Big Rise in Car Ownership Amongst Female Drivers, According to SMMT Research

Latest research from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has found that the number of cars registered to female drivers has surged by more than a fifth in the last decade, with women owning more than a third of the UK’s cars.

The society recorded a 10% increase in the number of men purchasing cars in the same period. Male drivers registered 17.8m cars in 2017, compared to 11.8m bought by women. The net result on the UK roads is that there are now 24.7 million cars in the UK, a 12% increase overall.

Ownership is spread over 1,500 different model ranges and 65,000 different model specifications, with automatic gearboxes being one of the most popular choices. They now account for a quarter of the total – that’s 8.4 million cars. The increase of 70.5% in the last ten years means that 40% of cars sold in 2017 were fitted with automatic transmissions, something that SMMT attributes to the comfort and simplicity offered by modern systems.

The vast majority of vehicles on the UK’s roads come from the smaller sectors, described by SMMT as mini, supermini and lower medium, with the Ford Fiesta and Focus models joined by Vauxhall’s Corsa amongst the most popular. Covering 62.3% of the market, their growth is overshadowed by the fast-growing dual-purpose segment for cars that can carry passengers and goods. These vehicles have increased more than 90% in the last ten years and now represent 10.2% of market share. The shift has worked against upper medium model cars, with the once-popular so-called repmobiles declining by 27%, roughly 1.5 million cars.

SMMT’s data also showed a trend towards monochrome colours. Silver remains the most popular, followed by black and blue. The biggest drop is for the previously top-five red and green shades, although the data records that Leicester is a popular place to find pink cars.

Other unusual finds include Worcester having more British-built cars on the roads than anywhere else, and Milton Keynes being home to the greatest number of specialist sports cars, including brands such as Aston Martin and McLaren. It’s proximity to the motorsport industry could explain this one.

Meanwhile Birmingham has the most pure electric and plug-in cars in the country – 8.7% of the national total. Fans of more retro machinery will be delighted to learn that many of the top selling cars from the eighties are still going strong today, including 2,089 Ford Sierras, 506 Vauxhall Cavaliers and 228 Austin Maestros.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said: “Consumers are enjoying greater freedom and mobility than ever before, which along with greater reliability and improved fuel efficiency, make owning a car a more attractive and affordable option for millions of people. With every new model launched, more motorists are benefitting from more advanced technology. From innovative safety systems such as autonomous emergency braking and adaptive speed control, to state-of-the-art infotainment and comfort features, including heads-up navigation, heated seats and air-con, in-car WiFi and greater connectivity. This latest Motorparc analysis shows the shifts in consumer preferences and behaviour over the past decade and provides insight for car makers and dealers to help them adapt to changing consumer behaviour in the future.

“The SMMT Motorparc database enables the analysis of records for almost 40 million cars and commercial vehicles currently on the road, broken down by make, model, region, town and postcode. With over 23 years of historical data, it is one of the richest automotive data sources anywhere in the world.”

More information about SMMT’s Motorparc and new vehicle registrations data services can be found at