Deciding how long to keep a vehicle is a difficult balance of resale value, style, technology, and personal preference. Even though the process is highly personal, the average age of vehicles has gone through certain trends over the years, dipping down and up in tune with the economy.
Today, however, the average age of vehicles on the road has hit an all-time high of 11.8 years, and it is expected to keep growing in 2020. There are a variety of factors that play into this ever-growing average. Interestingly enough, the numbers change significantly from state to state.
Age is up, but only in some states
Montana tops the charts once again with the average age of vehicles on the road at 16.6 years. Vermont takes the bottom spot with only 9.9. Even more interesting than a state-by-state comparison, however, is the stark contrast between the East and West Coast. Western states have a much higher average at around 12.4 years old, as compared to Northeastern states, which only last about 10.9 years.
One reason for this large gap may be different traffic patterns. While Northeastern populations are packed into cities like Boston, New York City, and Baltimore, Western states have much more room for traffic flow. Over time, start-and-stop traffic can wear on a vehicle, causing the Northeast cars to need more frequent replacements.
Better technology means more durable cars
Although environmental factors may change the average in any given state, improvements on cars themselves are responsible for the overall increase in ownership time. Over the years, car technology has improved exponentially. Take On-Board Diagnostics II, the 1996 invention that allows car owners to pinpoint what’s wrong with their engine. Another great example: the implementation of Mandatory Tire Pressure Monitoring in 2000.
Recent safety features like auto-braking technology, semi-autonomous parking, and top view backup cameras prevent accidents, reducing the chance of having to get a new car due to damage. With the average model on the road these days dating back to 2007, old and new tech improvements alike can impact a car’s durability.
Not all cars are created equal
The average age of cars on the road is 11.8 years, but some models can outlive this estimate by a long shot. Americans keep these three cars the longest:
With suspension made specifically for off-roading and parts that withstand cold weather, it’s no wonder Americans keep this car for well over the 11.8-year average. The best thing about this car is its toughness and durability; it’s strong enough to tow up to 7,000 pounds. But buyers must invest in the Pro model to unlock the full set of durability features.
Affectionately nicknamed the “Swagger Wagon,” this minivan is one of the safest cars. Built for large families, the Sienna’s safety-first focus makes it incredibly durable and not prone to being totaled. Although an emphasis on safety is what makes the car special, it also takes away some of its visual appeal. Buyers who can get over the car’s look may enjoy more than 15 years in a Toyota Sienna.
Yes, another Toyota tops the list. With 18% of Highlander drivers keeping their vehicle for over 15 years, this model has the greatest longevity of any car in America. Its infotainment system occupies kids, while parents enjoy a luxurious interior and superb handling. There are few drawbacks to this car; between a sleek exterior and incredible lifespan, customers can’t ask for much else.