By on July 28, 2020

Never mind 2020. In the previous decade, Americans purchased more new cars per year than ever before. Roaring out of the recession, U.S. sales volumes ticked upwards year after year, settling above the 17 million marker and staying there for quite some time. Even last year’s haul defied expectations, landing north of that hallowed marker.

It didn’t reverse the increasingly geriatric nature of the country’s fleet, however. American automobiles, on average, have never been older, and they’re now poised to jump rapidly in age.

That’s the conclusion made by IHS Markit, which analyzed ownership data and revealed that the average car plying America’s roadways is 11.9 years old. Remember when the average age ticked above 11? It wasn’t long ago.

The analytics firm claims that one in four cars is now more than 16 years old, which is a testament to the rising quality of modern-day automobiles. Back in the ’90s, one-quarter of cars parked at the grocery store were not Ford Mavericks and Chevy Vegas. Nowadays, that beige 2002 Corolla is still ubiquitous.

As the new-car market cooled off just prior to the pandemic’s arrival, the country’s fleet-wide age was already poised to climb. COVID-19 ensured that scrappage rates declined even further, as buyers, increasingly worried about their financial future (or already laid off) kept what they had.

“At the start of 2020, all signs were pointing to moderate growth of the average age of vehicles through the first half of the decade, and there was certainly growing pessimism about how long the strong economic fundamentals could last,” said Todd Campau, associate director of Aftermarket Solutions at IHS Markit, in a release.

“However, the COVID-19 pandemic has created the perfect storm to accelerate U.S. light vehicle average age in coming years. This should be a positive side effect for the aftermarket, as the majority of repairs for older vehicles come through the aftermarket channel.”

In 2019, scrappage rates were less than that seen in 2009. Thanks to Cash for Clunkers, old vehicles exited the road at a faster clip than in pre-pandemic times; that decade-ago pace now stands to appear breakneck, assuming a similar program isn’t brought into effect in the near term.

IHS Markit predicts that, in a few years, average vehicle age could hit 12.5 years. It’s great news if you own a repair shop, or if you’re thinking of buying in the low end of the used market, as the glut of cars sold in the wake of the recession sink in price.

All that said, it’s not like Americans no longer need wheels. The pandemic hasn’t changed that. In fact, the uncertain virus situation has lent private vehicle ownership an increased importance.

“While work from home policies may continue for some time, there also has been increased reluctance in the use of public transit and ride sharing, and many consumers are opting for road trips instead of air travel for summer vacations,” Campau said. “As a result, vehicle miles traveled (VMT) may not be impacted greatly in the coming years, given the increased personal use to offset everyday commuting.”

[Image: Toyota]

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98 Comments on “Epidemic of Aging: Demographic Crisis Hits Nation’s Driveways...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    My 10 year old Escape still runs and looks great with a 150K miles on it. I keep looking at newer/nicer cars, but I’m having a hard time justifying a purchase when what I have is still doing the job

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Same with my 09 Sedona. Hard to believe that cars this age are still younger than average. Most repairs are easily justified vs taking on a 60-month payment, even though I keep an eye out.

    • 0 avatar
      texasjack

      My 2004 Lexus SC430 has never run better. Buy a good car and keep it.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        That’s the answer, do your homework, buy a good car that suits your needs, take care of it and keep it for a long time. That’s how you beat the car game

        • 0 avatar
          Lorenzo

          There might be another factor at work. Those 16 year old cars don’t have a lot of electronics in them, and the boomers who started driving when cars had a lot fewer bells and whistles are comfortable with them.

          I still have my 2005 LeSabre that has no screen, or bluetooth, or start button, or keyless entry, etc. It doesn’t even have a tire inflation monitor, which doesn’t bother me because I check my tires once a week and have a battery powered pump.

          It’s not just the boomers, but younger people who have owned cars for awhile realize the electronics will go bad eventually, just like the household electronics. They know the cost of repairing/replacing a cell phone or laptop, and are more than a bit aware that parts for older electronics can be scarce to non-existent.

          For most people, mechanical controls (knobs, slides, buttons) and a radio are all they need. The drivetrains are as durable as they’ve ever been, but if the controls are integrated into an expensive touch screen, the utility of the vehicle is compromised.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            I don’t mind the electronics as long as there are redundant analog controls. If the operation is dependent on screen controls forget it

          • 0 avatar
            Carfan94

            I’m going to have to disagree with Lorenzo on this. There is plenty of Japanese cars with over 200k and the electronics still work fine.

            I have a 2007 Lexus with the glorious 2GR FE (and I put regular in it) about to hit 200k with all sorts of electronic toys. Power tilt/telescoping steering column, Navigation, Touch screen, bluetooth (yes it still works with new iphones!) backup camera, power liftgate, rain sensing wipers, HIDs that steer into corners. All these features still function properly. The electronics on my car have outlasted many of the mechanical components (radiator, struts, ball joints). Just because a car has electronics doesnt mean it’ll be a money pit in 10 years. Unless its from Europe…..

          • 0 avatar

            Electronics is the problem only in European cars. But I can hardly imagine someone owning 10 y.o. Mercedes.

      • 0 avatar
        55_wrench

        Dittos to Texasjack.

        2003 LS430 here, just turned over 112k and I’m fine with keeping it, only the nav system shows our neighborhood as empty land.

        6 bolt main bearing V8 is lightly stressed, 26 mpg on the road.

        Makes more sense to me than getting something with a turbo four sub 2-liter that is stressed near its limits.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Basically this. Our motorpool has an average age of 15.25 years, and that includes a 2017 in the ranks. Take away the 80s iron garage queen the average is 9 years old.

