Auto Service World
News   May 9, 2024   by Adam Malik

From the Magazine: Vehicle average age will keep growing

How driving behaviour has changed and the impact for the aftermarket

The average age of vehicles has seen a sharp increase in recent years, a trend expected to continue.

This points to positive news for the automotive aftermarket. This trend is one of the ripple effects of the pandemic years — people were driving less, so mileage didn’t accumulate as quickly. So that vehicle that would normally last, say, 300,000 km will still reach that point but take longer to get there.

That means we can see average vehicle age continue to grow for the next few years, Todd Campau, aftermarket practice leader at S&P Global Mobility, said. He recently addressed this topic in two different presentations.

“Because the kilometres travelled paused for essentially a year or two, we could see another year or two on the average age of the vehicle,” he said during the webinar, Insights on Vehicle Miles (Kilometres) Travelled in Canada,

The average age of a vehicle in the United States is 12.5 years, the highest it’s ever been. No updates have been made for Canada since 2020. At that time, AIA Canada reported average age at 9.7 years. Industry experts believe that number is about 10.5 years today. That, too, would be a record high for this country.

“We’ve continued to set records,” Campau said during his presentation, Trends Impacting the North American Aftermarket at AAPEX 2023. “I think the real note in average age is the rate at which it’s been climbing. Average age typically does stay pretty consistent or climbs very slightly. The past few years, it’s been climbing pretty rapidly and it’s continuing to look like it’s going to climb pretty rapidly for a couple more years.”

“Because the kilometres travelled paused for essentially a year or two, we could see another year or two on the average age of the vehicle.”

The lack of vehicle use for those pandemic years is going to be the main driver of increased vehicle age. Instead of, say, 20,000 km most people would put on their vehicle, drivers only added, say, 5,000 km. And with the popularity of remote and hybrid work, people are not putting as much commuting travel on their vehicles.

That said, Canadians did return to normal driving levels, at least for a period of time. A report from the Automotive Industries Association of Canada noted that Canadians eagerly got behind the wheel in 2022 before tailing off and hitting a four-year quarterly low to close out 2023.

The Vehicle travel trends in Canada: Q1 2020 to Q4 2023 report explored the median kilometres travelled, number of trips and average distance travelled compared to a baseline, which was represented as a fraction of what would be expected without a global pandemic.

Kilometres travelled in the fourth quarter of 2023 were down 58 per cent from the same time the year before. Even the middle quarters, which cover the summer months, saw significant reduction in kilometres travelled compared to 2022.

The slowdown in vehicle travel was attributed to a weakening economy, impacted by higher interest rates, inflation, and rising energy costs, coupled with changes in work practices.

“Shorter trip durations compared to other quarters suggests a tendency for drivers to take more local journeys compared to longer drives, especially with work from home,” it added.

So fewer kilometres being added means a longer lifespan for vehicles, so long as those vehicles are being properly maintained — meaning greater opportunity for auto care professionals.

“It’s growing, it’s aging, people are keeping their vehicles on the road for a longer period of time,” Campau said of the car parc. “All that means more repairs coming to our bays, more tires that need to be replaced more brake jobs, more oil changes and everything. So good news, in general for the aftermarket.”

This article originally appeared in the March/April issue of CARS

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