Average Age of Cars & Trucks by Household Income and Vehicle Type over Time

A deep dive based on the report by the Federal Highway Administration for 2017 compared to 2009.

When I entered the auto industry in 1985, there was a lot of hand-wringing about the average age of vehicles in operation in the US. After a brutal recession, it had jumped to 7.9 years, from 6.9 years in 1980. But everyone knew consumers would trade their old clunkers for new vehicles; it would bring the average age back to normal. That was the myth of “pent-up demand.” For a while, the average age hovered just below 8 years – trucks getting older, and cars, the dominant vehicle type at the time, getting a little younger. But in 1992, the average age rose to 8.1 years, and by 2017, it reached 11.7 years.

This chart shows the average age by “car” and “truck” (SUVs, car-like compact SUVs, pickups, and vans). Note how the difference between the two categories has disappeared:

The above data of the average age of “vehicles in operation” is based on registrations. There is a second and slightly different but more detailed data set that tracks vehicles owned by US households, based a survey of households that the Federal Highway Administration conducts periodically. It just released the 2017 results. It has conducted eight of these surveys since 1969. The prior survey was for 2009, conducted shortly before the cash-for-clunkers program removed a generation of the oldest vehicles on the road.

The Energy Department’s EIA compared the 2017 results to those of 2009. The average age of vehicles owned by households increased from 9.3 years in 2009 to 10.5 years in 2017. And the EIA produced the chart below that shows the age distribution for vehicles owned by households in 2009 (gray area) and in 2017 (blue area).

For example, in 2009, about 7% of the vehicles were 5 years old (I marked this with a red dot and a red line); in 2017, only 5.8% of the vehicles where five years old (yellow dot). But in 2017, there were more vehicles in the age group of 10 years and older, than in 2009, and this relationship went nearly all the way out toward the end of the tail: In both years, vehicles that were 25 years old accounted for less than 1% of the vehicles owned by households.

The classic distinction between “cars” and trucks” that still haunts auto-industry reporting has by now become largely meaningless as “trucks” include most vehicle types that Americans drive: SUVs, compact SUVs which are essentially cars that are a little higher off the ground, pickups, and minivans. So the EIA split out the average age by more meaningful vehicle types. The average age rose in all vehicle types between 2009 and 2017, ranging from an increase of 0.4 years for “other light trucks” to an increase of 2.4 years for pickups:

The average age for “other light trucks” is quite something: an average age of 18.2 years means that a considerable portion of these vehicles are over 25 years old!

The next chart is very intuitive: Vehicle age by household income. But note, even those households making over $100,000 reported that the average age of their vehicles rose from 7.3 years in 2009 to 8.9 years in 2017. In fact, since 2009, the difference in average vehicle-age between low-income households and high-income households has narrowed from 4.6 years in 2009 to 4.1 years in 2017.

As in 1985, the industry is still fretting about this average age. It translated into lost sales for automakers. But this is largely a result of improved quality. Vehicles last a lot longer than they used to. A well-maintained 10-year-old vehicle with 150,000 miles on it today can look very good and have practically no problems, and getting rid of it is mostly a question of preference, and not of necessity. And then it might be replaced with a recent-model used vehicle!

And there’s another reason for the aging of the US vehicle fleet: Prices of new vehicles. This has ignited a boom in the vast used-vehicle market in the US. As “affordability challenges” hit new vehicles, consumers switch to used vehicles, prices spike to record, and inflation psychology sets in. Read…  What’s Going On in the Used Car & Truck Market?

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  79 comments for “Average Age of Cars & Trucks by Household Income and Vehicle Type over Time

  1. worldblee says:

    My 1996 Honda Civic hatchback may not have many years left in her, but she has served our family very well. Minimal maintenance costs and 180K miles (we try to drive as little as possible, but there have been some years where I had to commute more). Best 12 grand I ever spent as I’ve gotten 23 years out of the car so far.

    • MCH says:

      Nice, my 15 yr old Toyota has 180+k miles on it, I hope to keep driving it for another 5 years. Especially as new technology keeps evolving. May as well squeeze every bit out of that car.

      • Paulo says:

        32 year old Toyota PU, here. It is hitched up to the boat for an afternoon fishing trip. I get asked to sell it several times per year.

