A major analysis of 23m MOT tests has revealed that the average number of miles driven each year in cars in the UK has fallen again, with the average car doing 10% fewer miles than a decade ago.
Anonymised data on every MOT test in Britain, released by the Department for Transport, shows that each car travelled an average of 7,134 miles in 2017, down from 7,250 miles in 2016 and 7,334 miles the year before that. In 2007 the number of miles driven by each car tested at MOT in Britain was 7,712.
The fall in miles driven is likely to be partly a result of higher petrol prices, which surged from under 105p at the end of December 2015 to around 120p in 2017. Last year they broke through the 130p level but have since fallen back to their current average of 122p for a litre of unleaded.
The figures will add fuel to the debate over whether Britain has reached “peak car”. Despite a big rise in car sales between 2014 and 2017, and far more women and older people driving than in the past, the number of trips and the distance travelled has fallen almost constantly since 2002.
The official National Travel Survey (NTS), published last year, revealed that the average person in England takes around 594 trips by car per year, compared to 678 in 2002.
But why UK drivers are taking fewer trips and driving fewer miles is not clear, although there are a number of potential factors. The number of teenagers holding a driving licence has dropped by almost 40% in two decades, with many young people rejecting car ownership and preferring to communicate via smartphone rather than meet face to face. Business mileage has also fallen significantly as the tax regime has cut the number of company cars.
However, the RAC Foundation cautioned against misreading the MOT and NTS data. The MOT data covers cars that are three years or older so misses out on the mileage reached in new cars, which is generally higher than for older cars.
The RAC said that while fewer young adults are driving, it is largely because of cost pressures and university attendance, and that once they own a car their driving patterns are very similar to older drivers. But it added that fewer visits to the high street as a result of online shopping, and cheap Uber taxi rides may be having in impact on car-usage patterns.
There has also been a big increase in the number of two-car households, up from 8% in 1971 to 35% last year.
According to the MOT data, analysed by the pay-per-mile insurance company By Miles, cars in Scotland do the most miles – with vehicles tested in Galashiels topping the table at 8,202 miles a year, while cars in south-west London notch up the least, travelling 5,345 miles a year on average.