Drivers are keeping cars for longer with records showing there is a rising number of motors on British roads with more than 100,000 miles on the clock, a new report shows.
More than 9million vehicles – almost a quarter of the 40.3million registered today – have clocked over a century of miles, Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency figures reveal.
Insurer Co-op adds that the average of cars it now insures has increased in recent years, which is in-line with reports of a rising age of vehicles in use up and down the country.
What is causing this phenomenon? Is it simply that motorists want to hold onto their cars for longer? Has the semiconductor shortage and fall in production of new vehicles been instrumental? Has the pandemic and cost of living crisis had an impact? Or is it testament to improvements in built quality?
Why are Britons keeping their cars for longer? A new report says there is a growing number of vehicles on our road with over a century of miles on the clock – what’s causing this to happen?
Following a Freedom of Information request from Co-op Insurance, the DVSA confirmed that 9,076,909 vehicles have surpassed 100,000 miles – enough to circumnavigate the world four times.
This is despite average annual car mileage declining over the last decade – especially since the pandemic.
In 2010, MOT data suggests the average mileage a car in Britain was driven was in a year was 7,559. This gradually declined to 7,090 annually by 2019.
And records for 2020 show the pandemic knocked yearly mileage down to just 6,533 miles – some 1,000 less than a decade earlier as more people worked from home and lockdowns limited trips.
Co-op says the higher number of vehicles with a century of miles reflects its own data showing that drivers are keeping cars for longer.
It says that seven in ten policies in 2018 were for cars aged six to 10 years old. However, in the first quarter of this year, that has risen to four in five.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, 10 per cent of all its motor insurance policies in 2018 were for vehicles up to two years old – a figure that has dropped to just four per cent in the opening three months of 2022.
This tallies with numbers shared by the automotive trade body last year.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said the average age of a UK car is now 8.4 years – the highest figure since records began, with almost 10million vehicles from 2008 and earlier still on the road.
The total number of vehicles on UK roads also fell 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.
The SMMT recently said 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 in 2020
Almost 10 million cars in use in Britain have been in service since 2008 or earlier, according to data for 2020 revealed by the SMMT a year ago
Co-op points to the cost of living crisis and record-high fuel prices as a major influencing factor for why drivers are keeping their vehicles for longer and racking up higher mileage.
Paul Evans, head of motor at Co-op Insurance, said: ‘It looks like Brits are taking a ‘mend and make-do’ approach to car ownership as the cost of living, and running a car, continues to rocket.
‘Whilst we know that parts, availability issues and the pandemic, amongst other factors, have hit the new car market badly, many people just aren’t in a position to splash unnecessary cash on a brand-new vehicle.
‘Instead it makes more financial sense to keep their existing car going for as long as possible, or to buy a used car.’
RAC spokesperson Rod Dennis said the motoring group had also witnessed a ‘big downward shift’ in the number of drivers expecting to change their vehicles in the short term.
In its latest RAC Report on Motoring, fewer than half (47 per cent) of drivers polled said they are planning on changing their vehicles over the next three years, down from 57 per cent when motorists were surveyed in 2019.
For those who do want to keep a car for longer – for financial or emotional reasons – there is a solution that is helping motorists and businesses extend vehicles’ lives.
A British engine remanufacturer, which rebuilds old powerplants to put back into cars and commercial vehicles, told This is Money that it had enjoyed its best-ever year for unit sales in its 76-year history on the back of record demand.
Cambridgeshire-based Ivor Searle says it has experience a boom in demand caused by ‘macro-economic factors’ brought on by the pandemic – one of these being the increased use of vans since Covid-19 struck.
It is currently producing up to 150 engines per week – around 7,800 a year – which is its highest output it has ever recorded.
Why are drivers adding as many miles as possible to their cars before switching to a lesser travelled model? We try to explain all the contributing factors…
Why might Britons be keeping the cars for longer?
With the data pointing to average registered vehicle mileage increasing a the proportion of drivers generally having older cars today than they did half a decade ago could be down to a number of reasons…
Shortage of new cars
It’s without question that the supply crunch in the new car sector has had a huge impact in the last two years, which has caused huge delivery delays and seen registrations plummet.
Around 1.6 million new cars entered the road annually in both 2021 and 2020, which compares to 2.3 million in pre-pandemic 2019.
Looking back to 2016 – the record year for new car sales – some 2.7million new passenger cars entered the road, which is a clear indication that the car parc’s average age will be on the rise.
