Americans Are Driving Their Cars Longer

By Christine DiGangi

NEW YORK ( —Not only are there more cars on the road than there have been in recent years, they're also older.

In the second quarter this year, the number of cars and light trucks on the road reached its highest point since the third quarter of 2008: 247.9 million, according to Experian Automotive. The average age of those vehicles is 10.9 years, a year older than it was four years ago, and when it comes to the kinds of cars out there, General Motors had the highest share, at 26.6%, followed by Ford (18.9%), Toyota (12.6%) and Chrysler (12.5%).

Vehicle sales dropped during the recession but have recently surged. That, combined with fewer vehicles being scrapped in the second quarter, contributed to the number of older cars on the road.

What This Means for Shoppers

This has implications for consumers looking to buy a car and possibly take out an auto loan. For anybody looking for a used car, it's good news.

"As inventory increases, particularly inventory of more late-model used vehicles out there, the potential value of the vehicle comes down," said Melinda Zabritsky, senior director of automotive credit for Experian. "It could lead to slightly less expensive used cars."

But the affordability of a car depends on more than the make and model -- a potential buyer's credit makes a difference in total cost, because consumers with higher credit scores will be offered lower interest rates. In addition, higher scores can help lower car insurance rates. Aside from payments, car insurance, plus fuel and maintenance contribute to the cost of operating a vehicle.