The number of vehicles on UK roads reached a record high in 2023.

According to the latest official industry figures, there are 41,404,589 vehicles on the road in the UK.

This is a rise of 1.7% year on year, according to new Motorparc data.

Plug-in vehicles have been the catalyst for the most substantial growth in car ownership since 2016.

However, without more incentives from the government to encourage a switch to Electric Vehicles (EVs) there is a danger momentum will stall.

Get in the car

Total cars on the road rose by 1.6% or 546,800 units to 35,694,845.

Almost half a million new battery electric (BEV) and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) vehicles were registered during 2023.

The number of BEVs in use increased by almost half (47.3%) compared with 2022.

Zero-emission vehicles now account for 2.7% of all cars in use, up from just 1.9% in 2022.


Post pandemonium

Post-pandemic, the industry has largely overcome the supply chain challenges that once hampered deliveries.

This recovery has allowed manufacturers to meet pent-up demand.

Furthermore, British motorists are now keeping their cars for longer.

The average car on the road now nine years old – a significant increase of more than a year since 2019.

Whilst its a good thing for the environment, it means the future looks even healthier for new car sales.












Getting greener

Despite a record number of motors on the road, average car CO2 dropped -2.1 %.

Company car emissions plummeted by -11.5 % as fleet sales is this area of sustained growth in EVs..

Unlike the private sector, fiscal incentives are available for fleets. This has encouraged them to invest in new lower and zero-emission models.

Providing private consumers with similar incentives to switch would help dramatically decarbonise UK road transport.

Record numbers of commercial vehicles are now in use, with 625,873 heavy goods vehicles and 5,012,632 vans in operation, up by 1.7% and 2.6%, respectively.

Zero-emission workhorses also recorded a boost, with BEV van volumes rising by 43.5% in 2022 to 61,161, meaning 1.2% of vans on UK roads are now zero-emission.

Electric HGVs rose 146.4% in 2023, although they account for just 0.4% of the fleet. Therefore, urgent action is required on grants and infrastructure—especially given that new trucks under 26 tonnes have the same end-of-sale date as cars and vans.

The number of electric buses in operation also grew, up by 159.4% to 1,922 units, making the UK Europe’s biggest market for zero-emission buses and coaches.

However, despite a record year of registrations in 2023, the UK’s public transport fleet has shrunk to its smallest level since records began at 71,239 vehicles.

One in five buses in use is more than 18 years old, further evidence of the need for greater investment in this sector.

Electrifying futures




















While overall EV use continues to grow, with 1,602,334 plug-in cars, vans, trucks and buses in operation, public chargepoint rollout still needs to catch up.

2023 was the best year for public chargepoint rollout, but there is still just one standard public charger available for every 35 plug-in cars on the road, only slightly improving from one for every 36 last year.

The situation is even more challenging for commercial vehicles, with no clear national plan for van-specific chargepoints, and just one dedicated public truck charging location for the entire country.

With increasing numbers of electric cars and vans being mandated for sale, the time to invest in infrastructure is now.

That investment should be nationwide so that everyone – irrespective of vehicle type, location and accessibility – can access a reliable, convenient and affordable charging network.

“After two challenging years of constrained supply, more people and businesses across the UK are now getting back behind the wheel – and increasingly, opting for greener options,” says Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive.
“However, given the ageing fleet, we now need to encourage consumers and businesses who have deferred purchases of new cars, vans, trucks and buses to upgrade.
“A stronger and stable economy, coupled with reduced living costs, would boost consumer and business confidence, while compelling fiscal incentives would ensure that these purchases are emissions free. Not only would this accelerate the transition – fundamental to the UK’s net zero ambitions – but it would also stimulate the economy and enhance the wider environment in which we all live.”





Did you know?

  1. The five most popular cars on UK roads in 2023 accounted for over 5.3 million in use – these are the Ford Fiesta at 1,487,925, Vauxhall Corsa at 1,050,579, Ford Focus at 1,049,818, Volkswagen Golf at 1,004,152 and Vauxhall Astra with 715,647 in use.
  2. 35.1% of cars on the road are registered to women, compared with 51.1% to men – with the remainder either registered to companies or gender unlisted. This follows a rise of more than half a million women as registered keepers on 20186
  3. The highest number of cars in the UK reside in London and the South East (8,910,951), followed by the North West (3,959,236) and the South West (3,572,387)
  4. With electric vehicles increasing in popularity, manual transmissions have fallen to 63.5% of the parc, down from 66.0% in 2022.
  5. London and the South East is also the region with the highest volume of plug-in electric vehicles with over a half million (527,887) of these green vehicles making up 5.9% of all cars in the area
  6. The UK might be the fifth rainiest country in Europe… yet that hasn’t stopped convertibles accounting for almost one in 35 cars on the road, with 1,022,849 in use – falling very slightly in 2022 by 0.1 percentage points7
  7. Continuing their domination, superminis remain the most popular car type on roads, with one in three drivers choosing these more compact vehicles to get around
  8. You’re more likely to see a car or van painted white than in any other colour in the UK, with 8,187,012 of them on the roads. Black and grey come in second and third place at 7,609,015 and 6,792,003 units respectively
  9. Almost 25,000 pink cars can be found on British roads – with four in five registered to women. Wales has the highest proportion of pink cars, accounting for 0.1% of those in use. Scotland has the highest proportion of red cars at 12.3%
  10. 2023 may have had a record year of vehicle registrations, but the UK’s public transport actually recorded the smallest bus fleet level since records began at 71,239 vehicles, down from 72,766 in 2022 and over 100,000 in 2007.