New Zealand car owners' reluctance to dump their old bangers is contributing to a growing national car fleet and making the roads less safe, the Motor Trade Association says.

The association estimated that in 2012, 138,000 passenger cars were scrapped, a fall of 9 per cent on 2011.

In the same period New Zealand's passenger car fleet grew by 0.9 per cent to reach a total of nearly 2.5 million vehicles, or 547 cars per 1000 people.

The most common date for New Zealand cars being registered was 1996, a factor that had remained unchanged since 2004, the association said.


Association spokesman Ian Stronach said it was the result of the large number of 1995 - 1997 registered used import cars which flooded into the country during the early 2000s. "Most of these cars are still being used and skew the age profile of our car fleet. Today, the average age of New Zealand's car fleet is 13.8 years; that is old by world standards and probably beyond the original design parameters of some models."

As vehicles aged, they tended to be subject to more frequent breakdowns and faced significant maintenance issues.

"As these vehicles usually have a low market value, owners tend to put off servicing and defer repairs, as the costs are often more than the vehicle is worth. Because they are used on a regular basis, they increase the overall safety risk to owners and other road users, and at the same time have a detrimental effect on air quality."

Mr Stronach said some owners did not have the means to trade up from old vehicles but for others, it seemed to be a case of reluctance to let go of what they perceived as a functioning device, irrespective of the real costs involved in maintaining it.

"New Zealanders are renowned for their ingenuity and ability to make do with equipment and facilities that in other countries would be regarded as being well past its use-by date. We seem to have an enduring relationship with older vehicles, and as long as it is still going, it doesn't need to be scrapped."

The association would support any government initiative to incentivise scrapping older vehicles in order to modernise the fleet.

"Vehicle age is a proxy for safety technology, amongst other things, and MTA says the growing age of the fleet further supports Government's direction under its Safer Journeys programme. As part of this programme, Government will be looking at ways to reduce the number of older, less-safe vehicles, as well as improving the performance of the fleet through initiatives such as in-service emissions testing."