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Ageing fleets: the average age of cars around the world

The average age of vehicles on our roads continues to rise, even as new car sales have increased by 24% in 2021, after last year’s pandemic-induced decline. But which country has the oldest motors?

An image of multiple cars 

What's on this page?
The countries with the oldest cars
Cars per capita: mapping the global fleet
Old age emissions - CO2 from new passenger cars
Where in the world has the youngest drivers?
Classic cars making a comeback
Best car brands for a long-term relationship
Car brand loyalty could be costing you money
Fastest depreciating car models revealed

According to Worldometer, more than 50 million cars have been produced so far in 2021, bringing the total number of cars produced globally since 2010 to over 1 billion.

So now you may be wondering, where are all of these millions of cars? Certainly not in the average driveway or parked up in a nearby multi-storey car park. Are there still cars from as far back as 1886 driving around our streets, or have they been sent up to that metal scrapyard in the sky? No matter what age your car is, ensuring you have the right car insurance is vital. Get a car insurance quote today.

We want to help motorists work out whether buying a new car makes sense economically and environmentally too. So we’ve researched the countries around the globe that are home to the oldest cars.

The countries with the oldest cars, mapped

Taking 30 of the top 50 countries by GDP around the world, we found that Saudi Arabia is the least sentimental with its cars. With an average car age of just 3.8 years old, Saudi Arabia is home to the youngest passenger cars and at the other end of the spectrum is Argentina, with an average car age of 17 years. 
 
Map showing the countries with the youngest and oldest cars 

It may come as no surprise that Saudi Arabia comes out on top. The country sits at 19th place for GDP, which suggests it has higher incomes and therefore a high rate of automobile purchases. But are there other reasons why countries may have such young fleets?

Unbeknown to some is that many countries around the world have introduced initiatives such as scrappage programmes. These typically involve the disposal of old cars, often to help reduce emissions. Motorists are then encouraged to invest in more environmentally friendly vehicles, with financial incentives or discounts.

Let’s take China as an example. The country sits at second place and boasts an average car age of just 5.1 years. In 2010, China introduced a scheme that offered rebates to motorists who traded in old heavy polluting vehicles for low-emission vehicles.

And in 2018, Argentina established new vehicle categories plus a framework to promote more efficient and environmentally friendly vehicles. The aim is to reverse the emissions produced by larger, older and heavier vehicles.

Cars per capita: mapping the global vehicle fleet

How many cars are on the roads across the world? Taking 30 countries into account, which together have a combined passenger vehicle fleet of 750 million, we looked into which countries have the highest number of cars per 1,000 people based on population figures.

The top 20 countries with the most cars per capital 

China ranked top for the highest number of cars, with almost 300 million registered vehicles. However, the country’s vast population of more than 1.4 billion means the nation actually comes 27th when it comes to the number of cars per 1000 people, at just 203.

Interestingly, the country that ranked the highest for the number of cars per 1,000 people was New Zealand. The rural landscape, combined with the nation’s relatively low population, could help to explain why there are close to 697 cars per 1000 people. This is almost 10 times more than urban Singapore, placed at the bottom of the rankings, with just 89 cars per 1000.

Old age emissions - CO2 from new passenger cars over the last 20 years

Sadly, emissions aren’t just related to the number of cars on our roads, but the age of cars on our road too. Data from the European Environment Agency (EEA) provides insight into the average CO2 emissions from new passenger cars over the past 20 years.

Chart showing the CO2 emissions from new cars since 2000 

Cars made in the year 2000 produce 170g CO2 per km. This amount declines steadily over subsequent years, dropping to 118g CO2 per km in 2016 before rising slightly, to 120g CO2 per km in 2018.

This downward trend suggests that cars made around 100 years ago were responsible for significant amounts of CO2. In today’s more environmentally educated society, most countries have strict targets and restrictions regarding car emissions, with countries like the UK aiming for net-zero emissions by the year 2050.

With these targets and regulations, we can expect to see new cars producing fewer emissions every year until the world’s fleet becomes fully electric.

Where in the world has the youngest drivers?

