Age of U.S. Cars Hits New Record

The average age of U.S. cars and trucks continues to climb as drivers hold onto their vehicles longer in the wake of the economic downturn, according to a new report from Polk.

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The auto research firm said light vehicles on U.S. roads now average a record high of 11.4 years in age, the oldest since Polk began tracking vehicle age in 1995.

Last year, the average age of U.S. vehicles was 11.2 years.

Polk also said 247 million passenger cars and trucks were registered in 2013, falling just shy of a record 250 million vehicles in 2008. Polk expects registrations will hit 260 million by 2018.

Consumers in recent years have largely put off buying new vehicles, a trend that created pent-up demand currently fueling auto sales. After falling to a recession low of about 10.4 million vehicles in 2009, auto sales are on pace this year to potentially top 16 million for the first time since 2007

In 2007, before the recession, cars and trucks averaged 10 years in age.

Polk, which was recently acquired by research company IHS (NYSE:IHS), added that vehicles ages have risen as build quality has improved.

Mark Seng, vice president of Polk’s aftermarket practice, noted that aging vehicles give chain and independent repair shops an opportunity for more business. He also said retailers “have a unique and growing opportunity with potential consumers wrenching on their own vehicles.”