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The Average US Car Is Now 12.2 Years Old, Report Says

Used car with Manager's Special written on the windshield
Throwing a new set of spark plugs at Ol' Reliable seems a lot easier than trying to haggle away dealership markups.
Fotog/Getty Images

What's happening

A new report shows the average age of a car on US roads has risen to 12.2 years.

Why it matters

S&P Global Mobility's research shows that 2022 likely won't be any easier for people trying to score a deal on either a new or used car.

What's next

Continued pressure from the same places will likely see this number rise again next year.

The average car on US roads has been eligible for middle school for quite some time. In 2016, the average age of a US car was 11.6 years. Three years later, it crept up to 11.8 years, before finally creeping over the 12-year mark last summer. It shouldn't come as a surprise, then, that this number rose again in 2022.

According to research from S&P Global Mobility (formerly IHS Markit), the average age of a car on US roads is now 12.2 years. It is once again a new record, eclipsing last year's result of 12.1 years. This is actually the average of both cars and light trucks; when the two are split, the average car age is 13.1 years, while the average light-truck age is just 11.6. Truck age has remained relatively flat over the last several years, while in that same time period cars just kept getting older and older.

The reasons for this upward shift are largely the same as last year. The COVID-19 pandemic and all its related supply-chain woes are front and center in S&P Global Mobility's analysis. As the company notes in its release, a constantly strained supply and growing demand may be keeping cars in driveways longer. The demand for used cars is still high, too, helping contribute to the increasing average age. Scrappage, when old cars leave the vehicle population permanently, continues to stay low, compounding the issue further.

So, where do we go from here? According to S&P Global Mobility's research, the answer remains up. Continuing parts shortages, low scrappage rates and the ongoing war in Ukraine will continue to contribute to rising average car ages through 2022 and possibly into 2023.

"While some of the new vehicle demand has been destroyed, as supply chain challenges ease, some pent-up demand for new vehicles is expected to be realized through the middle of the decade," Todd Campau, associate director of aftermarket solution at S&P Global Mobility, said in a statement. "At that time, scrappage rates could increase, creating the climate for average age to moderate or even reduce slightly."

As Campau noted in his statement, the growing electric-vehicle market can help slow this ever-rising figure. The average age of a US EV is 3.8 years at the moment, and since 2016 that figure has bounced between 3 and 4.1 years. Even if that figure rises over the next few years, electric cars are still much younger than their average gas-driven counterparts. EVs still represent a small slice of the US car market, but as new models are released in different price ranges, this could very well help reduce the average.