The Average Age of Vehicles Now Surpasses 12 Years

blue car owner dangling his keys his windows while doing a thumbs up

The average age of vehicles on the road has risen to over 12 years. It has led many consumers to wonder why so many Americans keep their cars longer rather than buy newer models.

Are people simply too busy to make it to car dealerships to upgrade? Do they not have enough money saved up to buy an entirely new car? Or do they like their current vehicle so much that they’re not willing to part with it? Let’s take a look at these and other possible reasons why cars are aging longer on the road.

Why Cars Are Kept Longer

Cars have become higher-quality and more reliable in recent years, but they’re not any easier to get rid of. A few years ago, when auto sales were plunging amid a deep recession and consumers couldn’t find good deals on new cars, trade-ins hit a record high.

But since then, as sales have recovered—reaching 17 million units last year—so has the average age of vehicles on U.S. roads. The result is that fewer people are getting into newer models than ever before, and those who do buy used cars are keeping them longer instead of selling them.

Not long ago, automakers bragged about turning over their fleets at an average five or six years old. Now, it’s closer to eight or nine. According to IHS Markit data, the number of 12-year-old vehicles on U.S. roads has doubled in five years. Older cars are also staying longer because of their enhanced quality plus the spiraling price of new autos, which is at an average of $38,255. It had already been increasing, but supply shortages from COVID-19 made it worse.

The Pandemic Plays a Role

Several factors beyond the pandemic have driven the average vehicle age above this year’s record high of 11.4 years. Americans are driving older cars, and thanks to the pandemic, the trend stayed longer. Since people weren’t going anywhere, not commuting nor going out of their homes, few people didn’t find it practical to buy new cars.

The demand for used cars has risen since COVID-19. The second-hand automobile trading in the U.S. is estimated at 41 million units annually, and it has continued to increase. Globally, auto factories shut down during the worst times. As they tried to start manufacturing again, new problems arose, like lacking semiconductors, tools for in-car touchscreens, and other functions like power steering. Because of this, buyers didn’t have a lot of options with new cars, so they turned to buy second-hand vehicles instead.

Better Chance for Auto Shops

mechanic checking the engine of a red car

As vehicles remain longer on the roads, businesses are searching to provide digital services and features to create a steady income, like installing new applications to media systems.

They are also developing convenience features such as hands-free driving in some scenarios. The prolonging auto age offers a chance for dealerships, auto shops, and other companies to sell parts for vehicle repairs, like brakes and tires.

How You Can Take Care of Your Car Longer

As more of us keep our cars longer, regular maintenance is essential to keep them in good shape. While regular oil changes and fluid flushes will help extend your vehicle’s lifespan, there are other simple steps in taking care of your vehicle long-term. Here’s how:

  • Have it cleaned regularly: Over time, dust and dirt settle inside your vehicle, especially in crevices and corners where you can’t see it with a quick wipe-down. If you don’t clean it out regularly, some components could become caked with grime, degrading performance, and overall safety.
  • Get it checked often: Your car might be chugging along fine, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t potentially costly issues brewing. Check your owner’s manual or call a mechanic for a list of recommended services, like oil changes and tire rotations. Car window replacement is also one common auto service. Get your windows checked and replaced if necessary since they can crack after many years of driving. And while you have yours out, have them tinted. They will look more modern and keep the heat at bay.
  • Don’t put off repairs: No matter how inconvenient it is, fix anything broken immediately. Broken parts create a dangerous and unsafe driving environment, and they can also drive up your auto repair costs in the long run. Get any issues checked out by an expert to ensure you have an accident-free experience on your way to new adventures.

Final Thoughts

Don’t count on getting a new car every five years. Instead, plan on keeping your current vehicle well. Used vehicles will make up a greater portion of vehicles sold in 2018 than new cars at current sales levels. The average age of vehicles on U.S. roads is about 11 years—and rising, nearly 13 years. And if you want to keep your used car longer, follow these tips.

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