Americans are driving their cars longer

Cars on U.S. roads are now an average of 12.6 years old as consumers hold onto vehicles longer - UnSplash +

As new car prices rise, so does the age of the average vehicle

Bought a new car lately? Probably not, if the data just released by S&P Global Mobility is accurate. 

The organization reports that the average age of vehicles on U.S. highways is at a record high - 12.6 years – as American consumers are driving their vehicles longer.

"With average age growth, more vehicles are entering the prime range for aftermarket service, typically from six to 14 years of age," said Todd Campau, aftermarket practice lead at S&P Global Mobility.

"With more than 110 million vehicles in that sweet spot -- reflecting nearly 38 percent of the fleet on the road -- we expect continued growth in the volume of vehicles in that age range to rise to an estimated 40 percent through 2028."

In fact, S&P Global Mobility says consumers might not be able to hold out much longer and may soon have to upgrade to either a new or late model used vehicle. The reason is simple. While it’s true that new cars are a lot more expensive than in the past, so is the cost of maintaining an old model.

‘Scrappage’ rates holding steady

Vehicle scrappage rates – the rate at which consumers give up on their old vehicles and junk them – is holding steady. As of January 2024, the scrappage rate was 4.6%, largely unchanged from 4.5% in January 2023.

As for the mix of the fleet, since 2020 more than 27 million passenger cars exited the U.S. vehicle population, while just over 13 million new passenger cars were registered. At the same time, over 26 million light trucks, including utilities, were scrapped and nearly 45 million were registered.

"Consumers have continued to demonstrate a preference for utility vehicles and manufacturers have adjusted their portfolio accordingly, which continues to reshape the composition of the fleet of vehicles in operation in the market," Campau said.

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