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How Long Should I Keep My Car?

By Autolist Editorial | June 24, 2022

How Long Does the Average Car Owner Keep a Car?

According to the automotive research firm iSeeCars.com, the average length of car ownership for the top ten models ranges from 9.7 to 11.4 years – or 14.9% to 35% longer than the overall average of 8.4 years.

"While the average new car buyer holds onto their car for 8.4 years, there is a wide variety of cars that owners are more likely to keep longer," said iSeeCars CEO Phong Ly. "Sports cars typically aren't daily drivers and don't accrue high mileage as a result, so it takes them longer to show signs of wear and tear." (Excerpt from iSeeCars).

In most cases, a car is an asset that quickly succumbs to depreciation. It is worth less with each driven mile, and spending money on something that is only decreasing in value doesn't make sense for long periods.

However, if you can look past the depreciation factor, today's modern cars are built to last longer, thanks to new designs and technological improvements. So, cars are lasting longer than they did before. Automakers are also backing up their productions with a warranty, which helps you with the maintenance costs for a specific period.

The average person does not keep their current car for much longer than ten years, although a report in Car and Driver notes that people keep their vehicles longer now than ever before.

Many car owners trade in their older car for a newer model or a newer car altogether, not because the vehicle has seen the end of its lifespan but instead taking advantage of new technology and safety features.

Every vehicle owner faces a choice at some point to get rid of their existing car, but when is it the right time? If you are in the hot seat now asking, "how long should I keep my car?" the answer depends on the vehicle itself and its current condition. It also depends partly on your preferences, priorities, and affordability to keep up with the repairs and maintenance.

Today, modern vehicles typically last longer than vehicles manufactured ten years ago. Like Honda and Toyota, some makes are well-known for going the distance with excellent reliability scores. However, even the most reliable makes and models of cars have a lifespan and eventually develop significant problems that lead to expensive repairs.

The cost to keep your current vehicle running may determine whether it's time to go car shopping for a new car. Continue reading if you want to know how long to keep a car and what factors are worth considering before getting rid of your old car.

Below is a list of America's most popular cars and the average length of ownership before resale:

  • Ford Explorer (9.6 years)
  • Toyota Camry (9.5 years)
  • Honda Accord (9.4 years)
  • Toyota Highlander (9.1 years)
  • Honda Civic (9.1 years)
  • Jeep Grand Cherokee (9 years)
  • Toyota Corolla (9 years)
  • Toyota Tacoma (9 years)
  • Jeep Wrangler (8.9 years)
  • Ram Pickup 1500 (8.7 years)
  • Honda CR-V (8.6 years)
  • Chevrolet Silverado 1500 (8.6 years)

The vehicle which car owners have kept the longest is the Toyota Land Cruiser at 11.4 years before resale. The Chevy Corvette follows with 10.5 years.

How Long Should I Keep My Car?

So, when exactly is the right time to let go of your current car and move on to your next set of wheels?

Below are three factors worth considering:

1. The Cost of Ownership

When considering whether or not to trade in your car for a new vehicle, weigh up the costs of driving your current vehicle for one year.

Factor in the following expenses:

  • Fuel
  • Regular maintenance costs and oil changes
  • General repairs
  • Car insurance costs

Draw a line in the sand by establishing a set dollar amount that would necessitate when it's time for another car.

When a new vehicle makes sense:

  • It doesn't make sense to pay $3,000 for a car repair when your car is only worth $2,000. According to the AAA, if you drive the current average of 15,000 miles per year, you should generally expect to pay about 61.88 cents per mile in various maintenance and repair costs.

  • If the maintenance costs exceed the vehicle's value.

  • As cars rack up more miles on the odometer, they typically become less fuel-efficient. If your older car gets 20 miles a gallon, but a newer car gets 35 miles. The savings here alone may encourage your move to a newer car.

  • Compare your current auto insurance costs for your old car versus a new car. In this instance, you may find newer cars and cars with an auto loan have higher insurance costs.

2. Your Financial Situation

Now that you have weighed up the cost of ownership for your current car versus a newer car, you need to establish what finances you have at your disposal to either keep your current vehicle running or trade it in for something newer.

Suppose you do not have any discretionary income available to keep your current car safely on the road but still need another vehicle. In that case, you may need to borrow from a credit institution. If you require an auto loan after paying off your current car, you're essentially signing up to make monthly payments forever. Not only that, but pricing (and your car payments) are likely to be higher on a new vehicle versus your old one. On the upside, you could possibly use your old car as a down payment for the new one.

You have three options available for your next car; buy a lightly used car, buy a new car or lease a new car. These options are all ideal for someone who has lucrative funds available to purchase a car with cash or someone who has a strong credit record for a car loan or lease. Before you start the car buying process with the intention of needing an auto loan, check your credit report first, so you know exactly where you stand.

If finances dictate buying a heavily used car, you may risk receiving an unknown repair bill, in which case, you are better off dealing with the known repairs of your current vehicle. The moment you conclude your vehicle is worth nothing monetarily but still valuable to your financial situation, then you need to create a budget or savings plan to get it back to where it should be aesthetically and mechanically.