      The wife’s 2006 Subbie was a maintenance nightmare, and we are wedded to it due to sunk costs. The next “gate” is 140-145K miles on the dump or keep going. Right now, almost certainly will put fresh brakes and tires on it and keep going.

      The 2011 Avalanche has the GMT900 cracked dash issue (just happened) and the driver’s side heated seat gave up last winter. Outside of that it looks like the day it rolled off the factory floor and everything else runs. There is zero reason to upgrade and it moves less than 4K miles a year right now due to COVID.

      The 2017 Lacrosse is likely my second to last car, it’s replacement will almost certainly be my coffin car. It too, because of COVID, is going less than 4K miles a year and I don’t see that changing.

      The 1985 garage queen JR Impulse will continue to roll a few hundred miles a year – it’s due to stretch its legs again.

    • 0 avatar
      Imagefont

      According to Kelly Bluebook, my 17 year old Honda with 232K and failing clear coat is worth between $800 and $1209. Personally I think a car that runs and can pass inspection is worth at least $3000. Regardless, as long as my fully depreciated and incredibly reliable car gets me from point A to point B without drama I’ll be keeping it and laughing all the way to the bank with the money I’m NOT wasting Ford’s finest.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      I’ve got a 2009 Pontiac G6 from new, just put new brakes on it all the way around. It sat too long during the early part of the lockdown and the cheapo rotors that I put on it last time messed everything up. At 153K, other than a couple of age-related issues with the car, rust being the worst, it’s coming up on it’s next 50K service. Which will probably be the biggest expense we’ll have on the car for the year. And, at the rate we’re driving it, that may not happen until Thanksgiving! Maybe I can push that out into the New Year. Who knows?

      My other ride is a 2004 Olds Silhouette, 198K, which has seen the ravages of 16+ years of upper midwest driving. Mechanically it’s fine and most of the electronics are fine, too. But the rust is accelerating at an exponential rate it seems. I’m thinking that I will wake up one day to a pile of iron oxide in the driveway and have to hitch a ride to the nearest Carmax.

      There are few new cars that I care to look at today. Actually, because there are few new cars. I really don’t care for a SUV/CUV and if the van pukes, I’ll get another used one. But I’m not that far out from retirement age and I’d like to have a CAR again. But that’s looking less and less likely as time goes on.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    More work-from-home and less commuting also means cars last longer.

    Assuming this continues through the winter, I won’t miss shoveling the driveway and blasting my car with road salt.

  • avatar
    DedBull

    This really is a testament to the durability of the modern automobile. The mythical 100K from days of yore is not even close to the lifespan of the average vehicle. Here in the north road salt is the only real killer of vehicles, and if you have no road safety inspection (see Ohio) the drivetrain will typically last until there is no more vehicle left to drag around.

    I think the other contribution to the overall age of the fleet is the ever increasing ATP for a new vehicle. At $400 a month, the payment on my $22K auto loan (2.49%) is more than my mortgage payment. I can’t imagine what it would look like to finance 2 vehicles at ATP.

    The bottom of the market has a floor in the $3-5K range for anything that will reliably pass safety inspection without needing work.

    • 0 avatar
      thegamper

      I cannot resist me a new car and don’t mind paying for it. I do about half leasing and half purchases. My purchases are gone by year 6 typically, my leases are pretty high mileage 15-18k/yr if I can get it. I know its not particularly economical, but its great having a new vehicle under warranty, low miles and not worrying about breakdowns, repairs, etc. Driving off in a brand new car is really one of life’s great pleasures. Don’t deprive yourself of it.

      Anyway, when you think the miles driven, it is truly a testament to the reliability of today’s automobiles. Collectively, my wife and I drive about 35-40K miles per year. In the past nearly 20 years of marital bliss, I will conservatively say we have driven approximately 600,000 miles. For those keeping track, that is essentially 24 times around the Earth at the equator….all without ever having a mechanical breakdown that left us stranded. Granted, we dont drive high mileage vehicles, but still remarkable, and all without any more maintenance than oil, tires and brakes.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        “…one of life’s greatest pleasures…”, “…Don’t deprive yourself…”

        It’s one of those things you have to check off the old list. And not just a generic commuter, that barely counts.

        After that, who cares? Most of us find better ways to amuse ourselves. As long as it runs like new, looks like new (if that’s important to you), everything works like new, we move on.

        • 0 avatar
          Art Vandelay

          There comes a point sometimes where time is the commodity, not so much money. My monthly lease payment is made after roughly 3 hours of work. That seems a small sacrifice to get some enjoyment and just never have to worry about my car. Could I save a few bucks some other way? Maybe, but my hourly rate lost sitting at the service department, even if infrequently adds up too and inserts a layer of frustration in my life which I am just fine kicking in a few extra hours to do without.

        • 0 avatar
          thegamper

          @denver

          Well, my 3 kids are eating my Porsche right now, so something really exciting will have to wait until they are out of college. Honestly, every new car I have bought or leased has been fun. I even love car shopping.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            In a perfect world, yeah we’d all buy/lease a new car (truck) every year. Most of could do it if we don’t mind living in it, or don’t care if we retire broke.

            The new car romance is lost on me. What I do like is in the $80K range, otherwise I’ll take a pass. Or I’ll buy it used or newer, slightly wrecked.

            Or if I have to (buy/lease), it’ll be the base, basic pickup, ready for light customization, and drive/maintain it like it’s stolen.

            The reason new car sales have stagnated for years is an increasing number are thinking like me.

