Average US car age reaches record high, according to study

The average car on the road in the U.S. is nearly 12 years old, roughly one month older than the national average for last year and the oldest in the history of a study conducted by IHS Markit.

The study, which was released Tuesday, showed that car owners were holding on to their cars for 11.9 years and keeping them on the road for more years, even before the slowdown caused by the coronavirus. Longer vehicle loans, more reliable cars, and fewer new cars sold in 2019 and 2020 should push the average age higher, according to researchers.

As states continue stay-at-home orders and fewer workers commute each day, the industry group estimated that the average age could rise 4 to 6 months in the coming years.

“…the COVID-19 pandemic has created the perfect storm to accelerate U.S. light vehicle average age in coming years,” Todd Campau, associate director of Aftermarket Solutions at IHS Markit, said in a statement. 

The industry group estimates that there are roughly 280 million cars on the roads in the U.S. and said that new cars represented just 6.1% of cars on the road in 2019. For 2020, that number likely will fall to about 5%.

In its study, IHS said that cars 6 to 11 years old likely will increase in proportion to the rest of the cars on the road, while cars 12 to 15 years old are more likely to age out due to costly repairs or relative scarcity due to a plunge in new-car sales in 2008-09 due to the recession. Yet, the study found that 25% of cars and trucks on US roads were at least 16 years old. 

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