Average US car age hits record 12.6 years as ownership duration lengthens

  • The average vehicle age in US grew about two months from last year's record.
Cars
The average vehicle age in the US grew about two months from last year's record. (AFP)
Cars
The average vehicle age in the US grew about two months from last year's record.

Cars, trucks and SUVs in the U.S. keep getting older, hitting a record average age of 12.6 years in 2024 as people hang on to their vehicles largely because new ones cost so much.

S&P Global Mobility, which tracks state vehicle registration data nationwide, said Wednesday that the average vehicle age grew about two months from last year's record.

But the growth in average age is starting to slow as new vehicle sales start to recover from pandemic-related shortages of parts, including computer chips. The average increased by three months in 2023.

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Still, with an average U.S. new-vehicle selling price of just over $45,000 last month, many can't afford to buy new — even though prices are down more than $2,000 from the peak in December of 2022, according to J.D. Power.

“It’s prohibitively high for a lot of households now," said Todd Campau, aftermarket leader for S&P Global Mobility. "So I think consumers are being painted into the corner of having to keep the vehicle on the road longer."

Other factors include people waiting to see if they want to buy an electric vehicle or go with a petrol-electric hybrid or a petrol vehicle. Many, he said, are worried about the charging network being built up so they can travel without worrying about running out of battery power. Also, he said, vehicles are made better these days and simply are lasting a long time.

New vehicle sales in the U.S. are starting to return to pre-pandemic levels, with prices and interest rates the big influencing factors rather than illness and supply-chain problems, Compau said. He said he expects sales to hit around 16 million this year, up from 15.6 million last year and 13.9 million in 2022.

As more new vehicles are sold and replace ageing vehicles in the nation's fleet of 286 million passenger vehicles, the average age should stop growing and stabilize, Compau said. And unlike immediately after the pandemic, more lower-cost vehicles are being sold, which likely will bring down the average price, he said.

People keeping vehicles longer is good news for the local auto repair shop. About 70% of vehicles on the road are 6 or more years old, he said, beyond manufacturer warranties.

Those who are able to keep their rides for multiple years usually get the oil changed regularly and follow manufacturer maintenance schedules, Campau noted.

First Published Date: 23 May 2024, 09:10 AM IST
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