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The consumer reporting site ValuePenguin recently published a study showing the average age of used cars. Research indicates the average is 6.47 years, but there’s a wide variation among U.S. states and metro areas. The study’s findings include the states where consumers buy the youngest used cars. This information might come in handy when car buying if you’re on a budget but still want a newer pre-owned vehicle.

In what states do shoppers buy the newest used cars?

Newest used cars, youngest used cars
Used cars on a lot in Miami, Florida, on Jan. 12, 2022 | Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

In ValuePenguin’s recent study, you’ll find ample information about where consumers purchase newer used cars. About half of the states where shoppers buy younger used cars are located in the Northeast. In those states, driving conditions can significantly shorten a vehicle’s lifespan. For example, frequent stop-and-go traffic, long commutes, salted roads during the winter, and flooding conditions will wear out a car sooner.

The list of states where consumers purchase the newest used cars also includes many with the highest median household income. One can reasonably assume that in those states, consumers are better positioned to swap out their vehicles more frequently.

At the top of the list are New Jersey, Florida, and Washington, D.C. New Jersey residents seek vehicles around 5.70 years on average and have a median household income of $85,245, according to ValuePenguin. Florida follows, with residents seeking cars 5.76 years old (though their median household income is substantially lower, at $57,703, according to World Population Review). D.C. residents also seek newer used cars (5.80 years) and enjoy a median household income of $90,842.

Where else are residents looking for younger used cars?

The ValuePenguin study doesn’t look at just states and regions. Researchers drilled down into metro-area data and found that consumers in New York City, Orlando, and Miami seek the newest used cars. New Yorkers sought pre-owned vehicles 5.34 years old on average, while Orlando and Miami residents sought used cars for 5.30 and 4.91 years, respectively.

If you think about it, these findings make sense. There’s a lot of stop-and-go traffic in those three cities, and each enjoys a higher median household income than many other U.S. cities. And though Floridians don’t have to deal with salt on the roads, commuting is common. Status is also important to many residents in those three cities. If you buy a used car in New York, Orlando, or Miami, you’ll likely opt for the most impressive model you can afford.

Other cities among the top 10 where consumers seek the youngest used cars are North Port, FL (5.55 years); San Francisco, CA (5.56 years); New Orleans, LA (5.56); San Jose, CA (5.62 years); and Dallas, TX (5.72 years). Commuting is common in those cities, and wet roads can erode a vehicle’s undercarriage over time, especially in humid areas such as North Port and New Orleans. These findings are consistent with the contention that these consumers don’t just want status symbols but used cars that will last as long as possible.

What are some of the study’s other key findings?

Researchers also found that consumers looking for older used cars are split evenly between states in the West and Northwest. This finding makes a lot of sense if these consumers don’t have to deal with driving conditions that wear their vehicles out prematurely. Also, the average median household income is lower in these states than in the Northeast. Consumers aren’t just looking for used cars they want to drive or last longer, but also ones that fit within their budget.

ValuePenguin’s study also shows that most used car shoppers are looking for 2020 models. Nearly 20% of inquiries about a used vehicle were about 2020 models, followed by 2021 models (8.4%). The third-highest number of queries involved 2015 models, with 7.7% of consumers seeking those used cars.

A subsidiary of LendingTree, ValuePenguin used loan inquiry data on the LendingTree platform as the dataset for this study. So the data might not be a truly representative sampling of U.S. consumers. Nevertheless, LendingTree, a middleman between consumers and lenders, receives a substantial number of auto loan inquiries nationwide. Its sample size of nearly a quarter-million people is likely broadly reflective of U.S. consumer trends.


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