Auto Insurance

The Average Age of a Used Car at Purchase Is 6.47, With Wide Variation Among States and Metros

The Average Age of a Used Car at Purchase Is 6.47, With Wide Variation Among States and Metros

Idaho and South Dakota residents look to buy the oldest used cars, but a Washington state metro — Spokane — tops the list if you combine them.
A mother and daughter purchase a used car.
A mother and daughter purchase a used car. Source: Getty Images

Rising inflation has rocked the used car industry. The price of used cars and trucks is up 6.6% over last year, according to the latest consumer price index. That said, buying used is more affordable for many consumers, especially with the cost of new vehicles up 10.4% year over year.

According to the newest Kelley Blue Book data, average new car prices hit a record high in July 2022 at $48,182, while used cars sold for an average of $28,219 that same month — a nearly $20,000 difference.

The latest ValuePenguin study analyzes anonymized LendingTree inquiries at the national, state and metro levels to gain insight into used car purchases. Overall, researchers find that the average age of used cars people are seeking is 6.47 years old. Learn more about people’s used car-buying habits, as well as get tips on how to find affordable used car insurance.

Key findings

  • The 10 states where people look to buy the oldest used cars are evenly split among the Midwest and West. Idaho and South Dakota residents seek the oldest used cars at an average of 7.98 years each. Wyoming follows at 7.71.
  • Northeast states make up half of the 10 states where people seek the youngest used vehicles. Residents of New Jersey look to buy the youngest used cars at an average of 5.70 years. Florida and the District of Columbia follow at 5.76 and 5.80 years, respectively.
  • The metro where residents look to buy the oldest used cars — Spokane, Wash. — isn’t in a top-10 state. There, the average age of used cars at purchase is 8.04 years — the highest among any metro or state. Boise, Idaho (7.74), and Wichita, Kan. (7.71), are next.
  • The only metro where people seek cars less than 5 years old, on average, is in Florida. Miami residents look for the youngest cars, at an average of 4.91 years. Consumers in Orlando, Fla., look to buy the second youngest cars at 5.30 years, followed by New York at 5.34.
  • Nearly 1 in 5 inquiries for used vehicles are for those with a 2020 model year. The most sought-after model years are 2020 (19.8%) and 2021 (8.4%), indicating that newer used cars are the most desirable. The next most popular year is 2015 (7.7%).

States where residents look to buy the oldest used cars

To determine which U.S. regions, states and metros are buying the oldest used cars, ValuePenguin examined more than 240,000 auto loan inquiries for used vehicles on the LendingTree platform between January and July 2022.

The 10 states where people look to buy the oldest used cars are evenly split among the Midwest and West. This includes many drivers in the Great Plains and its adjacent states. The three states with the oldest used car inquiries are Idaho (7.98 years), South Dakota (7.98) and Wyoming (7.71).

Though individual factors stand out, it can be hard to explain why residents in specific states seek older used cars. For example, Wyoming (No. 2) and Idaho (No. 5) are the states where residents pay the highest average used car prices, according to a 2021 study from car search engine iSeeCars.com. (South Dakota is at No. 16.)

While Wyoming has the smallest population of any state, two states that’ll appear in the youngest used cars portion of our study — Vermont and the District of Columbia — are just ahead population-wise, so there’s no solid correlation there.

Of note, five states among the 10 where residents look to buy the oldest used cars are in the bottom 20 in median household income — New Mexico ($51,243), Montana ($56,539), Indiana ($58,235), Idaho ($58,915) and South Dakota ($59,896). That can contribute to residents keeping their cars longer.

Average age of vehicles continues rise

Independent of individual state factors, cars continue to get older, says Divya Sangameshwar, ValuePenguin auto insurance expert.

"The average age of cars and light trucks has increased steadily for 20 years," she says. "New vehicles have become more expensive, and more durably built vehicles allow people to travel more miles before they get scrapped."

Another factor could be that Americans are keeping their cars longer and maintaining them better, Sangameshwar says.

"Many took on very long financing periods of up to eight years to afford their cars," she says.

Because there are more marketplaces and platforms for people to buy used vehicles from private sellers, car owners have more options when they’re ready to sell their older cars.

States where residents look to buy the youngest used cars

On the other side of the list, half the states in which auto shoppers seek younger used cars come from the Northeast.

The leaders are New Jersey (5.70 years), Florida (5.76) and the District of Columbia (5.80), where people seek cars that are less than 6 years old, on average. That may be in part because of the different driving patterns in these areas.

"How long a car lasts also depends on stop-and-start traffic that wears on a vehicle," Sangameshwar says. "Salt on the road during the winter can lead to undercarriage rust, and flooding can destroy cars."

Looking at the earnings equation, five of the states where residents look to buy the youngest used cars are among the six states with the highest median household incomes. That includes the District of Columbia ($90,842), New Jersey ($85,245), Massachusetts ($84,385), Hawaii ($83,173) and Connecticut ($79,855). That speaks to the opposite of earlier — consumers with high incomes will likely be better positioned to swap out vehicles as needed.

