DETROIT (Reuters) - The average age of passenger vehicles on U.S. roads increased in 2016 to 11.6 years from 11.5 years in 2015, industry consultant IHS Markit said on Tuesday.

The number of vehicles in operation in the United States at the start of 2016 rose 2.4 percent from a year earlier to 264 million, the largest annual increase since IHS began tracking the figures.

”Quality of new vehicles continues to be a key driver of the rising average vehicle age over time,” said Mark Seng, global director of IHS Markit's aftermarket practice. This bodes well for the aftermarket, which includes service and parts for used vehicles, Seng said.

The average age in 2016 for cars was 11.63 years while for trucks it was 11.55 years, IHS said.

The average age for vehicles on U.S. roads has risen each year since at least 2002, and rose most sharply after the 2008-2009 financial crisis, IHS figures show. The pace of increase reached a high of 0.33 years immediately after the recession, and that pace has slowed to 0.11 years in each of the past three years, IHS Markit said.

In 2002, the U.S. average vehicle age was 9.6 years.

The figures are for "light" vehicles on U.S. roads, which does not count heavy trucks.

(Reporting by Bernie Woodall; Editing by Nick Zieminski)