UK car numbers hit record levels in 2022

Car ownership rises for the first time since 2019, as Brits get back on the road post-pandemic and the number of plug-in cars passes 1 million

The number of cars on Britain’s roads rose by 124,393 in 2022, taking the total number to 35,148,045 according to latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

It’s the first increase since the start of the pandemic in 2019, and the SMMT’s Motorparc 2022 survey also reveals there are now almost 1.1 million cars on the road with a plug - that’s a rise of more than 50 per cent in the course of the last year. 

This means that plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles account for one in every 32 cars, but breaking down the figures shows full EVs still take only 1.9 per cent of the national car parc total, and plug-in hybrids 1.2 per cent. Meanwhile 58.6 per cent of our cars are petrol fuelled, while 35.8 per cent drink diesel.

The effect of the pandemic can be seen in the record number of vans on the road as, spurred on by the growth in home delivery services, they now account for close to one in eight vehicles. Overall, truck and van numbers have increased by 1.9 and 1.7 per cent respectively, meaning the HGV parc is at record levels in the UK too.

However, as the roads become ever-more congested, a continuing decline in public transport is laid bare by the figures. At a time when the government claims it needs to get people out of cars and onto trains and buses to help reduce CO2 emissions, the UK bus and coach fleet fell by a further 2.3 per cent last year. The total figure of 72,766 buses and coaches is the worst since records began, and the SMMT says 16,608 vehicles have gone out of service in the last 10 years.

Other interesting statistics highlighted by the report are that 67 per cent of cars driven in the UK were made in the UK, and just 15 per cent were made in Britain. Female car ownership has risen slightly while male ownership has fallen, and two thirds of the cars on UK roads are equipped with manual transmission.

The average age of cars on the road is nine years old, which is the same for vans, but 29.8 per cent of cars are more than 12 years old. The average age of a bus is 13 years.

These registrations are too rude for the road! Read more about 2023's banned number plates...

Current affairs and features editor

Chris covers all aspects of motoring life for Auto Express. Over a long career he has contributed news and car reviews to brands such as Autocar, WhatCar?, PistonHeads, Goodwood and The Motor Trader.

Recommended

Electric car tax cuts needed to boost sales, says SMMT
BMW i5 - front static
News

Electric car tax cuts needed to boost sales, says SMMT

The Chancellor is under pressure to slash VAT on new EVs to provide a ‘fair tax for a fair transition’
1 Mar 2024
Plenty of UK car buyers still love a new car number plate
Volkswagen ID.7 - tailgate
News

Plenty of UK car buyers still love a new car number plate

Is a new number plate still the status symbol it once was? Our exclusive poll suggests that car buyers do care
24 Feb 2024
UK road maintenance work slashed by almost half in five years
Road resurfacing
News

UK road maintenance work slashed by almost half in five years

Council road repairs are down by 45 per cent compared to 2017/18, the latest data shows
24 Feb 2024
6,600 arrested in police annual drug and drink driving purge
Drink driving
News

6,600 arrested in police annual drug and drink driving purge

The Police ‘Op Limit’ campaign over xmas 2023 resulted in 6,616 arrests, with 14 per cent of over 50,000 tests showing positive results
22 Feb 2024

Most Popular

New MG2 will beat Volkswagen to the baby electric car market
MG badge
News

New MG2 will beat Volkswagen to the baby electric car market

MG has confirmed it is working on an entry-level electric car to rival Citroen e-C3 and new Fiat Panda
29 Feb 2024
Car Deal of the Day: Tesla Model 3 ownership can be a reality from just £238 a month
Used Tesla Model 3 - front cornering
News

Car Deal of the Day: Tesla Model 3 ownership can be a reality from just £238 a month

This hugely desirable used Tesla Model 3 looks great value at this bargain price, and is our Deal of the Day for 27 February
27 Feb 2024
New Renault 5: price, specs, launch and on sale dates
Renault 5 - front
News

New Renault 5: price, specs, launch and on sale dates

The much-loved Renault 5 is back in action as a brand new electric car. Here's everything you need to know about it...
28 Feb 2024