The UK used car market grew slightly during the first three months of 2022, although it has not recovered to pre-pandemic levels. That’s according to new figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), which show more than 1.7 million used cars changed hands during the first quarter of the year.

In total, the SMMT recorded 1,774,351 transactions during the first three months of the year – an increase of 86,596, or 5.1 percent, compared with the same period last year. However, the coronavirus pandemic saw showrooms close their doors to customers for the first part of 2021, allowing only click-and-collect purchases.

Compared with pre-pandemic 2019, used car transactions were down by 12.2 percent despite the buoyancy of the market in January and February. The first two months of 2022 saw transactions increase by 17.7 and 7.4 percent respectively, while transactions were down by 6.8 percent in March.

Potential used car buyer inspecting door

It was a record quarter for used battery-electric vehicles, however, suggesting buyers are keen to get their hands on pre-owned zero-emission cars. Transactions for electric cars more than doubled compared with the same quarter last year, up from 6,625 transactions to 14,586 – an increase of 120.2 percent.

Similarly, the market for plug-in hybrids and hybrids was also buoyant, with plug-in hybrid transactions up by 35.3 percent to 14,433 across the first three months of the year. Sales of more conventional ‘self-charging’ hybrids also increased, albeit less dramatically, with transactions rising by 28.8 percent to top 35,000.

Mike Hawes, the SMMT’s chief executive, said the strength of the used car market was vital to drive vehicle renewals and therefore reduce the number of older and more polluting vehicles on the road.

“With the new car market hampered by ongoing global supply shortages, growth in the used car market is welcome, if unsurprising especially given we were in lockdown last year,” he said. “Electric car sales are energising the market, with zero emission vehicles starting to filter through in larger numbers to consumers looking forward to driving the latest and greenest vehicles. Although there is some way to go before we see the recent growth in new EVs replicated in the used market, a buoyant new car market will be vital to help drive fleet renewal which is essential to the delivery of carbon savings.”

Used cars