Covid-19 pandemic culls UK car population by 370,000

Time 10 months ago

The reopening of car dealerships after the first lockdown only marginally slowed the number of cars registered for use on UK roads, new data shows.

The latest Vehicle Licensing Statistics show that while business got back on the road between July and September, boosting new van registrations by 12.2 per cent and motorcycles by 25 per cent, the number of new cars registered for the first time was down 0.5 per cent on the same time last year.

With the lockdown, hundreds of thousands of cars were registered with a Statutory Of Road Notification (SORN) and temporarily taken off the road.


This week’s Department for Transport figures show that 265,000 more cars were declared with a SORN than in the third quarter of last year.

Combined with 107,000 fewer cars registered in the UK during the same period, the number of UK cars registered for use on UK roads fell by 372,000.

Overall, there were 481,000 fewer vehicles on the road between July and September than in 2019.

Department of Transport data

That marks an improvement on the number of vehicles registered during the first lockdown, but the pandemic continued to cull car numbers as it ended.

Department of Transport data

Meanwhile, the number of Ultra Low Emission Vehicles registered for the first time continued to show strong growth, up by 162 per cent in Q3 compared to the same period last year.

Commenting on the data being published, AA head of roads policy, Jack Cousens, said: ‘Business bounced back after the first lockdown and the jump in new van and motorbike/scooter suggest it was deliveries that were driving the revival.

‘Car drivers celebrated the re-opening of car dealerships with 586,000 new car registrations between July and September, but this compares with 589,000 in the same period last year.’

He added: ‘The continued rise in new plug-in vehicles is much welcomed, especially with the ban on new petrol and diesel sales in 2030 on the horizon.

‘Fully electric cars take four of the top five ULEVs registered in the past year, showing just how popular they are and the potential they have to become the default choice for many drivers.

‘For those still uncertain, plug-in hybrids will play the role of the “gateway car” before full EV ownership. More could be done to increase the uptake of EVs, by offering better incentives such as scrapping VAT on EVs less than £50,000.’

James Batchelor's avatar

James – or Batch as he’s known – started at Car Dealer in 2010, first as the work experience boy, eventually becoming editor in 2013. He worked for Auto Express as editor-at-large and was the face of Carbuyer’s YouTube reviews. In 2020, he went freelance and now writes for a number of national titles and contributes regularly to Car Dealer.

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