.62% of the population buys a new car since 1967. We are currently at 5.54% and sales are dropping. WE have not hit over the average since 2006. The lowest we ever hit was 3.45 in 2009. We peaked in 1978 at just under 7%.

        In general it’s both cars last longer and the middle class is less able to afford them. Some of this is by choice. If you plot the price of cars over time, some like fullsize trucks have gotten a lot more expensive whereas subcompacts are remarkably cheap right now.

  • avatar
    thunderjet

    ’88 Ford Thunderbird LX 5.0
    ’11 Ford Focus
    ’12 Ford Mustang V6
    ’17 Honda Accord EX-L V6

    Average age of 9 years, so newer than average. All except the Thunderbird were bought new, with the Mustang and Thunderbird being the nice weather/”fun” drivers. My fleet’s previous average age was 15.5 years a couple months ago before I got rid of a 1991 Lincoln Mark VII.

  • avatar
    zoomzoomfan

    I see these statistics a lot but it sure doesn’t ring true where I live, which is odd considering this area of Kentucky’s relatively low median household income. For every 2002 Ford Taurus or 2000 Chevrolet Cavailer barely running but still technically providing its owners with some type of personal transport, I see 5 or 6 new GM Lambda crossovers or brand new Corollas.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      GMAC is alive and well, senor.

      • 0 avatar
        zoomzoomfan

        Very true on that one. My household has 3 vehicles. A 2013, a 2016, and a 1995. So, the 1995 makes our average vehicle age creep up to 8. The 2013 and the 1995 (obviously) are paid off, though. Really, mine and my wife’s only debt is our house and my car, which we are far away from being upside down on. Better than most. I know several people who are upside down on both vehicles and then have a big house. It’s how so many people around here APPEAR rich but really aren’t. Stresses me out to even think about it.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          Being “house poor” is WAY more common than being “car poor”, despite how the B&B seems to think every other person driving a BMW is doing so only to show off.

          Personally, I bought waaay less house than I could “afford” in 2001 when I was making 1/3rd of what I do now, and still live in it 16 years later – it’s nearly paid for. And thus I can spend fairly silly amounts of money on my car hobby.

    • 0 avatar

      True but 11 years old includes vehicles from 2005. Things like the Lambda were introduced 10 years ago. If you start counting the mid 2000 cars I’m sure you will see plenty. All that drives down the average. Also in KY start counting the number of GMT 800 silverados and Tahoe’s you see. Even here in wealth Connecticut I will see a few dozen GMT 800 trucks on a daily basis.

  • avatar
    spookiness

    Anecdotally, I’m keeping cars longer because I just don’t care about cars as much as I used to. I want it to do the job it needs to do and I’m at the age where I don’t care about status. Living through a few recessions and going back to graduate school in your 40’s also helps sharpen your economic perspective and priorities a bit.

    • 0 avatar
      OldManPants

      OMG! Your every statement…. twins!

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      The things I witnessed 1st hand from 2008-2011 are what some would credibly refer to as “generational” mindset changers.

      I used to party with friends and clients who lost amounts having 8 & even 9 zeros after the first digit (at least on paper, even if it was in the form of assets with claims/debt attached).

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        I graduated from law school in 2008, and therefore did my summer internship and associateship in 2006 and 2007. I can make new summer associates cry by telling them stories of the things we did at firm expense.

        Then in 2009 I was lucky enough to escape the ax that took out about a third of my fellow first-years.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Local Mom Discovers Dal’s Lawyer Trick, And It Will Make You Lose Your Mind

        • 0 avatar
          DeadWeight

          Summer associate hiring *literally* froze in NYC & Chicago in ’09 & ’10.

          I will never again try to predict the future of the economy, but some of the most permabullish people I know, including one of the top 20 highest-grossing brokers for Quicken, who I’ve never before heard a bearish word from before in the 18 years of our friendship, is trying to convince me that a crash bigger than ’08 is going to happen.

          This is a guy to whom the word “risk” used to have no meaning or context.

          Anywhoo.

          • 0 avatar
            SCE to AUX

            “a crash bigger than ’08 is going to happen.”

            Of course one will, but predicting exactly when and where is what makes the genius.

            #earthquakeprediction

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Eh, ’08 was pretty big. I think there are good reasons to think we’ll have a correction over the next couple years, but I wouldn’t expect anything like the ’08 crash again for a little while longer.

