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Money Matters: Average car lifespan in U.S. nearly 12 years

The average age of U.S. vehicles has hit its highest point since that figure started being tracked in the early 2000s.

Americans’ car lifespans have reached around 11.8 years nationwide, according to a new IHS Markit report.

The London-based researchers found a steady increase in vehicles’ age in the last 17 years, rising by 3.5% from 2000-2007 and 12.2% from 2008-2013.

“Better technology and overall vehicle quality improvements continue to be key drivers of the rising average vehicle age over time,” said Mark Seng, director, global automotive aftermarket practice at IHS Markit. He also mentioned the steep 40% drop in new car sales and acceleration in vehicle age was sparked by the 2008 recession, as consumers held on to their cars for longer in an effort to save money and continued the habit later on.

Geography plays a big role in a vehicle’s lifetime, according to the IHS. Cars in the West (12.4 years) last 1.5 years more than cars in the Northeast (10.9 years). Montana was found to have the oldest vehicle average at 16.6 years, while Vermont’s cars only last 9.9 years.

An increase in light vehicles has also influenced longevity numbers, as these tend to last longer than heavier vehicles like trucks. There is a record-breaking 278 million light vehicles are in operation in the U.S.; an increase of 2.2% in the last year alone. That makes it the highest annual increase the U.S.’s auto industry has ever seen.

In the end, the auto-repair industry could see a rise in customers as many of these aging car fleets will need repair in the future.