Car Industry

The average car on the road is ready for middle school

The average age for a car on US roads is 11.6 years old, according to IHS Markit.

Honda

Before we know it, most of these cars will be old enough to apply for driver's licenses. If, you know, that were allowed.

Honda

Take a look at the nearest road, and you're bound to see more old cars than new ones. That trend is only going to continue, as the average age of a car on the road continues to grow.

The average age of a light vehicle on US roads is now 11.6 years, Automotive News reports, citing data from IHS Markit. Last year's average was 11.5 years, so US cars are now, on average, slightly older than they used to be. There are some 264 million light vehicles registered to drive on the road right now, a 2.4-percent increase over last year.

So why are cars leaning older if we're still pouring millions of new vehicles onto the roads? It's because more and more people are holding on to older cars rather than replacing them. IHS Markit said the average length of ownership hit a record high of 79.3 months this year. The analysis firm also said new vehicle quality (or the perceived lack thereof) plays a part, as well.

There's also the argument that people just don't have any bloody money. The economic downturn affected a great chunk of the US, and the ensuing recovery hasn't swept everybody up in the same wave. Money is still tight for families across the country, which directly affects one's decisions when it comes to buying a new or used car. Throw Millennials into the mix, many of whom are saddled with tons of student loan debt, and the environment is ripe for used cars staying on the road longer.

Keeping older cars on the road for longer can be troublesome. Older cars lack a number of features that can reduce collisions, like Bluetooth for hands-free calling and autonomous emergency braking. Older cars also require proper maintenance to stay in tip top shape, and the cost of patching up an old car can sometimes rival the costs of buying a new car or looking into alternative mobility services like ride sharing or car sharing.

This cloud does come with a silver lining, though. Additional older cars on the road means more money for third-party garages. It's a profitable enterprise, as older cars lack the computerization that requires service departments to add new, expensive and typically proprietary upgrades. If you want to start a garage, now might be a good time to do it.