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AA Ireland Customer Opinion Survey

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Car ownership in Ireland has seen steady growth over the years, and we’re now edging towards 2.5 million people across the country holding the keys to their own car. Combine this with roughly 80 per cent of the population over the age of 18 holding a driving licence (whether it’s full, provisional or issued in a different country), and it’s clear that vehicle ownership and the ability to get behind the wheel is an integral part of life in today’s Ireland.

The headline figure regarding vehicle ownership is that nearly three-quarters of survey respondents (73 per cent) own a car that is more than five years old. And a die-hard 14 per cent expect to drive their cars into the ground, only replacing it once they’ve wrung every last kilometre out of it.

Pros and cons of new vs. old

There are pros and cons to this approach of course. On the plus side, an older car is likely to be owned outright and not have monthly finance payments. There’s also a debate about whether it’s better for the planet to maintain older vehicles for as long as possible instead of using precious raw materials to manufacture new replacements. Negatively, older models are likely to be less fuel-efficient and more polluting. Jennifer Kilduff, Head of Marketing & PR for The AA (Ireland) said “There is also a higher risk of older vehicles breaking down. We see this daily at The AA. However, with regular maintenance, cars can be kept on the road for decades.”

Most cars are bought for less than €20,000

Another revealing statistic is that 66 per cent of respondents own their cars outright. Around 60 per cent of respondents bought their car for less than €20,000, and most of those (18 per cent) were in the €10,000-€15,000 bracket. Only 10 per cent of car buyers shelled out more than €40,000 for their car, so buyers are clearly saving their pennies for more important things, with a car still seen as a necessity rather than a luxury purchase.

Speaking of necessity, it seems that owning a car is vital to Irish life. While 50 per cent of respondents cover no more than 10,000km a year, or less than 27km a day, some 42 per cent of people who took the survey make 90 per cent or more of their journeys by car.

Motorists willing to pay for proper upkeep and insurance

Owners are thrifty when it comes to buying a car, and the cash they save goes towards its upkeep, with 42 per cent of survey respondents spending €250-€500 annually on vehicle maintenance. “Getting your car serviced and maintained regularly at a trusted garage not only contributes to safer driving but can help with fuel saving and the overall cost of car ownership in the long run”, Mrs Kilduff added.

It appears that most car owners want a hassle-free experience when it comes to insurance, too, with 94 per cent of respondents claiming to have fully comprehensive cover. With comprehensive cover, you will receive compensation for the damage to your own vehicle even if you’re at fault for the accident.

Electric power making inroads

Electric drive is starting to make inroads into the Irish car market, with 4 per cent of survey respondents owning a full EV, and around half that number behind the wheel of plug-in hybrids. Other hybrids are also making inroads, with 9 per cent of drivers using one. And when it comes to replacing their current car, most respondents are open to the idea of electrification: the majority (28 per cent) will be considering a hybrid, 26 per cent a diesel and 20 per cent petrol.

EVs are still in the minority for next-car purchases, though, with only 10 per cent expecting to look at an EV. Kilduff added “The main concerns regarding the switch to electric are battery life and the lack of driving range that’s on offer – although this slightly contradicts the respondents that cover no more than 10,000km per year and becomes less of an issue with every generation of new EV – while a lack of charging infrastructure is still a sticking point for some.”

While most respondents think that EVs are better for the environment than combustion-engined vehicles, there is still a perception that battery life isn’t as reliable as it is for combustion-engined cars, with more than half of respondents (53 per cent) expecting EV batteries to last only 100,000km. Mrs Kilduff concluded “with half of the survey participants covering less than 10,000km a year, this would be more than enough to cover a decade of motoring.”