Americans are keeping their cars and trucks longer than ever, and that’s great news for auto-parts retailers.
The average age of the 247 million vehicles on U.S. roads has hit a record 11.4 years, according to the latest data from Polk, a market-research firm. That’s nearly two years older than in 2007, before the start of the recession.
Polk expects the average age to keep rising for at least the next five years, even though new car sales are approaching pre-recession levels. That’s partly because the quality of vehicles is improving.
Drivers who hang on to their aging cars make more trips to such auto-parts stores as AutoZone and O’Reilly Auto Parts, where they can pick up replacement wipers or brake pads or new floor mats. Sales are up so far this year for several major chains.
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Even so, the industry is volatile. Companies often grow by acquiring stores, which is costly, and sales fluctuate with the weather and the economy.
Advance Auto Parts CEO Darren Jackson says that although older vehicles and stable gas prices are helping sales, at the moment some customers are continuing to defer maintenance expenses because of high unemployment and higher Social Security taxes.