        If I could get something newer with out all the bullshit cameras and doodads I would. Maybe China will produce something.

        By the way, our income is/was fine and we retired early because we didn’t waste money on new vehicles.

        • RangerOne says:

          I am not confident even a Toyota pick up bought today will last as long as the one you have.

          New vehicles are so complicated I am curious how long all these great automatic features will last. I love all the new features but I get the feeling a lot of the electronic stuff might need to be repaired or replaced before the car goes 20 years.

        • Dan Romig says:

          Yup, the new Lexus RC F has a ‘Torque Vectoring’ rear differential. My antique SC 400 has a completely open rear diff, but with traction control it works well in the snow. I wonder about reliability and cost to repair (after warranty) the new tech rear diff.

          There is no question that for ultra performance, the new tech is superior.

        • Suzie Alcatrez says:

          Those infotainment centers in the cars now a days are going to be impossible to fix and expensive to repair as there are no 3rd party parts available and most likely never will be.

        • MCH says:

          Those infotainment systems are garbage, all they do is hook your phone and make the car a stereo. Not exactly special. I am wary of the newer stuff too, but my 2003 Camry is probably not a quality product to start with. I wonder if today’s cars are as reliable.

          The cameras and stuff are great… for changing behavior and making a driver dependent. But that’s why I prefer the lease option for the newer models, don’t have to worry about out of date tech.

        • Terry says:

          We’ve got an ’89 Toyota Camry wagon still driving furiously, and my friend has the first Lexus model (decades old) which now has 400,000 miles on it and she still drives it (never, ever had a problem). We will NEVER buy a new car with the garbage “bells/whistles” you’ve mentioned–we are actually looking to buy an ’88 Toyota pick up instead.

        • Harrold says:

          Climate control and lighting are now being integrated with the infotainment centers.

    • Matsliner says:

      All but one of my 5 cars is 20 years old…. I installed a Rotary twin
      beam hoist in my garage , and do all maintenance in house…
      There should also be a survey of how many cars are actually paid for!
      with the 3 & 4 year car loan policy gone nearly 40 years ago,
      there are literally “mortgages” being given out on cars now….
      20 to 30 year loans on boats !! Dealers are paying to store new
      cars all over the place . I recall my dad saying , “you need to make
      enough money in one week to make a house payment, or you wont
      get a loan…. The “Gipper” really hosed AmeriKa when he tripled the national debt from 80 – 88…. we never paid that back! , and I fact, the current national debt probably includes civil war debt !
      We are sitting on a DEBT BOMB that will go off, either by chance
      or by design before the end of 2019… what remains unknown,
      is which states will be salvaged , at the expense of liquidating
      the others… lastly, if you have a good running car, treat it syntetic oil and “MILITEC “…. it will STOP ageing … the big 3 really hosed us with those 6000 mile oil change recommendations… it was the JAPS who first recommended 3000 mile intervals…. Detroit sold a lot of
      cars because of that LIE !

      • VT says:

        Do not use synthetic lubricants if if wasn’t designed for them. Quality lubricants are key and regular maintence is a necessity(manufacturers are required to extend recommended service intervals to reduce the life cycle and cost of ownership of newer vehicles). I drive 2 Jeeps(AMC+Chrysler) over 20yrs old with over 250k that always start(-20+/100+) and pull cars out of snow/ditches every winter.

        • Murray says:

          Used synthetic for a long time. If you live in a cold climate where it can get down to -30 and winter for 4 months of the year it is the best thing. Cold starts are hard on motors and the synthetic really helps reduce wear under those conditions.
          And you easily can double the time between oil changes. The dealers don’t like synthetic because you dont need as many service trips to them. We run it in everything including motorcycles right after the first oil change, also change out the rest of the lubricants as they become due.
          Agree with everyone that in general the older cars are easier to maintain but the safety systems are crap once you get around 10 years old. Driving a 2009 Acura TL, close to 300K on it and still love the car, very tight, probably best car ever had, has good safety features but is falling behind the new innovations which I think will save lives. Will buy new but keep TL for around town.

