Currently reading: James Ruppert: The stats say the used market is thriving - but we already knew
AA Cars' new survey reveals 74% of recently bought vehicles are used ones. No wonder when there's so much choice
5 mins read
19 November 2019

Drivers are now three times as likely to buy a used car over a new model.’ I think we get told this every year, when in fact this section of Autocar reminds you every single week that the thinking car buyer always takes the used option.

In this case, the non-revelation comes from a survey by AA Cars. Anyway, as our jumping-off point, let’s use this fascinating stat: 74% of drivers said their most recent vehicle purchase was of a used one.

According to AA Cars, 29% of those surveyed had bought a ‘nearly new’ car most recently. Actually that is a pretty sensible buy, whatever your definition is – be it a dealer demo, a pre-registered or a fresh-off-the-hire-fleet special. There is a lot of choice around.

We’ll look at 2019 vehicles, and I would be happy enough with 11,000 miles, which leads us to a Mini 1.5 Cooper Sport II. That costs £14,499, which is a saving of £5500 on the new price, plus it comes with over £500 worth of extras. This car was at a supermarket and they offer a three-month warranty, but you would still have the balance of the manufacturer’s one anyway.

Then again, I love a dealer demo and I really love the look of the current Volkswagen Polo. So a 1.0 TSI 115 R Line with 1000 miles at £18,990 isn’t a giveaway, but it was parked at a VW dealer. Starts to sound like a lot for a Polo, but it should do 45mpg and, as I’ve said, it looks the part.

Instead of a small hatch, why not a great big estate car for less than ex-demo Polo money? I’m back at a supermarket and looking at a Vauxhall Insignia 2.0 Turbo D SRi VX-line Nav estate. Blimey, names are long, but what a great-looking stuff-hauler. This one had 10,000 miles and everything you would ever need as standard, as well as quite cool black alloys. Plus 50mpg on average and a massive load bay. All that for £17,999.

Back at the car buying survey, there’s a solid 25% who bought used cars that are more than five years old. Those wanting a Mini, and many do, would only have to pay £6900 for a 2013 1.2 One. It’s got 42,000 miles, has a full history, black alloy wheels and Bluetooth, so as good as the nearly new one. Or how about a 2013 Polo 1.2 TDI BlueMotion with 69,000 miles for £4400? It will do almost 60mpg and that seems like a more credible price for a VW supermini.


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No point listing 2013 Insignias – there are millions of them and they have six-figure mileages. But, hey, a 2.0 CDTi Ecoflex Design Sport Tourer with 107k miles is £3800.

Here’s the proof, then, that used cars are brilliant: they give you a ton of alternatives and deliver value for money whether nearly new or five years old.

What we almost bought this week

Mazda RX-8: If you like checking your engine oil, an RX-8 could be the car of your dreams. The 1.3-litre rotary motor loves a drink so be prepared to top it up every 1000 miles or so with Dexelia 5W-30 or 10W-40 semi-synthetic. We found a 2005-reg with full service history and 70,000 miles for £975. A compression test would be a good idea.

Tales from Ruppert's garage

Porsche Cayenne – mileage 104,462: Here you go – the Flying Pig lives to spend yet another year climate-changing the planet with its marginal fuel consumption. It sailed through the MOT with zero advisories, which is what you want with a massively complicated car like this. I asked my garage to do a minor service, so that was just oil and filters, but including the roadworthiness check it still came to £200. Never mind, that’s Porsche life. Also part of that life is making a trip to a Porker main dealer for some recall work. It’s a half-day adventure for me and I’ll tell you about the Flying Pig’s progress very soon.

Reader's ride

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Jaguar S-Type: Julian at Balance Motorsport has shared this astounding S-Type project with us: “Japanese car fans would be horrified at the home the Civic Type R seats have found themselves in. The V6 has an incredibly broad power range and will pull from 1000rpm right up to 7000rpm. Due to a modified exhaust and air intake, it sounds a bit like a Ferrari GTO when driven hard. The eventual aim is to add a light pressure turbo and some aero appendages. It weighs 1400kg and we have more weight reduction planned.”

Readers' questions

Question: How has Alvis made its ancient engines ULEZ compliant with just fuel injection and engine management (Autocar, 2 October)? Adam Tedder, via email

Answer: Alvis would call it good engineering. The company hired a combustion expert who said the cylinder head was a perfect design in terms of flow and spark plug position. The changes made on his advice were to fit the fuel injection, a catalytic converter and an engine management system, as well as increasing the compression ratio. The DVSA monitored the development of the cars before testing them to ensure they satisfied the Individual Vehicle Approval regulations, although these are not relevant in proving ULEZ compliance. It was a lot of work and too expensive to repeat on any old pre-2000 engine. JE

Question: I’m torn between a Mk1 Peugeot 107, Citroën C1 and Toyota Aygo for my daughter. Which is the most reliable? Ted Avery, Hastings

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Answer: Having run a 107 for 12 months without fault, I have no hesitation in recommending one – but not necessarily over its sister cars. Instead, condition, specification and service history, rather than badge, should be your guide. All three are city cars, so when you’re shopping around, check the clutch’s biting point (too high and it could be on the way out). The absence of a temperature gauge means it’s also a good idea to check the coolant level and the water pump and expansion bottle for leaks. Make sure the exhaust isn’t about to turn to dust, too. JE


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19 November 2019

38 million cars in the UK. 2.37 million new cars sold in 2018. Of course the used market will be massively bigger than the new market. If only 10% of drivers change their car that's 3.8 million used cars traded. It's not a shock, it's not a revelation, it's simple maths.

19 November 2019
SamVimes1972 wrote:

38 million cars in the UK. 2.37 million new cars sold in 2018. Of course the used market will be massively bigger than the new market. If only 10% of drivers change their car that's 3.8 million used cars traded. It's not a shock, it's not a revelation, it's simple maths.

Exactly. assuming the vast majority of new car buyers arent first time car buyers, then they all have a car to sell/return at the end of their lease. therefore at worst the used market makes up 50% of the market. Then these buyers of 'second hand' cars have to sell their cars, the buyers of these 'third hand' cars have to sell them etc etc. To be honest I'm amazed the figure is as LOW as 74%, not as high as. 

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