2019 Britain: Total Number of Cars on the Road – Motorparc

In 2019, the total number of vehicles registered for use on the road in the UK increased to just over 40 million. The Ford Fiesta is the most popular car in Britain.

Ford Fiesta Most Common Car registered for use on British Road at the end of 2019

At the start of 2020, a record 40.4 million cars, vans, trucks, and buses were registered for use in Britain. Britain’s motorparc included 35 million passenger cars (+0.8%) while van ownership increased by 2.7% to 4.5 million, as the UK had the highest number of HGVs in action for 30 years. The most popular color for cars on British roads was black followed by silver and blue. Nearly a third of all cars are superminis with the Ford Fiesta and Ford Focus leading the list of the top ten most popular cars in use in Britain.

Total Number of Cars Registered for Use in Britain in 2019

The number of vehicles registered for use on British roads has surpassed 40 million for the first time, according to new Motorparc data released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). More than 35 million cars and five million commercial vehicles were in use in the UK in 2019, representing a 1.0% increase on the previous year.

Light commercial vehicles saw the biggest percentage growth, rising 2.7% during 2019 year to 4,527,724 units, surging by 28% in the last decade. The LCV parc in 2009 amounted to 3,534,664 vehicles.

The number of passenger cars for use on British roads increased by 0.8% to 35,168,259 cars at the end of 2019. The number of heavy goods vehicles grew by 0.4% to 607,998 – the largest number delivering for Britain since 1990.

Many of these vehicles are helping to provide transport for essential workers, deliveries and emergency services. Ambulance services had 18,250 vehicles, fire services – 6,350, and supermarket delivery vehicles came to 21,405.

Lower Emissions from Britain’s Cars in 2019

The data also reveals that the UK’s 40 million-strong fleet now includes more than three quarters of a million low, ultra-low and zero emission cars. The number of these cars grew by 26% last year, with 11,832 hybrids, 144,335 plug-in hybrids and 92,913 battery electric vehicles now in use, although this segment still makes up just 2.2% of the overall car parc. Meanwhile the number of diesel cars in use fell marginally by -0.9% to 13,723,299, accounting for 39% of the parc, while petrol cars grew by 1.2% to 20,657,838.

With more drivers opting for the latest low emission vehicle technology, average CO2 emissions continue to fall across the parc – down -19.2% since 2008 (175.1g/km). However, the SMMT published data previously showing the UK new car fleet average CO2 rose for a third successive year, by +2.7% to 127.9g/km, for sales in full-year 2019

Most-Popular Car Models in Britain

The top ten car models of which the highest numbers were registered for use on British roads at the beginning of 2020 according the SMMT were:

ModelCars on the Road
1Ford Fiesta1,607,247
2Ford Focus1,273,566
3Vauxhall Corsa1,155,988
4Volkswagen Golf1,080,133
5Vauxhall Astra963,212
6VW Polo715,403
8Nissan Qashqai551,229
9BMW 3 Series518,673
10Toyota Yaris509,839

The Ford Fiesta has been the top-selling car model in Britain since 2009 and although sales numbers were relatively low in 2019, the Fiesta remained Britain’s favorite car model by far.

Although the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra remained popular, sales in recent years were at lower positions than that of the totals in the car parc hinting that these cars tend to remain on the road for longer than superminis.

The BMW 3-Series and Toyota Yaris were similarly rarely seen in the top ten for sales but seem to remain registered for longer periods than the more popular cars.

The Nissan Qashqai has been the top-selling SUV in Britain for several years and is now the eighth most common car on the road in the UK.

Most Popular Car Colors in Britain in 2019

The Motorparc data also reveals black as the most commonly seen car colour on the UK’s roads, with more than a fifth clad in the paint. Silver (18%) and blue (17%) are second and third choice respectively for motorists across the country and, while white (13%) takes just fifth place overall, it is the most popular colour for battery electric and hybrid plug-in cars.

The top five colours for all cars registered for use in Britain by the end of 2019 were as follows according to the SMMT:

Most Popular Car Colors in Britain in 2019

Most Popular Car Segment Categories in Britain in 2019

The most popular car on the road is a black, 8-year old supermini – most likely a Ford Fiesta (1.61m) or a Vauxhall Corsa (1.16m). Nearly a third of all cars in use in Britain in 2019 were superminis followed by lower medium.

According to the SMMT the following were the most common car segment categories of cars registered for use on British roads at the end of 2019:

Most Popular Car Segment Categories in Britain in 2019

Car Ownership by Regions in Britain in 2019

Car Ownership by Regions in Britain in 2019

Across the UK, most regions have seen an increase in ownership, the highest spike in drivers being in the South West of the country, up 1.94% — an extra 67,000 cars. Conversely, Greater London and the West Midlands were the only two regions that experienced a decline in car ownership, down -0.31% and -0.71% respectively, with 9,131 and 24,642 fewer cars on the roads across the nation’s capital and the Black Country respectively.

In spite of this, the biggest city in the region, Birmingham has the second-highest number of battery-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles after Greater London, with some 24,000 zero and ultra-low emission cars on the city’s roads.

Greater London is the municipality with the highest number of battery-electric and plug-in hybrid cars (26,513), followed closely by Birmingham (24,431) and Peterborough (12,493).

In full-year 2019, the total British new car market contracted by 2.4% to 2,3 million cars with Ford still the best-selling manufacturer and the Ford Fiesta the top-selling car modelBritish automotive production in 2019 was lower – cars -14%, commercial vehicle -8% and engines -7%.

About the author:

Henk Bekker

Henk Bekker is a freelance writer with over 20 years of experience in online writing. His best-selling cars website has been reporting car sales statistics since 2008 with classic car auction prices focusing on the most expensive automobiles sold at public auctions in the past decade. He also owns the travel websites European-Traveler.com and Lake Geneva Switzerland. Henk holds an MBA from Edinburgh Business School and an MSc in Finance from the University of London.