Demand for used cars was down by 2.8 percent in the second quarter of 2019.

The number of used cars sold fell by almost three percent during the second quarter of 2019, despite increased demand for hybrids.

Figures released this week by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) revealed that just over two million used cars changed hands between the beginning of April and the end of June. That’s down 2.8 percent on the same period in 2018, when a little under 2.1 million used cars changed hands.

Interestingly, the demand in the used sector is following slightly different patterns to the new car market, where diesel cars are heavily out of favour. Used car buyers, however, are more positive about diesel, with sales down by just 2.5 percent. Demand for petrol-powered cars, meanwhile, fell by 3.7 percent.

Salesperson shaking hands with customer in dealership showroom

However, both new and used car buyers are becoming more likely to buy hybrid cars. Almost 33,500 hybrids, plug-in hybrids and electric cars changed hands in the second quarter of 2019 - up by almost a quarter (24.8 percent) compared with the same time last year. However, despite that growth, these electrified vehicles only make up 1.7 percent of all used car sales.

Mike Hawes, the SMMT’s chief executive, said the market was suffering from the current political and economic climate, and a Brexit deal could stimulate growth.

“With the country still gripped by economic and political uncertainty it’s perhaps unsurprising to see the used car market slowing down,” he said. “This means owners are often holding on to their cars for longer, delaying the widespread introduction of the latest, cleanest models which is not good for air quality. We need a boost to consumer confidence, something that a Brexit deal would deliver, to improve the fortunes of the industry and the wider economy.”

Car sales agreement with key exchanging hands

But James Fairclough, the CEO of used car website AA Cars, was slightly more positive, saying the market was generally proving “resilient” despite the political turmoil.

“Two successive falls in used car sales is a disappointing result for the first half of 2019, but there is still plenty of time to reverse this trend,” he said. “By and large, the used car market has proved resilient in the face of political uncertainty, and the modest 2.8% fall in sales offers some reassurance that it is holding steady on the whole.

“There are positives to find, including the continued growth in sales of alternatively fuelled vehicles. As the availability of used electric and hybrid cars improves, increasing numbers of environmentally-conscious buyers are being tempted to see what’s on offer on dealers’ forecourts. The combination of strong demand and tight supply is helping these green cars retain their value well, and giving buyers an added incentive to seek them out.”

Toyota Prius