America, Your Cars Are Getting Old

The average age of a US vehicle is now 12.6 years, as consumers coax extra life out of them
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 25, 2024 2:10 PM CDT
America, Your Cars Are Getting Old
Commuters wait to drive through the Holland Tunnel into New York City during morning rush hour traffic in Jersey City, NJ, in 2023. A study published Wednesday, May 22, 2024, says US vehicles hit a record average age of 12.6 years in 2024 as people continue to hang on to their rides.   (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey, File)

Cars, trucks, and SUVs in the US 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, reports the AP. The average increased by three months in 2023.

Still, with an average US 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 2022, according to JD Power. "It's prohibitively high for a lot of households now," says 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 gas-electric hybrid or a gasoline 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 US 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 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 aging vehicles in the nation's 286 million passenger vehicles, the average age should stabilize, Compau said. And unlike immediately after the pandemic, more lower-cost vehicles are being sold, which likely will bring down the average price. 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.

(More auto sales stories.)

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