• Mar 4th 2009 at 4:39PM
  • 36
That old clunker in your driveway is not looking so bad right about now, huh? As borne out in the last few month's set of sales figures, Americans are purchasing fewer cars today than in previous years, meaning that the current fleet of vehicles on the road is older than ever before. According to data compiled by R. L. Polk & Co., the average vehicle in use today is 9.4 years old, up a few points from last year's 9.2-year average.

Light trucks don't manage to live quite as long with an average age of 7.5 years, but that figure is still up from the 7.1 years recorded in 2007. What gives? Sagging consumer confidence, unavailable credit and a distinct lack of discretionary funds are the main culprits, though last summer's record high fuel prices also contributed to the figures.

Collectors of classic '80s machinery take note: Vehicles are also being scrapped at higher rates than in past years. A total of 5.6% of all cars and trucks were scrapped in 2008 as compared to 5.2% in '07. Getting parts for that cherry IROC-Z is only going to get harder as the years go by.

[Source: R. L. Polk & Co.]

PRESS RELEASE:

U.S. Vehicle Median Age Increased in 2008, According to Polk

* Median age for passenger cars was a record high of 9.4 years
* The total vehicle scrappage rate increased to 5.6 percent in 2008; led by light truck scrappage increase

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. (Mar. 3, 2009) – The median age of passenger cars in operation increased to 9.4 years in 2008, breaking the previous two-year record high of 9.2 years, according to figures released today by R. L. Polk & Co. in its annual vehicle population report.

The median age for all trucks in 2008 increased to 7.6 years from 7.3 years in 2007. Light trucks increased from 7.1 years in 2007 to 7.5 years in 2008 (TABLE A). Polk's annual vehicle population report represents data from July 1, 2007 to June 30, 2008, following an in-depth analysis of more than 249 million vehicles.

"As the fleet of pick-up trucks, SUVs and minivans purchased in the late 1980s and through the 1990s ages, their scrappage rates accelerate," said Dave Goebel, solutions consultant for Polk's aftermarket team.

The percentage of total passenger cars and trucks scrapped in 2008 increased to 5.6 percent compared to 5.2 percent in 2007. The passenger car scrappage rate was 5.1 percent. For all trucks the scrappage rate was 6.3 percent and light truck scrappage was 6.4 percent, both up notably from 2007 (TABLE B).

"The current economic environment, coupled with high gas prices last spring and summer, have resulted in consumers delaying purchases of vehicles because their discretionary income has fallen," said Goebel. "Based on the uncertainty of what the future holds, consumers are trying to keep their current vehicles running longer, until their confidence improves."

Polk analysts also anticipate that in bad economic times, the threshold of repair costs may increase. Consumers could feel as though paying a repair expense to keep the vehicle going for a year is more sensible or affordable than a monthly vehicle payment over an extended period of time.

About R. L. Polk & Co.
R. L. Polk & Co. is the premier provider of automotive information and marketing solutions. Polk collects and interprets global data, and provides extensive automotive business expertise to help customers understand their market position, identify trends, build brand loyalty, conquest new business and gain a competitive advantage. Polk helps automotive manufacturers and dealers, automotive aftermarket companies, finance and insurance companies, advertising agencies, media companies, consulting organizations, government agencies and market research firms make good business decisions. A privately held global firm, Polk is based in Southfield, Mich. with operations in Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.


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  • 36 Comments
      • 6 Years Ago
      To continue the theme of this thread - I have a 2000 Silverado w/ 150K miles, still runs pretty well. I do all my own maintenance, which saves money. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on my mood) it is about to be traded in - second baby on the way, and only one car seat fits in a standard cab truck.

      Before the Silverado (bought in 2003), I drove my 1976 Impala every day (save for one year when I drove my grandmother's K car - I love those K cars, still). I still have the Impala, although it is in pieces at the moment waiting for me to finish the suspension rebuild. And in case your wondering, yes, when I took the Impala apart, I found several bolts had been missed during assembly at the factory. Despite shoddy assembly, the car still ran and drove when I decided to do some work on it.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Indy,

        One of the best used deals you could ever score is a K-car station wagon. It will do anything a small/mid sized CUV will and more. And it's dirt cheap. Get it with the Chrysler 2.2 not the Mitsubishi 2.6 which had problems. Even as junkyard project car it's worth it. You can transfer almost any luxury items from a LeBaron or Chrysler E-class/New Yorker to it and it will fit.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Bigs is correct and incorrect. Median means half are older 9.4 years and half are younger than 9.4 years. Mean = avg
        • 6 Years Ago
        No, Mean and Average have two totally different meanings, they are not the same.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Suppose there are 5 cars in a parking lot. The first and second are 1 year old, the third is 2 years old, the fourth is 3 years old, and the fifth is 13 years old.

