Auto Service World
News   June 9, 2023   by Adam Malik

U.S. average vehicle age hits another new high

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The typical vehicle in the United States is nearing teenager status.

The latest analysis from S&P Global Mobility pegs the average age of a U.S. vehicle at 12.5 years. A combination of high new vehicle prices and the lack of new sales has pushed people to keep their older vehicles long, driving up the average age of the nation’s car parc.

No updated data for Canada has been made available. However, experts have told Auto Service World on background that some models suggest the average age is around 10.5 years here. AIA Canada last reported average vehicle age of 9.7 years in 2020.

The 12.5 age number in the U.S. is a three-month increase from last year, according to S&P and the sixth straight year of an increase. It’s also the highest yearly increase since the 2008-2009 recession — similarly, a sharp decline in new vehicle sales accelerated average age beyond its traditional rate.

“We expected the confluence of factors impacting the fleet coming out of 2021 would provide further upward pressure on average vehicle age,” said Todd Campau, associate director of aftermarket solutions for S&P Global Mobility. “But the pressure was amplified in the back half of 2022 as interest rates and inflation began to take their toll.”

This, of course, is all good news for the automotive aftermarket. So many older vehicles in operation mean these automobiles will continue to need repair work and service to perform properly.

“The aftermarket sector trajectory typically follows growth in average vehicle age, as consumers invest more to keep their aging vehicles running, barring some exceptions,” the report from S&P said.

The most recent S&P Global Channel Forecast that was done alongside with Auto Care Association and MEMA Aftermarket Suppliers estimated revenues of the U.S. light-duty aftermarket in 2022 are up 8.5 per cent to US$356.5 billion. Early indications show that the industry could see a revenue increase of 5 per cent this year, prior to adjustments for inflation and other factors.

S&P Global Mobility estimated that the volumes of vehicles aged six to 14 will grow by another 10 million units by 2028. This all adds up to an increasingly favourable volume of vehicles in the aftermarket target range.

“Traditionally, the ‘sweet spot’ for aftermarket repair was considered 6-11 years of age, but with average age at 12.5 years, the sweet spot for aftermarket repair is growing,” said Campau. “There are almost 122 million vehicles in operation over 12 years old.”

In all, 75 per cent of the vehicle fleet in 2028 will be made up of vehicles older than six years, according to S&P Global Mobility estimates. As these vehicles provide the most repair opportunities, they should signal a positive future for the independent aftermarket.

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