Average Age Of U.S. Vehicles Hits Record High: 11.5 Years

July 29, 2015

You've heard people say that none of us are getting any younger? Well, it's true of our cars, too: according to IHS Automotive, the average age of U.S. vehicles has hit a record high of 11.5 years.

In other words, the average passenger vehicle on the road today was built for the 2004 model year.

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Why is this happening? IHS offers a few good reasons:

1. Our automobiles are built to last longer than they once were. Despite all the hullabaloo around recalls in recent years, today's cars are, on average, better made than the models we drove 15, 20, or 30 years ago. (Note: the improvements in quality apply mostly to mechanical things like brakes and transmissions. Infotainment systems? Not so much.)

This trend is likely to continue, as the industry steadily moves toward electric vehicles, which have fewer moving parts and thus, fewer opportunities to break down. Autonomous cars will help, too, by reducing the number of collisions on the road -- and the need to replace those crashed vehicles.

2. Fewer cars are being scrapped. Not only are our cars lasting longer, but people are continuing to drive them. They're not gathering dust in our garages, they're not heading to junkyards, they're being given to kids and grandkids or landing on used car lots. The slowing rate of accidents is helping this phenomenon: though the number of registered vehicles continues to increase, the number of auto accidents in the U.S. has remained fairly stable, resulting in a lower percentage of totaled vehicles.

3. People are holding onto their cars for longer than they once did. Yes, auto sales are booming just now, but many of today's shoppers haven't bought a car in quite some time. According to IHS, motorists now keep new vehicles for an average of 77.8 months -- 26 months longer than they did in 2006. In the case of used cars, owners hold onto them for an average of 63 months, up 25 months.

Of course, the Great Recession helped to lengthen the age of our cars. In the aftermath of the global financial meltdown, consumers were wary about making expensive purchase like vehicles, choosing instead to make do with what they had.

Years later, those shoppers have finally begun returning to showrooms. But while new car sales may slow the rate of aging among U.S. vehicles, it won't stop it -- not by a long shot. As IHS reports:

Based on the growth of new vehicle registrations in the past few years as the U.S. auto industry has rebounded, IHS Automotive analysis found that the volume of vehicles 0-5 years old will increase by 24 percent over the next five years, while vehicles in the six- to 11-year-old category will decline by 11 percent. Because of improved quality and consumers holding their cars and light trucks longer, vehicles 12-plus years old continue to grow and will increase 15 percent by 2020.

IHS says that the average age of vehicles will probably reach 11.6 years in 2016 and 11.7 years in 2018.  

How old is your daily driver? Do you plan to trade it in anytime soon? Or is it humming along just fine? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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