        Mean = (1+1+2+3+13)/5 = 4 years old
        Median = middle of {1, 1, 2, 3, 13} = 2 years old
        Mode = most frequent of {1, 1, 2, 3, 13} = 1 year old
        Average = mean, median, or mode (depending on context)

        Mean: In mathematics and statistics, the arithmetic mean (or simply the mean) of a list of numbers is the sum of all of the list divided by the number of items in the list... The mean is the most commonly-used type of average and is often referred to simply as the average. The term "mean" or "arithmetic mean" is preferred in mathematics and statistics to distinguish it from other averages such as the median and the mode.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arithmetic_mean

        Median: In probability theory and statistics, a median is described as the number separating the higher half of a sample... from the lower half. The median of a finite list of numbers can be found by arranging all the observations from lowest value to highest value and picking the middle one.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Median

        Mode: In statistics, the mode is the value that occurs the most frequently in a data set...
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mode_(statistics)
        • 6 Years Ago
        Jay Evans -

        Only in a very specific sense that only true statisticians care about.

        The rest of us do understand what "median" is - and that "mean" is "average" for most purposes.

        Statistics geeks go here for lots of fun:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mean

      • 6 Years Ago
      I've got a '03 Yukon 2WD-42,000 on the odometer, garage kept and looks better now than it did new-just needs fluid changes and occasional wash, i'm good. Best of all it's paid for, don't owe these crazy banks a damn thing! People kept asking to buy it from me when gas got to 4.59 a gallon last summer because it has the 4.8 V8 which honestly burned less gas than my wife's Chevy with a 3.6L V6!
      • 6 Years Ago
      When I traded my 2005 Odyssey for a 1998 Dodge Grand Caravan in 2007, the average age of my two vehicles went from 2 years to 5.5 years overnight. Now it's up to 7.5 years.

      Besides the Honda being a lemon, the payments for it were killing me. It's nice not having a car payment, and that's a big reason to hang on to the old machinery.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I've got a 17-year old Honda Accord EX in my garage. My grandfather bought it for me as a graduation gift in 1993 (it's a '92 model). It has 388k miles on the odometer, original 5-speed manual (on 3rd clutch) and had a valve job at around 250k. Still drives great, although I don't use it every day anymore. If it was an automatic, I'd have no problem with it being my primary vehicle. I've got an '07 Accord LX V6 that I use for my 70-mile round trip commute each day (Atlanta area). The '92 Accord gets driven every weekend, though.

      My parents have a '95 Jeep Grand Cherokee that they bought new in 12/94. It has 260k miles (last time I checked) and still on the original engine and transmission! Proof that almost any vehicle will hold up for a long time if it's maintained and driven with care (by my mom).
      • 6 Years Ago

      So many classic cars from the 1950's are still on the road, some even are used by their owners as daily driver. So even older cars can be good.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Classic cars are so simple compared to modern cars that it is quite easy keeping them running, even as a daily driver. I have a 67 mustang 289/v8 as my daily driver that's 90% original. Including the whole drive train that has never been overhauled. It just keeps running and starts with just a flick of the key every morning. Granted it will be nice when I have to overhaul the engine so I can put in hardened valve seats (lead substitute is expensive). With that and my wifes explorer the average age of our cars is 24 years. :)
      • 6 Years Ago
      Median and average are not the same thing.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I was always taught that median was one of three ways to calculate the more generic term "average", the other being mean and mode. Mean is most often what we are referring to when we say average though.
      • 6 Years Ago
      To me this means one thing. After this recession there's gonna be a boom in auto sales.
      • 6 Years Ago
      More on this thread, I bought my 1991 Mazda MX-6 GT about two years ago, for being 18 years old and having 177k on the clock, the car is still in great condition. Even the factory turbo still spools up and gets me going, and surprises quite a few people that it still has that much power for being so old.

      I've also owned a lot of cars, and this has by far been the most reliable and least expensive vehicle I've ever owned. While not as comfy and quiet/nice as some of my other cars (germans), I'd have a hard time getting rid of her for something newer and more expensive (1st gen WRX or e36 M3...only).

      Long live car maintenance and the view of cars as not being "disposable".
      • 6 Years Ago
      1991 Lexus LS400 244,000 miles change the oil, service the trans once a year and it keeps running great, just sold my 1988 Toyota p.u. with almost 300,000 miles on her no leaks never smokes. Great truck never let down even when the original water pump went bad at 280,000 miles. Let it cool down, start it up run it up to 50mph shut it off and coast got me home 20 miles away. Now i have a 1999 Dodge Grand Caravan 150,000 miles with new transmission. this should be interesting to see how long it will last. One year of payments left on 2005 Ford powerstroke f250
        • 6 Years Ago
        Tim,

        Just make sure you use the right tranny fluid (ATF +3 or better yet +4). A lot of these Chrysler transmissions fail when the owners/mechanics put the wrong fluid in. Don't EVER let one tell you that it will do just fine with a different fluid, that they're all the same. They are not. Provided the previous owner/s didn't do anything stupid with the rest of the car you should be fine.
      • 6 Years Ago
      My '82 Fleetwood with 83K is just great. Lots of room and comfort. Sure, the gas mileage isn't great but with no car note and $380 yr insurance you couldn't give me a new car!
      • 6 Years Ago
      That Camaro looks awesome. I have to admit that back in 1992 I did not think much of the Camaro design, but now looking back it sure does look good, even better than then 1993 redesign.
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