New car registrations are being hammered by the global shortage of semiconductor chips since the start of the pandemic. Sales in 2020 and 2021 are one million units behind the sector’s height of 2016, official figures show
Higher used car prices
While there’s been a dramatic drop in sales and deliveries of new cars in recent years there has also been a drop in the number of used motor transactions over the same period.
In 2016, 8.2 million second-hand cars changed hands compared to 7.5 million in 2021.
However, last year saw a 11.5 per cent increase on 2020 (up from 6.75million used transactions) and new data released this week by the SMMT confirmed that year-on-year transactions in the first three months of 2022 have accelerated by 5.1 per cent.
Auto Trader says the average price of a used car in Britain in April has risen to £17,418, which is 32.2% higher than it was in the same month in 2021
A half-decade decline in both new and used car sales does point to drivers keeping their vehicles for longer periods.
The shortage of new cars has also sent used prices skyrocketing on the back of increased demand from customers unwilling to wait months – even years – for a new model to arrive due to the semiconductor supply chain problem.
Average used car prices, according to Auto Trader, are currently around a third more expensive year-on-year – another reason why drivers are keeping cars for longer.
In some cases, a year-old used car is selling for more than a new one, such is the scale of demand while lead times on new model deliveries are so long.
The cost of living crisis
Britons are facing more financial hardship now than they have done in recent years.
With the cost of living crisis taking grip, including both petrol and diesel holding at inflated prices for weeks, replacing a car is likely becoming less of a priority for cash-strapped drivers.
While April provided a welcome break from three consecutive months of fuel price rises, the RAC said retailers held savings back from drivers and pocketed additional profit – a move that kept prices at a record-high level
In fact, a recent report from the Motor Ombudsman says it is growing increasingly concerned that motorists will hold back on spending on the cars more broadly during the crisis.
It found a rise in the number of drivers who are considering delaying or cancelling their vehicle’s service this year in a bid to save money – which not only could devalue their motors but increases safety risks.
Almost one in three of drivers in a new poll said they intend to spend less on motoring this year due to squeezed budgets.
Almost a quarter of drivers without a pre-paid servicing plan for their car will delay their motor’s annual service this year, while a third said they will miss it entirely in a bid to reduce their outgoings, the survey of 2,000 motorists revealed.
The RAC says drivers may also have changed their spending attitudes since the pandemic.
A quarter of the 2,652 UK drivers it polled recently said they expect to use their cars less as a result of the pandemic – most likely as a result of increased home working.
‘But while the pandemic is likely to be a major factor behind drivers’ plans to hold on to their vehicles for longer, it isn’t the only one,’ spokesman Rod Dennis added.
Do drivers still think 100,000 miles is high-mileage for modern-era cars?
Paul Evans from Co-op insurance says that a vehicle with over 100,000 miles on the clock is not always an indicator that it is particularly old, it does suggest it has endured a lot of wear and tear and it is pivotal that regular servicing maintenance has been carried out.
He adds: ‘With the right care there’s no reason as to why such cars can’t be relied upon for many more miles.’
And there’s plenty of evidence that newer motors capable of covering far more than a century of miles…
Three-quarter-of-a-million-mile motors: We reveal the top 10 vehicles with the most examples showing in excess of 750,000 miles on the clock
A recent report revealed there are hundreds of vehicles on Britain’s roads that are still in use despite clocking up over three quarts of a million miles.
DVSA data shared last October showed there were 5,897 motors with more than 400,000 miles showing, 2,676 vehicles beyond 500,000 miles and even those that have covered 750,000 miles in their time.
The most-astronomical mileage models include 35 Vauxhall Astras, 33 Rover 75s, 25 Ford Fiestas and the same amount of Focus hatchbacks.
Jack Cousens, head of roads policy for the AA, said all of the above reasons are contributing to why drivers are adding as many miles as possible to their cars before switching to a lesser travelled model.
‘For those that need a car but can’t afford a replacement, most are simply keeping hold of what they have until the last possible moment,’ he told This is Money.
‘Meanwhile, the increase in used car sales coupled with better, more reliable build qualities means cars can stay on the road for longer.
‘Even those who have saved up for a new car are seeing delays in orders due the microchip shortage have rethought their plans.
‘If they need something quickly, some are dipping into the used car market even if it’s just to keep them mobile even for a short time.’