Used car market rallies in 2021

The UK’s used car market grew by 11.5% to 7,530,956 transactions in 2021, according to the latest figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

It found that 777,997 more cars changed hands than in 2020, a year which was even more badly affected by Covid lockdowns and unsettled consumer and business confidence. However, despite this growth, the 2021 performance was still 5.5% below the pre-pandemic five-year average.

Quarter four rounded off a volatile year for the market, with transactions falling by 3.1% to just over 1.6 million, as semiconductor shortages impacting new car sales in the second half of the year squeezed supply of stock into the used market.

Annual demand for battery electric (BEV) and plug-in hybrid electric (PHEVs) vehicles hit record levels, growing by 119.2% and 75.6% to 40,228 and 56,861 transactions respectively. Hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) transactions also rose by 50.3% to 137,639, a new high.

Used petrol and diesel powertrain transactions, meanwhile, increased by 10.7% and 9.8% respectively, with a combined 7,277,291 units changing hands.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “It’s good to see the used car market return to growth, even if activity is still below where we were pre-pandemic. With the global shortage of semiconductors set to ease later this year, releasing the squeeze on new car supply, we expect more of the latest, cleanest and zero emission models to become available for second owners. The demand for personal mobility has undoubtedly increased during the pandemic, so it’s vital we have healthy new car sales to drive fleet renewal and the used car market if we are to improve air quality and address climate change.”