The UK’s used car market increased 5.1% in the first quarter of 2022, according to the latest figures by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.
Some 1,774,351 transactions took place, with 86,596 additional cars changing hands compared with the same period in 2021, when car showrooms nationwide were closed due to pandemic-related lockdowns with only click and collect transactions allowed. In Wales over the three months there were 91,411 used car sales.
Despite the global shortage of semiconductors stifling supply in the new car market, used car sales in the quarter were driven by a buoyant market in January and February, with rises of 17.7% and 7.4% respectively. March, on the other hand, saw a decline of -6.8%, following a stronger performing month in 2021 as the pandemic-affected market began to recover. Despite growth over the course of the quarter, used car transactions remain -12.2% below the pre-pandemic year of 2019.
It was a record first quarter for used battery electric vehicles (BEVs), with buyers keen to purchase pre-owned zero-emission cars. Transactions for BEVs more than doubled from 6,625 to 14,586, a rise of 120.2%. Plug in hybrids (PHEVs) and hybrids (HEVs) also changed hands in greater numbers than the year before rising by 35.3% to 14,433, and 28.8% to 35,007 units respectively.
Despite the growth, however, petrol and diesel powertrains continued to dominate the used market representing 96.2% of used sales, or some 1,707,135 units. Plug-in vehicles comprised 3.6% of the total market share – up from 1.6% in Q1 2021, but illustrating that the growth in new EVs over the past two years has yet to have a significant impact on the overall market.
Mini, dual purpose and supermini segments saw the largest growth, up 13.5%, 12.3% and 9.1% respectively. MPV transactions, meanwhile, declined by -7.5%, followed by luxury saloons (-3.4%) and upper mediums (-3.0%). Superminis (32.6%) remained the most popular used buy, followed by lower medium (26.6%) and dual purpose (14.0%), with these three segments accounting for more than seven in 10 (73.2%) of all cars finding new owners.
Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said,“With the new car market hampered by ongoing global supply shortages, growth in the used car market is welcome, if unsurprising especially given we were in lockdown last year.
“Electric car sales are energising the market, with zero emission vehicles starting to filter through in larger numbers to consumers looking forward to driving the latest and greenest vehicles.
“Although there is some way to go before we see the recent growth in new EVs replicated in the used market, a buoyant new car market will be vital to help drive fleet renewal which is essential to the delivery of carbon savings.”
James Fairclough, CEO of AA Cars, said the shortage of new cars and wide availability of second-hand models explained the sales boost for pre-owned models but added, “There are signs that the cost of living squeeze is helping tilt things in favour of used cars too. Inflationary pressures and a drumbeat of increasingly bleak economic news are leading many buyers to think carefully about big-ticket purchases like cars.”
Seán Kemple, Managing Director at Close Brothers Motor Finance, said, “Electric vehicle sales have doubled, with more and more people willing to make the switch to electric, which is why it remains key that the government, manufacturers, and charge point providers work together in providing competitive financial incentives to consumers and a better charging infrastructure to drive mass market change.
“Whilst the figures are promising for used car dealers, they must make sure they are responding to the demand and are doing their best to stock forecourts with the cars that customers want in a challenging landscape.”