            One thing I’ve learned about brokers and market analysts is that they’re prone to manic-depressive views on the market.

          • 0 avatar

            The difference is that before 08, the average person did/could participate in the boom. Real Estate, Retail, everyone along the line, down to the deli that fed the workers. After 08, ‘the new normal’ restricted appreciation to those who had assets to appreciate, and if you were merely “labor’, you got to watch your bills go up while income didn’t and your remaining benefits were strip-mined. A lot of that “easy money” did trickle down, but now that it is gone…

            I”m sure there will be a dip, there always is, but even if it does, the “average’ person won’t see the same thing…their comfort and reserves have already been removed from the system-which is partly why this election went as it did….

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            I agree now one can really know if history will repeat or merely rhyme, and precisely when.

            I do, however, believe debt (much of it rancid, to be post-next meltdown) is again the foundation upon which a larger and larger % upon which economic “growth” is being driven by (rentier capitalism is on a massive tear, consuming a much larger share of GDP with each passing year).

            I see these signs in commercial real estate already, but that’s a very specific & detailed thesis best presented in an industry white paper.

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    The Altima turns 10 in January… If I can stay on track with paying off student loans in 2017, then I am hopefully less than 18 months from replacing it with something newer (definitely no older than 2012).

    I am thankful beyond words that it has been so reliable (bought with 122k and now at 153k), but it does little to stir my soul. I haven’t had a car that makes me smile every day in almost 5 years.

  • avatar

    Daily drivers
    2000
    2001
    Project
    1988

    Even my daily drivers bring the average to 16 years old.

  • avatar
    Spike_in_Brisbane

    Here in Oz a recent editorial pointed out that the average Aussie car is 9.5 years old but the average age of a car involved in a fatal accident is 12.5 years. Their conclusion was that newer cars are safer. I thought that maybe those people driving drunk or stoned or unregistered or whatever are more likely to be driving an older car. Your thoughts?

    Also, a few commenters here have suggested that cars are better built and lasting longer. I would concur with this but they are also more complicated and contain more unique electronic components which are hard to source as the car ages. I suspect this engineered obsolescence may lead to a lowering of the average age soon.

    • 0 avatar
      v8corvairpickup

      I agree with the obsolescence comment. My personal experience is that if electronic components go, it makes it hard to drive the car. My 1991 Honda Prelude has many “no longer available” parts. My speedometer/odometer doesn’t work. I almost scrapped the car last summer because it wouldn’t shift out of second because of the failed speedo and sensors. It is a shame to have to get rid of a good car over some dumb part.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I think you are right and so is the editorial. Newer cars simply ARE massively safer. And the sorts of people who drive older, less safe cars are also the people more likely to get in a crash. Kids in particular.

      I think worries about electronics are overblown. The increasing use of platforms, and the sheer expense of development these days means that individual parts are used much more widely and for longer periods of time. There are fewer unique electronic parts than you might think. And in the Internet era, oddball parts are a lot easier to come by than in days past, and that is certainly going to continue.

  • avatar
    Rick Astley

    Came up with an average age of 51.5 years old for my cars. Not so bad for a 36 year old who lost a few cars in the divorce.

    1941 Ford Super Deluxe manual
    1936 Ford Model 68
    1965 Ford Fairlane GT
    1963 Ford Thunderbird
    1953 Ford Club Coupe
    1964 Ford Galaxie
    1990 Honda Civic wagon 4wd, 6-spd
    2004 Acura TSx 6-spd

  • avatar
    KevinC

    Is that a ’74 Sun Bug? I wanted that car badly when new during my junior year of high school. Settled for a high-mileage ’69 Beetle with its 2nd gear synchros completely shot and useless. Forced me to learn how to double-clutch at age 16.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      Nope, it’s just a Super Beetle. The Sun Bug had the sunroof, hence the name and a trim, stripe and wheel package. I think most were blue, gold or yellow.

      I had a neighbor with a gold one. Sadly it burst in flames due to a bad fuel line in the engine compartment. Apparently a common VW Bug issue.

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        No;
        .
        That was a _BAD_OWNER_ issue ~ .
        .
        Failure to routinely change the 5MM fuel hose or using the wrong typ caused engine fires nod inherently bad design .
        .
        Anyway, I have an embarrassing question : how do I figure my fleet’s average age ? .
        .
        I don’t want to detail every car I own .
        .
        -Nate

        • 0 avatar
          MRF 95 T-Bird

          Yes the 5MM fuel hose was a braided hose that was usually durable. Sometimes people probably cheaped out using a lesser quality one and caused a Reichstag Beetle.

