9 February 2021

The UK’s used car market slipped 14.9% in 2020, compounding an already dismal year for the motor industry, new figures have revealed this morning.

Transactions of second-hand motors fell to 6,752,959 cars – down 1,182,146 on 2019 sales, making it the lowest performing year since 2012, according to the the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

The trade body said lockdown measures to tackle the coronavirus pandemic and ‘turbulent consumer and business confidence’ had dented sales of both new and used vehicles.

With car registrations also plunging by almost 30 per cent last year, it means motor dealers sold 1.9 million fewer vehicles in total than the 12 months previous.

Last month, the SMMT revealed the huge toll of the Covid-19 pandemic on showrooms, with registrations of new motors falling from 2.31 million in 2019 to just 1.63 million in 2020 – the biggest year-on-year decline since the Second World War and a 28-year low in terms of total sales.

It described 2020 as a ‘lost year for automotive’ that has cost the UK motor industry £20 billion and led to a £1.9 billion loss in tax to the Treasury.

Mike Hawes, chief executive at the industry body, said today’s figures were “yet more evidence of the significant damage coronavirus has caused the automotive sector”.

He added: “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.”


Despite eight-year low sales of used cars, superminis remained the most popular second-hand vehicles with 2.2million purchased, accounting for a third of all sales last year.

The Ford Fiesta was the most bought used motor, with 289,847 changing hands last year.

As for the most popular colours, black (1.4 million), silver (1.2 million) and blue (1.1 million) cars were purchased in the greatest numbers.

The trade body also said there had been a rise in sales of used alternatively fuelled vehicles; demand grew 5.2 per cent on 2019 as more of these low-emission cars are beginning to appear on the used market.

Sales of battery electric vehicles increased by 29.7 per cent, though just 19,184 second-hand examples bought represents a mere 0.3 per cent of the total market activity.

Hybrid and plug-in hybrid sales both rose around 5 per cent, while diesel and petrol transactions declined 15.5 per cent and 15.2 per cent respectively, mirroring new car registrations.

Source: SMMT and Thisismoney