10+ Year Vehicle Lifespan is the ‘New Normal’, according to AutoMD.com Annual Mileage Report

78% of consumers say appropriate lifespan is 10+ years or until vehicle dies – and say improving economy won’t change that; two thirds have over 100,000 miles on primary vehicle, although number who say they will drive ‘until it dies’ decreases 20 percentage points from 2010

Carson, CA – March 20, 2014 – Lengthy vehicle ownership is the new normal, even as the economy improves, according to AutoMD.com’s 2014 Vehicle Mileage Survey*, with nearly 80% of consumers comfortable with a 10+ years or ‘until it dies’ vehicle lifespan. And, the majority who are keeping their vehicle for longer say that an improving economy will not change that, as evidenced by the steady growth in miles they are reporting on their primary vehicles.

Lifespan of a Vehicle

And, while the survey does show that, year over year, the number of consumers who say they plan to drive their primary vehicle “until it dies” has decreased from a high of 56% in recession-impacted 2010 to 35% in 2013, over half still plan to drive their vehicles for 100K+ miles, with the vast majority saying that the old two to three year ownership model is dead.

“We have been tracking the lengthening ownership cycle since 2010 and what was at first a reaction to a bad economy, has now become a new reality – with the majority holding onto cars up to and past the 100k mark. The number of consumers saying that over ten years is the appropriate time to own a car has not shifted, even as the economy has improved,” said Brian Hafer, VP of Marketing for AutoMD.com.   

“This longer ownership cycle is increasing the likelihood that consumers will empower themselves by researching repair and repair pricing info online. And - in good news for repair shops – not only does this survey show that these car owners are more likely to choose an independent repair shop for their service needs, but what we are we seeing at AutoMD.com bears this out, with more and more consumers searching for repair shops online.”

Report Highlights:

More Miles Since 2010 – Better Economy Not Changing Habit

Car owners continue to rack up the miles. Since 2010 when only 47% reported having over 100K on their current vehicle, now over 64% have racked up that many miles… and some racked up even more - 33% said they now have over 150K miles on their current vehicle.

Hundred Thousand Miles Driven 

Forty-six percent say they plan to put 75K more miles on their current vehicle than they drove on their previous vehicles.  This is a dip since 2011 when 67% said they planned to put 75K more on their vehicle, but makes sense given that many of these consumers have probably switched their high mileage vehicle for their next vehicle since 2010. It is also likely that people who reported in 2010 that they planned to add 100k additional miles have been adding those miles over the past few years, so have fewer miles to put on now.
Not surprisingly fewer DIFMers (Do It For Me) than DIYers (Do It Yourself) plan to put 75K more miles on their vehicle: 38% versus 51%. And of those planning to hold their vehicles longer than previously, over 50% say the improving economy has no impact on how long they hold their vehicles.

Appropriate Vehicle Lifespan 10+ Years

Three in four car owners agree that getting a new vehicle every 2 – 3 years is the old model – ‘a thing of the past’.  Nearly 80% of consumers believe 10+ years or ‘until it dies’ is the appropriate lifespan of a vehicle, with only 3% saying 3-5 years is the right length of time to own a vehicle – and these numbers have not shifted year over year.  This echoes third party data that confirms that the average vehicle on the road is 11.3 years and holding steady to 11.5 in 2018.*

Vigilance with Repair and Economy/Cost Savings Top Reasons for Holding Vehicles: Good News for Repair Shops!

When asked the most important reason for holding onto their vehicle for over 100,000 miles, more consumers cited their vigilance with repairs and service than any other reason, followed by the economy and cost savings. This is good news for repair shops: one in four holding onto their vehicles for longer say that they are more likely to stick to the vehicle’s maintenance schedule and will opt to visit an independent repair shop to save money.  And, when all respondents were asked what kind of service center they are most likely to use, the vast majority (71%) said independent repair shop.

Service Center Choices 

Car Buyers Like New Models but Will Opt for Pre-owned

Only 10% of those surveyed said they planned to purchase a new vehicle, with 90% holding, maintaining and repairing. Of those planning to buy a new vehicle, the majority say they are buying because their vehicle is at the end of its life, and nearly one third say they are buying because there are great vehicle models on the market. Only 7% cited an improving economy as a reason to purchase. And a shiny new vehicle right off the production line is not what these consumers are focused on: their number one choice is a late model used vehicle.

Half Spend Over $500 Annually / Majority Still Feel Overcharged

The amount consumers spend on vehicle repair has stayed relatively flat from 2010 to 2013: nearly 50% report spending $500 or more a year, with 16% saying they spend $1,000 plus.  And while car owners report the longer ownership cycle means they are more likely to stick to their maintenance schedules, there has been no real shift since 2010 in the number of car owners who feel that they have been overcharged when getting their vehicle repaired/maintained – holding steady at a whopping 83%. This high percentage of unhappy consumers could be the driving force behind consumers reporting that, in light of the economic challenges of the past years, 76% of them are researching pricing and repair information online.


*The AutoMD.com 2014 Vehicle Mileage Survey was conducted online among 4,398 car owners from July 2013 – Feb 2014.