          • 0 avatar
            northeaster

            I had a 75 Fiat 128 that barely avoided mobile BBQ syndrome of exactly that sort. Instead, we settled for an unignited pool of gasoline that had suddenly dripped onto the intake from a piece of braided hose buried under the air cleaner.

            It was actually pretty stunning to see practically every piece of rubber on a two year old car disintegrate over the course of next year, too: fuel filler hose, brake lines, CVJ boots, etc.

            GM could have not planned obsolescence any better.

          • 0 avatar
            -Nate

            I lost count of the Customers I warned about changing the obviously rotten fuel hoses and then had engine fires .
            .
            Worst of all were the fuel injected models, often damaged beyond economical repair .
            .
            -Nate

  • avatar
    JMII

    Current garage:
    year / make / mileage (status)
    08 Volvo 75K (2nd owner, lease return)
    03 Nissan 65K (2nd owner, garage queen in former life)
    02 Dodge 105K (bought new, 90% towing duty)

    Out of all them the Dodge has been the most reliable and the Volvo the worst. Given that I use the Nissan for DD and track days it is holding up very well. The Volvo will be gone soon since parts and repairs have become too expensive due to its odd ball nature (C30 = rare). Chances are an Infiniti will replace it.

    While we could afford new car payments we chose not to (rather go on a cruise or update the kitchen) so we normally buy used and keep up on all maintenance issues. I only use the auto part store for CEL info and various cleaners/waxes. Parts come from Amazon or RockAuto. YouTube and owners forums provide the fixes for pretty much any problem. Since we are a family of 2 but have 3 vehicles when one has an issue it is not a crisis. I’ve gone weeks with a vehicle just sitting in my garage waiting for parts. I understand most people don’t have this option. Plus living in FL gives us another advantage: no rust – thus vehicles tend to last. UV damage is the main problem but it only effects some trim and interior bits. I’m kind of obsessed with cleaning and waxing thus all my vehicle look new.

  • avatar
    Trucky McTruckface

    Once upon a time, Volvo used to run print ads bragging that the average lifespan of their cars was 11 years. We’ve come a long way.

    Ironically, I would no longer trust a Volvo to last anywhere near that long.

  • avatar
    jimmyy

    As a larger percentage of vehicles on the road are Asian, then the average length of vehicle ownership will increase. This is because Toyota and Honda vehicles are much more durable than Detroit vehicles.

    • 0 avatar
      kvndoom

      Detroit’s come a long way. So have the Koreans (Hyundai Excel, anyone?)

      It’s the German cars that just can’t get it right, though.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      And you just pull this information right out of your magical hat?

      American trucks outsell Asian brands and so, no, not every old vehicle is a Toyota. That’s just BS.

      • 0 avatar
        HotPotato

        Let me tell you a story about three compact pickups, a GMC, a Ford, and a Toyota, put into service the same year.

        The GMC is literally disintegrating: dash, steering wheel are flaking apart. The Ford looks better but works worse: its rear brakes randomly lock up in ordinary braking, and its tailgate won’t open. The Toyota looks and acts much the same as the day it was born, only dirtier.

        The GMC used to be the nicest-driving of the three but is no longer enjoyable. The Toyota started off bluff but honest and still is. The Ford has degenerated from crude to dangerous. All three make so much intake noise you’re afraid to rev them, ride awful, steer worse, and haven’t had working AC in years. For the life of me, I can’t understand the B&B’s nostalgia for cheap small pickups: they run forever, but they really truly suck.

        Anyway, I digress. The point was Yes, some vehicles are better quality than others, older Toyotas in particular. :-)

  • avatar
    v8corvairpickup

    My current stable:

    1962 Corvair 700 Lakewood Wagon. Non-running. 93k? miles. Hopefully, I’ll be able to bring it to life. Bought at auction. Been sitting for decades.

    1988 National Sea Breeze (Toyota chassis & 22re) motorhome. Runs, drives. Not currently registered/insured. 117k? miles. We’ve put on about 20k since 2006.

