Used car prices jumping seven per cent in March hints at fast return to health for motor trade

Time 4 months ago

Used car prices rose by seven per cent to an average of just over £14,000 new figures from Auto Trader show.

Based on daily pricing analysis of circa 900,000 vehicles, Auto Trader’s Retail Price Index revealed prices last month rose seven per cent, both year-on-year and like-for-like, to £14,110.

March was up on February where prices rose by 6.6 per cent – the first monthly increase since October 2020.

Auto Trader says the price rises have been fuelled by ‘supply and demand dynamics’ in the market, particularly the current record levels of consumer demand.

Auto Trader saw 69.7m cross-platform visits to its marketplace in March, which is the highest ever recorded. It surpasses the previous high of 67.1m visits in August 2020 and represents a 27 per cent increase on March 2019.

March also saw a record amount of time consumers spent on Auto Trader, totalling 10.9m hours throughout the month, which is an increase of 22 per cent.

The company says this resulted in a 91 per cent growth in leads being sent to retailers last month when compared with March 2019.


Diving into the figures, Auto Trader also found demand for used petrol and diesel jumped from -2.1 per cent year-on-year and -5.6 per cent in February, to 35 per cent year-on-year and 32.9 per cent respectively – the first year-on-year increase in diesel demand since October 2020 – outstripping levels of supply, which grew just 0.4 per cent year-on-year and fell 14.2 per cent respectively.

As a result, the average price of a used petrol in March increased 5.8 per cent year-on-year (£12,705), which although is flat month-on-month, follows four consecutive months of easing price growth.

The positive effect on diesel was more pronounced, with average prices increasing 8.9 per cent year-on-year (£14,708), which was an acceleration on the already strong 8.4 per cent recorded the prior month.

Demand for volume electric vehicles shot up from 18.5 per cent year-on-year in February to 131.6 per cent last month, overtaking the strong levels of supply at 117.8 per cent.

As a result, average prices increased 9.3 per cent year-on-year (£19,943).

We anticipate prices will remain buoyant for some time to come, which will continue to benefit retailers’ profit margins

In contrast however, while the demand for premium EVs followed a similar trajectory to the other fuel types, increasing from 48.1 per cent year-on-year in February to 135.9 per cent, it failed to match the very strong levels of supply of premium EVs in the market, which increased 278.5 per cent year-on-year.

As a result, prices continued to contract, falling 4.2 per cent year-on-year (£43,313).

Auto Trader’s director of data and insight, Richard Walker, said: ‘The record demand we’re seeing on our marketplace offers a very positive indication as to what we can expect when in less than a week, retailers across England and Wales will be able to fully reopen their forecourts.

‘Coupled with the fact that used car sales are close to what we would typically see in March, and new car performance has been robust despite the current restrictions, we’re confident of a fast return to health.

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‘And, with such strong demand in the market, we anticipate prices will remain buoyant for some time to come, which will continue to benefit retailers’ profit margins.’

Auto Trader also said 2,519 retailers, on average, made price changes last month, which is up just over one per cent on March 2019, while the average daily price reduction of £239 was just £64 less than the same period.

On average, there were circa 15,941 price changes made each day; higher than the 14,469 recorded in March 2019.

James Batchelor's avatar

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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