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Average Age of Cars on Road Reaches Record High

You've likely heard some variation on the age-defying axiom, "40 is the new 30." Well when it comes to cars, it's 11.5. According to a report released today by industry-info provider IHS Automotive, the average age of a car or light truck on the road today increased slightly to a record high of nearly a dozen years.

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IHS determined the figure by taking a snapshot of vehicles in operation as of Jan. 1. Not only are vehicles older than ever before, there are a lot more of them. A record 258 million vehicles are now in operation on U.S. roads, 5 million (or 2 percent) more than the previous year and the most since IHS began tracking growth. Meanwhile, fewer vehicles are going out than coming in, as registrations outpace "scrappage" by 42 percent, another all-time record, IHS reported.

In addition to the ever-increasing quality of vehicles manufactured, the economic recession in recent years helped age  the national fleet — spurred by the 40 percent drop in new-vehicle sales between 2008 and 2009. And while the average age of cars and light trucks is expected to continue inching up, these latest figures indicate that the trend is leveling off.

"We're now seeing average age begin to plateau and return to its traditional rate of increase as consumers have recovered from the great recession and have begun buying new vehicles again," Mark Seng, global aftermarket practice leader at IHS Automotive, said in a statement.

IHS forecasts that the average age of vehicles in operation will rise only fractionally in the next year and take until 2018 to reach 11.7 years.

Here are some other key stats from the IHS report:

  • The average length of ownership for a new vehicle is 6.5 years, an increase of 26 months since 2006; for used vehicles, it's 5.25 years, also more than two years greater than a decade ago.
  • The number of vehicles scrapped declined by 4.4 percent to about 11 million; that's compared to 2012, when 14 million cars were taken out of service.
  • The volume of vehicles 5 years old or younger is forecast to increase by nearly a quarter in the next five years, while vehicles 6 to 11 years old will dip by 11 percent, and vehicles a dozen or more years old will grow by 15 percent.