3. Safety Factor

For some, replacing a functioning vehicle can be traced to exhibiting a successful lifestyle; for others, it's all about safety. There is no doubt that today's modern cars are some of the safest on the roads because of their long list of active safety features. There was a time when having airbags alone made a vehicle a safe choice. These days, airbags are standard and can be found in multiple locations inside a car.

Following the evolution of airbags is the development of driver assistance and safety features, for example:

  • Adaptive headlights
  • Automated parking
  • Autonomous braking
  • Backup cameras and sensors
  • Blind-spot monitoring
  • Lane-departure warnings

Some safety features reward you with car insurance discounts, thus lowering your cost of ownership.

Depending on your car's model year, replacing it with a newer model may provide you and your family with a safer driving experience and added peace of mind.

Is It Time to Get Rid of Your Car?

As you can see, many factors determine whether or not to get rid of your car or hold onto it a little longer. If your car is old and requires significant repairs that will cost more than the car's Blue Book Value, then it might be time to say goodbye.

Likewise, if your car is starting to rust or is unreliable despite repairing it, or if it was involved in a severe accident, fire, or flood, then a newer model may be in your future.

What Affects a Vehicle's Lifespan?

If you're asking, "How long should I keep my car?" it may be helpful to think about the factors that affect your vehicle's longevity. Several things affect how long your car will last, including:

The environment you live in and the weather conditions. Some environmental conditions are better than others; for example, a temperate climate is better than an extremely hot or cold one. Some weather conditions also promote rust.

Your average driving conditions and how you drive and use your car. Applications like towing heavy loads, revving the engine past its redline, or driving at top speed for long periods, repeated extreme acceleration and deceleration could all decrease how long an engine lasts.

Whether your car is parked in a garage or outside, a garaged vehicle typically wears less than one kept outside.

The average miles you drive. Highway miles are typically better than stop-and-go city miles, and a car that doesn't get driven as much will have less wear and tear.

How well you maintain your vehicle. Any vehicle with regular maintenance and oil changes stands a better chance of having a long life.

The make and model of the car (some have higher reliability and dependability scores than others). Long-lasting vehicles tend to come with higher resale values.

I Want to Keep my Current Car

If you have decided to embrace the longevity of your car, then you need to preserve it for as long as possible.

The most consistently reliable way to keep your car running is to do regular maintenance. That includes oil changes, not driving on worn tires, changing fluids when they get old or dirty, cleaning the interior and exterior regularly, and changing the air filter. Every make and model has recommended maintenance intervals to help you determine what needs to be performed and when. Keeping up with maintenance alone can allow any car to remain on the road longer.

You also need to consider your driving habits. Driving aggressively, in adverse conditions, or off-road can all shorten the life of your vehicle. If you drive like this regularly, you can expect more maintenance costs.

I Want to Buy Another Car

If buying another car and ditching the old car is the way to go, then some features to keep in mind include automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, and forward-collision warning. Electronic stability control and rear cameras are also worth seeking out, although they're now required on new cars sold in the U.S.

When car buying, make sure to research any prospective vehicle for crash test results and reliability ratings. When you're looking at older cars, things get a bit more complicated. At that point, you'll want to look at vehicle history reports using the VIN.

If you have limited mechanical knowledge, you'll want it checked by a professional mechanic. At the very least, take it for a test drive and look for leaks, signs of water damage, paint overspray, and corrosion.

From a safety standpoint, cars rated Top Safety Pick+ by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) are invariably an intelligent choice. The IIHS is widely regarded throughout the automotive industry for its safety rankings. Like Consumer Reports, they compile an annual ranking of the safest cars based on size and class and the safest SUVs and vans.

Thoroughly research prospective vehicles and weigh their resale values, ownership costs, and fuel efficiency. If a newer car will cost you more to replace your current functional vehicle, is it really worth it if you are on a tight budget?

Cars That Last Longer

Replace your current car with one that has an excellent track record for lasting long, i.e., a vehicle with great reliability scores. However, with proper maintenance habits, you can probably get nearly 200,000 miles or more on just about any car.

Consumer Reports releases an annual list of the most reliable cars, trucks, and SUVs for each model year. Consumer Reports arrives at its rankings based on recent vehicle performance data provided by more than 300K vehicle owners. The vehicles on the list are those whose owners reported the least problems in the previous year.

According to Consumer Reports, here is a list of the most reliable car brands for 2022:

  • Lexus
  • Mazda
  • Toyota
  • Infiniti
  • Buick
  • Honda
  • Subaru
  • Acura
  • Nissan
  • Mini
  • Hyundai
  • Chrysler
  • Porsche
  • Chevrolet
  • Audi
  • Cadillac
  • BMW
  • Ford
  • Kia
  • Volvo

According to Consumer Reports, here is a list of the most reliable cars for 2022:

  • Toyota Prius
  • Lexus NX
  • Buick Encore
  • Lexus GX
  • Honda HR-V
  • Toyota Prius Prime
  • Hyundai Kona
  • Audi A5
  • Audi A4
  • Mazda CX-5