Vehicles are older than ever despite soaring new-car sales

We finally got rid of our family’s 2000 Dodge Grand Caravan a few weeks ago.

No, we didn’t scrap it. It didn’t quit running. And we didn’t trade it in on a new vehicle. As far as we know, the 15-year-old minivan still is alive and kicking with its new owner.

Indeed, the vehicle looked so good after getting it ready to sell, we nearly reconsidered our decision.

Plenty of 2005 vehicles, such as this 10-year-old Mazda, are still on the road.
Plenty of 2005 vehicles, such as this 10-year-old Mazda, are still on the road.

Our experience in vehicle longevity apparently is not that unusual as the average age of cars, SUVs and pickups on American roads climbed this year to a record 11.5 years, according to a recent report from IHS Automotive of Southfield, MI. The marketing research firm also found that the total number of registered vehicles has reached an all-time high of about 258 million.

“As long as we have tracked average age, it has gradually risen over time due to the increasing quality of automobiles,” said Mark Seng, a spokesman for IHS Automotive.

The average age of vehicles is expected to rise despite record new-car sales.
The average age of vehicles is expected to rise despite record new-car sales.

In fact, IHS expects the average age of vehicles to increase to 11.6 years in 2016 and reach 11.7 by 2018. This despite soaring new-car sales, which most automotive analysts now believe will reach about 17 million this year, the highest total in more than a decade, and perhaps 17.5 million in 2016.

“Vehicles are simply lasting longer than ever before,” Seng recently told USA Today. “The consumer is hanging onto their vehicle longer than ever before.”

Don’t be too surprised if you spot a 20-year-old Chevrolet Caprice station wagon.
Don’t be too surprised if you spot a 20-year-old Chevrolet Caprice station wagon.

Indeed, around 40 percent of all vehicles on the road – more than 100 million – are age 12 or older, and  around 65 million are older than 15 years, based, in part, on the report in USA Today. Simply, keeping an older vehicle is more common than ever, despite lacking the latest technology.

“Drivers behind the wheel of older cars aren’t enjoying some of the latest advanced safety features or infotainment systems that effectively turn cars into cellphones on wheels,” wrote Dee-Ann Durbin, Associated Press auto writer. “Then again, they don’t have to worry about hackers finding their way into the car’s computer network through the cassette or CD player.”

Properly maintained, modern vehicles can last 200,000 miles or more, according to Consumer Reports, which, even at an average of 15,000 miles per year, is more than 13 years of driving.

Because our minivan had only 140,000 miles on it, now we’re wondering whether we jumped the gun.

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