Region's Residents Waiting Longer to Replace Vehicles

Nov 16, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – The National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB) is releasing today the results of a “census” of all the vehicles registered in the region. Two key findings show that residents are responding to changing economic conditions, primarily the recession and rising gas prices.

The average age of vehicles in the region is increasing. Residents of metropolitan Washington are not replacing their vehicles as quickly as they were prior to the recession. As a result, older vehicles comprise a larger percentage of the region’s vehicle fleet than ever before. Since 2005, the average age of vehicles in the region has consistently increased. In 2005, the average age was 7.8 years. That figure grew to 8.2 years in 2008 and to 9.1 years in 2011.  

The trend in favor of sport utility vehicles (SUVs) has reversed quickly and significantly. In 1996, cars and motorcycles accounted for 65% of the region’s vehicle purchases, while SUVs accounted for 35%. In 2004, the split evened out at 50% for each. However, since 2004, the shares have almost returned to their 1996 levels, with cars and motorcycles accounting for 60% of the purchases and SUVs accounting for 40%.

Other key findings from the “vehicle census” include:

  • Hybrid vehicles continue to increase their share of the fleet. Registration of hybrid vehicles has been steadily increasing since their introduction in 2000.
  • The aging of the region’s fleet has negative air quality and greenhouse gas emissions implications. The large increase in the average age of vehicles in the region will cause higher overall emissions.

This is the third such “census” of the region’s vehicle fleet. The previous two took place in 2005 and 2008. The information gathered is used by the TPB to conduct its transportation-related air quality and greenhouse gas emissions forecasts. .

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