Average Car on the Road Is Older Than Most 4th Graders


NEW YORK (MainStreet) — The average age of vehicles being driven in the U.S. reached an all-time high last year, increasing 0.2 years, to 10.8 years, according to automotive market research firm Polk.

Passenger cars saw a slight uptick in age, rising from 11 to 11.1 during 2011, while light trucks, including SUVs and pickups, increased from 10.1 years to an average of 10.4 years old. Polk’s findings are based on an analysis of national vehicle registration data.

The latest stats aren’t necessarily bad news for the auto industry. While the average age of vehicles has increased steadily since 1995, the firm says a recent rebound in new-vehicle sales will most likely lower the average age of vehicles.

After all, the total number of vehicles in operation last year was just more than 240.5 million, an increase of 500,000 from 2010 and nearly equal to 2009 numbers.

Polk also points out that the increasing age of the vehicles, coupled with increasing length of ownership, offers other significant business growth opportunities for people in the auto industry.

“Dealer service departments and independent repair facilities, as well as aftermarket parts suppliers, will see increased business opportunity with customers in need of vehicle service,” Mark Seng, global aftermarket practice leader at Polk, said in a statement.

Relying on aftermarket services isn’t such a bad business model. Earlier studies have indicated that while car manufacturers are building vehicles to last longer these days, they have also become more difficult (and expensive) to repair, with the total average repair cost in the U.S. coming in at $305.56 per vehicle.

Owners can avoid unnecessary repairs by following their vehicle’s preventive maintenance schedule, heeding dashboard warnings and outfitting cars for seasonal changes. You can find 10 more ways to save on car repairs in this MainStreet roundup.

—Jeanine Skowronski is staff reporter for MainStreet. You can reach her by email at Skowronski.jeanine@thestreet.com, or follow her on Twitter at @JeanineSko.

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