More than half of UK fleets (54%) are buying used cars for company use and a further quarter (24%) plan to do so in the next three years, according to new research.

The figures are taken from the 2024 Arval Mobility Observatory Fleet and Mobility Barometer, which questioned 8,605 businesses in 30 countries about their vehicle operations.

The practice shows almost no variation across companies of different sizes among those surveyed, from companies with fewer than 10 employees through to those with more than 1,000.

However, the UK figure is much higher than the Europe-wide average of 29% of fleets already using used cars now and 38% looking to do so within three years.

The research also asked UK fleets about the roles for which used cars were adopted. Among both those businesses already buying used cars or planning to do so in the future, 78% said they operated them as pool cars, 66% as job need cars, and half (50%) for benefit drivers. Again, there was very limited variation across fleet sizes.

Shaun Sadlier, Head of Arval Mobility Observatory in the UK, said: “This is a new question for the Barometer in 2024 and shows the extent to which a majority of UK fleets have come to rely on used cars as an element of their fleet composition.

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“While we have no historical data for comparison, our view is that this has probably always been something that businesses have done to some extent but that post-pandemic issues, especially much reduced new vehicle supply, have pushed more of them towards having to buy used, simply to get hold of the cars they need.

“Our findings show that the ways in which these used cars are being operated are overwhelmingly practical. They are being employed primarily in pool and job-need car roles where the ‘newness’ of a car is less of an issue, and less often where the car is part of a motivational benefits package.

“What is interesting is that so many more fleets plan to adopt this purchasing strategy. The data shows that within three years, almost three-quarters of businesses will be buying used cars. It looks set to become an ongoing part of fleet acquisition. Certainly, Arval in the UK has been offering used car leasing to businesses for some years now under its Arval Re-Lease banner, and it has proven very popular.”

Shaun said it was noteworthy that the UK numbers contrasted so strongly with the European average.

“One factor behind this is that, unlike many other European countries, the UK has an established pre-registration market for almost-new cars. While this largely disappeared immediately after the pandemic, it’s back now, and cars with delivery mileage suitable for company use can often be bought at advantageous prices.”