The average age of a car being driven on Britain’s roads is the highest on record, according to new figures published by the automotive trade body.
New figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders showed the average age has reached 8.4 years – the oldest since vehicle age started being measured in 2000.
The increase comes at a time when ministers are trying to persuade drivers to ditch their old petrol and diesel cars and shift to cleaner – and more expensive – electric vehicles.
With today’s revelation came concerns motorists clinging onto older cars could put the nation’s tough air pollution targets at risk. But, on the flipside, owners of existing cars avoid the environmental cost of a new car being built.
Oldest cars on Britain’s roads on record: New figures suggest the nation’s car parc is getting older, with fewer new vehicle registrations in 2020 and drivers clinging onto their existing motors for longer. The average car on the road today was built in 2011, data shows
The SMMT says the recent rise in average car age is a direct result of the significant decline in registrations last year caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The data shows that the average car on UK roads was built in 2011, while almost 10 million – or 30 per cent – have been in service since 2008 or earlier.
New car sales crashed to a 28-year low in 2020, wiping almost 700,000 new motors from the road compared to 2019 registrations.
It was the lowest output of new cars since 1992 and the near-30 per cent year-on-year decline was the most substantial since the height of the Second World War in 1943 when civilian car building stopped as factories were switched to military production.
However, many motorists will argue that they have decided to keep their existing cars for longer to delay the purchase of their next motor ahead of the 2030 ban on sales of petrol and diesel powered passenger vehicles.
The figures show that 2020 was only the second year that there were more than 35 million cars registered on the road in Britain, despite a 0.2 per cent dip compared to 2019.
Almost 10 million cars in use in Britain have been in service since 2008 or earlier, SMMT says
The SMMT says the recent rise in average car age is a direct result of the significant decline in registrations last year caused by the Covid-19 pandemic
The SMMT, a body that represents the new car making and sales industry, says that while this is testament to the durability and quality of modern vehicles, the use of ageing motors ‘risks stalling the UK’s attempts to reduce emissions’.
That’s because the latest models in showrooms today emit an average of 112.8 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre, which is 18.3 per cent less than a comparable model from 2011.
Some of the 35 million passenger cars in 2020 barely turned a wheel during the year, with Government figures revealing earlier this month that the total number of cars declared off the road as SORN – which stands for Statutory Of Road Notification – rose annually by 259,000 vehicles in December.
The SMMT’s new report comes in the wake of MPs’ criticism of the speed at which the Government expects Britons to transition to zero-emission cars in the current climate.
The cross-party Public Accounts Committee said Boris Johnson’s plans to ban petrol and diesel cars from 2030 – and hybrids from 2035 – lacked direction and required incentives.
Its report concluded that vehicle price and poor charging infrastructure could prevent battery electric cars becoming a genuine alternative to petrol and diesel when the latter are banned from sale at the end of the decade.
Just 1.3% of cars being used on the road in Britain today are green plug-in hybrid of battery electric vehicles
The most common car on the road is the Ford Fiesta, which has been the best-seller in the UK for 12 years straight. Almost 1.6 million are being used
Latest records up to the end of April show that 13.6 per cent of cars sold in the UK this year have been pure electric or plug-in hybrid models as uptake of these cleaner vehicles continues to reach record levels.
However, these lowest-emission cars account for only 1.3 per cent of all motors currently in use in Britain.
The most common car on the road is the Ford Fiesta, which has been the best-seller in the UK for 12 years straight. Almost 1.6 million are being used, ahead of 1.2 million Focus models and 1.1miillion Vauxhall Corsas.
Mike Hawes, chief executive of the society, said: ‘With the pandemic putting the brakes on new vehicle uptake in 2020, the average car on our roads is now the oldest since records began some 20 years ago, as drivers held on to their existing vehicles for longer.
‘Encouraging drivers to upgrade to the newest, cleanest lowest emission cars is essential for the UK to meet its ambitious climate change targets.’
The pandemic and increase in demand for home deliveries has seen van registrations hit a record high, accounting for almost 12% of all vehicles on the road
In contrast to falling car numbers, van ownership is now at the highest level in history, says the SMMT.
With the pandemic sparking a surge in sales to companies increasing their online delivery capacities, some 11.4 per cent of all motors on the road at the end of 2020 are commercial vehicles.
Meanwhile, the number of heavy goods vehicles on our roads declined by -3.1 per cent to 589,445 units. Bus and coach numbers saw the most significant fall at -10.7 per cent to 73,608, as the pandemic dramatically reduced already-declining passenger numbers causing fleet operators to pause new fleet purchases and take unused vehicles off the road.
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