Used sales in 2017 were down just 1.1% year on year and more diesels changed hands, but fourth quarter declined by 5.1%
Jimi Beckwith
14 February 2018

The UK used car market remained buoyant in 2017, with a decline of just 1.1% across the year and 8.1 million cars changing hands. 

The apparent stability across the year was marred by a sharp 5.1% decline in the fourth quarter, in line with the 5.7% decline in new car sales across the year. 

The fourth-quarter results could be a forecast of things to come; the used car market is usually a few months behind the new market in responding to trends and changes. Automotive analyst Cap HPI recorded a drop in used car values of 1.1% in December, indicating greater stability in the market; values declined by 1.6% the previous December. 

Cap HPI Black Book senior editor James Dower said: “Historically, used car activity starts to improve after the Christmas period and values begin to strengthen. The used car market is likely to increase in volume due to the historic levels of new car registrations but, with the decline in new car volume, this should have a stabilising effect.”

Used car transactions involving diesels rose 3.3% over 2016, indicating both a keenness of owners to shift them, but also a prevalence of buyers willing to take them on. 

Used electric vehicle sales passed 10,000 for the first time - a 77.1% increase on 2016, while the alternatively fuelled vehicle market grew by 21.3% overall. 

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes warned that things might not remain so buoyant without the correct steps from authorities. “While such healthy demand is reassuring, to keep it that way and accelerate renewal throughout the fleet – the fastest way to improve air quality – government must now restore confidence to the new car sector,” he said.

“Given the recent economic and fiscal uncertainty, particularly over diesel, consumers and businesses need clarity to encourage them to move out of their older vehicles and into newer, lower-emissions cars – whatever their fuel type.”

Despite the uncertainty, these figures are the second-best annual results recorded for the used car market, with 2016 marking the high point on record. Hatchbacks maintained their dominance, with the Ford Fiesta mirroring its top-selling new car position on the used market, while the Ford Focus was second and the Vauxhall Corsa third. Six of the top 10 best-selling used cars of last year were superminis

Also mirroring the new car market, SUVs were a fast-growing segment, with a 9.5% jump in demand for the models. Executive cars remained stable year on year, while all other segments declined. 

Read more

Used car buying guides

Autumn Budget 2017: diesel tax hike confirmed

The death of diesel? Not if commonsense can prevail

Ten affordable future classics on the used car market right now

Our Verdict

Mini Cooper S

Now in its third generation, we find out if the bigger, cleverer and more mature Mini can still entertain like it predecessors did

Join the debate


14 February 2018

..... count as the completion of a new car sales or a used car sale?

Steam cars are due a revival.

14 February 2018
Thekrankis wrote:

..... count as the completion of a new car sales or a used car sale?

Could you sue yourself for not declaring it was a lease car that could've had multiple users?

14 February 2018

change of ownership not  first registered

14 February 2018
I think Vauxhall may sell more used cars than new.

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Honda Civic Type R
    First Drive
    19 February 2018
    It’s a warm welcome to this steaming hot hatch. But is it too fiery for Britain’s roads?
  • Aston Martin DB11 Volante
    The DB11 Volante chassis' torsional rigidity is 22kN/deg, down from 34kN/deg on the coupe – but substantially more than the 14.7kN/deg of the DB9 Volante
    First Drive
    19 February 2018
    The DB11 Volante is the first convertible variant of Aston Martin's new model generation. How does it compare to the likes of the new Ferrari Portofino?
  • BMW 6 Series Gran Turismo front
    The new BMW 6 Series Gran Turismo
    First Drive
    16 February 2018
    The top-of-the-line 6 Series Gran Turismo has arrived in the UK, but does a more potent engine increase its unusual appeal?
  • Audi TT RS Coupé
    First Drive
    16 February 2018
    The Audi TT RS has the looks, a vociferous engine and the supercar-baiting performance, but is it too uncompromising to use as a daily driver?
  • Range Rover Velar front quarter
    The new Range Rover Velar P300 features a four-cylinder petrol engine
    First Drive
    16 February 2018
    JLR’s most powerful four-pot isn’t the engine the Velar truly wants but perhaps the one that makes most sense