Superminis lead UK used car market growth of 5.1% in 2023

Superminis led the UK’s overall used car market growth of 5.1% in 2023, according to the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

The market segment accounted for nearly a third of all used cars sold out of 7.2 million transactions last year.

Four straight quarters of growth saw 351,915 more motorists get behind the wheel of a second hand car than in 2022 as the previous year’s supply constraints receded, delivering more choice to buyers.

Cars in the lower medium segment took over a quarter of the used car market (26.6%) and dual purpose vehicles took 15.2%. The smallest volume segment was luxury saloons, representing just 0.5% of transactions.

Paint it, black

Bucking the grey trend in the new market, black cars were the most popular used purchases, with more than 1.5 million buyers (21.4%) choosing the colour.

Grey, however, increased its ranking, displacing blue to take second place. At the niche end of the spectrum, 4,870 buyers opted for pink, while 4,686 cream cars found new owners, and maroon represented 4,585 transactions.

Across the year, sales of used battery electric cars (BEV) almost doubled, rising 90.9% to a record 118,973 units and a 1.6% share of the overall market, up from 0.9% in 2022.

The SMMT said the uplift is in line with growth in the new car sector and it said the figures “demonstrate keen demand for zero emission motoring in this naturally more affordable price bracket”.

Sales of hybrid electric and plug-in hybrid electric cars were also strong, up by 40.0% and 25.1% respectively and, collectively, electrified vehicles represented 5.6% of the market – up from 4.0% in 2022.

Diesel and petrol, however, remained the most dominant fuel types, with a total of 6,827,466 units changing hands – 94.3% of the overall market.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “A healthy new car market is key to driving choice in the used sector and it’s great to see record numbers of second and third owners benefitting from the growing availability of electric vehicles.

“The demand is there, but to sustain it we must enable every motorist to make the switch.

“The upcoming Budget is a prime opportunity for the Government to do just that – halving VAT on new EVs, while making public charging as easy and affordable as plugging in at home, would ensure a faster and fairer transition for all, giving the UK a green economic boost.”

Ford Fiesta 2016

unnamed 6 w555The ever popular Ford Fiesta, which the Blue Oval ended production of in June last year, led the used car market last year. Other superminis, hatchbacks and lower medium vehicles paint the picture of the most popular models in the market.

James Hosking, managing director of AA Cars, said the used car market was spurred on by a “powerful combination” of better stock levels, settling prices and strong demand.

He said: “With household budgets still under pressure from the rising cost of living and high interest rates, many drivers who need to replace their car are looking to the value of the used market.

“Many will be pleasantly surprised by the value for money that cooling prices are bringing to the second-hand market.”

The latest AA Cars Used Car Index showed that the average price of the UK’s most popular used cars fell by 3.3% in the final three months of 2023 compared to the previous year. 

Hosking added: “Electric vehicles – though still only accounting for a small percentage of used sales overall – are increasingly making their presence felt on the used car market, reaching record levels.

“Greater availability of second-hand EVs and hybrids continues to improve choice for drivers and push down prices, helping sales grow by 90.9% on an annual basis.

“However, while the cost of some used EVs remains high compared to their petrol and diesel counterparts, more incentives may be needed in the future to persuade cash-strapped consumers to go electric. Speeding up the rollout of the charging network will also help convince drivers that now is the time to switch.” 

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