The Average Vehicle Is Nearly 13 Years Old, Making Maintenance Critical

Unsplash/Tim Mossholder

The latest research available on the new-vehicle transaction price pegs it at a substantial $47,218. And while that may be down 5.4 percent over the market peak in December of 2022, it’s still prohibitively pricey enough to convince a lot of motorists to hang on to vehicles they already have.

But for how long, though? According to research by S&P Global Mobility, the average age of cars and light trucks in the U.S. has risen to a new record of 12.6 years in 2024, up by two months over 2023.

That means the average car or truck on today’s roads was new in 2011.

“With average age growth, more vehicles are entering the prime range for aftermarket service, typically from six to 14 years of age,” said Todd Campau, associate director of aftermarket solutions at S&P Global Mobility. “With more than 110 million vehicles in that sweet spot—reflecting nearly 38 percent 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 percent through 2028.”

los angeles LA highway traffic interchange
Unsplash/Denys Nevozhai

That should guarantee plenty of work for auto mechanics for a long time. Indeed, according to research posted on earlier this year, there are approximately 592,000 auto mechanics in the U.S., and the number has been falling, even as the need is growing. “There is an urgent need to recruit and retain new auto mechanics in the coming months and years, as car maintenance and repair will always be a necessity for vehicle owners. Currently, there are approximately 56,000 auto mechanic positions available, and by the end of this year, over 1.3 million technicians will be needed to keep up with demand.”

Certainly there are plenty of vehicles out there. According to S&P, the size of the U.S. fleet was 286 million vehicles in operation (VIO) in January of this year, up two million over 2023.

And the distribution of vehicles by age is changing. Vehicles newer than six years old accounted for 98 million vehicles in 2019; today they represent fewer than 90 million vehicles. “Vehicles six-14 years of age, and even older vehicles, are expected to represent about 70 percent or more of VIO [growth] for the next five years, which will serve as a tailwind to aftermarket service opportunities.”

A specialty in working on trucks and SUVs would be beneficial to new mechanics, as sales of cars, as we all know, is suffering. S&P research bears that out by citing vehicle “scrappage” rates. Since 2020, more than 27 million cars were scrapped, replaced by about 13 million cars. The number of trucks and SUVs scrapped was just over 26 million, while 45 million new trucks and SUVs were registered.

engine block closeup
Unsplash/Garett Mizunaka

As consumers keep their vehicles longer, proper maintenance is ever more important, as is finding someone qualified to work on your older vehicle. A recent report by the non-profit TechForce Foundation, which is “committed to the career exploration and workforce development of professional technicians,” said that the demand for automotive technicians remains an ongoing issue. “As in past years, the demand from occupational separations far outpaces the demand from new growth. For example, between 2023 and 2027, 406,000 positions will be needed due to operational separations, while only 60,000 will come from new growth.”

But there may be reason for hope. TechForce’s report says that for the first time in 10 years, the number of graduates in the automotive maintenance sector has slightly increased. “We are beginning to close the gap in the transportation technician shortage,” it says.

But that will take a while. Our best advice: Be kind to your current mechanic, if you have a good one.


Check out the Hagerty Media homepage so you don’t miss a single story, or better yet, bookmark it. To get our best stories delivered right to your inbox, subscribe to our newsletters.

Click below for more about
Read next Up next: What Makes You “Call It a Day” on Your Projects?


    What is missing here is people still abuse cars but they are just built to a much better degree.

    Accept for some that we see crap out due to poor quality.

    What kills most cars starting at 12 years is rust in half the country.

    Maintenance is always a plus but so many just don’t keep it up.

    Hey I’m above average! Our newest vehicle is my wife’s, which is a 2010. My newest is a 2000 that is my “nice” truck, but my daily driver is a 1998.

    Mine turns legal drinking age this year. Just turned over 200k miles last week. Good old GM 3800 Series II

    The mid 90s to 2010 I think are the sweet spot. The cars are very reliable, but not overly complicated with massive infotainment/vehicle management systems.

    The average age of my fleet is 39.5 – with the newest being around the average age of the American fleet

    If you count our 73 Pontiac and 80 Fiat 124 our average is 31.25. Newest is a 9 year old Highlander that has needed nothing but regular scheduled maintenance.

    I have 11 cars but I will leave all the ones under 1973 out. My daily drivers are a 2004 Ford Focus ZTS, 2004 Buick LeSabre (father’s), and a 1991 Mazda 626 LX hatchback. My wife uses a 2018 Mazda 3 and a 1998 Sable wagon that I personally built a complete new short block for under $600. My costs are general maintenance only, by me, and being in California have no rust issues to worry about. I have maybe 20 years of more driving and my three above will still be the ones.

    This is going to start being a problem when the government forces us all into EVs. 12-13 years is going to be the time you start having a lot of expensive battery pack issues. Not to mention how long the integrated infotainment/vehicle management systems last (like how do you put your Cybertruck in drive if the main screen stops working? If my phone gets bricked that’s an irritation. If my 6000 pound EV gets bricked, that’s more of an issue.).

    It’s going to be a huge burden on the poor that are can only afford to buy near end-of-life beater cash cars.

    As much as I think infotainment touch screen dashes are a soulless as EVs, they do appear to be fairly reliable. I have never heard of anyone actually having to replace one

    Average age of the seven here is 28.3 years. Take out the Road Runner and Mk3 Supra and it’s still 21.6 years. Newest is wife’s 2009 Toyota. My daily is ’92 Acura. Daughters are driving a 2nd gen CR-V and ’04 Grand Cherokee (with the inline 6), so they have excellent aftermarket support.

    I agree with JW here that 1996 to 2010-ish is the sweet spot. OBD-II, no TV screens, and relatively uncomplicated engines make them reliable, fairly simple and easy-to-maintain.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *