Why more drivers than ever own old cars – and how to maintain one

Why more drivers than ever own an old car - and how to maintain one

How old is your car? If it’s getting on for the best part of 10-years old, don’t feel any shame in not keeping up with the Joneses: the average age of motors on UK roads is rising.

The typical vehicle is now 8.1 years, the oldest since 2000. The figures for all cars and light vans licensed in 2017 suggest that more drivers and businesses are holding on to their vehicle to help make ends meet.

Analysis by The Times shows that over the past two decades, the proportion of the very oldest cars on Britain’s roads – those more than 13-years old – has almost tripled in the last two decades.

So what’s causing more drivers to keep their car for longer?

The average age of petrol cars

Despite past governments driving motorists toward diesel cars through road tax and company car tax policies, petrol-powered cars remain the most popular choice among drivers in the UK.

At the end of 2017, there were 18.3 million on the road and the average age was 9.1-years old, according to the Department for Transport.

However, when you look at the number of cars that are 13 or older, the proportion now stands at 24 per cent. This is the greatest it has ever been. When the government first released car age statistics in 2004, just 6.3 per cent of cars were 13 or older.

The average age of diesel cars

The average age of diesel cars is now 6.6 years in Britain

Since the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal in 2015, diesel hasn’t been far from the headlines. And it showed in last year’s registration figures. New diesel sales stuttered like an engine with a faulty Diesel Particulate Filter. They fell by 17 per cent over the previous year.

The average age of a diesel-powered car in Britain is now 6.6 years. But unlike petrol cars, only 9 per cent are 13 or older. This is because of the fuel’s comparatively recent uptake among UK drivers.

Why are drivers keeping cars for longer?

A combination of factors are believed to lie behind the ageing car pool. The government has admitted that the drop in registrations might be “in part” due to a change in the amount of car tax. Vehicle Excise Duty, that has to be paid on most new cars registered from April 2017, has increased. This is explained in this blog post.

The revisions to the tax have made it more expensive to buy and run most economical, low-emission cars.

At the same time, the generally tough economic climate is deterring many consumers and businesses from buying news cars.

Meanwhile, drivers who were once encouraged to buy diesel cars have been confused by the fuel’s recent demonisation. And the government has announced that it wants to end sales of all new diesel and petrol models from 2040.

How can drivers care for older cars?

How can drivers care for an older car?

“With the average age of petrol cars now standing at more than nine-years old, and diesels being more than six-years old, it is important that drivers keep up scheduled maintenance of their car,” says Nick Reid, head of automotive technology at Green Flag and Direct Line Group.

“The older it gets, the greater the likelihood there is for a bump in the road. By performing the most simple, routine maintenance tasks themselves and having an accredited garage service the vehicle according to the manufacturer’s schedule, drivers can guard against a breakdown,” advises Reid.

It’s also a good idea to keep a basic toolkit and equipment for dealing with a breakdown or emergency in any car, regardless of its age. See our guide to packing the correct equipment.

And don’t forget: the secret to keeping a car looking younger than its age is TLC. A wash, polish and wax from time to time can make a big difference.

2 comments on “Why more drivers than ever own old cars – and how to maintain one

  1. Steve Michelle April 18, 2018 9:00 am

    Could it also be, we are keeping cars longer because they are more reliable?

  2. Eric Hayman April 18, 2018 9:01 am

    What on earth is meant by “The older it gets, the greater the likelihood there is for a bump in the road”?

    I have kept two cars for over ten years each: the later shape Humber Sceptre and a Ford Escort. I sold on the Sceptre when it was going to be in need of bodywork repairs. The Escort went for scrap when a drive shaft seal needed replacing, hinting at other costly problems looming. I have had my current 57 plate VW Fox for coming up to ten years now and have no reason to sell it – despite the government deliberately increasing the road tax on the 1.4 engine just because of the supposed emissions level. Taking into account all the environmental costs of making a new low-emission car, and the low mileage I do each year – about 5,000 – I am doing the planet a favour by keeping the Fox. With less rust appearing on vehicles these days and mechanical improvements – plus the cost of any new car – it makes sense to hold on to a present vehicle. Bowing to the bribery of scrappage schemes and low or zero road tax does not.

    Apart from normal replacements – tyres, filters, brake pads, etc – the only other work on the Fox since 2008 has been new wishbone bushes, last month.

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