If you're still driving that 2006 Ford Fusion you bought new, apparently you are not alone. Automotive data provider Polk says that the average new car buyer is now holding on to his vehicle for a whopping 71 months – almost six years. Used vehicles are being held for over four years, almost 50 months, according to the new study.

Polk based its findings on vehicle registration data through September 2011, concluding that longer warranties, better reliability, and of course, a miserable economy, have contributed to the shift. By comparison, just five years ago Polk showed new car buyers swapping out after just 53 months – a year and a half earlier.

This latest study reflects what we heard from Polk last month, that the average age of vehicles on the road has hit a record high. We might even see consumers further stretch this number, as Polk's analysts are not forecasting a return to the magic 16-million-units sales level until 2015. For the carmakers this represents more than just a simple make-your-numbers sales challenge, says Polk, because the longer people keep their vehicles the less brand loyal they become.

To read the full release, click through the jump.
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U.S. Consumers Hold On to New Vehicles Nearly Six Years, An All-time High
Weak economy, increased vehicle durability both factors, says Polk

SOUTHFIELD, Mich., Feb. 21, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Based on an analysis of U.S. vehicle registrations by Polk, a leading global market intelligence firm, the average length of ownership of vehicles that were purchased new has risen to a record 71.4 months, or nearly six years (see Table A). For consumers who purchased used vehicles, the average length of ownership is nearly 49.9 months. Combined, new and used vehicle owners are holding on to their vehicles for an average 57 months. For new and used owners combined, the length of vehicle ownership among U.S. consumers has increased 23 percent since the third quarter of 2008, coinciding with the economic downturn.

A number of factors contribute to the increased length of ownership, according to Polk, which analyzed vehicle registration data through Sept. 2011. First, consumer spending remains conservative in a still-weak job market with relatively high unemployment rates. Second, many buyers have longer-term financing options to secure more affordable payments. Third, vehicles produced in recent years have been more durable and more reliable than their predecessors, according to different industry reports. Several manufacturers are also offering longer warranties for new vehicles, reducing the risk for consumers who want to keep vehicles longer.

Polk's new findings, coupled with the increased average age of vehicles on the road, which now stands at 10.8 years for cars and light trucks combined, offer promise for the automotive aftermarket.

"As the aftermarket prepares to service this aging vehicle population, this creates concerns about appropriate parts inventory," said Mark Seng, global aftermarket practice leader at Polk. "As a result of our analysis, we're currently working with customers in the aftermarket to help them prepare for increasing demand throughout the entire supply chain," he said.

Length of Ownership Trend Expected to Continue

Polk analysts don't anticipate new vehicle sales will reach pre-downturn levels of 16 million units until 2015 and Polk does not expect to see an immediate decline in the length of ownership trend over the next few years, according to Seng. "Unemployment rates continue to be high, and we expect many consumers will suffer from the lingering effects of the downturn, further contributing to longer ownership trends," he said.

Earlier Polk analyses also show that new vehicle owners exhibit lower brand loyalty as they retain their cars or trucks longer. This trend demonstrates the importance of targeting potential auto buying consumers at the right time. Leaders involved in new vehicle sales may want to consider tracking the length of ownership trend to determine when their customers are likely to come back. A length of ownership analysis at the manufacturer or brand level may provide insight into the return-to-market cycle to stimulate purchase behavior.

About Polk

Polk is the premier provider of automotive information and marketing solutions. The organization 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, Michigan with operations in Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. For more information, please visit www.polk.com.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 3 Years Ago
      I agree the typical loan length is longer also by the time I paid off my truck I fell in love with no payments. Im driving my f150 until it blows up, but at 150,000 miles its still rock solid.
        • 3 Years Ago
        This is what is happening to a lot of people. They are realizing that driving a 5 year old car for free is more rewarding that driving a new car for $500/month. Especially an F150...5 years is barely broken in!
      • 3 Years Ago
      Go to any country around the world and you see many old cars, why? Because in other places, leasing is not an option. The only thing you can only ever do is buy it. There are benefits to buying if you plan on keeping it for 7+ years. Many places around the world do not have that "buy it now" mentality that is spoiling the many people in this country.
        • 3 Years Ago
        ... Except maybe western Europe where motor vehicles are safety inspected more frequently than other parts of the world.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Even though the economy is getting better, almost no one who isn't already independently wealthy has any reason to be optimistic about his or her financial future. On the other hand, unlike 25 years ago (i.e., late Cold War), individuals have little reason to forget about the future and live for today. We are all likely to live long enough to incur huge medical bills and die in a crappy nursing home. In that context, and seeing as how cars have useful lifespans that often exceed those of household appliances, why not put off one of the worst financial moves a person can make. All that said, gosh, I really want a new Subaru BRZ, Cadillac ATS, or a Hyundai Genesis Coupe.
      • 3 Years Ago
        The Angry Intern
        • 3 Years Ago
        Yep, I've had mine for 12 years almost. Still just over 100k miles because I was in the Navy and it sat a lot while I was on deployments.
        • 3 Years Ago
      • 3 Years Ago
      Why not? if the car was in a good shape!? by the way I know a person that still drives his 1983 Mazda 929 that he bought new! almost 30 years :D
      • 3 Years Ago
      Ha I am still driving my 06 Fusion. 131k miles and it's never been in the shop for anything but maintinence. Why would I get rid of it? Maybe I'll consider it when the new model hit the dealerships.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Good to hear, I've had an 08 Fusion V6 since 10', up to 61k miles so far after getting it with 38k and its been flawless.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I've always wondered why people DIDN'T hang onto their (properly working) new cars for longer than 6 years. I can understand owning used cars or leased cars for short periods of time, but if you're going to invest in a new car and lose those several thousand dollars in instant depreciation, the least you can do is make the most out of your investment and hang onto it for the long run. Especially when new cars nowadays are as well built as they are. At any rate, it's good to see more people are making more financially responsible choices and living within their means rather than having to buy the "cool car of the month" then move onto the next.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I'm the original owner of a 5 speed 1988 Mazda MX6 with over..... get ready!.... 413K miles without ever going to a repair shop. I do my own maintenance. When friends ask me if I know of any mechanic to fix THEIR car, I say I don't have one.This car don't know what a repair shop is- It never breaks down- that's how reliable it is. It gets me 32-34 mpg. I never baby this car, I always drive fast and hard. Who needs a NEW car? It'll probably be a few years before I need a new MAZDA. ... Enough said!.
      Avinash Machado
      • 3 Years Ago
      So planned obsolence is becoming obsolete.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I have a Jeep Cherokee that just turned 23, and is still running strong. I refuse to let it die!! Long live the XJ!! Cars today, are built far better than they were even 20 years ago, and the economy is much worse, so it should come as no surprise that people are hanging on to them longer.
      • 3 Years Ago
      A six year old car is not 'old'. Financially speaking, why would you ditch a product that has plenty of life left? That's wasteful. And, is keeping up with the Jones and the image it portrays that important?
        • 3 Years Ago
        The ONLY reason why I update my vehicles is for safety improvements.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Wife and I currently have 4 cars: Brand new Mazda CX-7 (wife's new DD) 1998 Jeep Cherokee, owned 5.5 years (my old DD, soon to be sold) 1997 Ford Expedition, owned 8 years (wife's old DD, currently my DD, probably soon to be sold) 1989 Nissan 240SX, owned 17 years (my fun/project car) Yeah, we hold onto cars for a while.
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