• Apr 4, 2010
A new study by R.L. Polk & Co. finds that more Americans scrapped their old vehicles than bought new ones, even during the height of the Cash for Clunkers program. The study took place over a 15-month period ending last September. During that time, a total of 14.8 million vehicles were scrapped in the U.S., while just 13.6 million new registrations were issued. The report said that U.S. scrap rates had risen to 6.9 percent of the country's total vehicle fleet in October of 2009, compared to 4.3 percent in July of 2005.

The study also finds that the average age for all light trucks and cars on the road today is 10.2 years - much older than before the recession hit. Similarly, owners are keeping their vehicles longer. The Polk research shows that on average, Americans hold onto their vehicles for 49.9 months, compared to 45 months at the same time last year.

R.L. Polk & Co. typically follows scrap trends as an indicator of future vehicle sales, though not over such an extended period of time. As owners send their old hulks out to pasture, they typically fill the empty slots in their driveways with new models.

[Source: Automotive News | Image: Justin Sullivan/Getty]


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  • 24 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      I was ready to buy a new car a week ago until some crap started at work making me rethink the stability of my job. As a result I have decided to pay the $600 to replace the clutch in my 10 year old chevy prizm. $600 is cheaper than 2 months of new car payments. Now I need to decide if I should replace the tires.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I say take a grand and invest in making repairs to keep the car going. I've replace several things on my Bonneville simply as preventive maintenance and recently spent $1500 on a new paint and rust restoration job and it looks as beautiful as it did when it first rolled off the line. Best part of all NO MONTHLY PAYMENTS :) One of biggest reason for the financial crisis was caused by people living above their means. Good luck with your repairs!
        • 4 Years Ago
        A suggestion: If the paint is still in decent shape, get your ride detailed at a reputable detail shop. Go for the deluxe package - inside and out. The car will look newer and maybe even smell newer.
        Psychologically it will feel like it's new for the first couple of days/week after it's done. But it will cost north of $100 for quality work.
        • 4 Years Ago
        You hit the nail on the head. People are overwhelmingly cutting back on buying big-ticket items like cars. I also think the numbers indicate that many are dumping their extra vehicles either due to the lack of money to keep them up, or the wish to turn them into money in their bank account.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I think this just shows that as expected, people are downsizing by getting rid of *extra* or otherwise unwanted vehicles, and not necessarily the vehicle they drive everyday.

      In addition, this was never about the environment. It was about subsidizing one part of the economy. Indeed, environmentalists should be celebrating the tidbit about people holding on to their cars longer. I'd say it's more efficient to hold on to that 15 year old car of yours rather than buying a new Prius which wasn't exactly "free" (as far as an "environmental cost") to produce, transport, and finally sell to you.

      In addition, cars more reliable today than ever (I mean as far as the big components - we all know about the electrical gremlins, but someone's 1,000-way adjustable seat not obeying its memory settings is not nearly as bad as constantly breaking down on the side of the highway). They tolerate even abusive and neglectful owners better than ever.

      I bought my car new almost four years ago, but I think I will be holding onto it for at least the next eight years... if not longer.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Don't understand why this is surprising. Lots of those "Scrapped" cars are being replaced by "Certified Pre-Owned Vehicles, or just plain old USED cars. My last two cars were "CPoV".

        To buy a late model high end used car, look for one coming in off lease that the prior lessee exceeded the allowable milage. These cars usually do not qualify for the "CPoV" programs. They are usually wholesaled out at auctions to used car dealers.

        Great deals to be had here, just be wary of German cars, ALL of THEM. 'Cause once the warranty runs out, it will suck the fun out of living. They are way too expensive to maintain and repair out of pocket.
        • 4 Years Ago
        No I think it's simpler than that: Economical crisis.

        People can't afford fixing their old cars or buying new ones.
      • 4 Years Ago
      49.9 months seems like such a ridiculously short time to keep something as expensive as a car. I'm currently on my 288th month for my Volvo 240, and it's still my daily driver.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I must say, I don't know ANYBODY who keeps a car that long. Especially a VOLVO.
        • 4 Years Ago
        In case you were rip van winkling the last decade or two, it moved from around 10 years down to 4. You could say that it roughly mirrored refresh cycles for cars.

