Although supply shortages and reduced demand may be impacting the new car sector, it seems the used car market is in fine fettle. According to new figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), more than 2.1 million used cars changed hands during the second quarter of 2021.

Unsurprisingly, that figure was more than twice as high as in the second quarter of 2020, when forecourts were closed because of the coronavirus lockdown. However, there were more second-hand car sales recorded between the beginning of April and the end of June 2021 than during the same part of any other year in history.

April saw predictable growth of more than 300 percent compared with the same month in 2020, while May and June saw the market perform better than at any other point in history. The SMMT says the increases have tracked the country’s “gradual emergence” from lockdown.

Potential used car buyer inspecting door

The news follows further SMMT data that suggests supply issues caused by the global semiconductor shortage have impacted the new car market hugely. In July, new car sales were down by almost 30 percent compared with the same month in 2020, and down 22.3 percent compared with the month’s average performance over the past decade.

However, the SMMT says some of the demand in the used market could be coming from customers unable to get hold of a new car. With increasing demand for personal mobility after the coronavirus pandemic and stock shortages in the new car market, the organisation claims some customers are “forced” to turn to used vehicles.

Used car market stronger than ever as August sales beat previous records

As is the case in the new car industry, the SMMT says there’s increasing demand for electric vehicles among used car buyers. Sales of battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles more than tripled during the second quarter of 2021.

That said, these plug-in vehicles still represent a tiny proportion of the cars on UK roads and they made up just 1.3 percent of all second-hand cars sold between April and June this year. The SMMT says uptake is still some way behind the new car market, and moving the UK’s vehicles away from fossil fuels is a “significant” challenge.

“This is welcome news for the used car market as transactions rebounded following nationwide lockdowns which closed retailers,” said SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes. “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.

“A buoyant used car market is necessary to maintain strong residual values which, in turn, supports new car transactions. We now need to see a similar rebound in new car sales to accelerate the fleet renewal necessary to deliver immediate and continuous improvements in air quality and carbon emissions.”