Used car sales bounced back after lockdown, with demand for second-hand vehicles rising by 4.4 percent in the third quarter. That's according to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), which says the increase in demand is partly down to a lack of willingness to use public transport.

Growth was seen across the market, but demand for pre-owned plug-in vehicles was particularly strong. The number of electric cars changing hands rose 34.4 percent in the third quarter, while sales of used plug-in hybrid cars plug-in hybrid vehicles rose by 35.7 percent. Demand for conventional petrol and diesel cars grew by single-figure percentages, but those fuels still account for 97.4 percent of all used transactions.

Superminis such as the Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa were among the most popular models in the market, accounting for almost a third (32 percent) of transactions during the third quarter of 2020. However, the dual-purpose segment showed the largest percentage growth, rising 16.6 percent to clinch a 13-percent market share.

In total, more than two million used cars changed hands during the three months between July 1 and September 30. However, that was not enough to overturn the reduction in demand seen during the second quarter, much of which was spent in lockdown with garages forced to close.

As a result, just over five million pre-owned cars changed hands during the first nine months of 2020, down 17.5 percent compared with the figure seen at the same point in 2019. Between January 1 and September 30 last year, 6.1 million used cars were bought.

Used car sale keys handed over

And the SMMT is warning that the second English lockdown and the Welsh ‘firebreak’ will see sales remain down on last year’s results. The organisation is campaigning for the “swift re-opening of used car outlets”, claiming they are “generally spacious premises with outdoor areas” and pointing out such locations can accommodate social distancing more easily than other retail environments.

The SMMT also pointed out that opening dealers will help prevent continued “subdued activity” in the market, enabling the latest electric and low-emission cars to “filter through” to second owners.

Potential used car buyer inspecting door

“With England entering a fresh lockdown, and tighter Covid restrictions in place across the rest of the UK, the car is playing an even more important role in keeping society moving as public transport becomes less attractive for many,” said SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes.

“It is encouraging to see used car sales returned to growth but, as the pandemic continues and outlets in many areas are being made to close again, the short-term outlook is less positive. Given these premises are often proven to be Covid-secure, we need them to re-open quickly to protect vital jobs and ensure no further delay to the fleet renewal necessary to deliver environmental improvements.”

Used cars