        The downside of all of this....as people bought cars more often, loans went from 36 to 72 on up for lengths. Then people just rolled the balance on that 36 month old car with a 72 month loan into the new car. I don't know about the rest of you, but that makes the newest car outrageously expensive, yet people still do it.
      • 4 Years Ago
      i love how all the clunkers in the picture are american cars :P
        • 4 Years Ago
        The reason that they are mostly American cars is due to the fact that the foreign manufacturers only began making large vehicles recently and their value was more than C4C was offering.

        The sad fact is that most of these vehicles were still running and could have been useful to someone. C4C was a very good use of all that Chinese money we borrowed.
        • 4 Years Ago
        asian cars only get scrapped after being wrecked

        european cars either get wrecked or survive long enough to become collectables. (except BMWs, they're clunkers after 4 years)
        • 4 Years Ago
        The majority of the vehicles on American roads are also American cars. They also make up an even larger percentage of the 10-15 year old vehicles since the Detroit 3 had a much larger market share 10-15 years ago. Plus the 15 year old Japanese vehicles on the road don't include to many large gas guzzlers that would have qualified for C4C.

        People do falsely believe a 15 year old Japanese car is going to keep on running forever just because it is a Civic. It wont and it will cost them twice as much for parts but that is what I like to call Free-Dumb. People are Free to do Dumb things.

        It is also fair to recognize that 15 years ago there was a significant quality gap between the best of the Japanese and the average American Manufacturer.

        I do have to disagree with the article on one point. Most people sending cars to the wreckers are not going to run out and buy new. They are more likely to be in the market for another used car that they can drive into the ground. Very few people who can afford to drive new cars keep them for very long after the warranty has run out.
      • 4 Years Ago
      As a FORD shareholder who'se shares went from $1.30 to $14 let me be the first to say that regardless what everyone says about C4C, I'm still happy :P
        • 4 Years Ago
        Please remember this when it comes time to pay your capital gains tax. :-)
      • 4 Years Ago
      I could care less about Obama going all Hitler on these "clunkers" i.e. Perfectly fine-running cars that could at least be used for parts to help pay back the incredulous cost of C4C, this just means there's less traffic during my daily commute and that is GOOD.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I would think that Cash For Clunkers would be the cause of this high scrap rate. Those cars were scrapped too.

      Another thing I like to point out, how many of those cars were stolen.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I think another reason people are buying less new cars is because they cost a lot more then just 4-5 years ago, and pay rates haven't gone up to compensate.

      14K used to be able to get in a decent car and 18K got in to some fun. Now a lot of cars start in the 16K range and easily break the 20K mark getting in to any kind of nice options.

      Also, as nice as all the electronic gadgets are, they seemed to be more a race between manufactures and not real demand. I think a lot of buyers are turned off by all the standard equipment that they can't opt out of.

      I will need to buy another car in the next year, but I will look for a good low mileage used car. Mainly because I don't like where toys in cars are headed. I want a drivers car, and not something I can push a million buttons in. I'm sure in the next few years, every car will be a wireless hot spot.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I think the average price of a new car has actually dropped over the last 5 years, at least when adjusted for inflation. That plus low interest rates and some crazy-good lease deals have made cars cheaper yet.
      • 4 Years Ago
      What classless, uncultured fool would scrap a pre-97 Jeep Cherokee XJ? Buy something new to add to the garage, sure, but if you give up that Jeep and don't miss it, you never deserved to have it in the first place. 5 of the 7 Jeep models available today were at some point considered a replacement for or successor to that vehicle, but it cannot be replaced.
        • 4 Years Ago
        AMEN!

        Even with "Clunker!!" across the windshield, they felt the need to mark it as "Not 4 Sale". Must have gotten quite a few inquiries for that to happen.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I could see why people who make no distinction between Grands and XJ's would get rid of their Jeeps.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Regarding the picture... If you have to mark a vehicle as "Not 4 Sale", with "CLUNKER!!" across the windshield, it is NOT A CLUNKER!
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