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Car in the Shop?

America’s Cars Get Older

 According to a study of state vehicle registration data by the Polk automotive research firm in Southfield, Michigan, in 2011 the average age of a privately owned car or truck in the U.S. had reached a record old age of 10.8 years as financial insecurities in a weak economy caused many people to hold on to their existing vehicles longer than they normally would.  Polk's data showed that the average age of a car in the U.S. was 8.4 years in 1995 and that the average had steadily escalated up to 10.6 years by the year 2010.

Because automakers are now making cars and trucks far better than they used to, people can hang onto them longer and the aging American auto fleet has helped repair shops and companies that sell replacement auto parts to weather the weak economy with increased business. However, the trend toward keeping vehicles longer coupled with very slow new car sales, has kept many automotive companies from hiring new workers and that serves to keep unemployment at high levels. And it also keeps many people from making big-ticket purchases like a new car.

There may be some good news on the horizon though, as the Polk analysts also noted that but there are signs that people may be growing confident enough in the economy to let go of the older vehicles that they've been holding onto and step up to a new car purchase. Polk data indicates that a rebound and market growth for the next couple of years could slowly reduce the average age of cars in America, but it could take three years or longer of an improved economy along with increased auto sales before it happens.

U.S. auto sales rebounded last year and sales at the end of the year in November and December were particularly strong. In 2009, U.S. auto sales hit a 30-year low of just 10.4 million units. The Polk estimates indicate auto sales will rise by about 1 million units per year through 2015 when they will hit the 16 million mark, a number that approaches the nation's auto sales peak of 17 million units back in 2005.

If sales continue to rebound and the auto industry is able to add more new jobs, the average age of privately owned cars and trucks in the U.S. will undoubtedly start to come back down to the point where most Americans no longer drive the same vehicle for an entire decade.
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