Lodi News-Sentinel

Average age of U.S. vehicle now a record 12.2 years old

- Breana Noble

The average age of light vehicles in operation has hit a record, increasing by two months this year to 12.2 years, as a shortage of vehicles is keeping Americans in their cars for longer, according to a study released on Monday.

It’s the fifth consecutiv­e year of increase even as the U.S. vehicle fleet recovered, growing by 3.5 million vehicles in the past year, according to the report from financial informatio­n firm S&P Global. Inc’s mobility team. The results are indicative of pentup demand that’s likely to keep automakers, their dealers and repair shops happy for years to come.

Prior to the pandemic, researcher­s had expected the average age of vehicles to flatten because of declining sales from their more than 17 million annual peak. Interrupte­d production from the COVID-19 pandemic followed by a global microchip shortage and other scarce parts, however, has depleted dealership lots and sent up the price of vehicles.

“It is a little bit of a unique situation driving the growth trajectory,” said Todd Campau, automotive aftermarke­t practice lead at S&P Global. “We expect it to continue to grow for a few years and then drop off in the ‘25, ‘26 range, depending on how the pandemic, pent-up demand and scrappage work out.”

The average age of a car on the road is 13.1 years, while trucks sit at 11.6 years, according to the analysis.

Scrappage volume for 2021 was at more than 11 million vehicles, a rate of 4.2% of vehicles in operation. That was the lowest annual rate in the past two decades, a reverse from 2020 that saw the highest volume in two decades at more than 15 million vehicles, the second highest rate at 5.6%.

A return to work and other activities as well as increasing demand for rental fleets contribute­d to the reversal with drivers traveling more than 12,300 miles on average, a 10% increase year-over-year. Unused vehicles during lockdowns may have once again been registered, Campau said, also contributi­ng to the increased number of vehicles in operation.

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