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Americans keeping their autos longer than ever

Elaine Thompson / AP

Traffic moves across the Highway 520 floating bridge in Medina, Wash. American drivers are holding on to their cars and trucks for longer, new data suggest.

By msnbc.com staff and wire

American drivers are holding on to their cars and trucks longer, new data suggest, as they put off buying new vehicles in the face of high unemployment and a struggling economy.

The average age of a vehicle on the road has climbed to a record 10.8 years, according to automotive research firm Polk. Last year the average vehicle on U.S. roads was 10.6 years old, up from 10 years in 2008, Polk said.

While the average age of passenger cars has shown a modest increase since 2010, rising from 11 years to just 11.1 years at the end of June 2011, light trucks (including pickups and SUVs) have seen a more sizeable gain, rising from 10.1 years to 10.4 years in the same timeframe. Overall, average vehicle age has risen quickly over the past five years, Polk said. The firm uses national vehicle registration data in its analysis.

Polk says the average vehicle age has been rising since 2008, but a rebound in vehicle sales last year is likely to slow the aging rate. Automakers sold 12.8 million vehicles in the U.S. last year, up from 11.6 million in 2010. Analysts expect auto sales to continue rising in 2012.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.