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For more information on this release:
E-mail: Colm Hayes +353 21 453 5263 Carlena Kearney +353 21 453 5267
For general information on CSO statistics: (+353) 21 453 5000 On-line ISSN 2009-5678
CSO statistical release, , 11am

Vehicles licensed for the first time

December and Year 2017

New private cars76,25671,34892,361121,110141,931127,045
New goods vehicles10,85511,02416,25422,93928,05124,101
Total new vehicles95,09392,887117,652153,850181,293161,840
Used private cars38,46949,76252,86347,21770,13892,508
Used goods vehicles4,7317,5339,0748,35210,92514,168
Total used vehicles49,94071,15670,26862,67389,603118,018
1 Revised

New private cars licensed in 2017 decreased by 10.5%

Figure 1 VLFTM - New private cars licensed for the first time
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In 2017, 127,045 new private cars were licensed for the first time, a decrease of 10.5% compared with the previous year.

The number of used (imported) private cars licensed rose by 31.9% to 92,508 in 2017 compared with 70,138 in 2016. This is the highest annual number of used (imported) cars licensed on record. Overall 219,533 new and used private cars were licensed in 2017, and this is the highest figure since 2007 (239,473).

All but three counties (Cavan, Roscommon and Waterford) showed a decrease in the number of new cars licensed in 2017 compared with the previous year.  Almost half (48.3%) of all new private cars licensed in the country in 2017 were licensed in Dublin (36.4%) and Cork (12.0%) combined. See figure 2.

In December 2017, 601 new private cars were licensed for the first time, a decrease of 11.5% compared with December 2016. The number of used (imported) private cars licensed in December was virtually unchanged from the same month in the previous year.

This map is © Ordnance Survey Ireland. All rights reserved. License number 01/05/001.

The licensing figures also show that:

  • Volkswagen (13,609) was the most popular make of new private cars licensed in 2017, followed by Toyota (12,207), Ford (11,660), Hyundai (11,127) and Nissan (9,954). Together these five makes represent 46.1% of all new private cars licensed. The most popular new private car model licensed in 2017 was the Hyundai Tucson. See table 3 and Ireland's Top Motors.
  • In 2017, 64.9% of new private cars licensed were diesel compared with 70.0% in 2016, while 4.1% of new private cars licensed were electric/electric hybrid (5,162), an increase of 63.7% compared with 2016. See table 2B.
  • The total number of new vehicles licensed during 2017 was 161,840 compared with 181,293 in 2016, a decrease of 10.7%. There was a 14.1% decrease in the number of new goods vehicles licensed in 2017, bringing the total to 24,101. See table 1.
  • On a seasonally adjusted basis, new private cars licensed decreased by 0.5% in December 2017 compared with November 2017. The number of seasonally adjusted used (imported) private cars licensed increased by 3.4% over the same period. See table 5 and figure 6.
  • In 2017, just under half (49.2%) of imported private cars licensed were three to five years old, while 1.9% were less than one year old (vehicles previously registered abroad in 2017) and 4.8% were ten years or older. See table 6 and figure 7.
Most popular makes of new cars 2017
Volkswagen 10.7
Toyota 9.6
Ford 9.2
Hyundai 8.8
Nissan 7.8
Most popular makes of new cars 2016
Volkswagen 10.6
Toyota 10.4
Ford 9.9
Hyundai 10.3
Nissan 8.1

The most popular colour for new private cars licensed in 2017 was grey (37.2%) followed by black (19.1%) and white (15.2%). The most popular colours in 2016 were grey (20.7%), black (19.3%) and silver (15.7%). See table 7.

Table A: New private cars licensed for the first time by most popular make and colour, 2016 - 2017
Make2016 2017
ColourPercentage ColourPercentage
Volkswagen Silver22.3 Grey39.7
Toyota Grey22.7 Grey57.2
Ford Grey22.4 Grey41.8
Hyundai White28.0 White28.0
Nissan Black17.5 Grey34.1

In 2017, the colour of choice for most new Volkswagen, Toyota, Ford and Nissan private cars licensed was grey, while white was the most popular colour for newly licensed Hyundai cars. See table A.


Table B: Percentage of new private cars licensed for the first time, 2013 to 2017
YearJanQuarter 1Quarter 2Jan-JunJulQuarter 3Quarter 4Jul-Dec

In 2017, January to June remained the most popular period for licensing new private cars (68.8%), with almost half being licensed in the first quarter (47.8%). The most popular month for licensing new private cars in 2017 was January (21.0%) followed by July (16.8%). See table B.

