The average age of a U.S. vehicle reached 12.2 years in 2022, according to S&P Mobility. The extraordinary number means that there are 283 million cars and light trucks on the road. The American population is just above 320 million.
There are at least two causes for this longevity. Cars are better built than a decade ago. And people cannot buy new cars because of a shortage of microchips used in their electronic systems. This makes new cars both scarcer and more expensive. The authors of the report added, “The ongoing effect of supply chain constraints has led to a decrease in vehicle scrappage, which measures the number of vehicles leaving the vehicle population and has been a catalyst for the rise in average age over time.” They expect the figure to rise again next year.
Americans who cannot buy new cars have turned to “slightly used” ones. These are generally two or three years old and have at least some of the characteristics of new ones. They often carry warranties and have been carefully inspected by dealers for quality and defects. Cars that are over five years old almost certainly do not get that treatment.
The data is good news for the car repair business. A decade-old car almost certainly needs some upkeep. Unfortunately, the parts suppliers have not dodged the supply chain shortages. Soon, Americans will have to drive cars without doors and tires.
Car companies have to take the data as bad news. If people can keep a car 12 years, why not 13 or 14? This may be better than the premium new cars fetch because of the shortage.
A car sold in 2010 is, by most standards, very old. That has not kept people from having these in their driveways.
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