The median age of passenger cars in operation increased to 9.4 years in 2008, breaking the previous two-year record high of 9.2 years, according to figures released on March 3 by R. L. Polk & Co. in its annual vehicle population report.
The median age for all trucks in 2008 increased to 7.6 years from 7.3 years in 2007. Light trucks increased from 7.1 years in 2007 to 7.5 years in 2008. Polk's annual vehicle population report represents data from July 1, 2007 to June 30, 2008, following an in-depth analysis of more than 249 million vehicles.
"As the fleet of pick-up trucks, SUVs and minivans purchased in the late 1980s and through the 1990s ages, their scrappage rates accelerate," said Dave Goebel, solutions consultant for Polk's aftermarket team.
The percentage of total passenger cars and trucks scrapped in 2008 increased to 5.6 percent compared to 5.2 percent in 2007. The passenger car scrappage rate was 5.1 percent. For all trucks the scrappage rate was 6.3 percent and light truck scrappage was 6.4 percent, both up notably from 2007.
"The current economic environment, coupled with high gas prices last spring and summer, have resulted in consumers delaying purchases of vehicles because their discretionary income has fallen," said Goebel. "Based on the uncertainty of what the future holds, consumers are trying to keep their current vehicles running longer, until their confidence improves."
Polk analysts also anticipate that in bad economic times, the threshold of repair costs may increase. Consumers could feel as though paying a repair expense to keep the vehicle going for a year is more sensible or affordable than a monthly vehicle payment over an extended period of time.