Quarter 1Quarter 2Quarter 3Quarter 4


Licensing and registration are different processes. A vehicle is licensed when a valid motor tax disc is issued for the first time whereas registration occurs when a vehicle gets its licence plate (registration number) for the first time.
Table 1: Number of vehicles licensed for the first time classified by taxation class
Taxation ClassDecember January - December
201520162017 201520162017
New vehicles
New Private Cars 847679601 121,110141,931127,045
New Goods Vehicles 548632593 22,93928,05124,101
New Tractors 604954 1,9861,9341,810
New Motor Cycles 203531 1,2441,5461,431
New Exempt Vehicles 1109375 5,2346,2075,854
New Other 663836 1,3371,6241,599
Total New Vehicles 1,6511,5261,390 153,850181,293161,840
Used (imported) vehicles       
Used private cars 3,1646,3706,359 47,21770,13892,508
Used goods vehicles 5961,0041,069 8,35210,92514,168
Used tractors 124149146 1,7871,9082,453
Used motorcycles 67133164 1,5862,2043,187
Used other vehicles 234397385 3,7314,4285,702
Total used vehicles 4,1858,0538,123 62,67389,603118,018
Total all vehicles 5,8369,5799,513 216,523270,896279,858
Table 2A: Number of new private cars licensed for the first time by CO2 emission band and fuel type, December 2017
BandFuel TypeTotal
PetrolDieselElectricPetrol & electric hybridDiesel & electric hybridPetrol or Diesel plug-in electric hybrid
A 1153195901449
B 69480100118
C 515000020
D 1400005
E 0500005
F 1300004
G 0000000
Not available0000000
Table 2B: Number of new private cars licensed for the first time by CO2 emission band and fuel type, January-December 2017
BandFuel TypeTotal
PetrolDieselElectricPetrol & electric hybridDiesel & electric hybridPetrol or Diesel plug-in electric hybrid
A 26,39066,1506234,084125997,507
B 11,83012,04401880024,062
C 8082,60707003,422
D 2087390000947
E 818080000889
F 571000000157
G 1711000028
Not available033000033
Table 3: Number of new and used (imported) private cars licensed for the first time by make, December 2017
MakeDecember January - December
NewUsed (imported)Total NewUsed (imported)Total
Audi 295465755,3517,99513,346
BMW 124414534,4875,74210,229
Citroen 151271421,4292,4683,897
Dacia 3216483,4642863,750
Fiat 1452667797451,524
Ford 3078381311,66012,53124,191
Honda 21611631,2442,2593,503
Hyundai 1645046611,1275,81816,945
Jaguar 533386393771,016
Kia 312042356,8122,8619,673
Land Rover 428321,1543601,514
Lexus 11121134291,0311,460
Mazda 211021232,5851,5084,093
Mercedes Benz 103193294,6194,1658,784
Mini 1381945969771,573
Mitsubishi 154556475701,217
Nissan 263293559,9545,04314,997
Opel 370376,474126,486
Peugeot 42002043,7973,4147,211
Renault 651422078,3822,10210,484
Seat 16931093,3451,1534,498
Skoda 551852408,6132,37510,988
Ssangyong 1019613109
Subaru 06615892250
Suzuki 339421,3034931,796
Toyota 4049053012,2076,99919,206
Vauxhall 035835825,9015,903
Volkswagen 8281789913,60912,39826,007
Volvo 321361681,7851,9383,723
Other 455592988821,180
Total 6016,3596,960 127,04592,508219,553
The information in this table is available in much greater detail in Databases (see StatBank link below)
Table 4: Number of new vehicles licensed for the first time by body type and taxation class, 2017
Body typeTaxation classTotal
Private carsGoods vehiclesTractorsMotor cycles Exempt vehiclesOther classes
Small PSVsLarge PSVsMachines & contrivancesOther vehicles
Agricultural tractor001,71901600011,736
Articulated tractor unit09970000000997
Chassis cab022000000022
Convertible 17500000000175
Crew cab1881,556007900001,823
Fork lift000000052052
Motor caravan20003000124129
Motor cycle0001,2661500001,281
Pick up37968001600001,021
Sports/Coupe (non convertible)783000170000800
Station wagon/jeep10,7551007192000011,495
Telescopic handler04340000950133
Other 391,64357524130203862,277
Total 127,04524,1011,8101,4315,854505437424233161,840
X-axis labelUnadjusted dataAdjusted dataTrend
Table 5: Seasonally adjusted number of vehicles licensed for the first time classified by taxation class
Taxation classDecember 2016November 2017December 2017Monthly % change
New vehicles
New private cars 10,2409,7769,724-0.5
New goods vehicles 2,3171,9342,22915.3
New tractors 13712915520.2
New motor cycles 131132119-9.8
New exempt vehicles 504439434-1.1
New other 131141130-7.8
Total new vehicles 13,46012,55112,7911.9  
Used (imported) vehicles    
Used private cars 8,2298,0688,3393.4
Used goods vehicles 1,1211,2281,2451.4
Used tractors 184190188-1.1
Used motorcycles 2402943136.5
Used other vehicles 5024734995.5
Total used vehicles 10,27610,25310,5843.2  
Total all vehicles 23,73622,80423,3752.5  
X-axis label20132014201520162017
<1 year old1.
1-2 years old19.515.611.113.216.7
3-5 years old52.249.650.447.849.2
6-9 years old18.724.327.729.727.3
Over 10 years old7.
Table 6: Number of vehicles licensed for the first time classified by taxation class and year
Taxation class20102011201220132014201520162017
New private cars 84,90786,93276,25671,34892,361121,110141,931127,045
Used private cars 39,10341,14938,46949,76252,86347,21770,13892,508
Total private cars124,010128,081114,725121,110145,224168,327212,069219,553
% used private cars31.5%32.1%33.5%41.1%36.4%28.1%33.1%42.1%

