Cars in Malaga province are getting older: four out of every ten are over 15 years old

The average age of vehicles is 13.6 years because very few people are buying new cars and half of all used ones sold are ten years old or more

FRANCISCO JIMÉNEZ

Cars in Malaga province are getting older. Or, to be more accurate, are already very old. There are 1.37 million vehicles of all types registered in the province, and their average age is 13.6 years. A decade ago, the average age of a vehicle was nine years.

This is one of the highest figures in Spain, a country which also has the dubious honour of having the oldest vehicles in Europe: at an average of 13.1 years, it is far higher than the average for the continent, which is 10.8 years.

To give an idea of what this means in reality, four out of every ten vehicles driven in Malaga province are more than 15 years old. In the case of cars, the proportion is 38.5 per cent, with one in every ten being 25 years old or more and only 18 per cent less than four years old, according to the Directorate-General for Traffic (DGT).

The situation with lorries and vans is even worse: half have been on the roads for over 15 years and barely one in ten are less than four years old. And one-third of all motorbikes are over 15 years old, especially mopeds, where the percentage rises to 70 per cent.

Why aren’t people replacing their old cars? Two economic crises are partly to blame. Before 2007, an average of 90,000 new vehicles were registered in Malaga province every year, but the number continued to drop after that, hitting rock bottom in 2012, when there were only 28,123 new vehicle registrations.

And just when sales of cars, commercial vehicles and lorries began to increase again, reaching 60,000 a year, coronavirus arrived, leaving the market back in the doldrums, with just 38,773 new registrations in 2020.

Things began to perk up a bit in 2021, but the 42,702 vehicles sold by the dealers were not enough to make much difference to the overall picture.

The economic uncertainty has a lot to do with it, but so does the fact that consumers have their doubts as well. They don’t know which vehicle to buy because of possible restrictions on combustion engines in the next few years, and hybrid and electric cars are expensive, so many families have shelved the idea of replacing their car.

So far this year, 3,888 cars have been bought by individuals in Malaga province, which is 17 per cent more than in the same period last year but far fewer than the 6,433 in 2019.

Used car market grows

In contrast, the market for used cars is showing huge growth. Last year the DGT processed 124,078 transfers of ownership in Malaga (81,668 were cars).

If we don’t take the 42,702 new vehicles into account, the used car market was double that of new vehicles, so for every new one that left the factory, people in Malaga bought two second hand ones, many of them with high mileage on the clock.

According to Anfac, the Spanish association of car and lorry manufacturers, more than half of used cars sold were over ten years old; older, and therefore producing more pollution.

Vehicles which have zero or low emissions account for only 1.7 per cent of all those on the road in Malaga province.

“The consequence of having so many old vehicles is that they cause so much more pollution, and they are also less safe, because their ability to respond in case of an accident is very inferior compared with new cars,” explained the president of the Malaga Motoring Association (AMA), Carlos Oliva.

Manufacturers and dealers are asking the government to offer discount schemes which are sufficiently attractive to serve as an incentive for people to buy a new car in exchange for one which is more than ten years old.

“At present they are only offering help to buy electric cars, and those are more expensive so it is not working very well,” said Oliva.

Anfac is also critical of the fact that the last subsidy plan only had limited success, because just 15 per cent of the allocated funds were taken up. This, they say, is because it took so long to set up, there was also a shortage of the most popular cars and the bureaucracy involved put people off.

Despite all this, the sector seems confident that things will return to normal, bit by bit, although at present many people who do decide to buy a new car are finding it difficult because few are available, mainly due to the lack of supplies of microchips.

Repair shops are busy

The other aspect of this progressive ageing of vehicles can be seen from the repair shops, which are busier than ever. It is a simple equation: the cars are older, so they break down more.

“People on low salaries are buying cars which are over ten years old, and that, logically, means more work for the repair shops because these cars need a lot more maintenance,” said Antonio Martí, vice-president of the Federation of Automobile Businesses of Malaga (Fedama).