The picture behind the wheel: What the British are driving

Car ownership is on the rise for the first time in four years, says trade group

The number of cars in use on UK roads in 2022 rose by 124,393 to a total of 35,148,045. PA
Powered by automated translation

British motorists are back behind the wheel following four years of flat car ownership numbers, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

The SMMT's annual Motorparc data shows that the number of cars in use on UK roads in 2022 increased by 124,393 to a total of 35,148,045, returning car ownership levels to pre-pandemic levels.

When vans and lorries are included, the total number of vehicles reached a record 40,723,974 last year, as supply shortages started to ease and scrappage levels declined.

More vehicles, fewer CO2 emissions

Despite there being more vehicles on the road, new low and zero emission car and van models mean average CO2 emissions have fallen by 1.6 per cent.

One in 32 cars in Britain now comes with a plug. That is more than a million cars, making up 3.4 per cent of the total.

Ownership of electric vans is up 67.3 per cent, while the number of zero-emission lorries has almost trebled, although they still account for fewer than one in 600 in use.

“We are driving Britain towards a net zero future with more than a million zero emission vehicles now on the road and cutting carbon,” said Mike Hawes, chief executive at the SMMT.

“With exciting new technologies and models fuelling our appetite to get back behind the wheel, now is the time to commit to greater investment in infrastructure and incentives, to speed up a switch to carbon-free mobility that is accessible to all.”

Keeping these extra EVs charged is still a challenge, as the infrastructure of public charge-points still lags behind the pace of acquisition.

Last year, there was one standard public charger for every 36 plug-in cars on the road, down from one in 31 in 2021.

There are regional differences as well — one in five electric vans are registered in the South East, while at 306, the East of England boosts the highest number of registered electric lorries.

The most popular car model is...

And the most popular colour is...

Mighty minis

Small cars remain the vehicles of choice of the British motorist, with superminis and small family models accounting for nearly six in 10 of the total.

Out of the total, two out of three cars have manual gearboxes, and only 15 per cent are built in the UK. Two thirds (67 per cent) of cars on UK roads last year were made in the EU.

However, 28.1 per cent of lorries and 42.1 per cent of buses currently in use on British roads were built in the UK, according to the SMMT.

In the public transport sector, there are now more buses running in London (10,534) than in the whole of the West Midlands (5,177) and East Midlands (5,027) combined.

Buses also tend to be the oldest vehicles on British roads, with the average bus ferrying passengers for more than 13 years. Meanwhile, cars and van tend to be on the road for an average nine years, while the average lorry sees 8.2 years of service.

Updated: April 25, 2023, 2:41 PM