The average age of light vehicles in operation in the U.S. has risen again as consumers continue to hold onto cars and light trucks longer.
Driven by technology and quality gains, the average age of light vehicles on U.S. roads is 11.8 years, based on a snapshot of vehicles in operation Jan. 1, an analysis by IHS Markit found. That's up from a light-vehicle population that was, on average,11.7 years old in 2018.
The number of registered light vehicles in operation in the U.S. hit a record of more than 278 million this year, an increase of more than 5.9 million, or 2.2 percent.
IHS Markit began tracking the age of vehicles in 2002, when the average age was 9.6 years.
"The average age of a vehicle has continued to grow ever since cars started coming out from Henry Ford's production line, if you will," said Mark Seng, director of the global automotive aftermarket practice at IHS Markit. "People are hanging onto them longer because they're lasting longer."
From 2002 to 2007, the average age of light vehicles in the U.S. increased 3.5 percent, he said, but from 2008 to 2013, the average age rose12.2 percent.
"We're kind of back to that same pace that we saw from 2002 to 2007," Seng said. "The average age of light vehicles in the U.S. accelerated so much because we were coming out of the Great Recession back in 2008 to 2009 and new light-vehicle sales fell like 40 percent over a two-year period. Even during the recovery years there were fewer vehicles being sold, so that just accelerated the average age of the fleets in the U.S."