  2. Anthony Bevalaqua says:

    It also takes longer to pay off. People used to take out 4 and 5yr car loans. Now 6 or 7yr loans are more popular thanks to cheap money

  3. mark says:

    Wonder how many other people feel like I do? – Who wants to drive an overpriced piece of crap, that will record your driving “parameters” (braking, speed of operation, etc) for possible use against you in court.
    (Ask “Bruce” Jenner, who almost went to jail when his new car detailed his speeding, braking etc.when he rammed a lady and caused her death.)

    Or trust the NSA/CIA not to disable your car remotely to stifle movement in “socially disruptive” times. Yes They Can Yes They Will

  4. Ambrose Bierce says:

    We own more cars, or rent or otherwise ride in cars (Uber) someone else owns. How many different cars did you ride in this year? I consider miles driven, or ridden, may be declining, with more cars needed to fill a need that is contracting, you have to figure the business of making cars is not looking too good.

  5. vinyl1 says:

    Those of us who live in states where cars are taxed have an interest in driving a vehicle worth as little as possible.

  6. endeavor says:

    The low income residents around here historically tend to have more than 1 beater to drive. One craps out they have a back up and can fix the other car when funds are better. Perhaps this accounts for the rising age of autos among a increasingly less affluent national population.

    • HB Guy says:

      Good point. When I lived in Toronto, many people kept a “beater” car that could be driven in the winter. If it was damaged – fender bender, etc. – no big deal as it was expected. One sees the same thing here in parts of LA with long commutes and less affluent areas.

  7. 2banana says:

    The insane price of new vehicles + stagnant wages + the explosion of health care, college and housing costs = not buying a new car

    • zer0 says:

      ^This x1000.
      These trends:
      1) have nothing to do with quality or lack thereof.
      2) have nothing to do with Uber or Lyft (which would actually show newer cars)
      3) have nothing to do with vehicle warranties (which usually are designed to cover virtually indestructible parts of the car, like the tranny and not cover the usual suspects, like brakes, suspension, windshield, lights, electronics/TCMs, etc)

    • Wolf Richter says:

      New vehicle sales, at about 17 million in 2018, will be down just a tad from the record set in 2016.

      It’s not like people stopped buying new cars. They’re just driving them longer.

  8. Lt says:

    We have four cars all paid for, for each of us and two college kids. We will drive them til they can drive no more.
    – 2004 Honda CR-V 120k miles
    – 2002 Dodge ram 200k+ miles
    – 2008 fusion 350k+ miles
    – 2013 Chrysler 120k+ miles
    Insurance and taxes are very low for our family of four. Even a significant maintenance cost is worth what we save in insurance.

  9. Alex says:

    If not in a road salt metro area, modern vehicles should last 20 years with proper maintenance if driven regularly. My friend is an uber Merc mechanic who keeps the Mercs going. Many are 40 years old or more, retrofitted with bluetooth.

  10. HB Guy says:

    Wolf, very interesting article and analysis as always. I’d offer the following comments in addition to yours:

    1. Ride-sharing – we live in Orange Co. and I dread driving. I’m sure that, over the past 3 years, I’ve put more mileage on Lyft/Uber vehicles than I have on my own. That’s not including business trips back East, for which I use Lyft/Uber exclusively. I don’t believe I’m unique in this respect.

    2. Vehicle warranties – my wife’s 2013 Hyundai came with a 100k mile warranty on the power train, and we negotiated full vehicle coverage (electronics, etc.) as part of the purchase price. My 2013 Ford Focus Electric’s power train is warranted for 150k miles or 10 years in California (100k or 8 years elsewhere). Both have been very reliable, so if they ain’t broke, why fix them.

    3. Demographics – I’ve been in my home for 18 years, as have many of my neighbors, and they’re driving less frequently, too, and also replace their vehicles less often. I doubt this is unique to my area.

    4. Remote workers – I work from my home, and have little need to travel. If I do, I use Lyft/Uber. Again, many of my neighbors who are in IT do, as well, as do co-workers in other parts of the country. There is far less reason to commute for many workers than there used to be.

    Bottom line, car last longer, they’re used less frequently, and for those of us fortunate enough to work from home, they’re drive less.

  11. L Lavery says:

    Maybe people are waiting for some cheap Teslas to come on the market?

    • Alex says:

      Still waiting for cheap solid state batteries…and waiting.

    • cdr says:

      Someday they will, only Tesla won’t make them and electrical storage technology will be far beyond today’s battery tech. Then, they might catch on.

