There are a lot of aging vehicles on U.S. roads as more Americans hang on to their cars longer.
New numbers from IHS Markit show that the average age of light cars and trucks has risen to 11.6 years. That’s up from 11.5 years the previous year. The data is based on research of vehicles in operation as of January 1, 2016.
Registrations for light vehicles in operation in the U.S. hit a record 264 million, an increase of more than 6.2 million, or 2.4 percent. The big reason Americans are holding on to their vehicles longer is because the overall quality of cars is better.
“Quality of new vehicles continues to be a key driver of the rising average vehicle age over time,” Mark Seng, global automotive aftermarket practice director at IHS Markit.
IHS started tracking the average age of vehicles in 2002. In that first year, the average age was 9.6 years.
In terms of how long Americans are keeping their cars, as of the end of 2015, the average length of ownership was a record 79.3 months. The number is up 1.5 months from the previous year. Consumers keep used vehicles for about 66 months, IHS said.
About 11 million light vehicles were scrapped during 2015, or about 4.3 percent of the overall population.
As for the future, IHS forecasts the volume of vehicles in the new- to 5-years-old category will grow 16 percent by 2021, while vehicles in the 6- to 11-year-old range will grow 5 percent, and vehicles that are 12 or more years old will grow 10 percent. Vehicles 16 years and older are expected to grow 30 percent from 62 million units today to 81 million in 2021.
Looking even further out, IHS research predicts there will be more than 20 million vehicles on the road in 2021 that will be more than 25 years old.
This could be a boon for the auto repair industry. As the average age of vehicles increases, so too does the business opportunity for service shops.
“Increasing numbers of vehicles on the road builds a new business pipeline for the aftermarket,” said Seng. “A larger fleet means more vehicles that will need repair work and service in the future.”