Footnote: For the purpose of the analysis of the age profile of used (imported) private cars, calendar years were used to band the age groups. For example, a private car defined as less than one year old is an imported vehicle which has previously been registered abroad for the first time in the current calendar year.

Table 7: Percentage of new private cars licensed for the first time by most popular colour, 2013 to 2017

Background Notes


The vehicle licensing figures are compiled from data supplied by the Driver and Vehicle Computer Services Division of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. The data provide details on the number of private cars, goods vehicles, motor cycles and other vehicles licensed for the first time in each city and county council, classified by make and size, during a given month.


The release titled 'Vehicles Licensed for the First Time' commenced in January 1993. It replaced the series previously published as 'Particulars of Vehicles Registered and Licensed for the First Time'.

In January 1993, separate systems for vehicle registration and licensing were introduced. The Office of the Revenue Commissioners became responsible for the compilation of vehicle registrations while the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government retained responsibility for vehicle licensing. In January 2008, responsibility for vehicle licensing was transferred to the Department of Transport (which later became the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport).

Motor tax charges are determined on the basis of CO2 emission level (using seven CO2 bands) for all new cars registered from 1 July 2008.

The licensing process where applicable follows the registration process.

Vehicle Licensing versus Vehicle Registration

The CSO produces vehicle licensing statistics on a monthly basis. Vehicle registration data has not been published on the CSO StatBank since June 2010.

Registration and licensing figures may differ in a given month for a number of reasons, some of which are outlined below:

  • Vehicles which under the previous system would have been licensed in the latter part of a particular month may not now be licensed until a later month because of the time lapse between registration and first licensing.
  • Registered vehicles which are not used in a public place (e.g. tractors for use exclusively on the land) may not need to be licensed.

The question is often asked, which reflects better vehicle sales, licensing figures or registration figures?

In practice, on a monthly basis, the licensing data is probably a better reflection of sales. In some cases, a vehicle may be registered by a dealership in advance of a sale. Whereas, typically, vehicles are only licensed at the point of sale. However, if a vehicle is purchased towards the end of a month, the buyer may wish to defer collecting and licensing it until the start of the following month. So the issue is not clear-cut.

From 31 October 1999, detailed information on agricultural vehicles is no longer published in accordance with Commission Decision 92/157/EEC as upheld on 28 May 1998.

Seasonal adjustment

Seasonal adjustment for each taxation class is conducted using a direct seasonal adjustment approach. However, the overall vehicle totals are estimated using the indirect approach, i.e. the ‘Total new vehicles’ is derived by adding all the seasonally adjusted new vehicles taxation classes. The main reason for adopting the indirect approach is to attribute the monthly and annual changes in vehicle licensing to each of its taxation classes. Seasonal adjustment models are developed for each series based on unadjusted data spanning from July 1996 to the current period. These models are reviewed on an annual basis; however seasonal factors are updated each month.

The adjustments are completed by applying the X-13-ARIMA model, developed by the U.S. Census Bureau to the unadjusted data.  This methodology estimates seasonal factors while also taking into consideration factors that impact on the quality of the seasonal adjustment such as:

• Calendar effects, e.g. the timing of Easter,

• Outliers, temporary changes and level shifts in the series. 

For additional information on the use of X-13-ARIMA see


Private cars:  The term 'private cars' in this release, refers to privately licensed vehicles which include hire, fleet and certain commercial vehicles.

New and used vehicles:  The term 'new vehicles' refers to new vehicles which are licensed for use in a public place, in this country, for the first time. 'Used vehicles' refers to used vehicles which are licensed for use in a public place, in this country, for the first time. In the main used vehicles are imported.

Exempt:  The term 'exempt vehicles' in this release, refers to vehicles which are licensed for the first time but are exempt from liability to pay road tax.

Exempt vehicles can be divided into four main categories:

  • State-owned
  • Diplomatic
  • Fire services
  • Disabled Drivers

Electric hybrid:  means a vehicle that derives its motive power from a combination of an electric motor and an internal combustion engine and is capable of being driven on electric propulsion alone for a material part of its normal driving cycle.

Plug-in electric hybrid:  means a vehicle that derives its motive power from a combination of an electric motor and an internal combustion engine, where the electric motor derives its power from a battery that may be charged from the internal combustion engine and an alternating current (AC) electric mains supply and is capable of being driven on electric propulsion alone for a material part of its normal driving cycle.

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