2009 was a pretty terrible year for auto sales, and the most obvious culprit is the economic downturn. While things are looking up for 2010 (ignoring the whole recall scandal blown entirely out of proportion), new car sales may not return to pre-recession levels for years, if ever. And while the economy may still be a factor, that may be an important paradigm shift in how people regard their cars.
According to a study by Auto MD, which is owned by the US Auto Parts Network, Inc. (i.e. people who have a vested interest in making parts for used cars) 77% of people are, on average, planning on driving their current cars at least 50,000 miles more than their previous cars.
Considering the average American racks up between 12,000 and 15,000 miles per year, this means people plan on keeping their cars an extra 3-4 years. Why? Well there are plenty of reasons if you really stop and think about it.
For one, the quality of cars today is much better than the quality of cars from say, the 1990’s. Without making too much of a sweeping generalization, many cars from that era seemed more prone to breakdowns and reliability issues. If you go back forty years, many cars were barely making it to 50,000 miles before needing a major overhaul like a new engine (I’ve seen lots of muscle cars whose odometers were just 5-digits). In fact, 56% of those surveyed plan to drive their current car until it completely dies.
Then there is the obvious reality of a new financial climate. Many people seem to be willing to take a step back and reconsider what is important in life. Do I really need a brand new car, right now, even though my current car is still running? Many people would rather repair their cars right now, because no matter how you cut it, it is almost always cheaper to keep an old car on the road than replace it with something new (unless you are replacing your transmission on a monthly basis).
Another big reason may also be that people realize we are reaching the apex of a car revolution. Electric and plug-in electric cars are on the cusp of making a mass-market emergence. While not everyone can afford to be an early adopter, in five years time there will be plenty of electric vehicles to choose from, as well as an emerging market for used EV’s. So why not hold on to that old car a little longer when your next car might not need gas at all?
My fleet of cars (three Fords and a Jeep) has a combined mileage of well-over a half-million miles. I don’t plan on owning a new car anytime soon, though I definitely need to thin out my stable. My daily driver, the Jeep, just keeps plugging along, no matter how much I neglect it. I’ve met people who have old Mercedes turbodiesels that have upwards of 500,000 miles on them, all because they perform the recommended maintenance.
How many miles have you managed to rack up on a single car? My current record is 212,000 miles on a ’92 F-150 (I bought it with 150,000… I drive a lot).
Source: Auto MD | Auto Parts Dealer Network, Inc.