• Nov 5, 2010
Consumers are keeping their automobiles for longer periods than ever before, according to a study performed by the survey gurus at R. L. Polk & Co. For anyone keeping track of such things, this news comes as little surprise – average length of ownership has been steadily increasing at an average rate of 3.7 percent annually.

Since the global economic meltdown and the devastating effect it had on the world's automakers in 2008, that average length of ownership has increased dramatically at a clip of more than 14 percent. The hard data shows that consumers are keeping their machines for 63.9 months on average, up 4.5 months from the same time last year.

Polk comes to a couple of conclusions from this data. First, the automotive aftermarket stands to benefit from older vehicles remaining on the road. Second, automakers have a big opportunity to get people buying more new cars to replace the rapidly aging vehicles currently in their driveways. Want more? Click past the break for the official press release.

[Source: R. L. Polk & Co. | Image: Justin Sullivan/Getty]
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Consumers Continuing to Hold onto Vehicles Longer, According to Polk

Midyear analysis shows increasing length of ownership of new vehicles; bodes well for automotive aftermarket

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. (Nov. 3, 2010) – The average length of ownership of new vehicles continues to increase, according to a recent analysis from Polk. Consumers are now holding onto a new vehicle, on average, for 63.9 months based on second quarter 2010 data, up 4.5 months from the same time last year, according to Polk.

Length of ownership has risen each quarter since the end of 2008 (see table A) and serves as an indicator of business opportunities available to the automotive aftermarket, based on the increasing numbers of older vehicles in operation that may need service or parts, and an increasing number of vehicles on the road falling out of warranty.

It also highlights opportunities for manufacturers to consider targeting those consumers that are hanging on to older vehicles as potential customers for new vehicle purchases.

According to Polk, the average length of new vehicle ownership increased an average of 3.7 percent annually prior to the economic and auto industry meltdown in late 2008. Since that time, average length of ownership of new vehicles has increased more than 14 percent, with no signs of slowing down.

"Ownership trends are something our customers watch very closely," said Eric Papacek, Polk solutions consultant. "Armed with insightful data on these trends, aftermarket and retail customers are able to appropriately plan for levels of service work and parts that may be required based on the increased age of vehicles on the road," he continued.

When considering registrations for used models, average length of ownership also is at a record high -- 46.1 months -- up from 43.8 months from the same period in 2009. New and used vehicles combined have an average length of ownership of 52.2 months based on second quarter analysis, according to Polk.

About Polk
Polk is the premier provider of automotive information and marketing solutions. We collect and interpret global data, and provide extensive automotive business expertise to help customers understand their market position, identify trends, build brand loyalty, conquest new business and gain a competitive advantage. We help 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, Michigan with operations in Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States

Table A. Average Months of Vehicle Ownership, Q1 2008 to Q2 2010


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  • 67 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      I am going to keep my 2007 Charger R/T for another few years..

      So far 80,000 miles and trouble free..Not one mechanical breakdown,bought it new in July 06...

      Most reliable new car I have owned...I agree with MarkN old cars were more reliable..case in point my sisters Acura cant keep a transmission and leaks drips antifreeze ..waterpump I guess !! Oh yeah it only has 60k !!! My Moms Miata had a leaky heater core when it was new,started to burn a bit of blue around 70k..its a !
      • 4 Years Ago
      I would have to say there are several reasons people are keeping their old cars longer:
      1. People unsure of the economy and their employment
      2. Vehicles cost a lot more than they used to
      3. Vehicle reliability is much better today
      4. Banks now have 6 and 7 year loan terms
      5. Many people own more than one vehicle

      BTW, my daily driver is a 22 year old Mazda MX-6 GT and with almost 200k miles it is still going strong and everything still works. There is really no reason a modern vehicle shouldn't last 300k miles with proper care and maintenance.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Pretty much agree with all but #2. 15 years ago, a new Accord EX V6 sedan (sort of the every person's car) retailed for about $25,500 which is over $35,000 in today's dollars. This is far more than the 2011 Accord EX-L V6 sedan which retails for around $30,000.

        I think a lot of today's new cars can offer good value, compared to the past.
        • 4 Years Ago
        About the cost, while the average selling price is actually up I think that's more because people option them out and buy more expensive crossovers nowadays. If you compare the same vehicle type though the prices haven't moved much at all. Like 10 years ago you could buy a Camry LE after all the incentives for maybe $17,000, and nowadays after all the incentives it's a bit over $18K. Slightly more expensive but the prices have probably gone down relative to the cost of everything else. Food's definitely gone up in price a lot more than cars have.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Also design and looks. Personally, we love the look of our '95 e34 better than the newer bimmer styles. (That's just us - I'm not attempting a troll-style design argument!!).

      • 4 Years Ago
      So assuming that a new car buyer gets a 5 year loan (60 months), that means that on average he keeps his car 4 months after it's paid off before he buys a new one? And I know that at one point (2007) car loans reached an AVERAGE of 70 months. It's no wonder this country ended up in trouble.