            Plus the used car/truck market is the enthusiasts on a budget’s whet dream.

            Did I mention the automotive aftermarket is growing exponentially?

  • avatar
    NigelShiftright

    “the conclusion made by IHS Markit, which analyzed ownership data”

    If this “ownership data” excludes vehicles leased to individuals, I am in every way not surprised by the finding.

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      Not sure about other states, but in Indiana, if you lease a car, you are responsible for the license plates and registration just like for the vehicles you own.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I bought 2 used vehicles in the past 8 months one 2012 and the other a 2008 and both will last me for years if not a decade. I have mostly bought new and have kept my vehicles from 12 to 21 years. Working at home I don’t drive much and it is a waste of money to spend 30k and up on a new vehicle when I only put 2k to 3k a year on them. I take meticulous care of all my vehicles and they have lasted with few significant repairs if any.

  • avatar
    jh26036

    If a car can average nearly 12 years, a 6-7 year loan no longer sounds that terrible. $25k Rav4 can come in under $400 a month with no down payment.

    And mortgage payment of $400 a month, wooo……such fantasy land for me. My prop taxes alone is like $800 a month.

    • 0 avatar
      DedBull

      That’s the upside to living in an old house on the edge of a sub 1000 population town. Taxes are low, and so are property values. My rural commute helps too. It’s a starter home for sure, but at 2000 sqft, it works for my young family.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        I grew up in a large postwar suburb. Tracts of single family detached homes between 900 sq ft and 1,200 sq ft. 3 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, a kitchen and living/dining room.

        In the 1950’s, 60’s and even 70s’ that was considered more than enough for a family.

        Now we have monster homes, with monster costs. That generally require 2 incomes.

        And those homes where I grew up? The now regularly sell for around $900k Cdn.

        But then nobody I knew had a car with A/C (or in their home), power windows or door locks until the late 1960s and even then that was rare until around 1980. But each family regularly bought a new vehicle every 3 to 5 years.

        Excuse me but I see a cloud that I have to go yell at.

  • avatar
    MKizzy

    Just wait until the U.S. experiences the combination of a flood of more affordable EV’s to the market and insufficient public charging infrastructure. Its likely the growth in the EV market will outpace the growth in the EV charging infrastructure required to meet the demand, causing a huge class-based split of the median vehicle age.

    Once EVs are mainstreamed by demand from upper-middle class consumers, automakers will rush EVs of all stripes to cater to his market, leaving lower-middle and lower income consumers lacking access to at-home charging ports left with choosing from a shrinking selection of downmarket and increasingly used ICE vehicles. The average age of ICE vehicles will continue to increase until either the EV charging infrastructure catches up with demand or all ICE vehicles are forced off public roads by government regulation—not necessarily in that order.

  • avatar
    tallguy130

    No question the fact that cars are all so much better made than they were 15 years ago is a huge driver of this. Even “bad” cars by today’s standards will run for years with basic maintenance.

    I got to think the bigger issue is people being less able to afford a new car today. Mortgage/rents are way higher than they ever have been, student loan debt is astronomical, and wage growth has not risen in real terms in decades. You got to have a place to live, you got to pay that student loan. You don’t have to drive that new car when used cars last so long giving people the option to save a little in their monthly budget.

    It’s not a great comment on the health of the economy..

  • avatar
    slavuta

    Just make this QOTD- what is your personal average of the daily driver cars?

    Mine 6.2 over 4 cars

    • 0 avatar
      cammark

      Funny, I made the same calculation as soon as I saw that stat.

      my daily drivers (mine and my wife’s): 8.5 years

      the total fleet of 5 (including in-process restoration of a classic): 22.6 years

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        Cammark, you beat me. Excluding my Fury since it is not registered, my average comes in at 19.25 over four vehicles.

        Despite some saying that “I insist on new or newer” because of reliability, all my old cars are highly reliable, even the 28 year old one. What does start to go is the overall integrity of the interior. The old Sable does have cracks in the dash and the plastics are certainly getting brittle and rattly. But the car runs perfectly and because I actually change struts (50% of vehicles go to the yard with factory struts) it also rides and handles well.

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      (1/2 + 21 + 16)/3 = 12.5 for me

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      Mine is 11 years over 4 cars (‘01, ‘04, ‘13, ‘18). 460k miles collectively.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Wow, excluding the Internationals my fleet ends up at 11.83 or pretty close to the average. Through in them 1972 and 1973 Cornbinders and that number goes way up.

    • 0 avatar
      Giskard

      I’m bucking the trend here big time. Average over my two vehicles is just over 1 year :)

    • 0 avatar
      slap

      Last year the average age of our 4 cars was 14 years. We got rid of the two oldest cars and added a new car, and the average age is now 7 years.

    • 0 avatar
      Tele Vision

      My vehicular mean age is 14 years old. 2000 Sierra 4X4; 2001 C70 ragtop; 2007 CTS-V; 2010 F-150 SCab; and a 2013 Equinox. All run as sweet as a nut – thanks to decent tools and RockautoDotCom.

    • 0 avatar
      SaulTigh

      16.66 years across three vehicles. With both the Mrs. and myself working from home, I have to keep up an exercise rotation in my head to make sure everything gets driven each week.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    In high school in the early to mid 70s generally you could easily pick up a 5 to 6 year old car for less than a thousand dollars. Of course in 1976 a new Corvette cost just over $10k.

    This included what are now collectible muscle and pony cars.

    At that point they were considered worn out clunkers, on their last legs.