Full rankings

Rank
State
Average vehicle age
1Idaho7.98
1South Dakota7.98
3Wyoming7.71
4Iowa7.67
5Nebraska7.66
6Kansas7.62
7Montana7.52
8New Mexico7.25
9Indiana7.04
10Oregon7.02
11Washington7.00
12Utah6.95
Show All Rows

Source: ValuePenguin analysis of LendingTree sample of more than 240,000 loan inquiries for used passenger vehicles.

Metros where residents look to buy the oldest used cars

ValuePenguin researchers also took a metro-specific look at the topic. The top metro — Spokane, Wash. — is an outlier since its home state doesn’t break the top 10 (it ranks 11th) among states where people look to buy the oldest used cars. In Spokane, the average age of used vehicles is 8.04 — the only metro or state above 8 years old.

Rounding out the top three are Boise, Idaho (7.74), and Wichita, Kan. (7.71), which are in the six states where older cars are most desired. One explanation for the top 10 could be that these are generally less affluent and more rural metros where people need to find more affordable price points.

Important insurance tidbit: "An older vehicle is generally cheaper to insure, mainly because older cars are less valuable, so an insurer won’t have to pay out as much in the event of a total loss," Sangameshwar says.

Metros where residents look to buy the youngest used cars

Miami, Orlando, Fla., and New York residents are seeking the newest used cars in the U.S. Miami has the distinction of being the only metro in which the average age of sought-after used vehicles was less than 5 years old (4.91).

As for metros with drivers looking for the newest used vehicles, a good portion of the top 10 are in or near larger cities notorious for heavy traffic and long commutes. In fact, five of these 10 metros are in the top 15 in population.

Full rankings

Rank
Metro
Average vehicle age
1Spokane, WA8.04
2Boise, ID7.74
3Wichita, KS7.71
4Des Moines, IA7.52
5Harrisburg, PA7.47
6Ogden, UT7.42
7Omaha, IA7.39
8Albuquerque, NM7.20
9Knoxville, TN7.17
10Chattanooga, TN7.14
11Stockton, CA7.10
12Tucson, AZ7.06
Show All Rows

Source: ValuePenguin analysis of LendingTree sample of more than 240,000 loan inquiries for used passenger vehicles.

Nearly 1 in 5 inquiries for used vehicles are for those with 2020 model year

The most popular model years that people inquired about were 2020 (19.8%) and 2021 (8.4%). This could be because many people shop for almost-new, certified pre-owned models that are former lease vehicles or trade-ins. Newer cars tend to have less wear and tear and mileage, while still being less pricey than brand new cars.

The next most popular model years were 2015 (7.7%), 2018 (7.6%) and 2011 (6.9%).

This is a graph about auto loan inquiries by model year

5 things to know about used car insurance

Besides the increasing cost of used cars thanks to inflation, you can expect to pay more to insure the vehicle. Car insurance rates are up 7.4% year over year, according to the latest consumer price index.

While you might think that getting a used car will save you a few bucks on insurance versus buying new, a car’s age is just one of many factors that determine your insurance rate, Sangameshwar says.

Here’s what you need to know about shopping for used car auto insurance:

  • Get some quotes. It’s best to contact your insurance provider to discuss how driving an older car will change your insurance rate. "You may find out that your reliable old car can save you more money than a flashy new upgrade," Sangameshwar says. It’s also wise to call other insurers for quotes to see if you can score a better deal on whichever car you ultimately choose.
  • Your driving record is typically the biggest factor impacting your rates. When calculating your premiums, auto insurance companies prioritize safety and the value of your ride over how long it’s been on the road. "If you have a checkered driving record, or have made many claims in the past year, that too can drive up the cost of your insurance, even if you drive an older car," Sangameshwar says.
  • A car’s make and model play a big role, too. You would think the age of the vehicle would impact insurance rates the most, but that’s not always the case. "If your older car has hard-to-find replacement parts or is classified as a classic car, luxury car or high-end sports car, it can cost more to insure than a brand-new car of a different make and model," Sangameshwar says. And it’s not just the fancy wheels that can cost you more. "While one may assume that car thieves love flashy sports cars or brand-new luxury vehicles, many of them prefer to steal older cars since these vehicles don’t come with sophisticated security systems, and they can be dismantled into parts and sold, making the theft harder to track." Such additional risk can bump up the insurance price.
  • Where you live and park your car matters. Speaking of risk, there’s a reason you have to put in your ZIP code when you get an insurance quote, because your location is one of the other main factors that determine your rate. "When your car is at a higher risk of being stolen because it’s parked in a high crime risk area, your premiums are likely to be higher, too," Sangameshwar says.
  • Full coverage may not be worth it. If you’re buying a used car, you’ll want to crunch the numbers to figure out if comprehensive and collision coverage is worth it. One rule of thumb: "The cost of carrying full coverage car insurance on a midsize vehicle can approach 50% of the car's value after the car is more than 10 years old," says Sangameshwar, citing a previous ValuePenguin study. That’s why Americans with older cars usually opt to downgrade to minimum coverage insurance at some point. It may make sense for owners of younger used cars to keep full coverage while the car value is still high, however.

Methodology

ValuePenguin analysts used a sample of more than 240,000 loan inquiries from the LendingTree platform made between January and July 2022 to fund purchases of used passenger vehicles to determine the average age of sought vehicles by state and for the 100 largest metropolitan statistical areas.

Vehicle age was calculated by subtracting the model year from 2022; all were from 2002 through 2021.