The Average Vehicle Age in America

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Thanks to technology, today’s cars are aging like fine wine, says money expert Clark Howard.

“Cars just keep getting better, and better, and better,” he says. “Today, because of tremendous improvements in technology and intense competition, the quality of cars is so, so, so much better.”

The latest research from S&P Global Mobility, an automotive data services company, confirms that vehicles on U.S. roads today are older than they’ve ever been.

How Old Is the Average Car on U.S. Roads?

The average age of cars and light trucks on American roads rose to a new record of 12.6 years in 2024, according to the report. That represents a two-month increase in age from the previous year.

The research highlights several factors over the past year that have led to an increase in the average vehicle age in the U.S.:

  • Inflated prices: New vehicle prices remain stubbornly high although they have receded as of late, with the average transaction price just over $47,000, according to the latest figures.
  • Inflationary pressures: Although inflation has been tamped down for much of the past several months, it continues to persist and weaken vehicle demand.
  • Resurgent repair market: As vehicles stay on the road longer, the aging fleet is turning into a boon for the car and auto parts aftermarket, according to S&P Global Mobility.

Here’s a snapshot of the average age of passenger cars (14.0 years), light cars and trucks (11.9 years) and a combination of the two (12.6).

Average vehicle age

Screenshot via spglobal.com

Will People Continue To Keep Vehicles Longer?

With new vehicle inventories now increasing, projections reflect that average age growth will likely continue in the years ahead.

“With average age growth, more vehicles are entering the prime range for aftermarket service, typically from 6-to-14 years of age,” Todd Campau, associate director of aftermarket solutions for S&P Global Mobility, says in the report. “With more than 110 million vehicles in that sweet spot — reflecting nearly 38% of the fleet on the road — we expect continued growth in the volume of vehicles in that age range to rise to an estimated 40% through 2028.”

Looking several years ahead, the report forecasts that vehicles that are older than six years will figure prominently over the next half-decade or so. “The 6-to-14-year-old cohort is expected to be 12% higher in 2028 compared to 2020,” the report says.

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The Financial Benefits of Keeping Your Car Longer

When you look at your overall budget, reducing your vehicle expenses is one of the best ways you can save money over the long haul.

“The one area of your budget that you can have the greatest impact over your long-term spending is what you’re paying for your wheels. Not just what they cost, but the real damage to your wallet comes from cycling through vehicles,” Clark explains.

Clark says most of a car’s depreciation happens in the first few years, so keeping a vehicle for about a decade is “phenomenal for your long-term financial health.”

Consider Clark’s 4-and-4 Rule

If you want to reduce the cost of transportation and still have a vehicle with modern safety features Clark has a tip for you:

“It’s the four-year cycle: Buy a four-year-old vehicle every four years. The economics equate over time to being very similar to buying a new vehicle you keep for 10 or more years.”

Not only will a four-year-old vehicle contain a majority of the modern safety features, but you’ll avoid much of the depreciation that occurs in the first couple of years.

“So follow the four-and-four rule,” Clark says, “Buy four-year-old vehicles that you keep for four years.”

Want more money-saving insights on your car? Check out our maintenance schedule to help your car last longer.

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