    In Canada rust was the major killer of cars. Ford lost a class action lawsuit regarding premature rusting. Honda for many years and Mazda until just recently also were alleged to have endemic rust issues.

    Another thing that caught my eye was the reference to mortgage payments. Here in the Toronto area, even during the pandemic, housing prices are increasing. The average detached house price being around $1.2 million. That divides households. Those who go without a car or drive an old one in order to save to meet their mortgage. Or those who renegotiate/negotiate their mortgage or take out a line of credit on their house and increase the amount to cover a new vehicle. After all that amount is just a ‘drop in the bucket’.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      I love looking at the classic cars sites and finding cars that I’ve owned and only paid a couple of thousand at most for going for tens of thousands of dollars. Wish I still had some of them

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        A lot of those sellers may be trying to recover the cost of repairs and rebuilds needed to keep those cars on the road. I’ve had the same experience as you, but I moved on from those vehicles due to the expense.

        There aren’t many of my former vehicles I’d like to have back, without upgrades like brakes and power options I didn’t have originally. My back and butt probably wouldn’t like the original suspension, and my peace of mind wouldn’t like the driving characteristics either.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        Which is why I kept my two cars I bought new. I certainly loved driving them when brand new, but I get more of a thrill taking out a 25 year old car that looks about 1 year old. That took a lot of effort, and the reward was certainly worth it.

  • avatar
    IBx1

    1) Peak reliability, servicability, and durability was in the early 2000s before direct injection and overzealous downsizing came around

    2) New cars suck (no manuals, rev hang, overwrought sheetmetal, wheezing 1.3L SUVs) and nobody has money

  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT

    The wife and I just finished a 1,500 mile vacation through the “GREAT WEST”. Driving a 2018 Silverado-pulling a 5,000 pound travel trailer. Many times we were in the middle of absolutely no-where. Great vistas-no cellphone service-for a 100 miles at some stretches. Consequently-I have no desire to see how many miles I can get out of a vehicle before issues arrive. When you trade in a late model pickup for $25,000.00 then turn around and buy another at $12,000.00 off sticker-your payment (with good credit) for 5 years is less than $400.00/month. Having traveled extensively around the country-those that reside in the South and the East, frequently don’t get the wide open (sometimes desolate) places of the “Great West”. You need a RELIABLE vehcile.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      There have been times in my life where I desired to make more money. I have always been able to take actions to accomplish this long term. What I can’t get more of is time. I’d rather plunk out some of the former to enjoy and not waste the later. Nobody on their death bed ever wishes they’d have spent more time in their mechanic’s waiting room or riding around in the dealership’s shuttle van.

      • 0 avatar
        aja8888

        Or at work!

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        If you can’t trust it to go across town or across the country, what’s the fun?

        Trust is everything. Your spouse, dog, whatever.

        But you have to know and trust the old car or truck, that it’s not gonna sh!t the bed. You know it eventually could, but so can anything new.

        I’m not against new cars, if a long commute justifies it and my own “reliability” is at stake.

        I do my own wrenching, but a good mechanic can look it over, plus going on experience, can tell you what’s most likely to leave you on the side of the road.

        It really helps to have popular car, but when I could only afford my ’90 Mustang 5.0/5-speed (around ’00) I knew the #1 thing that would probably let me down (that I couldn’t control/monitor) was the ignition module (spark igniter) so I always carried a spare.

        And I drove it all over, into Canada, down to Mexico, Florida and Calif. The module finally failed while in old Mexico, but I couldn’t find my 5mm socket. We walked about a mile before I found a mechanic (taller) and he drove us back to the car, changed it, it started and he only wanted to charge the equivalent of $5! So I gave him a $50.

        I trust my ’05 F-150 to go anywhere, but ’92 F-350 4X4, gas 351/5-speed manual definitely isn’t “smart” enough to ever let me down and I’ve driven it cross country twice without giving it a thought.

  • avatar
    deanst

    I guess this reflects the fact that there are more cars than drivers – a lot of idle and low use cars around. It makes sense to keep a car 20 years if you drive 3,000 miles a year and have no major repairs.

    However, when I look around me on the road, I find it very rare to see a 10+ year old car – but I guess that just reflects the fact that the old cars arent used a lot.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      I don’t know I sure see a lot of 10+ year old cars on the road. But I agree in general the older the car the less it typically gets driven.

      It would be interesting to see the average annual miles based on age of vehicle.

      My personal experience involves the 2003 Family Truckster we bought new and still have. Originally being the newest and nicest vehicle we owned it was of course the Family Truckster and pretty much any time there were kids to be hauled it was the vehicle of choice, it also severed as the wife’s commuter vehicle most of the time.

      In the first year of ownership we managed to rack up over 22k miles. Hey it was a new vehicle, the perfect excuse for a road trip. It did drop slightly the next few years, with a couple under 20k. Then gas that was ~$1/gal when the vehicle was new was now ~$4/gal and it was retired from being the wife’s commuter.

      In last 5-6 years however it is down to 3-5k miles per year. We did take it on a family day trip a while back, but nowadays the farthest it frequently goes is to Costco or Home Depot when we are getting something to big or dirty for the cars, but not something so big that the truck is needed. I honestly don’t remember the last time the 3rd row was put up. I’m certain however it was done by one of my kids who have borrowed it for that 3rd row.

      It now has ~160k and that first 100k was crossed back at ~6 yrs.