  12. Alex says:

    Mustang GT, Mustang SVT, Thunderbird, Manufacturing booming.

    Glory of the 80’s https://youtu.be/ST79E__yMes

  13. cdr says:

    What I read is that people of all ages are getting tighter with their money compared to a few years ago. The first question is ‘Why?’. The next one is ‘Where’s the money going to?’.

    Rising rates are making me want to spend more and for fun things I wouldn’t buy when rates were lower and my income was correspondingly lower. The charts also make it obvious that low rates don’t make people borrow just because rates are low. (Sorry, Ben.)

    I suspect school loans are a culprit in there somewhere. Perhaps Detroit should treat State U as a competitor and encourage customers to favor community colleges and vocational training a little more over overpriced and in some cases outdated 4 year universities?

  14. alicat says:

    Most post graduate Millennials (Bay Area) don’ want a vehicle, if they must own one they prefer a nondescript (no flash) economy car.

    Most want to bike or walk to work, share rides and use public transportation.

    Man, I couldn’t wait to drive, and dreamed of a flashy muscle car – go figure.

  15. Bill says:

    A new vehicle that I would drive would cost 100% of my SS for 3 to 4 years.
    Will keep my old 2006 pickup and wear it out at 120 t0 150 miles per month.

    • CombatMissionary says:

      I’ve been poking around in preparation to buy a beater car for the kids to drive through high school. I can pick up a 1st Gen Dodge Neon with a standard transmission for $1500 with less than 150,000 miles on it. Reliable, safe, economical, no slushbox to crap out on me and cost more than the value of the whole car… why would I bother with anything newer? You’re right on the money.

  16. Old dog says:

    A similar phenomenon happened with PCs. In the late 70s through the 90s every 2-3 years Intel and AMD would come up with faster processors and the price of memory was falling steadily. The newer versions of applications were appreciably better, faster and relatively cheaper.

    That cycle kept the PC industry going till the smartphones became the new PCs for the majority of people. Desktop applications continued to improve but today, only the most demanding users are able to tell the differences in the newer versions. The result is that people are hanging on to their 10 year-old PCs. Many people don’t replace them when they die. For them, smartphones is all the computing they need.

    Same with cars. It seems to me that the millions of people who live in congested metros have become reluctant to own a car. It is becoming harder to own/rent/find an affordable parking place, let alone good, affordable mechanics. I suspect that a spreadsheet would show that the benefit/pleasure/convenience per dollar has diminished steadily since the 70s. And that’s after taking into account that the new cars are formidably better built than our parents’ cars.

  17. RangerOne says:

    With all the new driver safety features ramping up to what will likely mean near autonomous cars in the next 20 years, I seriously doubt I will hold my cars for nearly their full life time.

    But among more cautious folk, I feel like I am probably in the minority of trusting new tech making cars more desirable.

    I see the wisdom of for instance giving your kid your old car, mine are currently babies so I have 14 years. But given the rapid changes in car tech I am highly likely to buy them a new car around that time or simply have them use our new cars.

    Why? Simply because over the next decade I expect cars to integrate safety features that will better protect them from the most dangerous driving period in a persons life. Their teens.

    I am interested to see what percentage of the population chooses to never trust semi autonomous or fully autonomous cars. And how that reluctance will translate across age groups.

    • Laughing Eagle says:

      Ranger One-The problem I see with these new safety features is people can become too dependent on them instead of knowing the safe rules of the road.
      Teenagers will always have problems because it is not just the inexperience, they seem to have no fears.
      I grew up with a friend whose Dad was a state trooper. He took his children to see the damaged cars in the junk yards or repair shops years before they were of driving age. Once you see a few of these you will think differently when driving.

      • JohnnySacks says:

        And as those so called safety features start failing, we’ll be in a living hell of yearly inspection torture. Backup camera, dash screen, or wiring bad? A thousand dollars or scrap it. Airbag light on? Scrap it. Broke my heart watching a guy drive off my perfectly running and driving (and safe) 91 Caprice with dashboard warning lights. Screw it all, you’d think you were buying immortality, poor people needn’t ought to apply.

