Used car sales in the UK suffer a drop in Q1 2018

16 May 2018

16 May 2018

The UK’s used car market has posted a decline in the first quarter of 2018, as sales of alternatively fuelled vehicles (AFVs) showed a strong rise.

A total of 2,031,611 vehicles changed hands during the first three months of the year, down 4.8% on the same period in 2017. The data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) still marked the third highest Q1 level on record.

Petrol vehicle sales dropped by 9.7% in the quarter, while diesel vehicles continued their upward trend, growing 2%. As vehicles registered before April 2017 still receive kinder rates of vehicle excise duty (VED), the increase in this market highlights the effect that new VED rates brought in last year is having on diesel sales.

The rise may also be in part to the market being flooded with diesel vehicles, as fleets look to switch to petrol or hybrid models and private buyers making the same move. The diesel market grew rapidly between 2000 and 2015, leading the UK new car sales figures for a number of years.

Growth in alternatives

The data also shows that AFV sales, which include hybrid, plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and electric vehicles (EVs), surging in popularity amongst used car buyers, increasing sales by 15.9% with 24,697 vehicles selling between January and March 2018.

In particular, zero-emission electric cars enjoyed a surge in popularity, with demand rising 33.8% to 2,927 units, followed by hybrids, which rose 14.1%. Together they represented 1.2% of all used car transactions in the quarter, while petrol-fuelled models took a 55.9% market share and diesel 42.8%.

The growth in EV sales could be representative of consumer appetite for the market which, in the new car sector. is beset by high prices as the technology still requires high development costs. Once prices come down, it is likely that the market will surge forward, especially as manufacturers add to their model portfolios. The numbers also suggest that fears over battery life are yet to materialise.

Elsewhere, trends closely followed the new car market, with black gaining ground to overtake silver/aluminium as the favourite used car colour, and blue, grey and white making up the rest of the top five. Superminis continued to be the most popular body type, followed by lower and upper medium, and then dual purpose, which enjoyed the fastest growth in Q1, up 12.8%, with more than 206,500 changing hands.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes comments: ′Despite the overall decline in demand, the UK’s used car sector remains at a very high level, and it’s great to see millions of consumers benefitting from some of the latest, safest and cleanest models now filtering into the market. To maintain this choice and make the fastest possible improvements to air quality, we need stability in the new car market. That means giving consumers confidence to trade in their older cars for the best new, low emission model to suit their needs – whatever the fuel type.’