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UK used car market down in 2018 but diesel and ULEV demand rises

The used car market fell 2.1% in 2018 but demand for ultra low emission vehicles was up while diesels remained popular.

Sales of used hybrid, plug-in hybrid and battery electric cars rose 27% last year

The new figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show the market dropped to 7,945,040 transactions in 2018 – 167,980 sales lower than in 2017 – following a 0.7% decline in Q4. Despite this, the market was still the third highest year on records going back to 2001 and fared better than the new car market, which saw a 6.8% decline in registrations last year.

Sales of hybrid, plug-in hybrid and battery electric cars rose 27% to 106,658 while petrol sales were down 4.2% and diesels held steady with a 0.3% increase – this counters the trends in the new car market where diesels fell 29.6% last year while petrol was up 8.7%.

While superminis remained the largest segment grouping in 2018 with a 33% market share, sales were down 3.7% to 2,618,544. Growth in sales of larger vehicles supported the used market in the year, with dual purpose and executive cars up 9.3% and 2.3% respectively. All other segments recorded falls over the period.

Black cars remained a favourite among used buyers, followed by silver and blue, maintaining a 59% market share between the top three.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “It’s encouraging to see more used car buyers snapping up low-emission vehicles as supply grows – but those sales remain low as an overall proportion of the market. We still need the right policies and incentives from government to give new car buyers confidence to choose the cleanest petrol, diesel and electric models that best suit their needs, so that even more drivers can benefit from this exciting technology as it filters down to the used market in the coming years.”

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for nearly 20 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.