Report: Average age of domestic cars in U.S. smashes record


“Domestic nameplate cars across the U.S. averaged 14.8 years old on January 1, 2020, marking another record-setting year for domestic car age.

“Domestic nameplate cars’ average age has climbed over 2.0 years during the past ten years and is now more than one-fifth older than the average age of all light vehicles on U.S. roads. In-depth analysis of the age growth of foreign and domestic nameplate cars and light trucks in the U.S. over the past ten years and the changing differences in their average ages are presented in the just-released 2021 Lang Aftermarket Annual.”

— Jim Lang, publisher, Lang Aftermarket iReport


1971 Ford Pinto & 2005 Mustang Gt Convertible

Another Record-High Average Age

Domestic nameplate cars on U.S. roads averaged 14.8 years old on January 1, 2020, marking over 25 consecutive years of age growth.

This domestic nameplate car analysis does not include Transplants, which are classified (along with Imports) as foreign nameplate vehicles.

One-Fifth Increase in Age Over 10 Years

The average age of domestic nameplate cars in the U.S. soared more than 2.0 years between 2010 and 2020, a one-fifth increase.

Average Age Gain: 2010 to 2020

The age of domestic nameplate cars averaged 12.7 years at the beginning of 2010, climbing to 13.5 years in 2014 and 13.8 years during 2015.

By 2016, domestic nameplate cars had added another 1.3 years in average age since 2010, reaching 14.4 years by 2018.

Over the next 24 months, the age of domestic nameplate cars surged, averaging a record 14.8 years at the beginning of 2020 (up a full year since 2015).

Much Older Than Other Vehicle Groups

Domestic nameplate cars are much older than foreign nameplate cars, which were over 25% younger in average age than domestic nameplate cars at the beginning of 2020.

The difference in average age between domestic nameplate cars and domestic nameplate light trucks at the beginning of 2020 was also significant, over 12%; while foreign nameplate light trucks were nearly 30% younger in average age than domestic nameplate cars.

See the just-released 2021 Lang Aftermarket Annual for a ten-year analysis of the average age dynamics of each of these four vehicle groups.

Factors Fueling Age Growth

Three factors are driving domestic cars’ average age higher: lower new car sales, the expanding new car sales share captured by foreign nameplates (Imports and Transplants), and longer-lasting domestic nameplate cars on U.S roads.

The declining number of domestic nameplate cars entering service during each of the last ten years has driven up the average age of those remaining on the road.

Regional Age Differences

Domestic nameplate cars west of the Mississippi are approximately 1.5 years older than they are across eastern regions.

This is caused by two factors: the higher percentage of light trucks (among domestic nameplates) in western regions, and the strength of foreign nameplate cars (Imports and Transplants) on the West Coast, particularly in California.

Vehicle Age Trends

Lang Marketing projects that the new vehicle sales share of domestic nameplate cars will continue to decrease in the U.S. as foreign nameplates cars and light trucks capture a growing portion of the new vehicle volume and domestic light trucks expand their sales strength (reducing the car share of domestic nameplate volume).

Projections to 2023

Lang Marketing projects that the average age of domestic nameplate cars in the U.S. will top 15.5 years by 2023. This projection is based on the shrinking share of domestic nameplate new car sales and the extended life of all vehicles produced over the past 20 years.

The average age of domestic nameplate cars will increase faster than any other light vehicle group on U.S. roads during the next three years.

Substantial average age differences between domestic nameplate cars east of the Mississippi and those in western regions will also continue for the foreseeable future.

Six Major Takeaways

  • The age of domestic nameplate cars on U.S. roads averaged a record-high 14.8 years on July 1, 2020, marking over 25 consecutive years of age growth.
  • Domestic nameplate cars were over 25% older than foreign nameplate cars at the beginning of 2020. Domestic nameplate cars were also approximately 12% older than domestic nameplate light trucks.
  • Foreign nameplate light trucks were nearly 30% younger in average age than domestic nameplate cars on January 1, 2020.
  • The average age of domestic nameplate cars is approximately 1.5 years higher west of the Mississippi than it is across eastern regions in the country.
  • Lang Marketing projects that the average age of domestic nameplate cars in the U.S. will top 15.5 years by 2023.
  • See the just-released 2021 Lang Aftermarket Annual for a 10-year age analysis of all major groups of light vehicles: domestic nameplate cars, foreign nameplate cars, domestic nameplate light trucks, and foreign nameplate light trucks.

Copyright 2020 by Lang Marketing Resources, Inc.

NOTESpecial thanks to publisher Jim Lang for granting us permission to publish the Lang Aftermarket iReport.

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