Used car sales fall 15% in 2020 in pandemic

The UK used car market declined in 2020, down -14.9% according to the latest figures released today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

A total of 6,752,959 used car transactions took place, 1,182,146 fewer than in 2019.

This made 2020 the lowest performing year since 2012 as lockdown measures to tackle the pandemic hit sales.

With lockdown in place, sales declined -18.3% in November. December saw a sales decline of -4.2%.

Combined Q4 transactions fell by -6.2% to 1,693,138, rounding off a tough year for the sector.

Alternatively, fuelled vehicles (AFVs) bucked the trend, however, with 144,225 of these models sold during the year, an increase of 5.2%, with their market share rising to 2.1%.

Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) saw their transactions increase by 29.7% to 19,184 units, but still only a fraction of all activity at 0.3%.

The market for hybrids (HEVs) also rose, by 4.7%, while demand for plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) fell by -5%. Used diesel and petrol car transactions also fell, by -15.5% and -15.2% respectively.

Last year all used car segments experienced declines, however superminis remained the most popular choice with 2.2 million units purchased, accounting for 32% of all transactions.

Lower medium cars were the next most traded segment, with 1.8 million sales to take 27.0% market share. Luxury Saloon (-5.8%), dual purpose (-7.2%) and specialist sports (-8.4%) saw more modest declines with a combined 1,084,504 transactions.    

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, 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 re-open 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.”