      • GSX says:

        Driver training helps. The US has pathetic driver training overall. Come to Germany where I live. You will spend alot to get a license and gain training. If you teach safety and have a very difficult test, people tend to learn. The safety features being stupidly bad mouthed here allow for survivability. SO thats wrong? Typical US based ignorance.
        Most owners dont read their owners manuals. You think no ABS brakes are better? NO winter tires? NO traction control. Those items just might save your life, but training matters as much if not more.

        • CombatMissionary says:

          US based ignorance?
          According to Wikipedia, Germany has 4.3 automobile deaths per 100,000 residents, while the US has 10.6 per 100,000.

          Meanwhile, Germany has approximately 572 vehicle owners per 1,000 residents, while the US has 910 vehicle owners per 1,000 residents.

          Let’s compare the safety records of the two nations given that the US has roughly double the number of drivers on the road per capita that Germany has, shall we?

          Congratulations, you and your culture of taxing and regulating vehicle ownership to the point where virtually half of your residents can’t or won’t own cars has saved the lives of 6.3 people per 100,000, and given you a safety record that’s a whopping 0.0063% better than the United States.

          Perhaps if you went back to the horse and buggy you could get the number of automotive deaths down to zero and pontificate some more about how ignorant we Americans are.

        • Dan Romig says:

          A better measure of the two countries, as of 2015, is that Germany does have fewer deaths per billion kilometers driven.


          Norway = 2.6
          Sweden = 3.2
          Germany = 4.6
          Canada = 5.1
          USA = 7.0
          Czech Republic = 14.4

    • millard fillmore says:

      My kids learned to drive on our 60’s and 70’s vehicles.No assistance or,for instance,the airbags that killed more children in the 1990’s than school shootings.They still prefer older vehicles that drive well rather than new vehicles that crash well.Older cars are easier to maintain and that makes them last much longer than the computerized,failure prone newer vehicles.

  18. Errol W says:

    ’96 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4.0 : 211K and ’98 Ford Escort 2.0 : 115K. Pass state inspection sometimes needing nothing. New control arms, shocks and struts, fuel filters on both. Little rust underneath the Jeep on skid plates. As long as my mechanic is still in business I don’t need a new car. New cars are all getting recalled! Sorry, no brakes, no steering, and the airbag rips your face off. Who needs that?

    • Todd H. says:

      There are so many used vehicles in the U.S. that we could easily go 10 years without a single new vehicle sold, relying on parts and repair services. And do it more cost effectively. Once we acknowledge that, it is clear that most new vehicle purchases and leases are done for status seeking and not necessity.

  19. Wisdom Seeker says:

    I don’t think the statistics here prove the case beyond what Wolf has carefully stated, that the average vehicle age has risen.

    • Wisdom Seeker says:

      Cars ARE lasting longer than they used to, but the average age of vehicles you’ll actually see out on the road probably hasn’t changed as much as these data suggest.

      The use of (average age) instead of (median age) distorts the picture, since there’s a long tail on the age distribution in both the registration data and the survey data. It’s the same basic math problem that you see with (average prices) in home sales data – any increase in the tail skews the average by a lot, even though the median might not change much.

      • Wisdom Seeker says:

        Another issue here is that mileage matters. I’d bet that older cars aren’t driven as many miles per year, since that’s generally how they last long enough to become older cars and not junk. Alternatively, some people will have spare beaters (as mentioned in the other comments). The beaters aren’t driven as much, but are there when needed.

        In fact, it’s entirely possible that more people than ever are driving more miles than ever in newer vehicles (which is consistent with the strong sales in the past few years), while the average age of the still-roadworthy vehicles continues to increase due to increased quality.

        Another dimension to the problem is who owns the vehicles. Per capita vehicle ownership is very high, but not everyone owns a vehicle, and some people own more than one. If, for instance, older people nowadays are more likely to own multiple vehicles, while younger people are less likely to own a vehicle at all, that change in needs and usage would lead to differences in the vehicle age distribution. Someone with two vehicles might, for instance, want to have a newer fuel-efficient car for solo commuting, while keeping an older SUV around for weekend family use. Or vice versa!

        P.S. Another factor in vehicle longevity is that a higher proportion of the US population nowadays lives further south, where cars live longer since the weather isn’t as hostile (except perhaps in hurricanes!). And yet another factor still is the prevalence of garage parking vs. outdoor parking, which also improves vehicle life. The housing bubble may have put more roofs over vehicles and allowed them to live longer.

