Quantcast
Home » News
Home » News

The Utah Effect: Drivers are keeping their cars far longer than they used to

Published September 22, 2015 3:00 am

Road life • Durability, the high cost of new cars and the Great Recession are contributing factors.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

So what if your car still has a tape deck, a retro paint job and a few scratches, as long as it gets you to the grocery store and back?

That ethos appears to have spread throughout Utah and the rest of the nation. As a result, the average age of cars and trucks keeps climbing, making the road-worn car the norm.

In 2014, the average registered car in Utah was made a decade earlier and average trucks were 11 years and 2 months old, according to state data. And get this, 1 out of every 5 cars was a model from 1999 or earlier.



How widespread is this old-car trend? Well, Craig Bickmore, executive director of the New Car Dealers of Utah, owns a car from 2003, though he has a newer vehicle, too.

"It used to be that a car going 150,000 miles was an anomaly," he said. "I have a son who has 250,000 miles on his car, and it is still running well."

Bickmore's explanation for the aging auto fleet is that carmakers have done a bang-up job. Their products are better made and last longer than the old versions. Thus, people are holding onto them. He said the advances are due largely to competitive pressures among brands.

IHS Automotive, a national analytics company, also argues that manufacturing advances are leading to older cars on the road. IHS tracks registered vehicles nationwide and said, as of January, the average age of cars and trucks in the United States stood at 11.5 years, an all time-high.

"As long as we have tracked average age, it has gradually risen over time due to the increasing quality of automobiles," said Mark Seng, IHS' global aftermarket practice leader.

But that's only half the answer.

The Great Recession is the other major driver. Car purchases declined sharply during the economic collapse, and while they have recovered since then, there's no making up for those lost sales.

IHS expects the average age of cars to continue to rise, but more slowly than in recent years.

Justin Watson became interested in cars during his high-school shop class. For the past five years, he has worked as a mechanic. He now works at The Mechanic Man in Murray and said that the average car he works on is between five and 10 years old. They don't start looking "pretty ugly," he said, until he gets to 15-year-old vehicles.

He believes part of the reason people are holding onto their old cars is the cost of new ones. TrueCar.com said the average price for a new vehicle was $31,252 in August, a record high.

In contrast, Watson drives a 30-year-old truck, while his wife has a 2003 Honda Element with 270,000 miles on it. That Honda is the newest car he's ever owned.

Bickmore said the longer people keep their cars, the more competitive auto sales become for the 150 new-car dealerships he represents.

"They know that the car-buying cycle may be extended," he said. "Dealers do what they can to make sure customers are as well taken care of as possible."

It could be worse for dealers. Utah's average cars are a year and a half newer than the national average, and it's even better than that in the big urban counties.

In Salt Lake County, the average car is 9.52 years. In Utah County, it's 9.87 years. And, in Summit County, which includes posh Park City, the average is a statewide low of 9.46 years.

While there's not a definitive reason why cars in Utah are newer, Bickmore hypothesizes that the state's stronger- than-average economy may allow more people to drive later models.

The Utah State Tax Commission tracks the age of cars through registration data, and a dive into those stats revealed a few other interesting tidbits.

• The average age of Utah cars in 2006 was 8.67 years. It's jumped 1.36 years since then.

• Eleven of Utah's 29 counties have more registered trucks than cars. These are rural areas, and the truck fleet includes industrial trucks, which is why the oil-generating counties of Duchesne and Uintah are on the list. The others are Beaver, Daggett, Emery, Garfield, Kane, Rich, San Juan, Sevier and Wayne.

• The county with the oldest cars was Beaver, at 12.47 years. For trucks, it's Sanpete, at 15.15 years.

• The oldest road-ready car in the state is owned by a resident of Wasatch County. It was made in 1901.

mcanham@sltrib.com

Twitter: @mattcanham

 

 

 

 

 

USER COMMENTS
Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
comments powered by Disqus