"People who may have said, 'I'm not registering that vehicle because I'm not using it right now,' in 2021 are now making the decision of, 'I don't think I need that vehicle anymore, and I can either sell it for more than I thought I could, or I can sell it and pay off my loan completely. Whereas in 2020, the residual value on my vehicle, I wouldn't have been able to do that,' " Campau said.
IHS Markit forecasts total vehicles in operation to grow to 284 million by 2026 from 279 million this year. A key factor is the rising average age of vehicles on U.S. roads, which was 12.1 years as of Jan. 1, up from 11.9 years the year before.
Within the total population of vehicles in operation, Campau said he expected the number of used vehicles to stay relatively large because of record annual new-vehicle sales from 2015 to 2019.
However, it's clear that newer used vehicles — namely those cascading into the market from 2020 and 2021 — will be in lower supply. This is because there were fewer new-vehicle sales last year, and sales this year are likely to be below 2019 levels amid the chip crisis, especially fleet volume.
Total U.S. light-vehicle sales last year were 14.6 million — the lowest volume since 2012. IHS Markit is forecasting sales of more than 16 million this year.