People say, “They don’t make them like they used to.” That’s very true, and it’s a good thing!
In the 1970s, most passenger vehicles lasted no more than a few years and about 100,000 miles (160,000 kilometres) at the high end, and people traded vehicles every two to four years. In fact, odometers in the early ’70s registered 99,999 miles before going back to zeros.
Starting in the 1980s, however, the life expectancy of vehicles began to increase, due to improved quality, better warranties, proper maintenance, competition, and other factors.
By the year 2000, 33.7 per cent of vehicles in Canada lasted at least 15 years, and by 2017, upwards of 54 per cent of vehicles last for at least 15 years, according to DesRosiers Automotive Consultants.
Today, the average life expectancy of a vehicle in Canada is 12.88 years, compared to 15.36 years in the U.S. At my Honda dealership, we frequently see trade-ins with 250,000 km and more.
When consumers purchase or lease a new vehicle today, they expect to drive it for a specific number of years, depending on their personal circumstances. The extended lifespan of vehicles has influenced car-buying decisions and the long-term value of vehicles.
Improved quality is one reason why vehicles are lasting longer. Today’s vehicles are made of lightweight materials, such as high-strength steel, magnesium alloys, aluminum alloys, carbon fiber, and polymer composites. Plus, improvements to the internal combustion engine and computerized technology have led to better fuel economy and overall performance.
Improved quality has also allowed auto manufacturers to extend the length of standard warranties on new and pre-owned vehicles, which provides car owners with added protection and peace of mind.
A standard manufacturer’s warranty on new vehicles is three years and at least 60,000 km (whichever comes first). Factory extended warranties are also available that provide consumers with safety and assurance for a longer period of time. (Honda offers up to eight years and/or 200,000 km).
Regular maintenance is another factor in vehicle shelf life. When motorists perform recommended maintenance (tune-ups, oil changes, tire rotation, etc.), their vehicles perform more efficiently and economically, and they last longer.
The phenomenon of ‘collector’ cars has influenced the lifespan of certain vehicles. In the past few decades, many Canadians have purchased and restored vintage automobiles from the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, for their own enjoyment and for investment. In fact, an entire subculture has emerged around collector cars, a trend that is borne out by the popularity of classic car auctions, websites, and publications devoted to this growing market.
This trend toward longer shelf life for vehicles has led to considerable pent-up demand in the automotive marketplace. As a result, for the past eight years, there has been consecutive growth in the new car market in Canada, and in 2017, new vehicle sales topped two million units for the first time.
Long shelf life has also influenced the pre-owned vehicle market, as reconditioned used vehicles, if properly maintained, can be driven problem-free for years. Most automakers offer Certified Pre-Owned programs (fully inspected vehicles with low mileage and clean vehicle histories) through new-car dealerships.
The longer shelf life of automobiles today is a testament to the ongoing research, technology, innovations, advancements, and improvements made by auto manufacturers, and to the basic care and maintenance of automobiles by their respective owners.
Car owners can take comfort in knowing that today’s vehicles are designed to perform far more efficiently, for a much longer period, and will hold their value longer than vehicles built in any previous generation.
This column represents the views and values of the TADA. Write to email@example.com or go to tada.ca. Larry Lantz is president of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association and is a new-car dealer in Hanover, Ont.
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