EIA: People tend to keep their vehicles longer

Older vehicles were becoming more common as people opted to hold onto their current vehicle instead of buying a new one, according to the latest National Household Travel Survey.

The survey, which has been conducted by the Federal Highway Administration eight times since 1969, determined that the average age for a light-duty vehicle in the United States in 2017 was 10.5 years. This was up from the average age of 9.3 years in the survey conducted in 2009.

Average vehicle ages increased across all segments. SUVs had the lowest turnover rate with an average age of 8.5 years, up from 7.1 years in 2009. The average age of a car rose from 9.5 years to 10.3 years, while the average age of a van increased from 8.8 years to 10.9 years.

Pickup trucks had an average age of 13.6 years, up from 11.2 years in 2009. The age for other light trucks showed the least variation but the oldest average age, rising from 17.8 years to 18.2 years.

Vehicle age also increased among all income brackets. While households with lower incomes tended to have older vehicles, the age gap with higher income households was less pronounced that in 2009. In that year, households making less than $25,000 had vehicles with an average age of 11.9 years, while the typical household earning $100,000 or more had a vehicle that was 7.3 years old. In 2017, the average low-income household had a 13-year-old vehicle while the average top earning household had an 8.9-year-old vehicle.

Households earning $25,000 to $49,999 a year typically had a vehicle that was 11.5 years old, up 1.3 years from 2009. The average vehicle age for households earning $50,000 to $74,999 increased 1.6 years to 10.7 years old, while the typical vehicle age among households earning $75,000 to $99,999 was 9.9 years old – also up 1.6 years from 2009.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration says the data suggests that many households have either put off buying a new vehicle or opted to purchase a used vehicle. The trend of drivers holding onto their vehicles instead of trading them in for a newer model has also had an effect on fuel consumption in transportation, since newer vehicles typically have better fuel economy than older ones.

However, the Environmental Protection Agency has said that fuel economy continues to increase due to technology advances in light-duty vehicles. The EPA found that the average 2016 model year fuel economy among new vehicles in the U.S. was 24.7 miles per gallon, up 0.1 miles per gallon from 2015 to reach a record high.

The conclusions on vehicle age were based on a sample size of 254,397 vehicles. One in four vehicles was between 10 and 14 years old, while 19.7 percent were 20 years old or older and 19.7 percent were between six and nine years old. Another 18.7 percent were three to five years old, 14.2 percent were 15 to 19 years old, and 13 percent were two years old or newer.

In 2016, the automotive data organization IHS Markit determined that the average vehicle on the road in the U.S. was 11.6 years old. It also found that older vehicles were the fastest growing segment, estimating that 81 million operational vehicles will be 16 years old or older in 2021 while more than 20 million vehicles will be more than 25 years old.


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