Road warriors

when the four gubernatorial candidates were queried at a debate about the cars they drove, Republican Charlie Baker drew some envious chuckles when he said he had a ’66 Mustang.

But more than a few people nodded their heads knowingly because they, too, are driving old cars, many out of necessity. According to the Registry of Motor Vehicles, the average statewide age of all the cars, SUVs, trucks, trailers, and motorcycles in Massachusetts was 10.4 years as of Sept. 4, up from 7.5 years in 2000.

The aging of vehicles has had a widespread effect, from a decline in municipal excise tax collections to a dearth of used cars available for sale, thus driving up the price of pre-owned vehicles.

Meet the Author

Jack Sullivan

Senior Investigative Reporter, CommonWealth

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is now retired. A veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is now retired. A veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

Meet the Author
Barnstable Tax Collector Maureen Niemi said the graying of the fleet has had a big impact in her community. The average age of vehicles in Barnstable is 11.2 years, up from 8.1 years a decade earlier. Niemi and other tax collectors say most people are not buying new cars and many are doing away with cars they use infrequently. She mailed out 44,275 excise tax bills worth $4.4 million in 2008; in 2009, she sent out 39,228 bills worth $3.8 million, a 16 percent reduction. “Because of the economy, nobody’s going out and buying a new car,” she says.

Drivers in Aquinnah on Martha’s Vineyard have the oldest vehicles, with the average age of 15.7 years. Registry spokeswoman Ann Dufresne says that’s a trend officials have seen for years because island residents bring their “junks” and leave them. Also, the limited miles that year-round residents put on their cars makes them last longer.

The community with the newest vehicles in the state is Chelsea, but Robert Boulrice, the city’s treasurer/collector, says most of the credit goes to Enterprise, the car rental company that moved its fleet from Logan International Airport to Chelsea in 2009. Enterprise brought thousands of relatively new cars, which are now registered in Chelsea, pushing the average age of the car fleet down from 11.9 years in 2008 to 7.1 years now.