We regularly look at average age and mileage of sleeper trucks sold through retail channels in this blog. We’ve traced the upward trend of both measures as buyers snap up the lowest-mileage trucks as they become available. But what about the wholesale market? Has average age and mileage behaved similarly?

To investigate, we looked at both measures going back to January of 2010. Retail data reflects sales from individual dealers, OEM’s, and quasi-independent used truck operations. Wholesale data reflects sales from individual dealers and auctions.

Looking at mileage, there was more volatility in the wholesale markets. In a supply-constrained market, lower-mileage trucks will be quickly sold to the retail customer, while higher-mileage units might see more dealer-to-dealer activity and perhaps even be returned to the auction channel. So wholesale markets reflect swings in mileage as packages of trucks become available from fleets and other sources. On the retail side, the message is obvious – the lowest-mileage iron is simply snapped up as it becomes available.

Regarding age, we see an interesting trend in the wholesale markets. Unlike the gradual increase on the retail side, wholesale age fluctuated quite a bit as it trended downward. The general reason for this volatility is probably timing of new truck orders and deliveries from fleets. The main point of interest, though, is that wholesale and retail age reached parity in the spring of 2011. This historically-unusual development is a reflection of the high demand for late-model trucks. With auction prices historically high, sellers are likely choosing to unload their later-model iron directly through that channel, resulting in a newer mix on average.

In sum, mileage now appears more critical than ever. With the typical available used truck right at 72 months in both channels, the proximity to 500,000 miles determines whether it will be sold on a dealer’s lot or at an auction.