Used Mini for sale on a dealer forecourtUsed Mini for sale on a dealer forecourt


Used car market in 2020 fell 14.9 per cent as dealers grappled with lockdowns

3 months ago

The used car market fell 14.9 per cent in 2020 according to the latest figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

The total number of used car transactions in 2020 was 6,752,959 – 1,182,146 fewer than in 2019.

Last year was the lowest performing year since 2012 as lockdown measures took hold and
‘turbulent consumer and business confidence dented sales’, the SMMT said.


Used transactions were strong during a significant proportion of the year, however. October 2020 saw a 3.7 per cent rise and ranked as the fourth consecutive month of growth.

Throughout the summer, dealers frequently told Car Dealer used cars sales effectively propped up their businesses amid declining new car sales, and getting hold of good quality stock was an issue.

Lockdowns and tougher restrictions came into play in Q4, though, and made the purchasing of cars particularly tricky and pushed transactions down.

Towards the end of 2020, buyers bought fewer cars with November and December recording falls of 18.3 per cent and 4.2 per cent respectively.


Combined Q4 transactions fell by 6.2 per cent to 1,693,138.

Alternatively fuelled vehicles (AFVs) bucked the trend, however, with 144,225 units sold during the year, an increase of 5.2 per cent, with their market share rising to 2.1 per cent.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: ‘These figures are yet more evidence of the significant damage coronavirus has caused the automotive sector.

‘Market growth at the start of the year was welcome but quickly stifled by the first lockdown as showrooms closed across the country, a picture that was repeated with the subsequent lockdowns in November and, indeed, into 2021.’

The figures come after the SMMT chief called for car showrooms to be allowed to reopen as soon as restrictions are eased, citing the measures dealers have made to make them Covid-secure.

Hawes said: ‘This will not only help the used market recover, supporting jobs and livelihoods and providing individuals with the personal mobility they need at a time when guidance is against using public or shared transport, but it will also enable the latest and cleanest vehicles to filter through to second owners and keep society moving.’

Electrics on the rise

Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) saw their transactions increase by a whopping 29.7 per cent to 19,184 units, but still only accounted for a fraction of all activity at 0.3 per cent.

The market for hybrids (HEVs) also rose, by 4.7 per cent, while demand for plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) fell by fiver per cent.

Used diesel and petrol car transactions also fell, by 15.5 per cent and 15.2 per cent respectively, yet combined were still equivalent to some 6.6m units finding new owners.

Superminis still popular

All used car segments experienced declines, according to the trade body, however superminis remained the most popular choice with 2.2m units purchased, accounting for 32 per cent of all transactions.

Lower medium cars were the next most traded segment, with 1.8m sales to take 27 per cent market share.

Meanwhile, luxury saloon (-5.8 per cent), dual purpose (-7.2 per cent) and specialist sports (-8.4 per cent) saw more modest declines with a combined 1,084,504 transactions.

Black magic

Black was number one in the colour charts, with just over 1.4 million models in the shade changing hands with silver and blue completing the podium line-up.

Grey, which was the top selling new car colour in 2020, only managed fourth place. Some buyers looked to add a brighter note to their used purchase, with 4,018 pink, 6,510 turquoise and 23,427 gold cars snapped up during the year.

Fiesta still UK’s most popular

The Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa and Ford Focus were the three most popular used cars sold in 2020, notching up 289,847, 244,602 and 242,233 sales respectively.

The rest of the top 10 was made up for the Volkswagen Golf, Vauxhall Astra, BMW 3 Series, Mini, VW Polo, Mercedes C-Class and the Audi A3.

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South east leads the charts

The south east bought the most number of used cars with buyers snapping up 983,502 cars, followed by the north west (724,170) and the West Midlands (666,158).

The east of England bought 642,945 cars, followed by the south west (636,130), London (600,095), York/Humberside (583,166). Scotland (543,839), East Midlands (526,485) and Wales (342,856).


James Batchelor

James – or Batch as he’s known – started at Car Dealer in 2010, first as the work experience boy, eventually becoming editor in 2013. He worked for Auto Express as editor-at-large and was the face of Carbuyer’s YouTube reviews. In 2020, he went freelance and now writes for a number of national titles and contributes regularly to Car Dealer.

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