        • Juanfo says:

          Don’t trust mileage. Even highly sophisticated digital odometers are all hacked.

  20. Nicko says:

    As a city dweller, I hope to never have to own a car (I don’t even have a driver’s license) …. Uber and other ride-hail companies are cheaper than owning/caring for a vehicle. I may buy a boat one day, or uber one. ;)

  21. Todd H. says:

    And yet auto loan debt continues to rise. This is a paradox: the average age of vehicles crawling U.S. roadways is now 11.7 years (and rising), yet auto loan debt is $1.13T and rising. I would have expected the inverse. At an average age of 11.7 years, around 75% of the vehicles should be owned free and clear. What gives?

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Overall auto loan balances are inflated by, among other things, higher prices, longer loan terms, and higher loan-to-value ratios (120% is common).

    • Alex V says:

      People are probably also financing used cars. Not sure if that is captured in the auto loan data though.

  22. charger01 says:

    2005 Nissan Frontier LE 4×4 – bought in 2007 for $20k. Mileage at 165k, leather and stereo work well, very little in maintenance costs. I was lucky to dodge the “strawberry milkshake of death” as these models have a transmission intercooler (warmer?) inside of the radiator that was prone to leaking. Bypassed that and installed a tiny transmission radiator instead. Thristy little truck, only put on 6-8k per year. Probably will sell it privately, buy a van or new traverse as a kiddo/grandparent hauler.

    2010 Subaru Outback 3.6R – 161k, family hauler. Bought new, great car, regular maintenance, kept receipts and oil changes notations in the logbook. Had one major hiccup, the torque converter failed at 98k, within extended warranty.

    • Dave P says:

      2006 Xterra which is a Frontier in frame and drivetrain. I just replaced the radiator at 100K along with the hoses and called it a day. Radiator cost $100 hoses around $15. Half day project.

  23. Michael Gorback says:

    2010 Acura ZDX bought used with 14,000 miles, now has 58,000 miles. I’ll probably end up leaving it to one of my grandchildren at this rate.

    Moral of the story: live 7 miles from where you work.

  24. John Taylor says:

    If you have a new car, you need to pay for full comprehensive insurance.

    It saves me a lot driving an older car I’m not worried about and getting California minimum insurance instead. I’ll bet these costs factor in for many people.

  25. Rcohn says:

    I have a different viewpoint than all of the other posters
    Sounds to me like the auto industry is going to enjoy significant new car sales in the coming years as more and more older cars decay

    • Altandmain says:

      Only if a large segment of the general public has the money to buy a new car. Considering most Americans are struggling just to get by, this seems like an unlikely proposition.

      Hint: By destroying the middle class , the rich and shareholder class may very well have bitten off the hand that feeds them.

  26. Bill says:

    The second definition of insanity paying interest on a devaluing liability

  27. G says:

    CASH CARS KC – $CASH CARS$ – Cadillac Specials


  28. OSP says:

    1998 Lexus ES300, bought in 2008 89K miles for $1500 (salvage title – no damage, recovered theft) now has 210K miles, runs like a top.

    2002 Chev Tahoe bought in 2007 $14K, now has 225K miles, my wife still loves it.

    Liability insurance only on both.

    Maintain them and they’ll serve you well.

  29. Tom Jones says:

    Drove my 1985 Ranger for 28 years before Calif. strict smog requirements forced it into wreckage status. It still looked very nice. People always wanted to buy it…but it could not be resold in the state. So accepted ca’s purchase offer to retire older vehicles….it passed all the smog numbers but when put under a load on the dynamometer smoke came out of the tail pipe..so flunked on a visual. It still looked sharp on it’s last day. One owner (me) the whole time. I took pics before turning it in. Looked like a new truck…..

  30. Jim Jelinski says:

    Wife’s Ford Windstar, 3.8 V6, bought new in 2003, last month rolled over 400,000 miles. Still runs same as when new. I change the oil & filter every 3,000 miles. AC compressors last about 100,000 miles here on the gulf coast where we run the AC nearly 100% of the time, either cooling or dehumidifying. Replaced tie rod ends at about 360,000 miles. Replaced water pump once and alternator twice.

  31. Trey says:

    I suspect demographics are playing a role. As the population gets older, the percentage of people who no longer commute climbs. In addition, aging related health issues make people reluctant to drive long distances…or at all.

