Average miles per vehicle plunged at ‘unprecedented rate’ last year: Report
“Average miles per vehicle plunged at an unprecedented rate last year. Lang Marketing estimates that the typical car and light truck in the U.S. travelled approximately 1,350 fewer miles during 2020 than in the previous year.
“The historic 2020 mileage decline continued a trend of reduced annual miles for cars and light trucks dating back to 2015. As a result, the average car and light truck in the U.S. has recorded nearly 2,100 fewer miles on its odometer over the past five years compared to what would have occurred absent this downward mileage trend.”
— Jim Lang, publisher, Lang Aftermarket iReport
VIO Grows as Mileage Plunges
Last year, the number of light vehicles in operation (VIO) increased by approximately 0.9%. At the same time, total miles driven by cars and light trucks plunged by more than 13%.
As a result, the average car or light truck was driven an estimated 14% fewer miles during 2020 than in 2019 and nearly 17% fewer miles than in 2015.
Mileage Trends: 2015 to 2020
Over the past five years (2015 to 2020) the number of vehicles increased by just over 1.6% per year.
At the same time, the annual mileage of cars and light trucks in the U.S. declined at a 3.5% average rate%. As a result, there was a total “loss” of nearly 600 billion light vehicle miles during these five years, adjusting for the increased number of cars and light truck on the road.
Aftermarket Impact of Fewer Miles
Fewer miles travelled by the average car and light truck has a negative impact on aftermarket product volume. However, while the number of miles travelled by the average vehicle has declined over the past five years, the average age of vehicles has increased significantly.
Since older vehicles use more aftermarket products per mile than newer cars and light trucks, this means that the decline in total miles travelled by the average vehicle has been offset to some extent by the increasing age of vehicles. However, nothing could completely stop the reduction in aftermarket product volume caused by the historic plunge in 2020 miles.
Five-Year Mileage Decline Per Vehicle
Since 2015, the average age of vehicles has increased by nearly one full year and the number of vehicles over 12 years of age has soared.
Vehicle age growth has been concentrated among domestic nameplates. This has enabled domestic nameplate cars and light trucks to stave off a dramatic decline in aftermarket product volume that would have otherwise resulted from their shrinking population.
2020 Historic Mileage Plunge
Average miles per light vehicle plunged from 10.4 thousand to 8.7 thousand miles between 2015 and 2020. This 17% reduction in miles per light vehicle was caused largely by the historic collapse in annual miles per vehicle during 2020, which was triggered by COVID-19.
Prior to 2020, average miles per vehicle had declined each year at a modest rate, from 10.4 thousand to 10.1 thousand miles since 2015.
Continuing Average Annual Mileage Trend
Lang Marketing expects that average vehicle miles will increase significantly during 2021 compared to last year. However, the annual miles of the average vehicle in 2021 will remain significantly lower than the 10.1 thousand miles recorded by the average car and light truck during 2019.
Vehicle Age Growth Helps Offset Mileage Decline
Lang Marketing expects that the number of older vehicles in the U.S., particularly those 12 years and older, will keep increasing, something that will help to boost aftermarket light vehicle product volume.
Six Major Takeaways
- Lang Marketing projects that the car and light truck VIO will be relatively flat during 2021. While this will be positive for average vehicle annual mileage growth, Lang Marketing projects that increased mileage per vehicle will struggle to reach 2019 levels.
- The average light vehicle in the U.S. was driven an estimated 14% fewer miles during 2020 than in the previous year.
- Over the past five years (2015 to 2020), the number of miles travelled by the average vehicle has declined by an estimated 17%. See the all-new 2022 Lang Aftermarket Annual for full analysis of average annual miles per vehicle.
- The average light vehicle in the U.S. travelled 1,700 fewer miles during 2020 than in 2015 and recorded a total of 2,100 fewer miles on its odometer compared to what would have occurred absent the downward average mileage trend.
- The negative impact of declining annual miles travelled by the average vehicle has been offset to some extent by the increasing age of vehicles on U.S. roads, since older vehicles use more products per mile than younger cars and light trucks.
- Lang Marketing expects that the annual miles of the average car and light truck will increase in the U.S. during 2021 but that it will remain lower than the average miles per light vehicle recorded two years earlier.
Copyright 2021 by Lang Marketing Resources, Inc.
NOTE: Special thanks to publisher Jim Lang for granting us permission to publish the Lang Aftermarket iReport.