Friday 19 January 2018

Average age of our cars is rising all the time - despite recent surges in new registrations

Thousands of owners appear to be 'trapped': can't afford new, but paying high road-tax bills

Thousands of car-owners can't afford a new car. Photo: Getty Images.
Thousands of car-owners can't afford a new car. Photo: Getty Images.
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

We may be buying lots of new motors - more than 150,000 are predicted for this year - but the average age of the cars on our roads is rising all the time.

Despite the recent huge lift in new-car registrations, tens of thousands of people are driving older cars, new research reveals.

That suggests many can't afford to change to new and are buying older second-hand cars or hanging on to what they've got.

At the height of the boom, the average age of cars was 5.88 years. That's now up a third to 8.94, according to figures just published by vehicle-history experts,

The figures also show that while there are more older cars, the total number has levelled off. has tracked average age in January of every year since 2000. Just in the past 12 months - from January 2015 to 2016 - they discovered the average rose by 40 days. Strangely, the age of the 'fleet' (as the industry calls it) had slowed substantially to just 11 days the previous year (January 2014 - 2015).

They also looked at figures for July over many years. Last month, the average age was 8.85 years (up from 8.69 in 2014 and quite a leap on July 2012 when it was 8.13 years). While there have been huge increases in the number of new cars bought in the past few years, it is insufficient to counter the ageing slide that began with the recession.

Overall, much the same number of private vehicles are still on the road. They currently number 2.23 million as of July 2016 - virtually the same number as 12 months ago.

John Byrne of says the upward age movement suggests people are still "more inclined to retain an older vehicle than buy a newer model".

He does not speculate on the reasons for this but it can be assumed that lack of finance/disposable income is a key reason.

This reflects a prevailing sentiment that 'Middle Ireland' has been left behind in the economic turnaround.

While cars of reasonable age tend not to give as much trouble as their predecessors, repairs can, where warranted, be costly.

Running costs are inflated too by heavier fuel consumption and, most particularly, the high level of road tax on older models as it is still calculated on engine size.

Only new purchases - since 2008 - benefit from the current emissions-based tax system that has nothing to do with an engine's capacity; it is only concerned with its 'greenness'.

The new system has slashed VRT and road tax for most cars. A 1.6-litre diesel or petrol now costs €180/€200 a year in road tax compared with €554 for its pre-2008 equivalent. Many modern 2-litre diesels incur €190 road tax bills, whereas their pre-2008 counterparts are being charged €906.

Older-car owners are therefore caught in a trap: they are paying big road tax but are unable to afford a new or newer model.

Mr Byrne says the age fluctuates throughout the year, but analysing the age in January of every year since 2000 shows "our cars are still getting older".

He says this does offer real market potential for manufacturers to sell more new vehicles as "vehicle owners, solely based on this analysis, are still more inclined to retain an older vehicle than buy a newer model".

Are you 'trapped'?


Date                   Average age (years)

January 2000     5.71

2001                  5.17

2002                  5.22

2003                  5.41

2004                  5.64

2005                  5.88

2006                  6.09

2007                  6.31

2008                  6.5

2009                  6.77

2010                  7.23

2011                  7.69

2012                  8.04

2013                  8.43

2014                  8.8

2015                  8.83

2016                  8.94


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