    • 0 avatar
      DedBull

      That may very well have to do with your demographics. The other trap it is easy to fall into is it is 2020 already, a 10 year old car is a 2010 MY. Vehicles that you take for granted everyday can easily fly under the radar as 10 years or older.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Yup if you live, or lived in, the 9-5 world you are on the road with all the other people in that world. People in that world in general are more likely to be able to afford to buy a new or newer car. Meanwhile all those other workers are not commuting at the same time and they may not be out and about on the weekends since grocery stores, restaurants ect are open then too.

      • 0 avatar
        tankinbeans

        I see plenty of vehicles in the +10 year range, but I tend to look at license plates to confirm my suspicions especially on models that didn’t change appreciably over the years.

        In Minnesota we cycle through license plates every 7 years. If I spot one with a new plate, but recognize it as not being part of the new generation, I know it’s at least 7 years old. If it’s not part of the prior generation I know it’s 14. Obviously transplants are a bit harder, but you get to notice the general pattern.

    • 0 avatar
      jkross22

      Dean, I bet there are a lot more 10 year old cars you see without realizing it. The numbers support it.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        jkross22, you are correct. Well maintained vehicles often hide their age well. But without question, those who have tons of disposable income buy/lease new all the time. Me? My goal is to be retired well before 60. Much more important to me. I’ve only bought two new cars in my life and I still have them both. And, in contrast to Scoutdude’s observation about mileage (which I agree with), the two newly-purchased cars collectively don’t even break 100K in miles. The old cars in the fleet more than double that individually.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        A lot of that has to do with the design cycles of 5-8 years. When I was a kid cars changed dramatically every two years and received minor changes in between. A four year old car could easily look ancient. Where as now a ten year old car has only gone through one or two major overhauls and doesn’t look nearly as old. Also, SUV/crossovers seem to age better. Who would really know if your Jeep was 20 years old?

  • avatar
    jkross22

    New car ownership is too expensive. New car smell and big infotainment screens and safety and turbos are nice, but the average small/mid size CUV runs nearly 40k once tarted up and TTL added into the cost.

    For a grocery getter and kid hauler from Honda, Toyota and H/K. For $650-$700/month.

    No deep thinking is needed to see that spending $1500/year in repairs is a much smarter move.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    New cars suck. Why is everyone so stinkin’ afraid to say it, report on it, analyze it, etc?

    Well unless you spend $80K.

    But there never been so many great (exciting?) alternatives to new, or keeping/improving what you have (and know), not to mention it’s paid off.

    Yes there’s plenty of money to be spent, but why not make a smarter, more intelligent (vehicle) choice?

    Or is it blowback against automaker greed, bundling what you want with what you don’t want, built in obsolescence, less choices, etc, etc.

    New cars (or their smell) don’t quite have the appeal they did when the only alternatives were unreliable or rusted to hell, or unsafe, or rattle buckets, or all of the above.

    When auto “experts” get together, it’s not talked about, but it’s the pink elephant in the room

    Did I mention the auto aftermarket is absolutely blowing up exponentially?

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      We are in a golden era with respect to power and handling and no matter if you like turbos or big V8’s, there is something for everyone.

    • 0 avatar
      ttacgreg

      >$80K for something that does not suck? The $24K purchased new, low end 2016 Prius in my garage is an awesome car IMHO. It has more than enough bells and whistles for me. I guess I am applying 60’s car standards. I can remember a Chevy (but not the particular model) that the heater was an option.
      How does a $27k MIata suck?

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    Automakers have been selling practicality with CUVs. And while a 2014 RAV-4 will perhaps have fewer features than a 2020 RAV-4, if the former is doing the job for you, why switch to a new one, which is going to offer a similar driving experience? I think turnover is higher when automakers are advancing technology and/or styling.

  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT

    Generally-those who say “new cars suck” can’t afford one….

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Did I mention the auto aftermarket is absolutely blowing up?

      Even though new cars are generally staying below the rate of inflation, most are a yawn fest, until you start spending real money.

      Otherwise what’s the attraction??

      Except it’s crazy that you can build a custom V8 Wrangler or ’80s to ’00s Mustang street/show car for 10 to $20K (depending on if you do the work yourself) that you absolutely can’t wait to drive everyday.

      Any fool can just get a new car, lose half their money in 3 years and already more than bored with it.

      New car sales have be stagnating for years, compared to the new drivers on the road with money to spend. But maybe we’re just getting smarter every year.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      You are wasting your breath in this place @Sierra. The $#!+box is a virtue and a way of life here.

    • 0 avatar
      2manycars

      Or just don’t want to deal with the complexity and built-in robotic nannys that infest new cars. I don’t want a TV screen in my dashboard, automatic braking that will slam on the binders when a shadow crosses a sensor, or electronic keys that cost hundreds of dollars to replace.

      I have several vehicles, my newest is a little over 20 years old, oldest 55 years old. I could certainly buy a new car but am 100% debt-free and want to stay that way, and I am sure as shootin’ not going to put that much cash out for a quickly-depreciating “asset”. (It’s a great feeling to not owe anyone so much as a nickel.)

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        I would agree @2manycars. Hence any car in the fleet not being leased (1) is owned. The complexity thing is overrated, but computers scare me way less than carbs or old school control systems.

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          Art, I will take EFI over a carb without hesitation as well. While a sample size of a few cars is not much, the only real electronic component I had to replace was the distributor (remember those?!) in the Probe. Being a Mazda unit, that one breakdown cost $800 to fix. Funny it broke down 1/4 mile from the shop I use. Too bad I was downhill from it. Even the oldest Ford product never had any electronic components replaced, which surprised me as I was told the TFI ignition module was prone to fail.

    • 0 avatar
      ToolGuy

      @CKNSLS,

      I hear what you are saying. But some perspective from the other side.

