New figures show used car sales fell by more than six percent this summer as supply shortages in the new car market began to bite. Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) showed a decline in the third quarter of 2021, but more than two million cars still changed hands.

According to the SMMT figures, 2,034,342 used cars were traded between July 1 and September 30 this year, down 6.2 percent on the same period in 2020. Despite the impacts of the coronavirus crisis, that period saw almost 2.17 million second-hand vehicles change hands.

The SMMT says the global chip shortage, which is damaging new car sales, has undermined the sector of late. With a reduction in supply, the organisation says prevailing conditions were always going to impact the used car market.

Used cars

However, the news isn’t all bad, because the SMMT’s data also shows a total of almost 5.9 million second-hand cars have been traded in 2021 so far, despite lockdown impacting sales during the first three months of the year. That figure represents a 16.4-percent increase compared with the first three quarters of 2020, when just over five million used cars were sold.

And demand for second-hand electric and plug-in hybrid cars has also grown, with used sales up by around 50 percent for both technologies. In total, more than 14,000 used electric cars were sold in the third quarter, while plug-in hybrid sales approached 15,000.

That means plug-in vehicles – either hybrid or full electric – now make up 1.4 percent of the second-hand market. That’s an increase from 0.9 percent in the third quarter of 2020. However, petrol and diesel are still much more popular, making up 96.4 percent of all transactions.

Mike Hawes, the SMMT’s chief executive, said the decline in overall sales was worrying because it could impact overall UK emissions as drivers struggle to access more modern technology.

“Despite the used car market declining in the third quarter, record sales earlier in the year, particularly in the second quarter, means the market remains up year to date,” he said. “Given the circumstances, with the global pandemic causing a shortage of semiconductors needed to produce new vehicles, undermining the new car market, used transactions were always going to suffer too. This is particularly worrying as fleet renewal – of both new and used [vehicles] – is essential if we are to address air quality and carbon emissions concerns.”

Happy woman customer in showroom sitting in car with salesman