THE UK’s used car market finished 2019 almost on a par with the previous year, recovering to just a 0.1 per cent drop following two quarters of growth in the second half.
According to the latest figures released today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, a total of 7,935,105 transactions took place in the year – down 9,935 on 2018.
There was continued robust demand for used petrol and diesel cars, with sales of the latter down just 0.6 per cent to 3,297,953 and a 41.7 per cent market share. Petrol sales fell by an even more marginal 0.3 per cent to 4,494,611 transactions, contrasting with zero-emission battery-electric vehicle demand, which surged 21.8 per cent to 14,112, but equivalent to just 0.2 per cent of the market.
Combined, alternatively fuelled vehicles (hybrid, plug-in hybrid and battery-electric) were up emphatically, increasing 23.4 per cent with 135,516 changing hands and accounting for 1.7 per cent of all sales. Meanwhile, transactions of the latest, cleanest Euro 6 models, available since 2015, were up 32.5 per cent as more of them reached the used market, helping to address air quality concerns.
Reflecting trends in the new car market, superminis remained the most popular used buy, maintaining their 2018 performance and taking a 32.8 per cent market share. The lower medium and upper medium segments were the next most popular, taking 27.0 per cent and 11.8 per cent of sales respectively, but down 0.8 per cent and 5.8 per cent. The fourth largest, dual-purpose, was the only one to post growth in the full year – up 11.1 per cent, to take 12.1 per cent market share.
The latest industry data indicates that used car prices remained firm in 2019, with the average up 0.6 per cent to £12,800. The year finished with two quarters of growth following a nine-quarter downward streak, with November and December showing their strongest performances since 2016. Despite three straight years of decline in the used market, 2019 is still the fourth highest year on record.
Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: ‘It is encouraging to see used car sales return to growth in the latter part of 2019 after a prolonged period of decline, and we need to see a similar rebound in new car sales if we are to meet environmental targets.
‘A buoyant used car market is necessary to maintain strong residual values and, clearly, it is now outperforming the new car market.
‘This does, however, suggest that weak consumer confidence and ongoing uncertainty over possible future restrictions on different vehicle technologies are causing some car buyers to hold off buying new models. This is delaying the fleet renewal we need now if we are to deliver immediate and continuous improvement in air quality and climate change.’