Used car sales fall to lowest level since 2012

Last year saw 6.75 million used cars change hands – 14.9 per cent fewer than in 2019 – with Covid-19 lockdowns impacting the market

Used car sales in the UK fell by 14.9 per cent in 2020 as a result of coronavirus lockdowns closing showrooms and denting consumer confidence. A total of 6,752,959 used cars changed hands, down from 7,935,105 in 2019, the worst year for the market since 2012.

The used car market wasn’t in bad shape for the whole year – October saw a 3.7 per cent rise in sales and this was the fourth consecutive month of growth, according to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). It was followed by year-on-year declines of 18.3 per cent and 4.2 per cent in November and December, though, as new lockdown restrictions came into force.

  • January new car sales at lowest level since 1970

Alternatively fuelled vehicles managed to buck the downward trend, with sales increasing 5.2 per cent to 144,225 in 2020, giving them a market share of 2.1 per cent. Used electric cars saw a 29.7 per cent rise in popularity, but still only accounted for 0.3 per cent of the market. Demand for conventional hybrids rose 4.7 per cent, but sales of used plug-in hybrids fell by five per cent.

As for petrol and diesel cars, used sales of these were down 15.2 per cent and 15.5 per cent respectively. The most popular used car colour was black, followed by silver and blue. Grey – the most popular new car colour in 2020 – only came fourth on the used market.

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT, commented: “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 priority now must be to allow car showrooms to re-open as soon as restrictions are eased. 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.”

Check out the best-selling cars in the UK here…

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