Oh, and your warranty’s up

Legend has it that there used to be people who traded in their cars every year or every other year or even every third year. Operative term: “used to be,” as witness:

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. 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.

My own ride is, um, nine years old.

It’s fairly obvious how we got to this point:

“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 [Polk consultant Dave] 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.

To me, at least, a $2000 repair bill looks a lot easier to endure than four years of $349 a month.


  1. fillyjonk »

    5 March 2009 · 1:08 pm

    And here I had people telling me I was either “unusual” or “weird” because my car is nearly 10 years old and I have no desire to trade it in on a newer model.

    When I was growing up, my dad had a Dodge Tradesman van that he kept for (I think) 16 years, and then sold it to a drywaller who kept it for at least four or five more, based on sightings of the distinctive bronze van around town.

  2. Jeff Shaw »

    5 March 2009 · 2:44 pm

    fillyjonk: I get that too. My car is 13 years old – and just now its wearing out – So I’ll be in the market soon. Probably too late to save GM.

  3. Jeffro »

    5 March 2009 · 8:40 pm

    My last set o’ wheels – thirteen years. On the other hand, an old boss and good friend used to trade his pickups when they hit 50k. After he started buying diesels, he decided to keep them longer.

  4. CGHill »

    5 March 2009 · 9:08 pm

    The Consumer Reports Auto Issue (April) has a graph I found particularly interesting. X-axis: age of vehicle in years; Y-axis: problems per 100 vehicles. In the first few years, nobody touches Toyota and Honda. Nissan is next, but they’re noticeably more problematic, and between years 6 and 8, problems pile up markedly. Then after year 8, they start downward; by year 10, Nissan is almost on par with Honda. As it happens, I drive a 9-year-old Nissan vehicle, which had several issues between its sixth and eighth birthdays, and which has had no issues now for nearly a year.

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