Otago cars older but safe

On average, Otago vehicles are among the oldest in New Zealand, according to data published yesterday by the Motor Trade Association (MTA).

It found the average age of vehicles registered in New Zealand was 13 years, and for every new vehicle in the country, its 26-year-old counterpart was still operating.

The data, supplied to the MTA by the Ministry of Transport, showed in general the average age of vehicles was higher the further south they were registered.

Waimate had the oldest average vehicle age of 17 years and Auckland city the youngest average of just under eight years.

In Otago, the average age of vehicles ranged from 13 years in the Queenstown Lakes area to 15.5 years in the Clutha and Waitaki districts.

The average vehicle age in Dunedin was 14 years, and in Central Otago 15 years.

Nationally there were about 230,000 registered 16-year-old vehicles, the highest number of any age.
Fewer than 100,000 vehicles were a year or two old.

The majority of company-owned vehicles were based in Auckland and Wellington, which lowered the average age of vehicles in those places.

MTA spokesman Ian Stronach said the increasing number of old and often poorly maintained vehicles had serious safety implications for everyone using New Zealand roads.

Newer vehicles had more safety features and were made using better technology, he said.
''The world was very different in 1996 but the majority of our vehicle fleet was built then, or before,'' Mr Stronach said.

The MTA believed economic factors had forced people to keep older cars for longer and the average age of imported cars being ''scrapped'' had increased by a year (to 19 years) since 2000, he said.
An MTA survey carried out in July found 51% of vehicles needed work done on the day they were booked in for a warrant of fitness, so they could pass minimum safety requirements.

The most common faults were bald tyres, non-functioning windscreen wipers, and broken indicators and lights.

Automobile Association (AA) Otago chairman Jeff Donaldson said although vehicles in the region were slightly older on average than those elsewhere in the country, that did not mean they were not safe.

Mr Donaldson said Otago had a high compliance rate and very few cars in the region were driven without a warrant or registration.

''If you were looking at whether cars were safe, Otago would be much higher up the scale.
Compliance-wise, and the way we look after our vehicles, I think we would certainly be better in this region than parts of Auckland or Northland, for example,'' he said.

rosie.manins@odt.co.nz