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South East revealed as scrapyard capital of the UK

New data, obtained by, through Freedom of Information requests to local authorities in the South East, reveals 3055 abandoned vehicles were removed by councils in 2017/18 – that is eight cars per day, on average, and more than any other region in England and Wales. To visualise the epidemic, has created an interactive scrapyard map which highlights how the problem has worsened in the region and across England and Wales, with the number of cars being abandoned  in the South East increasing by 356% in five years (2013/14 to 2017/18).

Interactive scrapyard map.

As well as damaging our environment and simply looking unsightly, these nuisance vehicles come at a price to the tax payer, as local authorities in the region forked out a whopping £102,827 in 2017/18 clearing the roads of abandoned cars. And this bill is barely paid by the £7228 issued to drivers in fines over the same period. In the same year, councils were also responsible for destroying 2176 of the seized vehicles.

The sheer number of cars being stranded on the roadside has not gone unnoticed by the public, as 35,298 reports of abandoned vehicles were filed in the South East in 2017/18. Although, this is unsurprising given one in six (17%) drivers in the region admit to abandoning their vehicle at some point, according to further research. With so many motorists clearly open to ditching their vehicle on the side of the road for whatever reason, it is no wonder councils are being inundated with reports. However, the research also found that one in 10 (10%) UK drivers are confused about what they should do if they spot an abandoned car, and a further 9% wouldn’t know how to report one. To make this clearer for motorists, has created a ‘Report an abandoned car’ tool, which enables motorists to search for their local council and directs them straight to the dedicated webpage.

According to the data, motorists in Oxford are more likely to abandon their vehicle, as the local council removed the highest number of stranded vehicles in 2017/18. Oxford City Council seized 294 vehicles, destroying 275, which cost them £4410. This is following 934 reports of abandoned vehicles from the public.

As the data proves, motorists across the South East are treating the roadsides as a scrapyard, and it seems this is a widespread issue across England and Wales. In fact, 12,442 abandoned cars were removed by councils in 2017/18, of which 8886 were destroyed. This is following 148,777 reports of abandoned vehicles in the one year. And this did not come cheap to councils, as they forked out a whopping £527,380 to remove or destroy these vehicles and received only £55,072 in fines for offenders in comparison.

It is surprising so many motorists are willing to leave their vehicle given the initial cost they are likely to have paid for it. And, while the majority (82%) of UK drivers who admit to abandoning their vehicle did so temporarily, leaving it for four days, on average, nearly one in four (24%) permanently ditched their car, leaving councils to clear up the mess. Although, there is a clear theme in motorists’ reasons for their actions, with the cost of owning or running a car playing a key part in their decision. In fact, more than a quarter (27%) said they ditched their car permanently because they could not afford to get it towed or repaired, while one in five (20%) were worried about being fined for it not being taxed. Almost one in six (16%) admit they could no longer afford to run it. 

But some motorists can’t get their head around the thought of ditching a vehicle, with almost three in 10 (29%) UK drivers saying they are confused about why people think abandoning their car is a good idea. Although, almost a third (30%) think the rising cost of car insurance is likely to cause people to ditch their vehicle, while a further 31% think the lack of knowledge around scrappage schemes might cause people to abandoned their car altogether. However, there is still a high number of motorists who would consider ditching their car, with almost a third (31%) admitting this is something they would do, for reasons including to avoid drink driving (16%), or if they broke down and could not afford to have it towed or repaired (7%). However, abandoning a vehicle can have its own financial consequences, as almost a third (31%) of motorists who have ditched their car received a fine, costing £146 on average.

It is worrying motorists are going to the extreme of ditching their vehicle, however the current cost of motoring is certainly becoming a challenge all motorists are facing. With car insurance prices on the rise, and fuel prices reaching the highest on record in 2018, it is no surprise motorists are struggling to run their cars. But perhaps this calls for better visibility of different options available to drivers to scrap or sell their vehicle if they can no longer afford to keep it.

Amanda Stretton, motoring editor at, said: ‘The cost of running a car is becoming incredibly expensive and it seems this has caused thousands of drivers in the South East to ditch their vehicles. It is worrying that they think this is their only option.

‘Our interactive map shows just how much of an issue this has become across the region, and as councils have been forced to spend thousands of pounds removing unwanted cars from the roadside in one year alone.

‘Abandoned vehicles are a nuisance, but many motorists are confused about what they should do if they find one – do they report it to the police, or their local council? To make this clearer, has created a search tool which points people in the right direction to get in touch with their local council and report it.’

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