Every country has its own laws and regulations regarding automotive privileges, with some nations imposing tighter restrictions on new or young drivers than others.

We delved into the minimum age a learner driver can acquire their licence across the world, as well as how experienced and responsible a motorist should be to hire a vehicle.

Table with the age a driver needs to be to hire a car

The USA allows 16-year-olds to gain their full driver’s licence, the youngest of all 30 countries. Some states, such as Arkansaw, Alaska, Kansas and Iowa, even allow learners as young as 14 to apply for permits.

Overall, 25 out of 30 countries don’t provide driving licences to those under 18. Interestingly, the USA has the legal age limit set to 25 for hiring a car, which effectively means that if a driver gains their licence at the minimum age requirement, they must have nine years of road experience before they can rent a vehicle. Five countries, China, Japan, New Zealand, Germany and Austria, allow motorists to hire cars the same year they are legally allowed to drive.

Classic cars making a comeback

Using data from The Parking, and taking over 1,600 cars manufactured during 1930, 1940, 1950 and 1960, we unveil the brands and cars that have stood the test of time, and are still being purchased by motorists around the world in 2021.

A graph showing the UK's most-loved car brands

In 1903, Henry Ford built the very first Ford model, the Model A. The manufacturer is still thriving today, selling upwards of 5 million cars per year and has recently turned its iconic Mustang into an electric vehicle for the modern era.

Staying true to its historical success, Ford still boasts 562 cars manufactured from 1930, 1940, 1950 and 1960 for sale on used car sites, making up almost a third of the cars from those years currently sold on The Parking. Well-known and loved brands like Chevrolet, Buick and Cadillac also fill up the top four manufacturers sold today.

The loyalty league: best car brands for a long-term relationship

When it comes to the automotive world, few are as loyal as drivers. We wanted to test that loyalty by analysing the car brands that have stood the test of time.

Looking at over 500,000 cars up for sale during 2021 in both Europe and across the US, we have found the car brands that motorists have stayed loyal to for the longest time. The cars we analysed were all built between 1930 and 1990, so we could determine which brands have proven popular for 60 years or more.

A graph showing the most-loved car brands in the US and Europe

Iconic German brand Volkswagen topped the list, with a total of 66,487 cars sold between 1930 and 1990. According to Trend Motors, the reliability of the Volkswagen brand coupled with their emblematic and practical silhouettes create a patriotic following.  

In fact, three out of the top five most-loved brands hail from Germany. Mercedes Benz is in second place, and BMW is fourth. American carmaker Ford and Italian-owned Fiat are the only other two car manufacturers in the top five league table.

Buyer beware: car brand loyalty could be costing you money

Replacing your car with a newer model? Sticking with the same manufacturer could be costing you. We’ve taken the car brands that owners typically hold on to for the longest time and discovered the percentage value depreciation over the first three years of ownership.

A graph showing car brands that stand the test of time

Motorists with an allegiance to the all-American Cadillac could be losing the most money. On average, a Cadillac driver holds on to their motor for 8.1 years, but after just three years this could have depreciated by a staggering 65%.

Similarly, Chevrolet drivers could be facing a similar problem. After three years, a Chevvy could have depreciated by 55%!  

Motoring money pits - fastest depreciating car models revealed

Are you about to invest in a motoring money pit? We’ve looked at 10 popular makes and models to determine the fastest depreciating car models over one, five and ten years.

A graph showing the fastest depreciating car models

You can pick up a new Volkswagen Passat for around £27,375, but after just twelve months, the resale value could have been reduced by over £3,000. After five years, the value has halved (-49%) to £13,413.

Alex Kindred, car insurance expert from Confused.com, explains why motor brand loyalty or holding onto a car for too long could be hurting the planet and our pocket.  

“Climate concerns are a top reason to consider reducing the length of time you keep hold of the same car. As emission-free electric vehicles become more popular and affordable and as drivers become more conscious of their carbon footprint, we will see more motorists making the switch from petrol pump to the electric plug.

