Average Vehicle Age Increases for 5th Straight Year

May 24, 2022

The average age of light vehicles in operation in the U.S. has risen to 12.2 years in 2022, marking the fifth straight year the average vehicle age has increased.

The data, from S&P Global Mobility (formerly the automotive team at IHS Markit), marks another all-time high for the average vehicle age. And it came as the size of the country's vehicle fleet recovered and added nearly 3.5 million units.

S&P Global Mobility says the primary causes of this year's increase are related to the global microchip shortage, combined with continuing supply chain and inventory challenges. With chip supply shortages, new carmakers continue to struggle to amp up vehicle production.

According to the report, "The constrained supply of new cars and light trucks, amid a strong demand for personal transportation, could have influenced consumers to continue operating their existing vehicles longer, as inventory levels for both new and used vehicles were depleted across the industry."

Those same supply chain constraints have also led to a decrease in vehicle "scrappage," which measures the number of vehicles leaving the vehicle population.

"The scrappage volume for the prior year stood at over 11 million and scrappage rate as a percent of vehicles on the road was just 4.2% of the vehicles in operation (VIO) - the lowest annual rate in the past two decades."

Compare that to the scrappage rate from the previous year — more than 15 million units, the highest volume in two decades. At 5.6%, it was the second-highest scrappage rate recorded.

As S&P Global Mobility notes, this adds up to "growing business potential for the aftermarket segment."

At the same time, vehicle miles traveled has returned to pre-pandemic levels. In 2021, it increased by more than 10%. Light vehicles in the U.S. averaged more than 12,300 miles traveled in 2021. Similar figures are expected for 2022.

Todd Campau, associate director of aftermarket solutions at S&P Global Mobility., said, “Coupled with increasing average age, strong average vehicle miles traveled points to the potential for a notable increase in repair revenue in the coming year."