Average age of vehicles on U.S. roads hits 11.8 years

June 27, 2019 07:00 AM
Average age of vehicles on U.S. roads hits 11.8 years
DANIELLE SZATKOWSKI

REUTERS
The average age of light vehicles in operation in the U.S. has risen again as consumers continue to hold onto cars and light trucks longer.
Driven by technology and quality gains, the average age of light vehicles on U.S. roads is 11.8 years, based on a snapshot of vehicles in operation Jan. 1, an analysis by IHS Markit found. That’s up from a light-vehicle population that was, on average,11.7 years old in 2018.
The number of registered light vehicles in operation in the U.S. hit a record of more than 278 million this year, an increase of more than 5.9 million, or 2.2 percent.
IHS Markit began tracking the age of vehicles in 2002, when the average age was 9.6 years.
“The average age of a vehicle has continued to grow ever since cars started coming out from Henry Ford’s production line, if you will,” said Mark Seng, director of the global automotive aftermarket practice at IHS Markit. “People are hanging onto them longer because they’re lasting longer.”
From 2002 to 2007, the average age of light vehicles in the U.S. increased 3.5 percent, he said, but from 2008 to 2013, the average age rose12.2 percent.
“We’re kind of back to that same pace that we saw from 2002 to 2007,” Seng said. “The average age of light vehicles in the U.S. accelerated so much because we were coming out of the Great Recession back in 2008 to 2009 and new light-vehicle sales fell like 40 percent over a two-year period. Even during the recovery years there were fewer vehicles being sold, so that just accelerated the average age of the fleets in the U.S.”

For the first time, the analysis included a review of various regions around the country. The oldest light vehicles are in the West, at 12.4 years, an increase of 1.5 percent from a year earlier. The Northeast had the youngest light vehicles at 10.9 years, which increased 1.1 percent from a year earlier. Weather and road conditions, driving habits and household finances and affluence can have a major impact on the average age of vehicles in a state and region, IHS said.
Repair opportunities
IHS Markit found that the number of older cars and light trucks is growing fast, with vehicles 16 years and older expected to grow 22 percent to 74 million from 2018 to 2023.
In contrast, there were less than 35 million vehicles 16 years or older on the road in 2002, according to the analysis.
Seng said the growing number of older vehicles on the road provides more repair opportunities for dealers and aftermarket parts providers that focus on automotive service repair beyond warranty coverage.
“There’s many more older vehicles on the road than there was in 2002, which means there’s going to be all different kinds of repairs — oil changes, brake jobs and new wiper blades — that’s going to be done to that vehicle cycle,” he said. “That’s more revenue opportunities for aftermarket repair people.”

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