The average age of cars and trucks in the United States has reached a record high of 10.8 years, according to Polk, a company that reports trends in the automotive industry.

Polk speculates that the aging vehicle fleet is a result of a tough economy that has kept many Americans watching their budgets and out of showrooms. But the economy isn’t the only reason why many consumers are waiting to purchase a new vehicle. Cars and trucks are a lot more reliable than they were in 1995, which means they don’t need to be replaced as often.

An average age of 10.8 years may not seem like a very long time to keep a vehicle, but the average age of vehicles has steadily increased since 1995 when the average age was 8.4 years. Ten years later, the average age increased to 10.1 years.

The average vehicle age could stop climbing so fast. “The reason has mostly to do with pent-up demand for new cars, which will decelerate the median age rise,” says “According to Polk, the mix of cars to trucks, which was skewed more to trucks in 2008 and 2009, will also bring down the median age over time because trucks age more quickly than cars.”

From 2008 to 2009, Polk says more new trucks were sold than cars, but that it “expects this trend may change in the coming years as CUV and small SUV populations in the U.S. market have risen in 2010 and 2011 due to their continued success in the market.”

The Associated Press spoke with Global Aftermarket Practice Leader at Polk, Mark Seng, who said, “It's going to take the good economy several years of very high sales again, and people being willing to let go of those older vehicles that they've been holding onto.” Seng doesn’t know when the average age will begin to decrease.

While it could take several years of increased new vehicle sales to decrease the average age of vehicles, Seng says that an older vehicle fleet helps the aftermarket sector of the automotive industry. “Dealer service departments and independent repair facilities, as well as aftermarket parts suppliers, will see increased business opportunity with customers in need of vehicle service.”

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