Why Americans are Hanging onto Cars Longer Than Ever

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“It used to be that when a car hit 100,000 miles, that’s the end of things,” said Edmunds.com features editor Carroll Lachnit. “That’s no longer the case with regular maintenance.”

Because cars are being built better than ever, Lachnit said, Americans are holding onto them longer. As a result, the average age of vehicles on the road has climbed to an all-time high of 11.5 years, according to new data from industry analyzer IHS Automotive.

That means one out of every four vehicles in the U.S. was built before 2000, with many of these vehicles trading hands multiple times over the course of their mechanical lives.

Though Lachnit said it’s great that cars are lasting so long, she also urges used car shoppers to be on the lookout for issues that pop up with older vehicles.

“A used car is not perfect,” Lachnit said. “It had a life before you met it.” She recommends all car shoppers get their car inspected before purchasing, and check for any open recalls on the model.

Drivers can check the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website for any safety issues or recalls by entering their car’s Vehicle Identification Number here.

According to IHS and the U.S. Department of Transportation, not only are cars working longer for multiple owners, but also drivers are keeping their vehicles for an extra year and a half compared to 2007. New vehicle owners are hanging onto their cars for about 6.5 years compared to 4.3 years in 2006, while used buyers are generally holding onto their cars for 5.3 years, two years longer than they did in 2006.

This could be related to the recession, Lachnit said. Why trade in your car when money is tight and your model is doing just fine?

The best way to keep your vehicle running as long as possible is regular maintenance, Lachnit said, with regular oil changes and gentle driving habits.

“It’s great cars can last that long and in some cases we fall out of love with a car before something happens to it mechanically,” Lachnit said. “We’re replacing cars not because we have to but because we want something new.”

When will the old car trend plateau?

No one is sure, but IHS predicts it could be soon, with the flood of innovative technological features in newer models. After all, Americans like being safe and well connected.

This article originally appeared on Boston.com

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