Used car sales surge to ‘best ever’ levels and these are the most in-demand models

New car shortage and surge in commuter demand helps drive up second-hand prices

Wednesday, 11th August 2021, 10:58 am
Used car sales have performed strongly since lockdown ended

Used car sales have risen significantly in the second quarter of 2021 as new car registrations struggle.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said that figures for May and June were the best on record as the industry recovered from the effects of lockdown.

According to the SMMT’s latest data, 2.17 million used cars were sold in the second quarter of the year, more than double the figures for 2020 when lockdown forced dealers to close, and up 6.6 per cent compared with pre-pandemic levels.

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Used car sales have rallied while new vehicle registrations have continued to struggle

Data from used car sellers show that prices have also risen, with some used models selling for more than brand-new versions.

A combination of drivers returning to normal activities, more people choosing to drive rather than use public transport and supply problems in the new car market is thought to be behind the remarkable recovery of the used car trade.

New car registrations in July were down 30 per cent on July last year and 22 per cent on the decade's average. Much of that has been blamed on dealer staff shortages caused by the “pingdemic” and global parts supply problems which have forced some companies to limit production.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said this had helped drive the uplift in second-hand car sales. He commented: “More motorists are turning to used cars as supply shortages continue to affect the new car market, and the increased need for personal mobility with people remaining wary of public transport as they return to work.”

Jim Holder, editorial director of What Car?, added: “The microchip shortage has pushed many new car waiting times beyond six months and prompted a number of new car buyers to switch to the used market. What Car?’s own research in June found 29 per cent had originally been in the market for a new car, but switched to the used sector in search for better stock availability and prices.”

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Ian Plummer, commercial director at Auto Trader, said the site had seen a marked increase in prices for used cars. He said: “Following the reopening of physical forecourts in April we saw a dramatic surge in traffic to our marketplace up 41 per cent and 36 per cnet on 2020 and 2019 respectively.

“Coupled with used car supply challenges, this demand has sent used prices rocketing, up from an already significant 7.1 per cent year-on-year increase in April to 11.1 per cent in June. This steep trajectory has continued, and as of July, prices are tracking at over 14 per cent.”

Auto Trader also identified the used models most in demand with buyers, with Volkswagen, Mercedes and BMW dominating the list.

The evergreen Volkswagen Golf attracted more than 12.5m searches in quarter 2, 1.2m more than the Mercedes C-Class and three million more than the BMW 3 Series. The rival E-Class and 5 Series and A-Class and 1 Series were more sought after than the Ford Focus, Range Rover Sport and Audi A3, which rounded out the top 10 most searched for models.

SMMT data showed that while buyers searched most for those models, the Ford Fiesta was still the most sold used car, ahead of the Vauxhall Corsa, Ford Focus and VW Golf.

Some models have even seen used values exceed new list price as drivers struggle to find the car they want. Models from Land Rover, which has been forced to cut production at its Castle Bromley site due to component shortages, are being advertised for up to 23 per cent more. According to Auto Trader data, some used versions of the Defender are selling for £13,500 more than the current new list price. Toyota’s hard-to-find GR Yaris is also selling for up to 20 per cent more on the second-hand market.