Statista indicates the average age of cars and pickup trucks in the United States is expected to reach 11.8 years in 2019. This is a strong and relatively new trend for so many vehicles on the nation's highways to be more than 11 years old.
The average U.S. vehicle age set a new record high of 11.4 years back in 2013, as reported by R.L. Polk & Company (now IHS Markit), an automotive data provider. The average had been going up steadily for more than a decade and in 2016, it reached 11.6.
People used to say they expected vehicles to start falling apart at 100,000 miles. Now, thousands of passenger cars and trucks with more than 200,000 miles travel the nation's roads. Factories are producing vehicles with longer-lasting components and using better automotive manufacturing processes. More effective corrosion protection has been a significant factor.
Used-car shoppers once would have considered a vehicle with upwards of 100K on the odometer a low-cost beater that might be useful for getting them to work and back. Today, it's not uncommon to see ads featuring used cars and pickup trucks with this kind of mileage that are in great shape. And those vehicles aren't necessarily super-cheap.
Kelley Blue Book values vary depending on location. However, a quick 2019 example shows that an 11-year-old Honda Accord sedan in very good condition with standard features and 150,000 miles might be expected to sell in the range of $4,500 to $5,800. A Ford F-150 SuperCab at the same age with about 135,000 might command $6,000 to $8,000. Those prices are for private party sales; trade-in values are lower.
The so-called Great Recession officially ended in mid-2009, but countless consumers still feel some sort of economic pinch 10 years later. Unemployment rates have dropped, but wages haven't kept pace with the escalating cost of living. In addition, large numbers of unemployed individuals who eventually found jobs had to accept lower pay.
Many people are still putting the pieces together after filing for bankruptcy or taking a big credit rating hit for another reason. Millions lost a home to foreclosure. Many are still trying to rebuild their savings and retirement accounts after stock values went up in smoke.
All of those aspects can lead people to hang onto cars longer than they would have when they felt more secure financially.
Of course, people who would like to have a new car sooner than once every decade prefer to have the ability to finance or pay for one outright. Nevertheless, the better-quality components and manufacturing processes are good news for consumers. It's less likely that a serious vehicle breakdown will occur early on and force the owner to consider junking the car and getting a different one.
Auto parts shops and repair garages also benefit from vehicle owners driving cars longer. And despite this trend, the outlook isn't bad for manufacturers and dealerships either, as new vehicle sales have continued to be strong.
Passenger cars and trucks are being kept longer than ever before. Being able to buy vehicles that are expected to last for at least 11 years and more than 200,000 miles is a factor that consumers greatly appreciate. They still have the option of trading in an older model and buying something new when they want to.