Smart SpendingSmart Spending

Driving a car built in the '90s? You're a trend

Facing tough economic times, more Americans have squeezed more years out of their older-model vehicles.

By MSN Money staff Jun 9, 2014 12:56PM

This post comes from Phil LeBeau at partner site CNBC.

CNBC on MSN MoneyThe Great Recession may have officially ended a few years ago, but the lingering impact can be seen in the cars and trucks that many Americans drive.

Los Angeles, Calif., traffic on Interstate 405 © VisionsofAmerica/Joe Sohm/Digital Vision/Getty ImagesTheir vehicles are old.

In fact, a new study shows the average age of cars and trucks in America has hit a new all-time high of 11.4 years, up slightly from 11.3 years in 2013.

"It's obvious many Americans are holding onto their cars longer, and that's really accelerated since the recession," said Mark Seng with IHS Automotive, which analyzed auto registrations in the U.S. on Jan. 1.

A decade ago, the average vehicle in the U.S. was 9.7 years old according to IHS Automotive.

Not only is the average vehicle in America getting older, the study found the country also has a record number of vehicles in operation as the total topped 252.7 million, an increase of 3.7 million vehicles from last year.

53 million 16-year-old models

Sixteen-year-old cars and trucks make up 21.1 percent of vehicles in the U.S. as owners embrace the idea of driving their car well past the 100,000 mile mark.

How many of these "pre-'99" models are still around?

53.3 million.

To put that into perspective, on average, every state in the country has registered more than one million vehicles that are at least 16 years old.

"The fact we still see so many of these old cars and trucks still on the road has surprised me a little bit," said Seng. "Ten years ago, I probably wouldn't have imagined we'd see such a large number of cars at least 16 years old still on the road."

The continued growth in older vehicles explains why after-market auto parts retailers like O'Reilly Auto Parts and AutoZone have done so well in the last few years.

Seng says the sweet spot for repairing older vehicles used to be when models were 7-10 years old. Now he believes the sweet spot for repairs in between 9 and 12 years of age.

New-model surge

While vehicles in America are ageing, the surge in new-model auto sales over the past two years means many people are trading in their old ride for a new one.

IHS Automotive says 25.1 percent of autos in the U.S. are 1-5 years old, unchanged from last year.

With new-model auto sales expected to top 16 million this year for the first time since 2007, Seng says the growth in the average age of vehicles is slowing.

"Over the next five years, we'll the number of newer models (0-5 years old) on the road jumps by 32 percent," said Seng.

The surge means the average age of vehicles will tick only slightly higher over the next five years.

"We're still going to see a lot of older cars and trucks on the road, but the mix with newer models is definitely changing," said Seng.

More from CNBC

Jun 9, 2014 3:20PM
If it's paid for, and it runs, why not? My mother drives a 1996 Skylark. The thing looks and runs great. And, bonus, it's paid for and has been for years. Plus, insurance is ridiculously cheap for her. She likes the car, so what's the point in her, a 72yr-old on SS retirement, going into debt on a new car that, in truth, isn't any better?
Jun 9, 2014 10:40PM
Why would anyone buy a new car at the prices today they are out of control, and how can you afford one with the gas price hitting 4 bucks, and everything else going higher and higher except your pay check  
Jun 9, 2014 9:24PM
I have a 97 Toyota. It's been the most reliable car that I've ever had. Why trade it until it starts costing something? 
Jun 10, 2014 10:25PM
'99 stang.  205000 miles.  Paid for and running strong. 
Jun 10, 2014 8:09PM
In fact, those 1990's built vehicles were far better than today's new ones in overall quality, just the interior material already tells.
Jun 10, 2014 8:20AM
"Not only is the average vehicle in America getting older, the study found the country also has a record number of vehicles in operation as the total topped 252.7 million, an increase of 3.7 million vehicles from last year"

Well During the Housing Boom and Folks using it as a ATM, a ton of Folks decided to Buy not only more Home then they needed, but more Cars then needed as well. Then we had the CAsh for Clunkers. Now, Just look at how many vehicles are parked outside so many folks homes. So far too many folks overbought, but now they can utilize multiple vehicles. Plus Cars are  lasting longer, so folks don't have to Buy as quickly if they keep up with regular Maintenance.

Most Cars are just getting started at 100,000 miles. So If you care for them properly, 200,000 is a piece of Cake for most Cars in the Modern ERA. And just like poster stated, the average price for a New Car is Outrageous. The Price for a slightly used CAR is INSANE. So why wouldn't most smart folks just keep what they have. Unless you have to, why even bother?
Jun 10, 2014 12:20AM
Cars a built to last longer now.  I drove a 1997 Ford Taurus until New Year's Eve when it was slightly hit while parked 15 minutes before 2013 began.  Otherwise I'd probably still be driving it now.  You couldn't even see a dent on the bumper but the tap caused the airbags to deploy and that totaled the car since replacing the airbags cost more than the book value.  Strangely though, State Farm gave me $2,992 - $2,000 more than the book value for it because it takes into account dealer markup, taxes, etc.

I had already planned what I wanted for my next car - a Honda Fit, in part because I wanted something much shorter to fit in free downtown parking spaces yet had lots of room inside and made tall people comfortable.  So whoever hit-and-ran my Taurus actually did me a $2000 favor over what I'd have gotten for a trade-in.

Jun 12, 2014 8:51AM

Driving a car built in the '90s?

Actually, no

I'm driving a car built in 1968. It has real metal trim on it and I save thousands of dollars by being able to work on it myself.

Jun 11, 2014 11:40AM
I drive a ’99 Toyota Camry handed down from my father-in-law who bought it new. I do my own maintenance so there’s minimal maintenance costs, no depreciation, low insurance ($25/month from Insurance Panda) and registration costs, no car wash expenses (I park it outside when it’s raining) and people think twice before trying to cut in front of me. It’s a comfortable ride on the highway but is also nimble on dirt roads. I could easily afford a new car but then I’d have to fuss about dents, scratches, car washes and all those other costs. It’s got a 3.1L V6 that achieves 30 mpg on the highway. As long as it continues to pass smog it’s a keeper... and I don't have to "pay it off"!
Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.


Smart Spending brings you the best money-saving tips from MSN Money and the rest of the Web. Join the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.