12 Used Car Sales Statistics in the UK (Updated in 2023)
Note: This article’s statistics come from third-party sources and do not represent the opinions of this website.
The vast majority of cars that are bought and sold in the UK every year are used cars, and the market is worth approximately £100 billion a year. Following the Covid lockdowns and the global shortage of semiconductors, both of which caused a reduction in the number of new cars being manufactured and sold, the used car market did experience a short-term bump.
However, more recent figures suggest that the increase has stalled, likely as a result of the same problems. Fewer new cars produced over the past 2 years means that there is less used car stock for potential buyers to choose from now. However, while most of the market is finding it difficult, there has been a boost in the number of electric vehicles sold.
Below are 12 statistics related to used car sales in the UK, including details of the most popular used cars and the market as a whole including:
The 12 Used Car Sales Statistics in the UK
- The used car market is worth approximately £100 billion a year.
- More than 80% of cars bought in the UK are used cars.
- The second quarter of 2022 saw a 19% decline in used car sales.
- 15% fewer used cars were sold in 2020 than in 2019.
- 12% more used cars were sold in 2021 than in 2020.
- The average household spent just over £1,000 on used cars and vans in 2021.
- The Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa, and Volkswagen Golf are the most popular second-hand cars.
- The price of a used 3-year-old car rose nearly 40% in 2021.
- The price of a used 5-year-old car rose nearly 50% in 2021.
- Black is the most popular colour for used car buyers.
- Ford is the most popular used car brand.
- More than double the number of used electric vehicles were sold in the first quarter of 2022.
The Used Car Market
1. The used car market is worth approximately £100 billion a year.
The most obvious benefit of buying a used car rather than a new car is affordability. Considering cars can lose approximately 50% of their value after 5 years of ownership, it means that buyers can get a reasonably new car at half the price it originally cost. Used cars also depreciate in value slower than brand-new cars.
However, it does mean that the buyer won’t get the latest features and upgrades and used cars are more likely to suffer mechanical problems. While the media reviews new cars, the used car market is worth approximately £100 billion a year in the UK.
2. More than 80% of cars bought in the UK are used cars.
In fact, 80% of all cars that are bought/sold every year in the UK are used cars rather than brand new. This means four times as many used cars are sold each year compared to new car sales.
3. The second quarter of 2022 saw a 19% decline in used car sales.
(Car Dealer Magazine)
The last few years have been extraordinary for the car market, both for new and used cars. Covid lockdowns restricted the manufacture of new cars and the sale of both new and used vehicles. It also led to a semiconductor shortage. Semiconductors are used in a huge number of electronic and electrical goods, including most cars, and their shortage led to a further reduction in the number of new cars produced.
While a lack of new cars initially helped the used car market, it now means that the stock of used cars is smaller than usual. The second quarter of 2022 saw a nearly 20% reduction in used car sales, partially as a result of this, although the figure does look inflated because it compares to the second quarter of 2021 when the lifting of the lockdown saw a huge boost in sales.
4. 15% fewer used cars were sold in 2020 than in 2019.
While 2020 saw the start of the Covid pandemic, the UK, like most countries around the world, endured months of total national lockdown. Not only did this mean that fewer cars were manufactured, but it meant that buyers were not able to visit showrooms (which were closed) and couldn’t buy any vehicles, whether new or used. As a result of this, the used car market saw 15% fewer sales in 2020 compared to 2019.
5. 12% more used cars were sold in 2021 than in 2020.
Although there were still some lockdowns in place in 2021, they didn’t last as long as those in 2020 and when they did occur, the restrictions were not as tight. Subsequently, and as a result of the lack of new cars in supply, used car sales rose 12% in 2021 compared to 2020. This meant that the year was still down on pre-pandemic levels but did give the market a much-needed boost.
Car Cost and Choices
6. The average household spent just over £1,000 on used cars and vans in 2021.
Taking into account the total amount spent on used cars and vans, the average UK household spent approximately £1,000 on used vehicles. Obviously, this includes households that didn’t buy used cars, which means that the average spent by used car-buying households would have been significantly higher.
7. The Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa, and Volkswagen Golf are the most popular second-hand cars.
(Car Dealer Magazine)
Small, reliable cars tend to be the most popular used car buys and the same models tend to appear at or near the top of the list. The most popular models last year were the Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa, and Volkswagen Golf. All three of these vehicles are hatchbacks.
8. The price of a used 3-year-old petrol car rose nearly 40% in 2021.
The lack of supply of new cars in 2021 meant that existing cars held their value much better. The average price of a used 3-year-old car in the UK was 40% higher in 2021 than the price of a similarly-aged vehicle in 2020. Used petrol engine cars rose 35% while diesels were 43% higher.
9. The price of a used 5-year-old petrol car rose nearly 50% in 2021.
It wasn’t just 3-year-old cars that saw such an increase. In fact, 5-year-old vehicles saw an even greater climb in prices, adding 50% to their value in the year. This time it was petrol engines that performed best. Their prices were 50% higher compared to diesels, which were 42% than the year before.
10. Black is the most popular colour for used car buyers.
(Car Dealer Magazine)
Roughly 1.6 million used cars sold were black, making this the most popular colour of used car. The second most popular colour in 2021 was silver, accounting for just over 1.2 million sales. Blue had slightly fewer sales and was the third most popular colour.
11. Ford is the most popular used car brand.
Looking at manufacturers, Ford was the most popular brand, helped by the fact that the Fiesta was the most popularly bought used car for the year. The Focus, Mondeo, S-Max, and Galaxy are among some of the marque’s other cars that tend to sell well in the used car market.
12. More than double the number of used electric vehicles were sold in the first quarter of 2022.
While most used car segments saw a drop in the second quarter of 2022, electric car sales increased. More than double the number of EVs were sold between April and June, but this still only represents a small percentage of the market.
Electric vehicles are still relatively new, which means there aren’t that many used EVs available, and their cost remains high, which explains the modest market share. However, new electric car sales have also risen, so with more stock of existing cars and the government’s pledge to prohibit the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2035, electric cars will likely pick up even more used car market share in the coming years.
Frequently Asked Questions About Used Car Sales
How big is the used car market?
In the UK, the used car market is worth approximately £100 billion a year and more than 80% of cars that change hands every year are used cars. Around 7.5 million used cars are sold in the UK each year.
Is there still a semiconductor shortage?
The semiconductor shortage affected a lot of industries, including the new car market. Although manufacturing has increased and the lead time to receive semiconductors has decreased, there is still a global shortage, and this is still hurting the automotive industry. In fact, Volvo recently announced it was having to shut one factory because of the shortage and Toyota has also said that it is struggling with supply. (The Register)
Can you get finance for a used car?
Yes. Finance isn’t just available on brand-new cars. Consumers can get finance for used cars and other used vehicles, too. Many used car showrooms offer finance directly, while high-street and other lenders can also offer car loans and car finance deals. Obviously, buying privately means that you will have to arrange finance independently, and this usually takes the form of a personal loan or credit card. (Experian)
Used cars cost less than new cars and they depreciate in value more slowly, but they do not offer access to the latest features and technology. The used car market did take a hit during the Covid pandemic, and it was also negatively affected by the global semiconductor shortage.
While the market looked as though it was recovering during the first quarter of 2022, it endured a very difficult second quarter, and experts do not believe there is enough time or supply for the market to recover enough to post a positive 2022, but the industry has its fingers crossed for a better 2023.