In 2020, the average vehicle on Americans roads was almost a teenager, according to research firm IHS Markit. The company, which produces an annual report on the age of American vehicles, says the average age of cars, light trucks, and SUVs hit a record high of 12.1 years, up from 11.9 in 2019, USA Today reports. In 2002, it was 9.6. It was once common for vehicles to be scrapped after 100,000 miles, but with new safety features increasing cars' value and lifespan, "now I think multiple hundred thousand, two—even more, maybe 300,000 miles—is far more common than it used to be," says IHS aftermarket expert Todd Campau.
The relatively steep rise in the average vehicle age is likely a blip caused by the pandemic, IHS says. The company says COVID-19 caused a "sudden increase in vehicle scrappage." More than 15 million vehicles were scrapped in 2020, about 5.6% of the total, IHS says. But while this might have caused the average age to decline in a normal year, there was also a drastic decline in new vehicle sales and a sharp reduction in miles traveled, Reuters reports. Analysts say a global semiconductor has cut new vehicle production and caused a massive 46.9% year-on-year rise in used car prices, a trend that might end up lowering the average vehicle age if more people decide to trade in their older vehicles. (Read more auto industry stories.)