Report: Average age of U.S. vehicles in operation rises to 12.1 years

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A worker cleans the fingerprints off of a 1972 Honda Coupe during the St. Louis Auto Show in St. Louis on April 9. A new report said Monday the age of U.S. vehicles on the road reached 12.1 years during the pandemic. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI

A worker cleans the fingerprints off of a 1972 Honda Coupe during the St. Louis Auto Show in St. Louis on April 9. A new report said Monday the age of U.S. vehicles on the road reached 12.1 years during the pandemic. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

June 14 (UPI) -- U.S. drivers are holding on to their used vehicles longer, according to a new study Monday that says the average age of a light vehicle in operation jumped by almost two months to 12.1 years during the coronavirus pandemic.

New car sales plummeted during the pandemic as U.S. residents stayed inside or drastically limited their travel and time in their vehicles, according to the research by HIS Markit, which provides financial information and data analytics.

The report said, "2020 was a radical departure from the norm and challenged assumptions about how vehicle owners use their vehicles and accumulate miles; from a vehicle fleet perspective, one of the real surprises was the number of vehicles that suddenly exited the active population."

Vehicle miles traveled declined year-over-year by more than 13% in 2020 due to lockdowns and work-from-home policies.

"In early 2020 the pandemic put significant pressure on new vehicle sales as dealerships worked to implement modified sales processes and deliveries to adhere to social distancing guidelines and create a comfortable vehicle-purchasing experience for consumers, even moving some transactions online," the report said.

Researchers said, though, they expect the increased average age to be short-lived as purchases rebounded at the end of 2020 with travel restrictions being lifted.

"A strong finish to 2020 demonstrated the resilience of new vehicle registration as over 8 million new vehicles were registered in the second half of the year, bringing new registrations up to 5.1% of [vehicles in operation] for the whole year," the report said.

IHS Markit said its current forecast predicts that U.S. light-vehicle sales will reach 16.8 million, which will "mute average age growth" as drivers take back to the road and start to upgrade their vehicles.

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