The number of vehicle in use (the ‘parc’) on UK roads is up to a record 40.7 million (2022 data), with car ownership rising for first time since 2019 according to data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

The number of cars in use on UK roads in 2022 rose by 124,393 units to a total of 35,148,045. This has returned the number of cars on the road to levels last seen in 2019, while the overall number of vehicles has risen to a record 40,723,974 units as supply shortages begin to ease and scrappage levels decline.

Businesses are also getting into gear to help deliver the UK’s post-pandemic recovery, with 615,570 trucks and 4,887,593 vans in service, up 1.9% and 1.7% respectively. Britain’s HGV parc is now at record levels, while vans make up almost one in eight vehicles in use, the largest proportion ever recorded.

The UK’s bus and coach fleet, however, has fallen again, by 2.3% to 72,766 vehicles – the lowest since records began, with 16,608 going out of service over the last decade.

Despite the overall increase in vehicles on the road, average car and van CO2 emissions have fallen by 1.6% – driven by the influx of new lower and zero emission models. One in 32 cars driving in Britain now comes with a plug, amounting to 1,089,241 vehicles – a rise of more than half over the last year, to reach 3.1% of the parc.

Ownership of electric commercial vehicles has also risen, with vans up some 67.3% and buses and coaches increasing by 34.9%, while the number of zero emission trucks has almost trebled since last year – although they still account for fewer than one in 600 in use.

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However, the SMMT also pointed out that public chargepoint rollout continues to lag behind EV uptake, with one standard public charger for every 36 plug-in cars on the road, down from 31 in 2021. 

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said: “After two tough years, Britain is on the road to recovery with the first growth in car ownership since the pandemic – while vans and trucks also continue to deliver for business and society in ever greater numbers.

“Better still, we are driving Britain towards a net zero future with more than a million zero emission vehicles now on the road and cutting carbon. 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.”

Other UK SMMT ‘Motorparc’ data findings

  • Ford claims the top two model range spots for cars in use with the Fiesta (1.5m) and Focus (1.1m).
  • The UK’s most popular cars are superminis and small family (lower medium) models, which account for nearly six in 10 cars in service, at 11,620,116 and 9,214,039 units respectively.
  • Two in three cars in use are manual transmission.
  • 67.2% of cars driven in the UK were made in the EU, while 15.0% were built in Britain.
  • Female car ownership has risen by 0.2% to 12,414,260 units, while male car ownership has fallen -0.3% to 18,070,718. 4,663,067 cars are registered to companies or have no gender information recorded.
  • More buses are in use in London (10,534) than the whole of the West Midlands (5,177) and East Midlands combined (5,027).
  • One in five electric vans are registered in the South East.
  • The East of England is Britain’s zero emission haulage hotbed, with 306 battery electric trucks registered in the region.
  • The average car and van on the road are both 9.0 years old, while the average truck has seen 8.2 years of service. The average bus, however, has been transporting passengers for 13.1 years.
  • British-built vehicles are the most popular in the heavy vehicle sector. 28.1% of trucks and 42.1% of buses currently in use were built in the UK.