Today’s car buyers are in it for the long haul. Earlier this year, a report indicated that drivers could be expected to hang onto a new car for an average of six years after purchase, up from four years not long ago. According to a new survey, though, the vast majority of consumers say they now plan on keeping cars for 10 years or more.
The average car on the road is 11 years old, the highest figure ever recorded. The results of a new survey indicate that this average will only increase down the line—and chances are, these old cars will be driven by a single owner for most, if not all of their lifespans.
In the survey, sponsored by AutoMD.com—a car-repair rating site, so the subject matter is somewhat self-serving—78% of drivers say that they plan on keeping their cars for 10 or more years after purchase. The press release announcing the survey results states that “The Three Year Vehicle Purchase Cycle Is Dead,” but I don’t know if such a cycle was ever truly thriving in the mainstream. Aren’t the people who plan on driving a car for just two or three years leasing rather than buying?
In any event, besides the economic reasons to hang onto cars longer—you’ll inevitably spend more by upgrading constantly—today’s drivers are more comfortable driving cars into the ground because today’s technology allows them to do so without too many worries. In the past, it was impressive if a car made it to the 100,000-mile marker. Today, it’s assumed that any decent car can hit 100K without requiring major repairs, and reliable, well-maintained vehicles can easily be driven 200K miles or more.
Roughly 6 in 10 drivers in the AutoMD survey said that their primary vehicle currently has over 100,000 miles on it, and two-thirds of those surveyed indicated that they plan on driving a car for 150,000+ miles or until it dies. When asked what’ll determine when they’ll buy a new car, more than half of the survey participants (54%) selected the answer: “My car is at the end of its life, I have no choice but to replace it.”
What consumers say they’ll do and what they actually do in real life aren’t always the same thing. But if drivers really do hang onto their cars longer, there would be some obvious impact on the marketplace. Sales of new cars, which have been strong through much of 2012, would slow, while used car prices, which hit record highs last summer, would likely increase because of diminished supply.
Meanwhile, the auto repair business, which has boomed hand in hand with the struggling economy, will continue to thrive as owners try to eke a few thousand (or perhaps 50,000) more miles out of their cars before being forced to upgrade.