Average age of UK cars reaches record high

The average UK car is now 8.4-years-old, with total vehicle numbers having taken their first drop since 2009 to 40.35 million units

Used Ford Fiesta

The average age of a UK car is now 8.4 years - the highest figure since records began, with almost 10 million vehicles from 2008 and earlier still on the road.

The total number of vehicles on UK roads has also fallen for the first time since 2009 to 40,350,714 units in 2020. Of these, 35,082,800 are cars -  down 0.2 per cent - and 4,604,861 are vans - up 1.7 per cent to a record high that means vans now account for 11.4 per cent of all vehicles on the road.

According to new figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), the number of HGVs in the UK fell 3.1 per cent to 589,445 units last year, while bus and coach numbers declined 10.7 per cent to 73,608.

The closure of car dealerships during Covid-19 lockdowns and the resulting decline in new car sales has contributed to the rising age of UK cars. The average car on our roads was built in 2011 - a positive in terms of vehicle durability, the SMMT says, but a negative in context of the UK’s goal to achieve net zero carbon by 2050.

An average new car from 2020 emits 112.8g/km of CO2 - 18.3 per cent less than a model registered in 2011. It is for this reason that the SMMT believes fleet renewal is essential, with “both conventional and alternatively fuelled vehicles having a significant role to play”.

The number of electric vehicles on UK roads increased 114.3 per cent in 2020 to a record high of 199,085, while plug-in hybrid numbers rose 35.2 per cent to 239,510. Combined, however, plug-in cars still only represent 1.3 per cent of the cars on the road, with petrol and diesel registrations only down 0.2 per cent and 2.3 per cent respectively.

Superminis remain the UK’s most common type of car, with the three most prevalent models on the road being the Ford Fiesta, Ford Focus and Vauxhall Corsa. The most common car colour in this country is black and, although manual gearboxes remain on top, the number of automatics has risen by half a million since 2019.

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT, 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.”

He added: “Encouraging drivers to upgrade to the newest, cleanest, lowest emission cars - regardless of fuel source - is essential for the UK to meet its ambitious climate change targets.”

Check out the best used cars to buy now...

Most Popular

Driving test update to preserve the manual gearbox
Dacia Duster gear lever
News

Driving test update to preserve the manual gearbox

With more drivers learning in autos and electric cars, the DVSA is looking to update the driving test so people can still drive manuals in future
16 Jun 2021
‘The 2030 combustion engine ban is just around the corner – and we’re running out of time’
opinion: charging
Opinion

‘The 2030 combustion engine ban is just around the corner – and we’re running out of time’

Andy Palmer sees electric car uptake revving-up in the UK but says targeted investment is needed to prevent a stall…
22 Jun 2021
Exclusive: Jaguar’s luxury reinvention to start from £100k
Thierry Bollore - Jaguar I-Pace
Jaguar

Exclusive: Jaguar’s luxury reinvention to start from £100k

New boss Thierry Bollore reveals that Jaguar will be reinvented as a luxury car brand to take on Bentley, with the design of a new family already sign…
22 Jun 2021
New Mercedes C-Class 2021 review
Mercedes C-Class - front
Mercedes C-Class

New Mercedes C-Class 2021 review

The new Mercedes C-Class compact exec gets S-Class-inspired tech and new suspension to challenge the BMW 3 Series
21 Jun 2021
New Dacia Duster facelift launched with fresh styling and more tech
Dacia Duster facelift - front
Dacia Duster

New Dacia Duster facelift launched with fresh styling and more tech

The budget-conscious Dacia Duster has been updated for 2021 with some subtle design tweaks and a new eight-inch infotainment screen
22 Jun 2021
New 2021 Peugeot 308 SW estate arrives with more space
Peugeot 308 SW - front
News

New 2021 Peugeot 308 SW estate arrives with more space

The Peugeot 308 SW joins the hatchback in the range and arrives with two plug-in hybrid options
22 Jun 2021
New Volkswagen Caddy California 2021 review
Volkswagen Caddy California MPV - front
Volkswagen Caddy

New Volkswagen Caddy California 2021 review

It’s a family hauler and weekend camper all rolled into one, but is the Volkswagen Caddy California any good?
21 Jun 2021
New 2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge EV on sale priced from £49,950
Volvo XC40 P8 Recharge - front
Volvo XC40

New 2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge EV on sale priced from £49,950

Volvo has revised the electric XC40’s pricing and trim-level structure, with a simplified three-tier system
22 Jun 2021
New Volkswagen ID.4 GTX 2021 review
Volkswagen ID.4 GTX
Volkswagen ID.4 SUV

New Volkswagen ID.4 GTX 2021 review

VW ID.4 EV gets another electric motor and four-wheel drive in hot GTX form
21 Jun 2021
New Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport 45 2021 review
Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport 45 - front
Volkswagen Golf GTI Hatchback

New Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport 45 2021 review

The new special edition Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport 45 is one of the best cars ever to wear the GTI badge
23 Jun 2021
New Skoda Enyaq iV 2021 review
Skoda Enyaq iV 80 Sportline - front
Skoda Enyaq

New Skoda Enyaq iV 2021 review

The new Skoda Enyaq iV is the Czech firm’s first bespoke electric car and we've tested the full range on UK roads
10 Jun 2021
New Audi Q4 e-tron 2021 review
Audi Q4 e-tron 2021  front
Audi Q4 e-tron

New Audi Q4 e-tron 2021 review

We get involved with the new all-electric Audi Q4 e-tron SUV on UK roads for the first time
17 Jun 2021
UN report highlights ethical problems with electric cars
Electric car charging
News

UN report highlights ethical problems with electric cars

Analysis reveals lithium refining takes 65 per cent of Chilean region’s water, while 40,000 child miners dig for cobalt in DRC
14 Jun 2021
Ineos Grenadier prototype 2022 review
Ineos Grenadier prototype
Ineos Grenadier 4x4

Ineos Grenadier prototype 2022 review

Can the Ineos Grenadier really fill the mud-splattered void left by the old Land Rover Defender? We take a first drive in a prototype to find out...
15 Jun 2021