Currently reading: Used car sales held firm in 2019, helped by EV market growth
Used car sales declined by just 0.1% last year, amid end-of-year growth and the rising popularity of electrified cars

The UK's used car market held steady in 2019, helped by an increase of sales in the second half of last year and a substantial rise in demand for electrified cars.

A total of 7,935,105 used cars were bought last year, according to data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) – just 9935 short of 2018. The 0.1% decline was aided by two quarters of growth in the second half of last year.

The bulk of those sales were petrol-engined cars, the 4,494,611 sold down 0.3% on 2018. Contrasting with the new car market, used diesel sales dipped by just 0.6% year on year. 

Sales of used alternatively fuelled vehicles – including hybrids, plug-in hybrids and fully electric cars – rose by 23.4% to 135,516, although that accounted for just 1.7% of all sales. Of those vehicles, 14,112 were full EVs, up 21.8% year on year.

While 2019 marked the third consecutive year of decline in the used car market, it was still the fourth-highest year on record. The data also shows that used car prices remained strong in 2019, with the average transaction price rising 0.6% to £12,800.

SMMT boss Mike Hawes said: “It is encouraging to see used car sales return to growth in the latter part of 2019 after a prolonged period of decline, and we need to see a similar rebound in new car sales if we are to meet environmental targets.

“A buoyant used car market is necessary to maintain strong residual values and, clearly, it is now outperforming the new car market. This does, however, suggest that weak consumer confidence and ongoing uncertainty over possible future restrictions on different vehicle technologies are causing some car buyers to hold off buying new models.”

What people are buying: Ford Fiesta leads supermini charge

The Ford Fiesta, the most popular new car in the UK last year, was also the most popular used buy, with 351,767 changing hands. The Vauxhall Corsa (299,791) was second, narrowly ahead of the Ford Focus (293,276). The Volkswagen Golf (260,344) and Vauxhall Astra (243,746) completed the top five.

Superminis were again the most popular type of used car bought, accounting for 32.8% of all sales. The most popular colour of used car bought was black – accounting for 1.6 million sales – ahead of silver and blue. Grey, the most popular used car colour in 2018, dropped to fourth last year. But with grey the most popular colour for new cars bought in 2019, used sales will be likely to increase in the future.

According to the SMMT, pink was the fastest-growing choice of 2019; the 5098 pink cars sold represented a 14.2% year-on-year increase.

The south-east was the biggest region for used car sales, with 1,169,130 sold in it, ahead of the north-west and West Midlands.


New car registrations fell for third consecutive year in 2019

Grey is the favourite new car colour in 2019

UK new diesel sales hit 20-year low in January 2020


James Attwood

James Attwood, digital editor
Title: Acting magazine editor

James is Autocar's acting magazine editor. Having served in that role since June 2023, he is in charge of the day-to-day running of the world's oldest car magazine, and regularly interviews some of the biggest names in the industry to secure news and features, such as his world exclusive look into production of Volkswagen currywurst. Really.

Before first joining Autocar in 2017, James spent more than a decade in motorsport journalist, working on Autosport,, F1 Racing and Motorsport News, covering everything from club rallying to top-level international events. He also spent 18 months running Move Electric, Haymarket's e-mobility title, where he developed knowledge of the e-bike and e-scooter markets. 

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LP in Brighton 12 February 2020

Who would have thought it?

Britain's top selling new car over the last decade is also the top selling new car. Diesel sales remained strong simply because a great number have been built over the years - and alternative fuel sale were low simply because not many have been built. These figures are really just a statement of the obvious, that the used car market is driven by supply and that every new car sold (or pre-registered) simply causes knock on sales of three or four new ones.