AVERAGE AGE OF LIGHT VEHICLES IN US HITS 11.9 YEARS
Review By Bruce Hotchkiss*
West Coast Bureau
The Auto Channel
July 29, 2020
According to an article in The Auto Channel and Counterman magazine using information from IHS Markit the average age for light vehicles in the United States is now 11.9 years. Okay but so what?
I remember when Volvo used to say that "in Sweden the average age of a Volvo is ten years". That was back in the '70s. So an additional 1.9 years doesn't sound like that big of a deal.
It would be more important in my view to state the average mileage of a ten year old vehicle.
Statistics say the average miles driven per year is 13,476. So theoretically a ten year old car should have 134,760 miles on the odometer. But the trouble with average is, well, it is an average, it's not real. Average miles driven per year changes drastically based on where you live. At least in my experience.
In my area of the country people tend to live a long way from where they work. It is not unusual for people around here to drive 40-80 miles to work (that's one-way). So figure 80-160 miles per day at least five days a week. Four to eight hundred miles per week, 20,000-40,000 miles per year (based on 50 weeks of work). So a ten year old car or truck (and many of the commuters have pickups because their trades basically demand it) might have between 200,000 to 400,000 miles on it.
It isn't unusual out here to see a private sale used car advertised with a couple of hundred thousand miles on the odo.
Of course we (and a few other areas of the country) have the benefit of no to minimal rust so our cars last longer in that respect. Add in the fact that cars are just built better (it's rare to hear of a car that needs a major mechanical repair), then factor in the initial cost of a new car (almost $38,000 this year), and the length of a loan (up to 7 years!) and it's easy to see why we put so many miles on our cars.
So let's stop using "average". If you add the average annual snowfall in Tahoe, CA (400") to the average snowfall in Death Valley (0") it might lead you to believe that the average snowfall in California is 200". Trust me, it isn't.
Author's Note: I have been writing car reviews since 1984. I am a Certified Automotive Technician although I no longer ply that trade. I worked for twenty years for the California Department of Consumer Affairs & Bureau of Automotive Repair. I sat on three legislative advisory committees. I wrote an automotive column for the Tracy Press, and before that the Pacifica Tribune. I was a member of the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada and am a member of the Western Automotive Journalists.