The UK’s used car market increased by 4.4% in Q3 after two consecutive quarters of decline, according to the latest figures published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

During the busiest quarter since the end of 2016, some 2,168,599 transactions took place between July and September, 92,217 more than the same period in 2019, with September recording the largest growth, up 6.3%.

Despite the growth, spurred by the re-opening of showrooms and easing of lockdown measures across the country, the UK’s used car market is still down with 1,070,941 fewer transactions over the first nine months representing a decline of -17.5% overall.

With England now in a new lockdown and the introduction of tougher restrictions and firebreaks across the devolved nations, sales in the fourth quarter are expected to be heavily affected. The swift re-opening of used car outlets – which are generally spacious premises with outdoor areas and which can accommodate social distancing far more easily than other retail environments – would go a long way to help prevent further subdued activity in the market, enabling the latest, lowest emitting vehicles to filter through to second owners.

Demand for pre-owned battery electric vehicles (BEVs), which saw a decline of -29.7% in the Q2 – albeit a lesser one than the market average of -48.9% – recovered during Q3, growing by 34.4% and 4.4% in the year to date. At the same time, sales of plug-in hybrids increased by 35.7%, with 10,040 changing hands. Petrol and diesel cars both saw an increase in sales of 4.5% and 2.6% respectively, accounting for 97.42% of all used transactions during the quarter. 

Superminis, despite only seeing a modest 2.0% increase during the third quarter, remained the most popular segment with 698,587 purchases, accounting for 32.0% of transactions. The lower medium was the next best seller with 27.0% of the total market share. Meanwhile, the dual-purpose segment showed the largest percentage growth (16.6%) with 13.0% market share as more of these popular vehicles entered the used market.