Here’s a fact that will surprise you: over the last fifty years, the number of vehicles on the road per American has just shy of doubled. While this trend has slowed since 1990, the number of cars per person is still steadily inching upwards.
Other odd trends have also come to light. For example, another figure that has steadily increased is the age of the average car on the road. The average age of the American car is a jolting 10.6 years and it’s been steadily rising a decimal point or so a year since 1995. There are a lot of reasons for this. Cars are built better now than they ever have been, drivers are more aware of safety problems and cutting down on bad behavior such as drunk driving and people are consistently more frugal. That last one is especially important as new car prices have hit all-time records recently. Your average new car will cost you over $30,000.
All of which raises the question of how many cars will you own in your lifetime?
Let’s run a few numbers. The average American life expectancy right now is 78 years and it’s been steadily rising since 1970 at roughly a quarter year or so, every year, as medical technology improves and we learn more about human health. All of this is assuming we don’t have a major medical breakthrough in our lifetimes, like turning cancer into something annoying you get rid of during a physical, which isn’t a safe assumption. Let’s stick the current yearly increase. We also took the liberty of assuming that owning your own car starts at the age of 18 since we’re not going to insure a seven-year-old driver.
Similarly, we’re assuming vehicle trends of the average age of the fleet rising about .1 years or so, every year, stays constant. That’s a bit of an unsafe assumption as well. The EPA is going to require an average fuel efficiency of the US fleet of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 so everybody clinging to their 1995 Geo Prizm might finally be forced to take that eyesore off the road. However, it’s stayed consistent throughout the last seventeen years, so sticking with it makes sense.
What are the results? Right now, your average American will own almost six cars in their lifetime. Of course, that’ll just be an average. Some will own more and some will own less. If that sounds high, stop and think about it. You’ve got a car, your spouse probably has one in his or her own name, your teenager may well have one in your name and you might have one for work. Not a lot of contractors want to drive their F150 to the grocery store.
However, by 2030, life expectancy will be up to 82 and your average American will only own five cars. The good news for the car industry is that we won’t drop to four cars purchased until the 22nd century.
Cars will probably cost six figures by then but they will last for two decades. Also, for that kind of money, by the 22nd century they’d better fly.