Aging Fleet Boosts Fast Lubes


Older vehicles should mean opportunities for quick lubes and other aftermarket shops, according to an R. L. Polk and Co. analysis. The firms research also found growth in 5W-20 as a recommended motor oil viscosity in newer vehicles.

More than 14.8 million cars and light trucks were retired from the U.S. fleet between July 1, 2008 and September 30, 2009, Polk said, compared to new registrations of just more than 13.6 million, resulting in an overall 6.1 percent scrap rate that was up from 5.7 percent in 2008. Among cars, the scrap rate in 2009 hit 7.7 percent, compared to 5.1 percent in 2008.

Southfield, Mich. based Polk also reported an increase in the average age of light vehicles on the road, to 10.2 years, as of Oct. 1, 2009. Thats up 21 percent from 8.4 years in 1995, when Polk first did the analysis. The firm found that the U.S. average passenger car age rose from 8.4 years in 1995 to 10.6 years in 2009, while the average light truck age over the same period climbed from 8.3 years to 9.6 years.

Brian Funke, R. L. Polks director of sales and client services, noted the findings mean a lot more time out of warranty for more vehicles. So quick lube centers, that type of thing, have a lot more potential for that business, Funke told Lube Report. I think theres a lot of different ancillary benefits to the aftermarket with whats going on.

Funk said the average age of light vehicles went up about 15 percent over the 10 years from 1999 to 2009, which obviously for the oil lube market is a great trend because the out-of-warranty period is longer, and people are wanting to service their vehicle a little bit longer because they are holding onto them longer.

Data also shows individual consumers keeping their cars and trucks longer. Polk found that as of September 2009, the average length of ownership for a new or used vehicle among U.S. consumers was 49.9 months, up from 45 months a year earlier.

Looking at the used car market, Polk found people holding onto their vehicles 56 percent longer than they did in 2001. So they were at 28 months on average in 2001 and are at 44 months now, he observed. When people are holding onto their used vehicle that much longer, theyre going to be servicing their car better and more frequently.

Polk has also compared the number of vehicles in operation in October 2008 and October 2009, and how recommended motor oil viscosities shifted during that time. If you look at most vehicles coming out now, they are not the 5W-30, 10W-30 traditional weights, Funke noted. Theyre more of a 5W-20 weight, which is nontraditional. Vehicles with 5W-20 recommended was up by more than 7 percent from 2008. The number of U.S. vehicles with 10W-30 recommended declined by 6 percent from 2008 to 2009, while the total where 5W-30 was recommended edged down 1.6 percent over that same period.

Changing Motor Oil Viscosity Recommendations

Vehicles on the Road (in U.S.)


As of 10/1/2008

As of 10/1/2009


All Others




















Source: R. L. Polk & Co.

Related Topics

Market Topics