Survey finds length of vehicle ownership steadily increasing

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A Chevy Celebrity

A recent survey by Polk indicates the average length of car ownership is still increasing. Photo Credit: Ryanandlenny/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA

Keeping a car in good running order can be a labor intensive and expensive task, but it’s usually cheaper than buying a new one. More people are electing to keep their cars for longer, as a recently released survey found length of vehicle ownership is increasing.

Polk survey

In the past, conventional wisdom was that one should buy a new car once the odometer started encroaching on 100,000 miles or after about four or five years. Data from years past indicates that this is was certainly the case, as surveys by marketing research firm Polk, according to MarketWatch, found that the average length of car ownership has been steadily going up over the past eight years or so.

[Buy a car worth holding on to from Howdy Honda]

Polk takes the survey in the first and third quarters of the year and the first survey was conducted in 2003. In the first quarter survey of 2003, the average owner held on to a new car for 49.8 months and a used car for 32.2 months, for a combined ownership of 38 months. The average length of car ownership has increased from that time.

New cars kept for almost six years

Polk’s latest survey, from the third quarter of 2011, has just been released, according to USA Today. The average length of ownership has increased again. The typical car owner kept a new car for an average of 71.4 months, just short of six years. That’s an increase of more than two years from 2003.

Used car owners were also holding on to their cars for longer. In the first survey, the average was 32.2 months. For the third quarter of 2011, Polk found the average used car or truck owner was keeping their vehicle for 49.9 months, an increase of almost 18 months. Polk has also found the average car or truck on the road is 10.8 years old.

Economy played a part

Similar surveys by other groups have produced similar results. According to Forbes, J.D. Power and Associates found that people were holding on to cars an average of 5.5 years in 2006, which increased to six years by 2009.

Polk attributes longer length of car ownership to increasing build quality and economic concerns as the chief reasons behind people keeping cars and trucks, new and used, for longer. Economic concerns certainly appear to have had a heavy hand. The greatest increases in length of car ownership in Polk’s data were in 2008 and 2010.



USA Today


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