24/08/2012 01:59 BST

Used Cars Getting Older As Recession Puts Squeeze On Buyers

If you've running an old car, then the chances are it's longer in the tooth than you might wish but like many other owners counting the pennies, you've been left with little choice.

The average age of a car in the UK is now 7.44 years, considerably greater now than it was 25 years ago as motorists are forced to buy older cars because of the pressures of the recession, according to a report from Europe's leading vehicle remarketing company, British Car Auctions.

used cars

Car owners are still being squeezed by the recession

This marks a significant rise from 2008 when it was under seven years (6.93). The volume of 6-8 year old vehicles sold in 2011 grew by 7.4% and there are now in excess of 7m cars in this age bracket on UK roads.

However, this is dwarfed by the number of cars more than nine years old, with more than 13m of these older vehicles on the roads with sales increasing by 7.5% last year.

“The squeeze on household spending means motorists are looking at different ways of managing their travel costs," said Tim Naylor, editor of the BCA Report.

"Some are deciding to choose slightly older, cheaper cars when they change their vehicle. Others are looking for more economical cars that deliver a better MPG as they try to combat rising fuel costs.

Key findings of the report included:

  • 6-8 year old used car volumes grew by 7.4%/124,000 to 1.79m units in 2011, representing 26.8% of the used car market
  • Sales of 9 year old plus cars grew for the second year running, rising by 7.5% to 2.53m and 37.8% of the used car market
  • Used car volumes rose to 6.7m last year from 6.6m in 2010
  • As a result of more cars being sold, the overall value of the used car market edged to a new high of £35.7bn, although average used car selling prices remained flat at £5,236.
  • Private to private used car sales increased by 7% year on year, with sales of 6-8 year old vehicles increasing the most at 15.9%
  • There is a marked drop in the number of car owners who believe they will ‘certainly’ or ‘quite likely’ buy a used car in next 12 months – down 3% in 2012 to 11%
  • Affordability tops motorists’ priorities when deciding which car to buy. Price is key at 41%, followed by low mileage at 31% low mileage and make and model at 30%

"We have also seen a decline in the number of multi-car households which suggests families are having to economise with their personal transport needs.”

Naylor said that the slowdown in the new car market since 2008 had had an impact on the availability of good quality used cars but added that businesses feeling the squeeze had had a knock-on effect.

"Crucially, company fleets have been holding onto their cars for longer and changing them less frequently and this has affected the supply of cars aged up to five years old."

James Baggott, editorial director of Car Dealer magazine, echoed Naylor's comments on the supply of used vehicles and warned buyers not to be taken in by official figures around car sales.

Speaking to The Huffington Post UK, he said: "Dealers are struggling to find good used cars to sell on their forecourts and that's only likely to get worse. The new car market may be up on last year, but don't be fooled by the official figures. Times are still tough and many of those 'sales' are likely to be dealers registering the cars themselves to hit targets."

Baggott added that the recession had had a major impact on when consumers buy new cars with many owners holding on to theirs for longer as they put off making 'big ticket purchases' for one simple reason.

"They're worried about their jobs. This has had a direct impact on the used car market - and has led to older cars in the marketplace. Until the economy picks up, I can't see this changing any time soon."