May 23, 2022 - Economy

Cars are getting older and older as prices rise and shortages persist

Illustration of a car with birthday candles on it.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Cars are getting long in the tooth.

Driving the news: The average age of vehicles on the road hit an all-time high for the fifth straight year, reaching 12.2 years in 2022, according to an annual report released today by S&P Global Mobility.

Why it matters: Americans are adapting as they deal with the confluence of price spikes, rising borrowing rates and vehicle shortages.

  • "People are keeping their vehicles longer and repairing them," Autotrader analyst Michelle Krebs tells Axios. "We’re seeing a lot more service business."

By the numbers: The average age of vehicles has been rising for decades, having jumped from 9.6 years in 2002 and 11.1 in 2012.

  • The figure stems from the annual "scrappage rate" — the share of vehicles that were sent to the junkyard in a given year. That figure is at a two-decade all-time low of 4.2% in 2022, according to S&P Global Mobility.

The big picture: With new vehicles in short supply due to the global shortage of semiconductor chips, prices have skyrocketed for new and used cars, increasing the incentive for people to hang onto their rides.

  • The average price of new vehicles was up 13.2% in April, compared with a year earlier, while the average price of used cars and trucks was up 22.7%, according to the federal government's monthly Consumer Price Index report.

Worth noting: Rising interest rates are making it harder for some people to trade up.

  • The average new-car buyer agreed to an estimated $648 monthly payment on a 70.2-month loan in April, up $68 from April 2021, according to Edmunds.

💭 Nathan's thought bubble: I've got a 16-year-old car that has needed several costly repairs in recent years, but fixing it is still cheaper than buying a new car.

Disclosure: Autotrader is owned by Cox Enterprises, an investor in Axios.

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