    As a result, more vehicles are sitting in baby boomers’ driveways/garages gracefully aging with them.

    This would fatten the tail and skew the average. As others have noted, reporting the median along with the average would be helpful in this case.

    It would be interesting to see the average (and median) age of vehicle broken down by age of consumer (20-30 yo, 31-40 yo, etc.). There are probably some interesting stories buried in that data.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Trey, two things:

      1. Boomers are between their early 50s and early 70s. They’re just fine and very active, and they can drive “long distances” just fine, but thank you for your concern. You’re probably talking about the prior generation.

      2. The millennial generation is far bigger than the boomers. All of them are now over 16 — driving age. The older ones are in their mid-30s. They’re arriving faster than the boomers are leaving.

      These demographics that blame the boomers without taking the millennials into account are nonsense.

      If the millennials in some big cities don’t LIKE to drive, that’s a different matter, but don’t blame the boomers for that.

      • Trey says:

        Wolf, I really enjoy your blog. But in this case, I’m afraid the numbers don’t support you.

        On point #1:

        Here are the annual miles driven by age from the Federal Highway Administration: https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/ohim/onh00/bar8.htm

        16-19 7,624
        20-34 15,098
        35-54 15,291
        55-64 11,972
        65+ 7,646
        Average 13,476

        Note the huge drop from the 35-54 cohort to the 55-64 cohort, and again from 55-64 to 64+.

        Using the common definition of Boomers as those born between 1946 and 1964, the oldest boomers are 72 and the youngest are 54. Which means the youngest year of Boomers (1964) are currently transitioning from the high mileage 35-54 cohort into the 55-64 drop off cohort.

        They may be able to “drive ‘longer distances’ just fine, but thank you for your concern”, but the data shows they do not.

        On point #2:

        This is the classic “Millenials offset Boomers” theory. According to the Federal Reserve paper, in 2000 the 16-34 cohort purchased 28.6% of new cars while in 2015 they only accounted for 22.6%.

        source: https://www.federalreserve.gov/econresdata/notes/feds-notes/2016/the-young-and-the-carless-the-demographics-of-new-vehicle-purchases-20160624.html

        In the paper, the Fed authors conclude:

        “Some–but not all–of the increases in the average age of new vehicle buyers reflects the aging of the overall U.S. population.”

        This provides some support for my original statement that “I suspect demographics are playing a role.”

        • Wolf Richter says:

          In your point #1, you’re STILL ignoring the millennials, which, according the figures you cite, are in the high-mileage category. Generations are a FLOW.

          In your point #2, you’re talking about purchases of new cars by millennials — totally different topic. If you look at the charts, the average age of cars on the road has been rising for the past many DECADES, regardless of generational changes. There are all kinds of factors at work, such as dense urban living where you don’t need a car, much higher quality of cars to where the last much longer and look better for longer, etc. — as you can see in the many comments here — and these popular blame-the-boomers theories are just … I don’t know … goofy?

  32. Guy White says:

    @Trey, properly reporting descriptive statistics is always more interesting and closer to the truth.

    We are old, 70 & 80, Boomers, financially well off, in part, for having downsized to one vehicle and then keeping the one 50 mpg diesel for thirteen years.

    Safety and changing needs pushed us into a much larger diesel SAV now six years old.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Guy White,

      If you’re 80 now, you’re NOT a boomer. You’re the prior generation. Don’t extrapolate from yourself to the boomers, the bulk of whom are now in their 50s and 60s. And you’re completely oblivious to the millennials, the largest generation of all that are now all of driving age.

  33. Anthony A. Medeiros says:

    Being in the car business at a huge dealer, (parts guy), I see this first hand. Economics always enter the equation. Most of my do it yourself customers try to squeeze the last ounce of gas out of the old dogs. They other problem is that they own cars that are close, or at obsolete, as well as the parts. The families get the 10 plus years out of them, and the rich “older folks” lease so they can always have a car under warranty. My self, I am under 95k on a Jeep I bought new in 2004 at a dealer I worked at. After selling my 2005 Pacifica, which was fully operational (sold to a nice young family) I am no longer paying college and the usual expenses of being a parent, and finally went to a 2017 Mazda. As for the “quality” part of it, this is true, and ensures good trades, and lease returns, so sometimes we have cars with as little as 3000 miles on them after a 2 year lease. Realistically, who would’t want to buy a vehicle like that, and save a ton of cash, and still get long term on a loan.