      For several years, we had brand-new vehicles in our driveway, on 12-month employee leases. I would text my wife and ask what color she wanted for her next car, and we would swap it out. My kid drove brand-new cars (mid-level trim) to high school. For my commuter vehicle, I would switch out between well-equipped hatches or sedans, or nice luxury vehicles, or later, loaded EV’s.

      But if you got a scratch or a dent or any other little minor thing, you had to get it fixed before lease-turn-in. (And a high school parking lot is not ideal for that.) You couldn’t do any customization. You had to live with whatever annual model changes were made. And you lost all your navigation destinations each year (first-world problem – lol).

      I am genuinely happier with our current fleet of used vehicles – they fit our life. And used doesn’t have to mean ‘crap’ – I have done *extensive* replacement of suspension components on my daily driver/road trip vehicle, for example.

      The old pickup truck has been with me through it all. Didn’t plan it this way, but my new 10-foot sit-on kayak fits flat on its keel entirely within the boundaries of the flatbed when I angle it in (right to left) – doesn’t even come to the front of the rear bumper. [The deck-board ‘wheelwells’ are only 3 inches off the surface of the deck-board bed, because I modified the maximum travel of the suspension – my loads always cube-out before they weigh-out – shifted the bump stops down by a couple inches – remember that the rear leaf springs are *highly* progressive. No change to ‘normal’ ride height/handling/etc.] The river is a few short minutes away. With all the new sound-deadening mat installed, the aftermarket audio system and subwoofer sound better than ever. Bluetooth? Yes (I don’t use it). Navigation? Yes, and the maps can be updated any time.

      -> Buying new vehicles is like choosing from any first-run movie currently running at the movie theater.
      -> Buying used vehicles is like having access to the full library of all the best movies ever made.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        So if your truck was your only transportation do you expect you would like it as much or feel the same way?

        It seems like a lot of the used car advocates own a “fleet” of vehicles.

        • 0 avatar
          ToolGuy

          At various points my truck *has* been my only transportation [once heard my alternator dying on the way to work and purchased a replacement on the drive home].

          I do like having one ‘backup’ in the fleet, because it gives you considerably more flexibility in scheduling repairs. (When I was in high school with my car, it was ‘change the water pump tonight [on a Tuesday with parts from the parts store whether it’s raining or not] or take the bus to school tomorrow’. Now it is ‘install the new a/c parts after they are delivered and when I feel like it and the weather isn’t too bad.’)

          There is no possible way I would do any serious towing with my old truck – the transmission would like to be babied at this point. And it rarely ventures very far from home (140 mile COVID ‘test drive’ was a notable exception – was enjoying the drive).

          Current pickups are incredibly capable with regard to payload and towing. For the things I do, my ‘new’ flatbed is extremely useful. Annual miles on my truck are very low – the utility (to me) is high.

          [Paid $3500 in 2001 including new tires and a drop-in bedliner. Have paid close to $2000 over that time just in annual registration fees, but then again that’s ten bucks a month. When I bought it the salesman referred to it as an “around the house” truck – I like that terminology.]

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        You know, I am actually going to agree with toolguy here. Used does not mean crap necessarily and if you have the time and means to DIY all of that and know what you are getting into it can work out. The issue is with all of the people that pretend used cars, especially older ones will never need anything and that 15 year old car is the same as a year old one. They both might break down, this is true. But if the new one breaks I call the number on the window and they come fix it at no cost to me and I go about my day. Statistically it is far less likely to strand you however. Important in that scenario.

        The problem is this notion that you should never buy new and you are a fool if you do. If you don’t want to do that work or will be paying someone and financially you aren’t straining there is nothing wrong with a new car. Not everyone can afford new, but very few can afford unreliable. However you get there.

        But yeah, if I am towing a trailer across country, a strong case can be made for a newer truck based on capability and safety alone. I know, people love their 300 6 and manual. But they tow like crap compared to a new truck.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          Yeah the reality is that for many vehicles the 3-5 year old car is a good value with the potential for many more years of trouble free use with proper care and a little luck.

      • 0 avatar
        ToolGuy

        Oh yeah – my backup camera works in any gear, because it is tied to the running lights on the flatbed. Yes they are LED’s. Yes they came from China lol [5 per side – they look amazing at night].

        As did the four LED work lights on the left and right sides of the bed (top crossbar and 2/3 back on the bed sides) – switchable left and right side [from the dash] and all four swivel.

        The front fog lamps mounted under the bumper are real-deal SAE-compliant Rigid brand. No I don’t use them in traffic.

        I was never happy with the amount of light hitting the bed at night from the ‘bed light’ on the stock CHMSL assembly. Now I can light up the better part of Home Depot’s parking lot. And I can see what I’m doing on the vise permanently mounted to the steel step bumper.

        The switchable LED strip lights under the hood were inspired by my uncle’s grandfather’s old pickup (which had a sole incandescent lamp on a mercury switch).

        Because I have a welder and a drill and a soldering iron and I’m not afraid to use them. :-)

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          Vehicles are not manufactured to last forever. Auto makers perfected planned obsolesence. Otherwise there would be no scrapyards. And Murilee would have to find another hobby.

          The life expectancy of a vehicle may be artificially extended due to ongoing maintenance, rebuilding or being garage queens. Easier if you can wrench yourself and have access to a private driveway/garage and tools. But tens of millions do not or cannot.

          And how many here can repair an I-Phone or their Laptop or their flat screen TV? As vehicles become more electrical and less mechanical those are the skills that will be required to keep them operating.

