How Long is a Car’s Lifespan, and How Does it Affect Your Catalytic Converter Recycling Business?


Catalytic converters are recycled when a vehicle reaches the end of its life. Recyclers collect converters for the valuable metals they contain—platinum, palladium, and rhodium. But how long does a car typically last, and how does its lifespan affect your catalytic converter recycling business? If you’re ready to get all the information you need, let’s dive into the details!

How long does a car typically stay on the road?

In the 1960s and 1970s, the average car lasted around 100,000 miles. Today, thanks to improvements in manufacturing, technology, and repair capacity, cars often reach 200,000 miles or more, roughly equivalent to 12 years on the road.

Why is the average lifespan of a car getting longer?

Several factors contribute to the longer lifespan of modern cars. High prices for new models and supply chain issues, particularly during the pandemic, have played significant roles. Semiconductor chip shortages created bottlenecks in vehicle manufacturing and rising interest rates for car loans have made consumers less inclined to buy new vehicles.

That means car owners are keeping their older models longer, stretching out their mileage to avoid breaking the bank at the dealership. But what does the lifecycle of a car have to do with your converter and automotive recycling business?

How does a car’s lifespan affect your recycling business?

The pace at which cars are recycled impacts the availability of scrap catalytic converters and cars. When fewer cars are scrapped, there are less recycled parts available, increasing competition among recyclers. On the other hand, when more cars are scrapped, there’s more scrap available, reducing competition.

Currently, with the average car lifespan at 12 years, the amount of available scrap has decreased, intensifying competition. But this trend may change soon.

What will happen to a vehicle’s lifespan, and how will that affect the availability of scrap?

Gasoline cars will continue to live long lives as sales increase at a snail’s pace, but it’s not just gas-powered vehicles we need to look at. To determine whether or not the availability of scrap will increase, it's essential to consider the entire vehicle sales market, including electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs).

As consumers buy these new vehicles and dispose of their older models, the volume of available scrap will increase. PHEVs contain catalytic converters, ensuring a steady supply of these units for recycling.

What can you do to be more competitive in this scrap market?

For now, gaining a competitive edge is crucial. Using tools that give you agility and speed can help you buy scrap cars regardless of availability. Tools like PMR’s VIN/TRIM allow you to get the price of a car’s converters and buy vehicles profitably. And converter pricing and referencing tools, such as photo grading or master catalogs, can give you real-time unit values, helping you make informed purchasing decisions.

The rate at which cars enter the recycling stream may have slowed down, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any scrap out there. The shift towards EVs and PHEVs promises a boost in available scrap as consumers drive away from all-new gasoline cars. Staying informed about these trends and leveraging advanced tools will position your business as sustainable and profitable in this evolving market.

For more information, visit PMR’s Resource Center.

Published: May 16, 2024
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