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DETROIT -- People are keeping their cars and trucks longer as quality improves and the uncertain economy makes new purchases less appealing, according to a study released this week by automotive consulting firm R.L. Polk & Co.

Polk said the median age of cars on U.S. roads was 9.2 years in 2007. That ties the previous year's record high. In 2007, 41.3 percent of all cars were 11 years or older, compared with 40.9 percent the year before.

The median age for trucks and sport utility vehicles rose 4 percent to 7.1 years. Dave Goebel, a consultant for Polk's aftermarket team, said those numbers are starting to reflect a surge in truck and SUV purchases in the mid- to late 1990s.

The Service Contract Industry Council, a trade group for providers of extended warranties, said it also sees evidence people are keeping their vehicles longer. Despite the 3 percent drop in sales last year, there was a 3 percent to 7 percent increase in the number of auto service contracts sold as buyers sought more coverage than the traditional three-year manufacturer warranty, according to Tim Meenan, the executive director of the council.

The group expects 5 million people to purchase auto service contracts this year. The contracts often cover components that manufacturer warranties don't, such as electronics, air conditioning or a rental car during repairs, and may cover vehicles for up to seven years.

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People keep cars, trucks longer
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