STUDY: Median age of cars in U.S. increases to record high

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.]


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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