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Consumers Holding Onto Rides Longer...

Consumers Holding Onto Rides Longer, Looking Toward Late-Model Used Vehicles for Next Purchase

If the results of AutoMD.com's latest survey are any indication, gone are the days when consumers held onto a car for a couple of years before succumbing to the new-vehicle itch once again. It seems shoppers are holding on to their rides longer and longer, as the average age of a vehicle on the road nears 11 years.

According to the company's survey of almost 4,000 car owners, three out of four respondents agreed that "buying a vehicle every two to three years is a thing of the past, and 78 percent now say that 10-plus years (or until it dies) is the appropriate vehicle lifespan," officials noted.

Also of interest, it seems as if the economy's slow growth has little to do with consumers' decisions regarding how long they hold on to a vehicle.

Over half of the survey respondents said that a better economy would not change their habit of holding onto their vehicle for longer.

And among those who said they planned to purchase in 2012, a late-model used vehicle was the No. 1 choice.

"There is nothing surprising about the economy driving car owners to hold onto their vehicles for longer — our data has been showing this trend for the past three years; but what is most compelling is that longer ownership has become an embedded habit for car owners, regardless of what the economy does," said Brian Hafer, vice president of marketing at AutoMD.com.

"This significant lengthening of the ownership cycle looks like it is here to stay, and it's being supported by better made vehicles on the road, more choices for — and information online about — repairing those vehicles, and a more scrupulous focus on service and maintenance," he continued.

What Does this Mean for the Dealership Service Center?

And perhaps to the chagrin of dealerships around the country, AutoMD.com contends that the longer ownership trend is spurring consumers to seek out independent repair shops over dealership service centers.

Though it may seem to be good news for dealerships that over 57 percent of consumers the company calls DFMers (Do-It-For-Me: those who usually go to a service center for repairs or maintenance) are holding on to their vehicles longer and sticking to the manufacturer's recommended service schedule, the reality may paint a different story.

Of those consumers, 76 percent of them say they are more likely to visit an independent shop "to save money", versus the dealership.

Furthermore, "when all DFMers (not just those holding onto their vehicles for longer) were asked which kind of service shop they were most likely to utilize, 69 percent said they would likely opt for the independent repair shop over chains (8 percent) and dealerships (20 percent). Meanwhile DIYers, who prefer their own garages for repairs (57 percent), also preferred independent shops (33 percent) versus chains (4 percent) and dealerships (6 percents)," the company explained.

High-Mileage Vehicles Rule the Roads

And the survey also revealed that mileage on these aging vehicles is on the way up, and consumers seem to be more focued on "vigilant repair and servicing" than trading their vehicles in for a new unit.

For the second year in a row, 60 percent of survey respondents say their primary vehicle has over 100,000 miles, the company shared.

Furthermore, 66 percent plan to drive their primary vehicle for over 150,000 miles (or until it dies) and over half plan to rack up 75,000 more miles than on their previous vehicle, they continued.

And though the economy is still the No. 1 reason for holding onto vehicles, repair and servicing were also tops, the company shared.

Specifically, when asked why they plan to keep their primary vehicle for over 100,000 miles, respondents cited the economy (47 percent) and vigilance with repair and service (44 percent) as the top reasons, followed by cost savings (37 percent), DIYing (28 percent) and better built cars (19 percent), the survey revealed.

Wrapping up its commentary, AutoMD.com also cautioned automakers that over 50 percent of respondents said they would be more influenced by practicality than style when purchasing their next vehicle.

"Of the survey respondents, about 20 percent of DFMers and 13 percent of DIYers said they planned to purchase a new vehicle in 2012, with over half saying that they are purchasing simply because they have no choice, their vehicle is at the end of its life," the company concluded.

The AutoMD.com survey was conducted online among nearly 4,000 car owners from March through May of this year.