Average age of the vehicle fleet
- The average age of road vehicles has recorded small changes during the period from 1995 to 2008.
- The average age of passenger cars, two-wheelers, buses and coaches slightly decreased, while the average age of light and heavy-duty vehicles increased.
- The registration of new vehicles has increased over the same period, suggesting that the penetration rate of modern technologies is accelerating.
Does vehicle fleet replacement result in a reduction in average vehicle age?
TERM33 Average age of road vehicles
Note: TREMOVE results refer to 30 EEA member countries (that is EU-27 plus Norway, Switzerland Turkey).
Average age of road vehicles, 1995-2008 from TREMOVE v3.1
- The average age of passenger cars decreased slightly from 8.8 years in 1995 to 8.1 years in 2008 while that of the two-wheelers decreased from 14.0 to 13.2 over the same period. The average age of light and heavy-duty vehicles has increased from 9.7 and 10.7 respectively to 11.4 and 11.5 over the same period.
- The average age of passenger cars in the EEA varies widely between countries. The lowest average age for the year 2008 was observed in Luxembourg (3.8 years), highest in Greece and Cyprus (14.6 years). In general, diesel passenger cars have lower average age compared to petrol.
Indicator specification and metadata
This indicator is defined as the mean age of vehicles specified by the following vehicle categories: passenger cars, light duty vehicles, heavy duty vehicles, buses, coaches, mopeds and motorcycles.
Average age is expressed in years.
Policy context and targets
Car scrappage schemes have not yet been introduced at EU level. The European Parliament and Council have issued Directive 2000/53/EC on end-of-life vehicles (ELV Directive), which states the need for harmonising the various measures adopted at country level on the treatment of end-of-life vehicles. In addition, the ELV Directive stresses the need for adopting a Community-wide framework for this purpose, but does not include any specific car scrappage schemes. The ELV Directive, as amended by Directive 2008/53/EC and other Commission Decisions, requires that Member States set up systems to ensure ELVs are treated within authorised treatment facilities, sets progressively higher reuse, recycling and recovery targets and an ultimate recovery target of 95 % by weight by 2015, encourages manufactures to design their vehicles with recyclability in mind, and restricts the use of heavy metals in the manufacture of new vehicles.
The environmental performance of vehicles has improved considerably over recent decades as a result of increasingly tighter emissions regulations in Europe. Hence, a quick replacement of older cars with new ones, results in an overall improvement of the environmental performance of the vehicle fleet, presuming activity is constant. Automotive emissions have been regulated in Europe since 1970 with the implementation of the parent European Council Directive 70/220/EEC. This Directive was the result of an intensive period of consultation between member countries of the European Economic Commission (EEC) at that time. At the beginning of the 1970s, the United Nations Economic Committee for Europe (UNECE) established Regulation 15, which, together with its various amendments, delivered the first coherent automotive emissions control policy in Europe for vehicles of less than 3.5 tonnes in mass.
Since the 1970s, the key mechanism by which vehicle air pollutant emissions have been regulated has been through the setting of exhaust emissions limits. As with CO2 measurements, vehicle conformance with the required limits is checked on the basis of standardised laboratory emissions measurements. The first European Council Directive to specify measures against air pollution from motor vehicles was published in 1970 (EU, 1970). Around 20 years later — in 1992 — the 'Euro' emissions standards were introduced, starting with the 'Euro 1' step, followed, generally, by successively stricter standards: Euro 2 to Euro 6. At present, in 2016, only Euro 6 vehicles can be sold in the EU. At the same time, with all the regulatory improvements in emissions control and specific fuel-efficiency targets, CO2 emissions targets were set independently for cars and vans (see TERM027 for more information).
Smoke levels of heavy duty diesel engines were historically controlled using an opacimeter on steady state and free acceleration tests, as specified in Council Directive 72/306/EEC. The legislation imposed maximum limits for the emission of visible smoke. The first gaseous pollutant limits were developed by UNECE in 1982 with the development of Regulation 49, which set the techniques and limits for the control of CO, HC and NOx. The work at UNECE was later taken up by European Council Directive 88/77/EEC, which first established mandatory limits for new types of on-road diesel engines with regard to their gaseous emissions. Directive 91/542/EEC established the first “Euro” based emissions limits for heavy duty engines, including the regulation of particulate matter emissions, as a consequence of the intensive discussions within the activities of Auto Oil I and follow up revisions by the European Council and the Parliament. These two steps aimed at bringing heavy duty vehicle emissions control on a par with their light duty counterparts. These earlier steps were followed by Decision 1999/96/EC which, in total, defined four new steps for heavy duty vehicle emissions control from 2000 to 2014 (i.e. until the introduction of Euro VI). One significant concept introduced was the definition of Enhanced Environmentally friendly Vehicles (EEVs), i.e. a stringent voluntary emissions step introduced as early as in 2000. This step was more stringent even than the much later introduced Euro V.
Inspection and maintenance programmes are of great importance to the environmental performance of the vehicle fleet. Properly maintained vehicles can be of higher age as long as their environmental performance does not differ too much from the newest technologies. The roadworthiness test Directive 2009/40/EC, repealing Directive 96/96/EC, harmonises the frequency of roadworthiness tests and details which parts of motor vehicles must be tested. The directive aims at maintaining emissions at a low level throughout the useful life of a vehicle by means of regular exhaust emissions tests and ensuring that high emitters are withdrawn until they are brought to a proper state of maintenance.
