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Used car sales drop by more than six per cent over quarter but BEVs and PHEVs soar

  • 2.03m used cars were sold between July and September 2021 versus 2.2m in 2020
  • Used BEVs record the highest number of transactions in any quarter
  • Demand for both petrol and diesel powertrains drops
  • Three-month period is down by two per cent on pre-pandemic 2019
  • It’s the weakest third quarter since 2015

Time 2 weeks ago

Used car sales fell by more than six per cent between July and September but demand for battery-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles continued to soar, figures released today (Nov 9) by the SMMT show.

A total of 2,034,342 used cars were sold during the third quarter – a drop of 6.2 per cent versus the same time last year when pent-up demand following the reopening of showrooms and easing of lockdown measures was fully in play and 2,168,599 vehicles were shifted.

However, transactions of BEVs and PHEVs rose by 56.4 per cent and 43.3 per cent to 14,182 and 14,990 respectively – the highest number of used BEVs that have changed hands in any quarter.


Meanwhile, hybrid-electric vehicle (HEV) transactions also went up by 20.3 per cent to 40,157.

The market share for all used plug-in vehicles increased to 1.4 per cent – up from 0.9 per cent the previous year.

Petrol and diesel powertrains maintained their grip, though, comprising 96.4 per cent of all transactions, which was equivalent to 1,959,955 units.

However, demand for both dropped by 6.9 per cent and 7.6 per cent respectively.


The most popular used car in the third quarter was the Ford Fiesta, which saw 88,941 sold.

Next was the Vauxhall Corsa at 70,983, while third favourite was the VW Golf, with 66,576 of them swopping hands.

Top used cars Q3 2021 via SMMT

Source: SMMT

Used car transactions fell in every month across the quarter, with July, August and September down by 4.9 per cent, 5.9 per cent and 7.9 per cent respectively.

Overall, the period is down by two per cent on the pre-pandemic 2019, which makes it the weakest quarter three since 2015, when 1,991,151 used cars were sold.

Year to date, a total of 5,889,601 used cars have been sold, which is up by 16.4 per cent on 2020, when 5,059,821 were sold between January and September.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: ‘Despite the used car market declining in the third quarter, record sales earlier in the year, particularly in the second quarter, means the market remains up year to date.

‘Given the circumstances, with the global pandemic causing a shortage of semiconductors needed to produce new vehicles, undermining the new car market, used transactions were always going to suffer too.

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‘This is particularly worrying as fleet renewal – of both new and used – is essential if we are to address air quality and carbon emissions concerns.’

Marshall Motor Group CEO Daksh Gupta, who spoke about the latest figures on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, tweeted that although the quarter was down by six per cent, that was against record transactions in the corresponding period last year.

He pointed out that used car demand and values were staying strong, although the supply of new cars was still a challenge.

John Bowman's avatar

John has been with Car Dealer since 2013 after spending 25 years in the newspaper industry as a reporter then a sub-editor/assistant chief sub-editor on regional and national titles. John is chief sub-editor in the editorial department, working on Car Dealer, as well as handling social media.

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