The UK’s used car market suffered substantially during the pandemic in 2020, with sales down nearly 15% year on year for the worst performance since 2012. 

A total of 6,752,959 used cars changed hands throughout 2020, compared with 7,935,105 in 2019, according to figures released today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). That’s a 14.9% fall overall. 

There was signs of growth during the summer when lockdown measures eased across most of the UK, but used car market activity dropped off 18.3% and 4.2% year on year in November and December respectively as restrictions were tightened again.

Superminis remained the most popular used cars, the SMMT says, with 2.2 million shifted. 

There is some positivity to be taken from the rise in sales of used alternatively fuelled vehicles – up 5.2% on 2019.

Battery electric vehicles increased by 29.7% to 19,184, although that figure was just 0.3% of total market activity. Hybrid and plug-in hybrid sales both rose around 5%, while diesel and petrol transactions declined 15.5 and 15.2% respectively. 

SMMT chief Mike Hawes said: “These figures are yet more evidence of the significant damage coronavirus has caused the automotive sector.

“Market growth at the start of the year was welcome but quickly stifled by the first lockdown as showrooms closed across the country – a picture that was repeated with the subsequent lockdowns in November and indeed into 2021.

“The priority now must be to allow car showrooms to reopen as soon as restrictions are eased. This will not only help the used market recover – supporting jobs and livelihoods and providing individuals with the personal mobility they need at a time when guidance is against using public or shared transport – but it will also enable the latest and cleanest vehicles to filter through to second owners and keep society moving.”

The Ford Fiesta retained the individual model top spot for used sales, with 289,847 transactions made. Black, silver and blue cars were the the most popular, with 1.4 million examples of the former changing hands. 


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