Pandemic pushes average age of UK cars to highest level on record

The average age of cars on UK roads is at its highest level since records began, after the coronavirus pandemic halted new car sales.

It has risen to 8.4 years old, with almost 10 million vehicles from 2008 and earlier still being used. Meanwhile, the average car was built in 2011.

Industry body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), which released the figures, said that while this was testament to the reliability of modern cars, it risked having a negative effect on CO2 emission reduction goals.

SMMT ageing cars

It says a car built in 2020 emits 112.8g/km on average, which is about 18 per cent better than those built in 2011.

The pandemic also led to the number of cars on the road falling for the first time since the 2009 financial crisis, with 40.4 million vehicles being driven.

SMMT data shows that light commercial vehicles were the only vehicle type to see an increase, up 1.7 per cent to 4.6m, driven by delivery firms that have been considered an essential service during lockdowns.

Heavy goods vehicles fell 3.1 per cent to 589,445 units, while buses and coaches dropped 10.7 per cent to 73,609. The number of cars on the road fell just 0.2 per cent to just over 35m.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, 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.

“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.”

Other data released by the SMMT shows the number of female registered keepers continues to grow, now measuring 35.1 per cent compared with 51.5 per cent registered to males – the rest are either companies or the keeper did not specify their gender.