Damaged cars on UK roads

More than 14 million cars driven with damage

Young drivers and Londoners most likely to drive damaged cars

17 September 2021

More than 14 million* cars on the roads are being driven with some form of damage, according to a new study by AA Insurance.

A poll of more than 14,500 drivers discovered that 44%** have cars with some form of damage on them, ranging from minor scuffs, through to more serious damage to tyres and brakes.

Two thirds of younger drivers (aged 18-24: 67%) have scarred cars, compared to 41% of those aged over 65. While the damage may not have been caused during their ownership, in their plight to secure an affordable motor, many youngsters buy older and dented cars.

Across the UK, Londoners the most likely to have damaged cars (52%), equating to more than 1.3 million cars in the capital*** . Owners in the South West (48%) and South East (46%) complete the top three, but due to population levels in the South East, approximately 2.3 million cars in the region are in need of repair.

Bumps, scrapes and screeching brakes

Of the car owners that had damaged vehicles, eight out of 10 (83%) said their car had minor scuffs and scrapes, while one in 10 (11%) had cracked or chipped windscreens or glass.

One in 20 (5%) said their car had more obvious bodywork damage, but shockingly 3% of owners said they drove with worn or damaged tyres. Other blemishes included; broken wipers, lights on the dashboard and missing wing mirrors.

Damage to UK cars – all respondents that said their car had at least one damaged item

  1. Minor damage (i.e. light scuffs and scratches) 83%
  2. Glass (inc. windscreens and side windows) 11%
  3. Dashboard warning light on 7%
  4. Obvious bodywork damage (i.e. dents, broken panels) 5%
  5. Wipers 3%
  6. Tyres (worn, bulges etc) 3%
  7. Wing mirrors (missing and damaged) 3%
  8. Exterior light not working (i.e. headlights, brake, reversing) 2%
  9. Brakes screeching 2%
  10. Suspension (i.e. knocking noises when driving) 1%
  11. Steering (i.e. vehicle pulls to one side) 1%
  12. Other 3%
Damage on cars can be like an iceberg – while on the surface things look manageable, it’s what’s lurking underneath that can really cause problems.
David Coughlan, managing director of AA Insurance Services

The AA’s insurance services team are encouraging drivers to keep their cars in good working order and warning that cars with minor damage may be hiding more than meets the eye.

For example, what may look like a small crack or dent in the bumper could be hiding significant damage to the bumper’s brackets, impact bar and absorber.

David Coughlan, managing director of AA Insurance Services, said; “Drivers with damaged cars are living on a ‘wing (mirror) and a prayer’, in the hope that the visible damage is not camouflaging something more costly and compromising.

“Damage on cars can be like an iceberg – while on the surface things look manageable, it’s what’s lurking underneath that can really cause problems. Any detriment to the structural integrity of the car could harm its performance if it were involved in a major collision.

“Keeping vehicles in a good condition is important both for the owners’ protection as well as others. We are very worried that drivers are using vehicles with poor tyres, brakes and steering.

“We’d strongly recommend drivers get damage to their cars checked, to provide peace of mind and retain the safety of their vehicle.”

* DfT statistics VEH0101 say there are 32,730,099 licenced cars in the UK. 44% of 32,790,099 = 14,401,243 cars

** AA Yonder Driver Poll, August 2021. 14,759 responses

*** Regional figures taken from DfT statistics VEH0104