          Living in Canada there comes a point where the odds of a vehicle breaking down in the cold, or snow makes it logical to replace that vehicle. And ‘Rust never sleeps’. It can only realistically be delayed.

          If any of us could predict accurately, and consistently that sweet spot between a vehicle being reliable or breaking down without expensive maintenance or repairs then they should be in he auto industry and extremely wealthy by now.

          So better to change the vehicle before it reaches that stage. As for buying used, we all know that more important than the age, mileage or even the make of the vehicle is how it was treated by its prior owner(s). And that is not always something that we can accurately determine, in advance.

          • 0 avatar
            indi500fan

            Interesting question.
            I’ve changed batteries, screens and connector sockets on iPhones.
            Screen, hard drive, and keyboard on my Dell laptop.
            And swapped out a video board on my Sony flat screen (they had a well known bad semiconductor that fails at high hours…even though no factory parts available found a guy in Cincinnati who makes re-mans for 40 bucks).

          • 0 avatar
            golden2husky

            Keeping old cars is certainly not for everyone. If you know nothing about cars, every repair costs you. Some mechanics will take advantage of people like this. So, for them, new works, or off lease vehicles make for a compelling buy. Where I take exception are those who say used cars are just somebody else’s problem and only new vehicles can be trusted. I can tell you firsthand that cars that have high mileage can certainly be reliable and trusted. In fact, you develop a bond with your steed. And, like one of the posters above, you often hear and feel things that are not right. With over 700,000 miles of lifetime driving, I’ve been on the tow hook twice. I’m ok with that.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    I’ll toss in my thoughts.

    On the surface, this is good for the consumer. Things that last longer are generally a positive.

    Could be a negative for automakers.

    My deep thoughts…..part of this, beyond economic situations, is that new vehicles have gotten noticeably more expensive. My personal feeling is that automakers are raising their MSRPs and encouraging people to finance more money, for a longer period. This is NOT good. More capital spent on depreciating assets is not a great use of available funds.

    So the more it costs to get into a new car, the longer people are going to hold on to the old ones.

    I have to attest that my 2006 Corolla, excellently maintained since new, still purrs like a kitten at nearly 190,000 miles. Not that it hasn’t needed a little work here and there, but it has been cheap and easy. Other than the fact it isn’t that fancy, seats aren’t that comfy, and it is noisy, just from a pure function standpoint, it really doesn’t need to be replaced.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      I’m finding that my biggest motivation in buying a new car is boredom. There isn’t much going on in people’s lives right now, so the idea of a newer car can get really exciting to think about. I look at the ads and then stalk dealer lots to get a better look and on my drive home I realize the car I’m driving is doing just fine. A week later I start the process all over again

      Sometimes I wish my car would have a major breakdown so that I can finally have a good excuse to get that car I just can’t live without

  • avatar
    Mike Beranek

    3 very old, regularly-driven vehicles in my driveway.
    My son has my father-in-law’s old 1992 Camry with 375,000 miles. It still runs great, gets 30 mpg, and can do 90 on the expressway no problem, even with the 2.2l 4-banger.
    My wife still has her 2004 Sienna that we bought new. It’s pushing 140k and mostly does local duty, school/store stuff. I will have to work on the cables for the power sliding door.
    For my 80-mile daily commute, I’m rocking a 2004 LeSabre Limited pushing 200k. I bought it from a 90 year-old woman 3 years ago, along with a 6-inch high stack of service receipts. It continues to soldier on, it’s a Trusty Trooper.
    We could afford to buy new, but nothing out there for under $40k appeals to us. I will probably buy future cars used and let someone else absorb the ridiculous depreciation that goes on nowadays.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Agree Mike most of the newer vehicles do not appeal to me along with the large depreciation. Also to get what you want you have to take a trim package with things you don’t want along with direct injection, turbo charged I3s and I4s, CVTs, and water pumps and timing chains and belts embedded inside the engine. More negatives than positives. Also if you live in a state that bases your annual licensing and registration fees on the value of a vehicle you will pay much more to renew you license plates. You can also get a used vehicle with interiors other than black.

  • avatar

    It was all-too tempting to get the average age of the six cars in our driveway:

    18 years. All roadworthy and maintained and registered up to date.

    We have the two newer cars, a ’15 Sonic that is used for longer trips and a ’16 Spark that is my husband’s commuter.

    A 21 yo Suzuki that is used for my short commute and sit out in the hot sun all day

    Then a 18 yo Mustang, 23 yo Explorer, and 32 yo Daihatsu that are used as toys. Occasionally the Mustang and Explorer are used on a trip, but tend to spend most of their time as garage queens

    Mechanically, the newer cars do seem better put together. But I’m not into touchscreens and much prefer the simpler styling of older cars than the fussy details on modern ones. Plus the availability of a manual transmission makes them more appealing. The 90’s and 2000’s seem to be the sweet spot; better engineering with tighter tolerances and without the glitches of complicated modern electronics.

    I dread what our next new car will be, and as long as we maintain the fleet as we currently do, plan on keeping off a new purchase for a long time.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    When you lease a car, you aren’t typically doing it because you can’t afford it otherwise or to save a bit on the payment…you aren’t paying for the car at all…you are paying for it to be out of your life before it brings you any frustration.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      “…you’re paying for it to be out of your life before it brings you any frustration…”

      Not just hookers I guess. Leasing is about all you want to do, any more, no different than German cars since the ’70s or ’80s.

