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Demand for used petrol and diesel cars holds steady as plug-in vehicle interest rockets

The UK’s used car market remained steady in 2019, with continued demand for used petrol and diesel cars and fast-rising interest in alternatively fuelled vehicles.

Honda CR-V Hybrid

The used car market saw demand for alternatively fuelled vehicles rise 23.4% in 2019

The figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show a total of 7,935,105 transactions took place in the year, down 0.1% or 9,935 units on 2018, with a stronger second half of the year balancing out earlier declines in Q1 and Q2.

Both used petrol and diesel cars continued to see demand, with petrol sales down 0.3% to 4,494,611 transactions while diesel sales declined 0.6% to 3,297,953, giving a 41.7% market share.

Contrasting this, sales of used alternatively fuelled vehicles (hybrid, plug-in hybrid and battery electric) were up 23.4%, with 135,516 changing hands and accounting for 1.7% of all sales.

Reflecting trends in the new car market, superminis remained the most popular used buy, maintaining their 2018 performance and taking a 32.8% market share. The lower medium and upper medium segments were the next most popular, taking 27.0% and 11.8% of sales respectively, but down 0.8% and 5.8%.

Black was the most popular option for used cars in 2019, up 1.4% to 1.6 million sales, followed by silver and blue. Grey came in fourth place with 1.1 million sales, but its popularity is expected to rise in the future after having become the top new car colour for the second year running in 2019.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said the return to growth in the latter part of 2019 was encouraging but added that new car sales need to rebound similarly to help meet environmental targets.

He added: “A buoyant used car market is necessary to maintain strong residual values and, clearly, it is now outperforming the new car market. This does, however, suggest that weak consumer confidence and ongoing uncertainty over possible future restrictions on different vehicle technologies are causing some car buyers to hold off buying new models. This is delaying the fleet renewal we need now if we are to deliver immediate and continuous improvement in air quality and climate change.”

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for 16 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. As Business Editor, Natalie ensures the group websites and newsletters are updated with the latest news.