Automakers say they are building the best cars ever, and there's proof on the road. The average age of vehicles in the U.S. has climbed to a record 11.5 years, according to research firm IHS Automotive.
The age continues to creep up even though new car sales are at near record levels.
People are holding on to their cars longer because of "the increasing quality of automobiles," said Mark Seng, global aftermarket practice leader at IHS Automotive.
Consumers are now driving cars they bought new for 77.8 months before selling them, he said. That's an increase of 26 months since the start of 2006. Used car drivers hold onto their vehicles for an average 63 months before disposing of them, a 25-month increase since early 2006.
There are now almost 258 million light vehicles on U.S. roads, a 2% increase from last year, according to IHS. But the U.S. is adding more new cars than it is scrapping older vehicles. About 120 million of those vehicles are 6 to 14 years old.
IHS said the age creep will continue, but at a slow rate because consumers are purchasing so many new cars. IHS forecasts that average age is likely to hit 11.6 years in 2016 but not reach 11.7 until 2018.
The number of vehicles scrapped in 2014 declined slightly from 2013, with just over 11 million light vehicles scuttled during the 12-month time frame analyzed by IHS Automotive. The record is the 14 million vehicles scrapped in 2012.
New vehicle registrations also outpaced scrappage by more than 42% – the highest rate since IHS began compiling the data.
Even with cars lasting longer, the aging fleet still provides many opportunities for the automotive business as those older cars require new tires, servicing and some level of repairs, IHS concluded.