Cars Are Getting ‘Older’ - Why?

Wed 26th May 2021

The average age of the British motor on the road has risen to a record high, with the pandemic being blamed for drivers wanting to keep hold of their reliable motor while road journeys were less common.

Data published this week by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders this week shows that the average car driven on UK roads was built in 2011, and that a huge 10 million vehicles have been in service since 2008 or earlier.

The perfect storm of Brexit uncertainty, pandemic lockdown and EV potential led to a decline in new car registrations in 2020, with a drop of 700,000 fewer new cars on the road, which would traditionally push the average age of cars down.

The lowest new car figures since 1992, and the biggest year-on-year decline since the Second World War were always likely to skew the figures, but there does appear to be a reticence to buy a new petrol engine, particularly with the ICE ban looming within the next 10 years.

The analysis comes from an extensive SMMT study which looked at the state of the fleet of motors in the UK, and despite the dip, the new and nearly new market still looks well-placed for a bounceback in the next 12 months. Cars that are less than three years old have a 17.7 per cent share of the market, with those four to six years old commanding 21.5 per cent.

“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,” said Mike Hawes, Chief Executive of the SMMT. “The technology is changing, however, albeit slowly. Despite massive growth last year, just one in 80 vehicles is a plug-in electric car – while nearly 10 million petrol and diesel cars dating back to before 2008 remain on our roads. 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.”