2021 has been a superb year for the used car industry with prices rising at a rate never seen before.
However, transformation is nothing new to dealers who have seen countless cars come in and flip the trade on its head.
Here therefore, is our top 50 cars that transformed the used car industry…
1. Alfa Romeo 156
Alfas might be great cars for enthusiasts but they were never an easy sell. And then the 3-Series-beating 156 came along…
2. Audi 80
Until the ‘B3’ 80 appeared in 1986, Audis were just oddball posh VWs. The 80 changed all that as the brand’s first executive car.
3. Audi A4 Cabriolet
When it debuted in 2003, it was in such demand that used residual values were higher than new prices for over a year.
4. Austin Metro
Its 1981 arrival finally gave British Leyland a car that it didn’t have to apologise for, and it sold like hot cakes in Middle England.
5. BMW E30
The E30 pretty much invented the compact executive sector – a great car that arrived at just the right time.
6. BMW E46
No 3 Series has ever been bad news for dealerships, but the E46 3 Series was the hottest forecourt property of the early 2000s.
7. Citroen ZX
The ZX was the first car from the brand to not be completely weird – and it almost doubled the company’s sales.
8. Dacia Duster
Another one drives a Duster! Yes, the ad may be annoying but the bargain SUV sold in droves and put Dacia on the map.
9. Fiat 500
The rebirth of the baby Fiat in 2007 changed the company’s fortunes and even now the 500 remains a firm forecourt favourite.
10. Ford Cortina
For 30 years, a Cortina on the paddock was an easy sell. Popular with families and an icon of a much simpler time.
11. Ford Fiesta
The Fiesta has always been a winner. But the latest one adds class and sophistication to an already brilliant mix.
12. Ford Focus
When the first-generation Focus appeared in 1998 it transformed Ford’s reputation overnight. A great car and an easy sell.
13. Ford Mondeo
The Mondeo was a favourite among Britain’s middle classes for two decades, and fleet supplies meant good forecourt fodder.
14. Honda Jazz
Honda’s blue-rinse special held its value like no other small car while also offering reliability like clockwork.
15. Honda Civic Type R
A hot hatch with the reliability of a sewing machine? The screaming VTEC Type R was it – and it was a corker.
16. Hyundai i10
This was the hottest property when the 2009 scrappage scheme was introduced – Hyundai couldn’t bring enough in.
17. Isuzu D-Max
With utility Land Rovers now collectors’ pieces, the workaday D-Max is the tough workhorse of the moment.
18. Jaguar X300
Jags were always cool but flaky. The 1994 XJ saloon was the first reliable one – you could sell it and not fear it coming back next week.
19. Jaguar XF
The S-Type replacement was a high-tech, credible alternative to a BMW 5 Series or Audi A6, with strong used demand.
20. Land Rover Discovery 1
The first ‘leisure’ Landy was big news. You could sell them with your eyes shut into the late 2000s.
21. Land Rover Discovery 4
The used market doesn’t love the Disco 5 but adores the 4. Even main dealers still report strong demand.
22. Mazda MX-5
This single-handedly reinvigorated the sports car market and was a forecourt favourite from the off.
23. Mercedes C-Class
The latest C-Class hasn’t been out of the top 10 sellers lists since it made its debut and it remains prime used car stock.
24. Mercedes SLK
The sleek and slinky SLK had the lot and for a while it enjoyed the highest residual values of any car on the market.
Mazda started it but by the mid-1990s a reborn MG came along and shot to the top of the sales charts for a decade.
26. MG ZS EV
The most sought-after used EV on Auto Trader, the MG ZS EV has driven astonishing network growth and has terrific RVs.
27. Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
When this came out, plug-in hybrids were scarce and it was the car that first made them popular.
BMW build quality twinned with British iconography – perfect in the early 2000s, when used and new Minis cost nearly the same.
29. Nissan Leaf
The Leaf and the firm’s persistence are to thank for the wholesale acceptance of electric cars. A gamechanger.
30. Nissan Micra K11
British-built, Japanese-engineered and indestructible. Still outside takeaways almost 20 years out of production.
31. Nissan Qashqai
For most of its life on sale, the recent Qashqai retained 80 per cent of its value after a year, such was demand.
32. Peugeot 205
Back in the 1980s, the durable 205 was a simple and easy sell – especially if you found a non-turbo diesel. Mmmm… Veg oil!
33. Peugeot 508
Peugeot lost the plot a bit at the start of the new millennium but the 508 brought styling back with a huge bang.
34. Proton Aeroback
Laugh, but when Proton arrived, it meant affordable, reliable motoring – and many a dealer’s timeshare!
35. Renault Clio
Papa? Nicole… A classic of its kind. And so was this combination of French chic and surprisingly decent quality.
36. Renault Espace
This people carrier might be a maintenance headache but for a while it was the classiest MPV, with margins to match.
37. Rover 75
BMW injected some much-needed cash and cachet into Rover in the 1990s and this was a genuinely good car.
38. Saab 9-3 Convertible
Saabs were always good news used – even more so if they’d seen the sharp end of a tin opener.
39. Skoda Octavia
Heard about the Skoda that was as good as a VW Golf? As reputation-changers go, they don’t come more powerful than this.
40. Suzuki Jimny
Even today, the Jimny is hot used property and holds its value like nothing else – a great, straightforward and no-nonsense off-roader.
41. Toyota Yaris
When the Yaris arrived in 1999, Toyota had a small car to be proud of. It was its most characterful car in a generation and a star of the used market.
42. Toyota Prius
A million and one Uber drivers can’t be wrong – Toyota’s hybrid hero goes on forever, and even a high-miler can be sold quite easily.
43. Vauxhall Insignia
This was the 2010 European Car of the Year – and one you didn’t have to write down the minute it appeared on the lot.
44. Vauxhall Cavalier
Cavalier to Vauxhall was what Cortina or Sierra were to Ford, but the Mk 3 did it so much better than rivals. For a while, Vauxhall had a class leader.
No forecourt is complete without a Corsa or two. Automotive bread and butter they may be, but they’re also money in the bank.
46. VW Golf GTi
In the late 1980s the Mk 2 was car dealer gold – the ultimate yuppie-mobile, with money on the bonnet. It still is today!
47. VW Golf
The fourth-generation Golf was classy and upmarket – and it held its value like no compact hatchback did before or has since.
48. VW Polo
This small VW has always felt a bit more special than a Corsa or Fiesta, which is great news for the bottom line.
49. Volvo 850
The 850 was a gamechanger for Volvo, making it a little less stuffy. The middle classes loved them and they sold in their thousands.
50. Volvo XC90
Plug-in technology allied with sheer luxury have made the XC90 one of the most desirable cars of recent times.