“As cars age, their emissions grow considerably which could also lead you to higher prices for things like Vehicle Tax, fees for entering Ultra Low Emission Zones (ULEZ) and even charges on your MOT - to ensure your car continues to meet the minimum standards.

“Many newer cars qualify for free Vehicle Tax based on their lower emissions, yet for gas-guzzling cars, the price per year can reach up to £2,245 after the first year of ownership.

“Around the globe, there are various incentives in place to ensure that it is in the drivers’ best interest to make the switch. Argentina is a good example of a country where rules and regulations have been put in place to reduce the age and emissions of vehicles on the road. But there is still some work to be done as their average vehicle age is an incredible 17 years old, on average.

“Owning an older car may seem cheaper at the point of sale, but owning a used car or staying loyal to your brand can often cost you more, further down the line. Motorists who stick with the same manufacturer year after year could be worse off as the natural value depreciation could leave them out of pocket. But there are some other ways that loyal motorists could lose out.

“Motorists with an allegiance to a particular make usually spend less time searching for a new car, visit fewer dealers and spend less time comparing prices. For example, if you are a Nissan driver, as soon as you drive onto the forecourt in your current Nissan, you are signalling brand loyalty to the salesperson which could mean you have less bargaining power to negotiate the price down.

“It would be wise to keep the make and model of your current car secret from the salesperson until negotiations are complete. If you give the impression that you will compare prices and visit other dealerships, you may end up with a better deal.”

Methodology and sources

Car age
Taking 30 countries around the world we have found out the average age of the global vehicle fleet using the latest data spanning from 2016 to 2021.

Sources include: Aut.fi | AECA | Statista | IBIS World | Tekdeeps | Australia Bureau of Statistics | Global fleet | xprimm | Saudi Gazette | Helgilibrary | Recycling International | Car Buyers Guide | Emirates 247 | Budget Direct

Car age vs MOT
Using data from GOV.UK, we have found the average percentage of MOT fail rates based on the age of lorries, buses and trailers.

Sources include: GOV.UK

Cars per person
Taking the vehicle fleet and population of 30 countries around the globe, we have found out how many cars there are per 1000 people, using the latest data from a variety of years

Sources include: Worldometers | Statista | Eurostat | Autonews | RusAutoNews | Finder | KAPSARC | Statbel | New Zealand Gov

CO2 vs age
Using data from the European Environment Agency, we found out how age impacts the CO2 emissions of cars

Sources include: European Environment Agency

Age to drive
Combining a variety of sources we compared the minimum age you can get a driving licence to how old you need to be to hire a car in 30 countries. *Age to hire a car may be forgiven if an underage driver fee is paid.

Sources include: Northern Territory Government | Angloinfo | Just Landed | US Army | Dynamic Language | Expat Centre | Traficom | Expatica | German Way | NIDirect | Spotahome | Japan Guide | Autoeurope | Business.gov.nl | NZ Transport Agency | idaoffice | Auto Driver Club | Academic.com | Life in Saudi Arabia | Singapore Legal Advice | Barcelona Day Trips | QeeQ | UAE Gov | Rhino Car Hire | RAC | Enterprise Rent A Car | Kayak | Explore France | Matcha | Vroomvroomvroom | Car Club | SIXT

Europe & US old cars selling in 2021
Taking almost 500,000 cars up for sale in 2021 across Europe and the US we have found the brands people still love today. The cars were all taken from the manufacturing years 1930s,1940s,1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

Sources include: The Parking

UK old cars selling in 2021
Taking over 3000 cars up for sale in 2021 in the UK we have found the brands people still love today. The cars were all taken from the manufacturing years 1930s,1940s,1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

Sources include: Autotrader

Longest brand relationships
Using a study from iSeeCars, we found out which car people hold onto the longest and how much value they make on average loses in the first 3 years.

Sources include: iSeeCars | The Money Calculator

Cars that depreciate in value the most
Taking 10 of the top-selling models across the world, we found out how much value the car would lose after 1 year, 5 years and 10 years as a percentage.

Sources include: The Money Calculator

A full list of sources can be found on a Google document here: Ageing Fleets Source List