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

The average age of cars on the UK’s roads has hit its highest level since records began after the coronavirus pandemic put the brakes on new car sales. 

The average age of a car now stands at 8.4 years old, with almost 10 million vehicles from 2008 and earlier still being used. The average car was built in 2011. 

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) which released the figures said that although the findings were testament to the reliability of modern cars, they risked having a negative effect on CO2 reduction targets. 

It stated that a car built in 2020 emits 112.8g/km CO2 on average - around 18 per cent better than those built in 2011. 

The coronavirus pandemic also caused the number of cars on the road to fall for the first time since the 2009 financial crash, with 40.4 million vehicles on the UK’s roads. 

SMMT data has shown that only light commercial vehicles saw an increase in usage, up 1.7 per cent to 4.6m. Delivery firms have proved to be an essential service during lockdowns, causing the number of them on the roads to spike. 

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.”

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