For many years the average age of vehicles on the road in the U.S. was gradually increasing, as car buying slowed down and people were more inclined to hang on to their used cars. Now, a study from IHS Automotive has found that the average age of vehicles in the U.S. plateaued in 2013, remaining even at 11.4 years for light trucks and cars combined.
Results from the IHS study show that the number of vehicles in operation increased by more than 3.7 million vehicles, a growth of 1.5 percent totaling 252,700,000 light vehicles. It was the largest gain for vehicles in operation since 2004-2005.
A major component of this outcome was the large increase in new vehicle sales. New vehicle registrations outpaced vehicle scrapping by more than 24 percent, although scrapping itself has declined significantly. A total of 11.5 million vehicles were scrapped in 2013, which is a large drop-off compared to the high of 14 million vehicles scrapped in 2012. Lower scrapping rates mean older vehicles are staying on the road longer, helping mitigate the effects of the high rate of new car sales in 2013.
IHS Automotive expects the average vehicle age of 11.4 years to remain steady through 2015, until it rises to 11.5 years by 2017 and 11.7 years by 2019. Although average age will increase, the rate of growth is slowing compared to the last five years.
In line with the higher rate of new car sales, the segment of vehicles 0-5 years old will increase volume by 32 percent over the next five years. In the 6-11 year old segment, vehicle volume will decline 21 percent, reflecting the substantially lower car sales during the economic recession in 2007-2008. As consumers hold on to their cars longer, in part because of the increased quality of new vehicles compared to previous years, vehicle volume in the 12-plus year old segment will grow 15 percent over the next five years.