      My wife and I drive two cars, both paid off. An '05 tC and an '00 Focus hatchback. It'll take something monumental to get me back into a car payment anytime soon...
        • 4 Years Ago
        I agree. And as cars get more expensive and payments start to get beyond the reach of the average middle-class person, more people will prefer to hang onto what they have.
      • 4 Years Ago
      The def. of good car.? Lasts forever, and is cheap to operate. Good car should go for 10 years. Why not keep it?
      • 4 Years Ago
      I bought my 2002 Acura RSX new in December 2001 and still have it. It has 178,000 miles on it and it still looks and runs great. It has the original clutch which I'm planning on having replaced in December. I'm going for at least 200K on the car but will probably keep it longer. This is the longest I've ever had a car but like people have mentioned in the comments, cars are made pretty well nowadays.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I would disagree with Polk's conclusions that there is an opportunity to get people to replace their aging cars. I would counter the opposite is true and it is a challenge.

      I drive a paid for 195hp 1997 Honda Prelude I bought used in 2004, that averages 26 mpg with 156K miles on it. A comparable 2011 Honda Sedan Si is 197hp and averages 29 mpg highway. So what is the benefit of spending $22K ?

      The reasons people are holding onto their cars longer is clearly a trend though the reasons are myriad. Advertising the value/benefits of a new car that overcomes that new car cost is what lays before automakers.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Never understood the excitement of a new car. Yay! I get to spend $500/mo for the next six YEARS! How fun!
      I must admit, however, that I am very thankful for those people. That's how I got my wifes 3 year old 2007 Accord for 9k less than it went brand new. Other than that, I quite enjoy driving my 19 year old Accord, and my 23 year old Chevy pickup. I don't foresee the truck going anywhere anytime soon, and the Accord(s) will be with us until they rust away. I'd much rather put that extra $500/mo toward paying my house off faster!
      • 4 Years Ago
      My Lexus 1991 LS 400 justed turned 20 yrs. old last month with 267,000 miles. One of the most reliable cars I've ever owned aside from my 1979 Toyota Celica. But I'm looking at retiring the Lexus for a 2007 LS460. Anyone out there have a LS460 ? let me know how you like it .
        • 4 Years Ago
        I don't have one, but I've driven a few. Probably the best bang for the buck in that vehicle segment.
      • 4 Years Ago
      "Second, automakers have a big opportunity to get people buying more new cars to replace the rapidly aging vehicles currently in their driveways."

      Um....not so much.

      That was the problem before...convincing people to buy a shiny new car when their other one was perfectly fine. Now that cars generally last a few years longer before needing major work, we can get by with the same ride for a few more years.
      • 4 Years Ago
      its funny reading this article since I just bought a new car last month lol.

      although, I bought with the intention of keeping it no less than 10 years. My last car was 15 years old when I got rid of it, and I have another in my garage that is 32 years old ;).
      • 4 Years Ago
      My Buick is turning 10 in a couple months, should have 55,000 miles on it then. It's a massive POS and it's going to need some work soon (intake manifold gasket and a slipping transmission) but I have no plans to replace it for 2 reasons:

      1. Having no car payment is way better than a new car.
      2. I'm not real excited about any of the cars currently available. I honestly would struggle to find a replacement at this time.

      Note that this was my grandfather's car... it's not what I would choose but the situation was hard to pass up.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I normally went thru cars new every 3/4 years. For the first time in my life paid off a car I bought in '04 in '06 and still driving it till this day, Not having to worry about car payment in these trying times is a good thing.



        • 4 Years Ago
        Well Duh. Cars are simply more durable today.
        OTOH, I kept my 73 GMC Sprint (like an El Camino only badged GMC) to from new in 73 to sold it in 79 with 145K miles on it. ONly reason I sold it was due to quarter panel rust...I just didn't want to bother with it any more.

        Easy to run up high mileage even on American cars in six years w/o problems....but most people can't work on their own cars today and keeping a car beyond the warranty or extended warranty (herrow CPO 100K!) is asking for $$$ trouble.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Dude... Not having to worry about a car payment during *any* kind of economic conditions is a good thing! You want to pay an extra a few hundred bucks a month on a car payment, or spend that money on going out with your friends or investing it so that it eventually makes you $200 dollars a month?

        Yeah it sucks to be a car enthusiast and also be strongly aware of economics and opportunity costs! I think these trying times will be good for a lot of people. They will get a taste of what it's like not having to pay a debt service every month. I think it will make them happier in the long run.

        • 4 Years Ago
        @RAndroid

        While I applaud you for wanting to keep your car a long time... putting that sort of work into it seems pretty drastic. If you were modifying the car with performance control arms, I could buy--but if they needed to be replaced, I'd be tempted to dump the car.

        Personally I have a 1997 Honda Accord EX Coupe. It's got 225k miles on it and it still runs great, fun to drive and gets about 27mpg on average (which is pretty darn good considering the way I drive it).

        Granted I just dumped $5k into it to take care of the rust that was starting to form on the body panels. But overall only things that I've had to replace on it has been windows (damn rocks), and normal maintenance stuff (brakes, oil changes, timing chain, etc).
        • 4 Years Ago
        @ RAndroid

        You have dumped $6,000 (!!!) into your Charger repairing it over three years? Are you absolutely nuts?

        I have spent exactly $0 on my 7 year old vehicle aside from fluid changes and brakes. My last vehicle I spent $300 in 7 years on a sensor that failed. The vehicle before that was 5 years old and I spent $0.

        Dump your POS Charger.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Well the ecoheads should be thrilled. Way more efficient to keep existing cars on the road than to spend all that energy producing hybrids and throwing out the old car.
        • 4 Years Ago
        It helps that, while a 2010 car is nicer than a 2000 car, its not *that much* nicer; a 2000 car was far more superior to a 1990 car. 1990 over 1980 was an even bigger jump.
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