      Now if you could only lease the wife…

      If I had to “buy” buy, it would need to be a top seller. I didn’t intend on keeping my ’05 F-150 this long, but I’m really impressed with it, not at all bored, but worst case, everyone knows how to fix it (plus youtube videos on every possible aspect) new/used parts are absolutely everywhere, never mind accessories, King Ranch/Lariat upgrades, etc.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        There is merit in that. I plan on keeping my F150. It’s a 2015 XLT that had the base audio system that I upgraded to the larger Sync 3 from a later model. I don’t drive it daily anymore but there certainly is no reason I couldn’t and it was the family road trip car until the wife got the Passport.

        • 0 avatar
          Art Vandelay

          But yeah, the Dodge? Not really looking for a long term relationship with a MOPAR. Germans? I wouldn’t even go more than 2 years on a lease. Italian…Well that is like dating the insanely hot but crazy chick. You know how it will end, but you just have to do it anyway.

          i was actually close to buying the Fiesta ST. I think mechanically it would have been fine but I really hate a worn, ratty interior and I just didn’t see it holding up long term as well as I would have liked. And it was black. Dark colors age the worst and show everything. I do like shopping for cars though and like to change it up which is probably why I got more or less the polar opposite of the ST.

  • avatar
    ajla

    0. From reading the comments I think “average age” is a bad metric for the conclusions. Something like weighted average age for miles driven seems like it would be better.

    1. I don’t find the idea of driving a Camry LE for 15 years, trading it in on another and doing it all over again until I die especially appealing.

    2. I don’t find the idea of driving a 530i for 3 years, trading it in on another and doing it over again until I die especially appealing either.

    3. I can spend $50K on a ’20 Mustang GT convertible, on a ’69 fastback, or on an ’08 GT500KR. Generally I think the idea that used=financially prudent and new=YOLO to be misplaced. People can weigh their own needs, desires, and bank accounts.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    My perspective changed (a lot) when I priced out aftermarket catalytic converters. Only a few hundred bucks, shipped. Yes, they work (compare rockauto and amazon before purchasing).

    Even a CARB-compliant version for my wife’s RAV4 is only $350, shipped.

    And with some poking around, you can sell the old ones. Tip: platinum, palladium, and rhodium are worth a lot more than steel – grin.

  • avatar
    Carfan94

    My 07 RX 350 is about to hit 200,000. I was wanting to replace it with a newer RX soon.

    But I have recently started craving something RWD and sedan…. And just keep the RX around as a more practical second car since I like it so much and I don’t owe anything on it. I really want a 2008-2011 GS 350. 4th gen is nice but I actually like the styling of the 3GS better and its more affordable:) Most new German sedans leave me feeling cold. So I’m saddened by the GS’s death. IS 350 too cramped, LS too boat like. Infiniti lost their personality sometime around 2014. I don’t care for the new TLX. Heres hoping Mazdas RWD! I6! sedan will become a reality.

  • avatar
    SuperCarEnthusiast

    Former CEO of Groupe Renault, gets a new start at JLR as CEO! That how the CEO merry a go round works! I hope he does a great job, a Range Rover Sports owner!

  • avatar
    markf

    Based on the comments and number of Buicks mentioned the average age of TTAC readers must be around 68

    • 0 avatar
      CobraJet

      How did you guess? I’m exactly 68 years old and,yes, I have a Buick. It’s a 2017 Lacrosse and is a great car. The others in my fleet are a 69 Mustang, 94 Chevy 1500 pickup, 2002 GMC Safari, and a 2016 Silverado crew cab.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      One thing about older guys and cars, they’ve had a lot of them and generally know what they’re talking about

      I used to hang out on Jalopnik a bit, but got kind of tired talking to guys who did a lot of bragging about the cool cars their dads drove :(

    • 0 avatar
      ToolGuy

      @markf,

      a) It is very likely that the average age of TTAC *commenters* is higher than the average age of TTAC *readers*. [Count the commenters and not the comments when testing this hypothesis.]

      b) The average age of new vehicle buyers might surprise you.

      c) *Ability* to purchase a new vehicle correlates strongly with age – check out the median net worth figures here:
      https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/finance/average-net-worth-by-age

      d) U.S. population is aging [pick your own study].

      e) ‘Old’ people know stuff. (This sometimes surprises ‘young’ people.) [Observe that every ‘old’ person was once ‘young’ and some of them remember what it was like.]

  • avatar
    jimmyy

    In Newport Beach, CA, where $100,000 to $300,000 dollar cars are common, things are changing fast. Because of the current ugly political situation, the wealthy are worried about driving big money cars so they are getting parked. My neighbor stopped driving her 1 year old Ferrari and bought herself a cheap Jeep. Many people around here are buying several year old regular sedans and SUVs just to they do not look wealthy. Scary times.

    • 0 avatar
      jh26036

      I wouldn’t call it scary, just sometimes you gotta take it easy on the frivolous spending. My brother is a successful real estate broker slash software engineer, 7 digit home, he just turned in his latest fairly pricy lease SUV and now daily driving a 251k miles Honda Ridgeline that he bought from me as a beater dumprunner.

  • avatar
    3SpeedAutomatic

    I’ve got my eye on a Lincoln Corsair. Lots of bells and whistles, small turbo 4 cylinder, but shutter at the $40k plus price tag.

    Decided to keep the the 8 yr old Escape with Wal-Mart chafe on the doors. As long as the A/C and radio work, I’m happy

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Not a bad idea to drive an older vehicles that is not as fancy. After having enough money how much more do you need if you have a nice home, decent clothes, enough food, and the ability to be able to afford most things. If you vehicle is safe, reliable, and looks good then why do you need anything else unless you just want something. Cars have become less important to me as I have gotten older.

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