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September 2, 2013 • Autos, News

Think Your Car is Old? Average Car is Now 11.4 Years Old!

Family Truckster

Family Truckster

For years we’ve had a routine – get a new car when we’ve exhausted the current one, donating that one to charity. Our oldest car was a 10 year-old Subaru we donated it and got my now 7 year-old Escape Hybrid. But apparently these cars are fairly young, as the average age of a car is now 11.4 years old.

Hanging on to older cars has become a trend, with this year marking the highest average age since data collection started! The average age has increased nearly a year just over the last few years! And at the same time sales of new cars have dropped from 16 million per year to about 10 million. There are a few obvious drivers for the trend – the economy, decrease of real income, and increase of reliability of cars.

The economy plays a huge impact: after the ‘great recession’, jobs remain scarce, joblessness remains at a recession level, with many people simply dropping out of the job market, and many others ‘underemployed’. And even those with jobs have seen the cost of living greatly outstrip raises, and expenses such as medical insurance and education have increased at nearly 10x the rate of raises!

As for cars themselves, reliability and easier diagnostics has made keeping that older car going easier. From the report, better components and more reliable designs have also been a big contributor to the ability to keep cars going longer. Also, engines and transmissions have grown more reliable, and the increased use of lightweight plastics means vehicle bodies are less prone to rust out. And with more sophisticated electronics, diagnosing troubles has never been easier:

“For the longest time, everything was tied to maintenance intervals, and consumers had to be trained to have their car checked at a certain number of miles,” Seng told us. “Now, the mechanic can plug the car into a computer and show you the exact failure code. So it’s much easier to convince the consumer that the car needs to be repaired.”

What are you seeing? Do you keep your cars longer now? How about others you know?

4 Responses to " Think Your Car is Old? Average Car is Now 11.4 Years Old! "

  1. loopyduck says:

    What’s funny is that I tend to notice older cars less than I used to, i.e. cars from the ’90s in the aughts versus ’00 cars in the past three years. I’m not sure how much of it is because manufacturers have finally (mostly) moved away from selling angular-looking cars and how much of it is because I’ve grown up with these now-older cars.

  2. Harold Shaw says:

    We have a 1998 Dodge Dakota and a 1990 Toyota Corolla, along with a 2011 Ford Ranger. We generally have one new vehicle and then wear the other ones out. Sometimes the beast that you have and know beats the used beast that someone else had and has hidden problems that have huge repair bills waiting around the next corner for you to discover.
    The 1998 will last until next summer – it will go to a family member who’s newest vehicle is a 1986 sometime between now and then. The Corolla, we are looking at replacing in the Spring. Both are having repair bills that are beginning to outweigh the cost of having a loan payment.
    Our mechanic (one that we trusted just closed up shop), so we have to find another one, who is reasonable and trustworthy – a difficult combination to say the least. I can do minor stuff, but other things, I leave to others who know what to hell they are really doing.

    • “having repair bills that are beginning to outweigh the cost of having a loan payment.”

      That is the big one for us – once we are looking at a few thousand $ before a car is good for inspection and a long drive, it might be time to get another one …

      And it is lousy trying to find a good and trustworthy mechanic, we haven’t found anything above ‘decent’ in spite of living here 5 years now.

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