  34. RD Blakeslee says:

    Wolf, I’ve gone back to the original sources you’ve referenced and I cannot find any definition of “Other light truck” I would like to know how those trucks differs from “Pickup truck”.

    Their average age in service of nearly five years older than pickups “is quite something”.

    My truck is a 1995 Ram 2500 diesel “pickup” and it is quite likely to last beyond 25 years, which you find remarkable. I wonder if all the pickup lines, 150 (light duty), 250, 350, 450, etc. are all “pickups” or if the higher load models (perhaps 450 and above?) are “other light trucks”.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      I don’t know either about “other light trucks.” But my gut feeling is that these might be work trucks — 3/4-ton and up — of the type you’re driving, trucks that have to do a job, but that don’t have to look pretty.

      • RD Blakeslee says:

        Suppose it’s pointless to even wonder why, but the “govmint” publishes a statistic to a category it does not define …

  35. Paul says:

    Ex-Mechanic here.
    It’s the sticker price. People were complaining about it back in 2004…

    That said:

    I was just a year and a half ago pulling for photo shots lifted .2 year old trucks going for above MSRP (so they were repo-d, lifted with big fat tires and flipped) at a sub-prime auto dealer that was booming.
    They added a bigger 2nd lot of used trucks and Jeep wranglers.

    All at 25k at least. And it’s funny when you get in an 2015 Jeep that has like 2000 miles on it…

    Some were the good ones like the Ford Limited… for much gold… and some were 15 year old junk still going for 15k.

    What supprised me was I’d often see that dealer’s plate in the worst Ghettos of southern California and out in the boondocks 140 miles away (millenial road warrior here).

    Which has always made me wonder… how do they get so many used current model year trucks?

    Are the dealers pulling “by here pay here?”

    I think the new cars aren’t even made to be driven but just financed a million times to profit off forfeited down payments.

  36. G-B says:

    I feel sad for Tom Jones and his ’85 Ranger.

    I have old cars because I love them. Me and the wife have our first and only nearly new cars.
    My ’89 Prelude 246K Original clutch & all bought in ’91.
    Wife has ’91 Accord 430K she got in ’93, New exhaust valves @420K Nothing else.

    We also have a ’97 Chevy Express Conversion van New trans 130K Now has 148K Inherited from her parents.
    1989 Accord 250K – got this cause I got tired of shifting gears.
    1986 Prelude – I had to repair the muffler welding it as they stopped making new ones. 180K already rusty so it’s my winter car. This was the kids first car – $500. ebay car in ’07.
    Last but not least 88 Dodge Dakota full size bed and HD springs, stronger than a F-150.

    We don’t earn a lot, and I can’t imagine ever ever thinking about signing anything that says you owe $35,000 + for a vehicle.. Pay it out over 8 years…. I don’t know how people do it. – It’s like you never see the end of the tunnel – Never out of debt.

    My first 2 cars were 72 & 73 mustangs they both died of rust and oil burning by 140K Used sears oil in them changed every 3K. The above cars & truck Castrol 5-30 changed still 3K.

    And no, they don’t break down all the time, they are all great cars.

    My parents use to trade in their cars by the time they had 70K miles, I remember my dad working on them himself. Now he also owns a 91 accord and a 99 accord, one with 170K , 99 with 70K

    I think people bank on cars lasting longer, and they pay out a lot of money on electronics, Upgrade Upgrade ! Upgrade !
    $150. Cell Phone, $200. Cable & Internet, That’s the car payment.

    With the same care they are lasting 3 times longer – easy. Less rust too.
    The car guys talk about the “gas & Go” period now at 100K and above.

    A little of all the above from all posters accounts for the creeping up of car age.
    I can’t think about owning a car that don’t use a key, or a real gear lever, not that channel selector like on the old tv’s.

    I sometimes think it would be cool to go look at new cars, but there are so many things about them I just don’t like any more, like that tv screen in the dash.

    Yah, I changed the tranny in the van myself, got a reman unit on ebay
    they delivered it, picked up the old one 3 days later.

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