There are no specific objectives or targets related to the average age of the vehicle fleet. Policy objectives are rather set with respect to the environmental performance of the fleet.
Related policy documents
Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 725/2011
Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 725/2011 of 25 July 2011 establishing a procedure for the approval and certification of innovative technologies for reducing CO2 emissions from passenger cars pursuant to Regulation (EC) No 443/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council.
COMMISSION REGULATION (EC) No 692/2008 on type-approval of motor vehicles
COMMISSION REGULATION (EC) No 692/2008 of 18 July 2008 implementing and amending Regulation (EC) No 715/2007 of the European Parliament and of the Council on type-approval of motor vehicles with respect to emissions from light passenger and commercial vehicles (Euro 5 and Euro 6) and on access to vehicle repair and maintenance information
Commission Regulation (EU) No 65/2012
Commission Regulation (EU) No 65/2012 of 24 January 2012 implementing Regulation (EC) No 661/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards gear shift indicators and amending Directive 2007/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council.
Commission Regulation (EU) No 195/2013
Commission Regulation (EU) No 195/2013 of 7 March 2013 amending Directive 2007/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council and Commission Regulation (EC) No 692/2008 as concerns innovative technologies for reducing CO2 emissions from light passenger and commercial vehicles
Commission Regulation (EU) No 406/2010
Commission Regulation (EU) No 406/2010 of 26 April 2010 implementing Regulation (EC) No 79/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council on type-approval of hydrogen-powered motor vehicles
Commission Regulation (EU) No 459/2012
Commission Regulation (EU) No 459/2012 of 29 May 2012 amending Regulation (EC) No 715/2007 of the European Parliament and of the Council and Commission Regulation (EC) No 692/2008 as regards emissions from light passenger and commercial vehicles (Euro 6).
Commission Regulation (EU) No 566/2011
Commission Regulation (EU) No 566/2011 of 8 June 2011 amending Regulation (EC) No 715/2007 of the European Parliament and of the Council and Commission Regulation (EC) No 692/2008 as regards access to vehicle repair and maintenance information.
Directive 2000/53/EC on end-of life vehicles
Directive 2000/53/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 September 2000 on end-of life vehicles - Commission Statements
Directive 2007/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 September 2007 establishing a framework for the approval of motor vehicles and their trailers, and of systems, components and separate technical units intended for such vehicles
Regulation (EC) No 79/2009
Regulation (EC) No 79/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 January 2009 on type-approval of hydrogen-powered motor vehicles, and amending Directive 2007/46/EC
REGULATION (EC) No 443/2009 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL 443/2009
Regulation (ec) no 443/2009 of the European parliament and of the Council setting emission performance standards for new passenger cars as part of the community's integrated approach to reduce CO2 emissions from light-duty vehicles.
REGULATION (EC) No 661/2009
REGULATION (EC) No 661/2009 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL concerning type-approval requirements for the general safety of motor vehicles, their trailers and systems, components and separate technical units intended therefor
Regulation (EC) No 715/2007 on type approval of motor vehicles
REGULATION (EC) No 715/2007 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 20 June 2007 on type approval of motor vehicles with respect to emissions from light passenger and commercial vehicles (Euro 5 and Euro 6) and on access to vehicle repair and maintenance information
REGULATION (EU) No 510/2011
REGULATION (EU) No 510/2011 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL setting emission performance standards for new light commercial vehicles as part of the Union's integrated approach to reduce CO 2 emissions from light-duty vehicles
Methodology for indicator calculation
The population of each vehicle category is distributed in age classes, ranging from 1 to 30 years. The average age is calculated by multiplying the number of vehicles in each class by the mean age of the class (i.e. 0.5, 1.5, 2.5 years etc.) and then dividing the sum of these products by the total number of vehicles in the respective vehicle category (passenger cars, light duty vehicles, heavy duty vehicles, buses, coaches, mopeds and motorcycles).
Methodology for gap filling
Since the average age is modelled, no gap-filling is necessary.
- EC4MACS Average age of road vehicles (2000-2013) from European Consortium for Modelling of Air Pollution and Climate Strategies (EC4MACS).
No uncertainty has been specified
Data sets uncertainty
Since the data on the average age of road vehicles are modelled rather than measured, they must be treated as estimates. It should be noted though, that a number of reliable national and international data sources on fleet characterisation (including, for example, Eurostat, ACEA, national experts, etc.) have been used as input to the model. The average age should ideally be 'weighted' to the usage of the vehicle - i.e. the average vehicle-kilometre age of a car.
No uncertainty has been specified
Common Questionnaire for Inland Transport Statistics
provided by European Commission
Transport (Primary topic)
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
- TERM 033
Contacts and ownership
EEA Contact InfoDiana Vedlugaite
EEA Management Plan2010 (note: EEA internal system)
Frequency of updates
For references, please go to www.eea.europa.eu/soer or scan the QR code.
This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe’s environment.
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