Study: Cars on the Road Continue to Age


Quick, what were the five best-selling cars in 2002? Good Car, Bad Car has the list. The Ford F-Series, Chevrolet Silverado, Toyota Camry, Ford Explorer and Honda Accord topped the auto-sales charts in 2002 — just like Eminem, Creed and Nelly topped the album-sales charts.

Consider a technological snapshot: Of those five 2002 models, just two — the Explorer and Camry — offered side curtain airbags, and only the Camry offered an electronic stability system. In all cases, the feature was optional. Just one car (Camry) offered a navigation system, and just one (Explorer) had dual-zone climate control. None of them had Bluetooth, auxiliary-jack MP3 capabilities or USB/iPod connectivity. All five cars had a cassette deck in at least one trim level. We hope those decks mangled Creed tapes by the thousands.

Believe it or not, those ’02 models represent the average age of today’s car, according to a new report from consulting firm Polk, which analyzed America’s 247 million registered cars. The report, which excludes heavy-duty trucks and commercial vehicles, says the average car on the road today is a record-high 11.4 years old. That’s up from 11.2 years in 2012, and it represents the eighth consecutive year of increasing vehicle age.

Polk notes that the number of cars between 6 and 11 years old has declined, while cars 12 years old and older — a segment that grew 20% over the past five years — is still increasing. That’s a reflection of new registrations from when those cars were first purchased, Polk analyst Tom Libby told us.

And the increase should wane. Polk expects the portion of cars 12 years old or older to level off over the next five years, while cars 6 to 11 years old will continue to decline. Cars 5 years old or newer, meanwhile, should gain traction. Add it all up, and the U.S. should have 260 million cars — up 5% — on the road by 2018. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the population will hit 335.4 million Americans by then, which suggests automotive density will decrease to 77.5 cars per 100 Americans. That’s down from today’s 78.7 cars per 100 Americans — not to mention 2007, when there were 80 cars per 100 Americans.

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Former Assistant Managing Editor-News Kelsey Mays likes quality, reliability, safety and practicality. But he also likes a fair price. Email Kelsey Mays

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