UK used car sales fall moderately in 2018

13 February 2019

13 February 2019

The UK used car market finished 2018 slightly down on the previous twelve months, although not as severely as new car registrations.

According to the latest figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), a total of 7,945,040 transactions occurred in 2018, down 2.1%. The performance was 167,980 sales lower than 2017, and was still the third highest year on record, going back to 2001, according to the society. Over the final three months of 2018, the used car market fell by 0.7% with 1,762,493 units sold.

While sales of used petrol vehicles declined by 4.2%, diesel vehicles performed well compared to the sale of new models, with a modest increase of 0.3% compared to 2017. In 2018, new diesel sales fell 29.6% to record a market share of just 31.7%, while in January the fuel recorded its 22nd consecutive month of decline. While demonisation in the media continues, the performance of used diesel continues to suggest it is the increased taxation on new models that is denting registrations.

The majority of the growth came from the sale of used hybrid, plug-in hybrid (PHEV), and electric vehicles (EV), which rose by 27% in the year, although this only accounted for 106,658 units or 1.3% of the total number of used car sales in 2018.

While superminis remained the largest segment grouping in 2018 with a 33% market share, sales were down 3.7% to 2,618,544. Growth in sales of larger vehicles supported the used market in the year, with dual purpose and executive cars up 9.3% and 2.3% respectively. All other segments recorded falls over the period.

Ford dominated the used car market, taking the top two spots with its Fiesta and Focus respectively. The Vauxhall Corsa came next, followed by the Volkswagen Golf.

Black cars remained a favourite among used buyers, with more than 1.6 million of them changing hands during the year. Silver and blue were the next most popular colours, maintaining a 59% market share for the top three colours. Current new-car favourite grey could only manage fourth place in the used car market, which will surely change over the next few years as supply filters through to buyers. Orange showed the strongest growth of all colours during the year, up 9.7%, as 46,416 buyers opted for the bright hue. Meanwhile, green cars fell in favour, with used sales dropping 16.6% to 202,561 units.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said, ′It’s encouraging to see more used car buyers snapping up low-emission vehicles as supply grows – but those sales remain low as an overall proportion of the market. We still need the right policies and incentives from government to give new car buyers confidence to choose the cleanest petrol, diesel and electric models that best suit their needs, so that even more drivers can benefit from this exciting technology as it filters down to the used market in the coming years.’