Average Age of US Cars Hits Record 12.2 Years

David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

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Cars on U.S. roads are as old as they’ve ever been, potentially complicating efforts to expand the use of new safety and emissions-reduction technologies.

The age of light vehicles domestically is now 12.2 years on average, up almost two months from last year’s figure, according to S&P Global Mobility.

That’s a record high and marks the fifth straight year of increases.

Analysts at the data provider pointed to the global microchip shortage, supply chain snags and inventory challenges — all of which likely kept drivers in their old cars longer.

The rising cost of new vehicles — $46,526 last month, according to Kelley Blue Book — was another deterrent for prospective buyers.

The combination could put a damper on manufacturers’ efforts to introduce newer safety technologies and to spur faster adoption of more fuel-efficient hybrid and electric vehicles.

“Everything is going to be delayed when it comes to mpgs because new vehicles are selling at a lower rate than expected,” said Todd Campau, associate director of aftermarket solutions at S&P Global Mobility.

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Carmakers sold more than 15 million new cars in the U.S. in 2021, according to Cox Automotive data. EVs made up just over 3% of the total, with hybrids accounting for another 6.4%.

Campau said besides getting older, U.S. cars are facing more wear and tear as overall driving levels have bounced back from lows at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The group said the vehicles averaged 12,300 miles in 2021, up more than 10% from the prior year.

“Coupled with increasing average age,” Campau said, “strong average vehicle miles traveled points to the potential for a notable increase in repair revenue in the coming year.”



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