The UK’s used car market fell for the second consecutive quarter this year, declining -12.2% over the three months of July to September, according to Q3 2022 figures published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

Some 1,785,447 vehicles changed hands, the first time that Q3 2022 transactions have dipped below two million since 2015, as semiconductor shortages impacted the supply of stock. In the year to date, sales are now down -9.7% to 5,319,482.

EV used car sales: Q3 2022

Used battery electric vehicle (BEV) sales bucked the trend, however, with Q3 2022 reflecting growth in the electrified new car market as activity rose 44.1% to 16,775 transactions, adding up to 48,032 in the year to date.

The market for used hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) also grew, up 2.5% in the quarter with 41,479 cars finding new owners, taking the yearly total so far to 119,722. Plug-in hybrid (PHEV) transactions, meanwhile, fell -5.8% to 13,899 in Q3, though they remain up 7.1% since January at 44,724.

It means that driven by an ever-growing choice of zero-emission capable models reaching the used car arena, combined transactions for electrified vehicles reached 4% market share in the third quarter, up from 3.3% a year before. Used petrol and diesel vehicle continued to dominate, however, totalling 1,708,299 transactions in Q3 with petrol taking the lion’s share of the total market at 57.1%.

Sales declined across all segments, but superminis maintained their popularity, with a 32.2% market share, followed by lower medium (26.4%), while carrying the smallest decrease (-0.8%) was dual purpose in third (14.7%).

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Collectively these three segments account for more than seven in 10 (73.3%) of all used car purchases in the quarter. Meanwhile, MPV transactions fell the most, down -18.5%, followed by minis (-18.2%) and upper mediums (-17.1%).

Black continued to prove the most popular used car colour, accounting for a fifth (21.4%) of the market, ahead of grey which moved into second place – up from fourth this time last year – while blue remained in third. Demand for silver vehicles fell by -18.0%, the most for any colour, as it slipped from second to the fourth best-seller this quarter.

The South East region, excluding London, saw the most activity in Q3 2022 with 265,755 used cars changing hands. In second was the North West, with 196,560 transactions, followed by the West Midlands in third at 178,824. Northern Ireland saw the least activity in the quarter, with 56,563 used cars sold, followed by the North East at 72,181.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said, “Given the short supply of new cars due largely to sustained chip shortages, a declining used car market comes as little surprise, although it’s great to see a growing number of used buyers able to get into an electric car. The demand is clearly there and to feed it we need a buoyant new car market, which means giving buyers the confidence to invest.

“Next week’s Autumn Statement is an opportunity for the government to make a long-term fiscal commitment to zero-emission motoring, including adequate public charging infrastructure, which, especially given the economic headwinds, would go a long way to stimulating the market and delivering both economic and net zero progress.”

Commenting on the used car market developments, Ian Plummer, Auto Trader’s Commercial Director, said: “Given the current economic backdrop, one would be forgiven for equating the fall in used car sales to a similarly dramatic drop in demand from cash-conscious car buyers. But whilst demand is easing on the inflated levels recorded last year, in reality, the market is simply feeling the brunt of the massive dearth in available stock, fuelled by the circa 2.5 million new cars ‘lost’ over the course of the pandemic.

“Crucially, our data shows that sales are healthy in age cohorts where the stock is available, with sales of five-year-old cars up 18% on 2019, put simply; where there’s stock, there’s sales. And electric vehicles especially are flying off forecourts – there aren’t many around still, and demand for them is high so it’s encouraging to see their market share increase.

“The effects of the stock squeeze are reflected in our own pricing data, which shows used car prices up 8.1% year-on-year in October – the 31st month in a row of annual price growth. A used car changed hands for an average £17,587 last month, over £500 more than August.”

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