    1991 Honda Prelude Si. Former DD. Runs, drives, registered/insured. On loan to youngest daughter. Odometer stopped at 119999.9 Owner of my trusted repair shop said it runs like a top. Way cheaper to maintain than the 01 Jetta TDi it replaced.

    1993 Buick Roadmaster Estate Wagon. Lent to my son, he had a small accident. No longer drivable… about 227k miles? Bought it in 2002 with 153k. I miss driving this beast!

    1993 Suzuki DR350s. Runs, drives, registered/insured. Back-up transportation, toy, adventure ride. 20000 miles. Give or take 10. No idea how many miles I put on it in ten years.

    1998 Honda CR-V. Wife’s DD. She’s had it since 2001. Great little vehicle. 162k miles. Had 38k when she got it. She loves it.

    1999 Honda CR-V. Youngest daughter’s former DD until someone did a u-turn into it. Now a parts car. Runs but doesn’t drive. 271k? miles.

    2001 Nonda CR-V. Current DD. Same color as the ’99. We’ve had it for about six weeks. 172k miles. Had 170k when purchased.

    We’re doing our best to keep the average age well above 6.75. It is nice to know I’ve gotten something that was made in this Millennium, though. The Prelude will go away in the near future. It needs to be sold to replace some of the funds used to buy the 01 CR-V.

    • 0 avatar
      NoID

      I (probably weekly) pine (and search AutoTrader) for a ’94-’96 Roadmaster Estate with the tow package. My mother’s car was the daily driver for most of my childhood and teen years, and had Flowmasters installed for a very mean sound. I loved that car.

      Midwest Auto Collection near Chicago generally has nice models in stock, but their business model follows closely to the “There’s a sucker born every day” philosophy and everything is overpriced. I don’t know how they stay in business, but despire having seen their cars listed for months at a time they still sell and still keep the doors open.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

        ID, I see those on Craigslist all the time. Try searching areas of the country where rust isn’t much of an issue, like out west (Seattle, Portland, Boise, Sacramento, etc), southwest (Phoenix, Tucson, Reno, etc) and the dirty south (Gulfport, Mobile, New Orleans, Birmingham, Atlanta, etc).

        You may have to deal with fading paint, brittle plastics, and a cracked dash, but all are fixable for a lot cheaper than it would cost to fix extensive rust.

        Cars in the PNW (Seattle, etc) tend to have less sun damage. You can walk up to a 1995 Taurus and punch the bumper. It won’t hurt it. Try that on the same car that has lived in Houston, New Orleans or Mobile its whole life, your fist would probably go right through and the bumper would shatter into chunks.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Fun to read about people’s fleets.

    My fleet’s average age is 10.3.

    2016 C-Max Energi — electric is a godsend for my wife, who has severe reactions to high concentrations of partially burned hydrocarbons like what a car emits on cold start (or what you get when you’re cooking and doing heavy browning).

    2008 Lexus LS 460 — my deep-pile chariot; not a bad performer but does its best to hide that from the driver.

    1995 Acura Legend Sedan — It makes me happy to have a Honda from their period of world domination around. Still love a few things about it compared to the newer machinery.

  • avatar
    NoID

    For the first time ever, my fleet is below the average age (if only by two years). 2004 Ford and 2009 Mazda.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    My fleet is pretty young (average age = 6), but that wasn’t always the case.

    13 Optima Hybrid
    09 Sedona
    11 Sonata
    07 Sonata

    The first two are in my garage; my name is on all four titles.

  • avatar
    Broo

    Me and my wife own 5 vehicles, averaging 20 years old. Take out the two oldest which are over 30 and only used as weekend cruisers and our average is then 11 years old, right on the stats.

    Our newest is my 2006 truck, bought used in 2010. We then have my 2005 DD car (bought new) and my wife’s 2004 van, bought used in 2011.

    They are all paid for years ago. Though the temptation is sometimes high to get a newer one, comparing our low yearly maintenance cost to new car payments is a no-brainer. I guess we will only upgrade when one of ours quits or is crashed.

  • avatar
    spreadsheet monkey

    For comparison, on the other side of the Atlantic, the average age of cars on the road in the UK is 7.7 years (the most recent figures I can find are from 2014).

    https://www.smmt.co.uk/2014/03/decades-fastest-growth-sees-almost-32-million-cars-road/

    Rust is still a factor, but many older cars end up in the junkyard because they have failed our strict annual safety inspection, and the cost of fixing them exceeds their market value.


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