Rob Whalley, managing director of its automotive division, said: "Higher debt repayments and dearer fuel bills have contributed to the concerns consumers have about the cost of buying and running a car, so when it comes to buying a used car, attention has turned to cheaper, older cars.
"However, car buyers are not completely driven by price alone and can be swayed by what they think a car says about them, and this could be contributing to the used car market seeing a shift towards larger or more prestige cars, but at the older end of the spectrum.
"Prices of larger cars tend to fall more quickly so they have become more affordable. What’s more, the long awaited tax increase on the most gas guzzling vehicles has not taken place yet, but with concerns over the price of fuel, it will be interesting to see if the increase in sales of larger used cars continue."
Used cars aged up to one year old saw the biggest decline in sales during the third quarter of 2006 (down 7.2%), followed by used cars aged between one and three years old (down 4.1%). This is the second year that cars in these age groups have seen sales drop.
Whalley said: "The problem of a shortage of younger cars became apparent during quarter three of 2006, due in part to the lower levels of new car sales in the last three years. Consequently, fewer cars are moving into the used car sector. This has had an inevitable impact on price.
"As a result, we saw a shift towards slightly older models, as cars falling into the age groups three to six years and six to nine years were the only ones to have seen an increase in sales (2.3 per cent and 2 per cent respectively). These were also the only age groups to see an increase in sales during this period in 2005 and in 2004."
As in previous years, the biggest increases in sales have come from MPVs and SUVs, increasing by 18.9% and 10% respectively.
Overall, sales by segments have revealed a shift towards larger or larger engine cars in the used car market. For example, executive (eg, Mercedes-Benz E Class), luxury (eg, BMW 7 Series), MPV, sport and SUV were the only segments to see an increase in sales during quarter three.
The executive segment, in particular, had been experiencing a lack of popularity, with sales decreasing each year during quarter three.
However, 2006 saw the segment’s first increase, at 0.3 per cent, for some years. The luxury segment, which saw its first decline in sales last year during this quarter, picked up again this year (2.1 per cent).
Whalley said: "Over the last three years, many new MPVs and SUVs have been launched and sold, so there is a greater volume of them now making their way onto the used car market. As a result, sales of these segments have continued to rise."
Sales of used cars classed as basic (eg, Vauxhall Agila), lower medium (eg, Ford Focus) and upper medium (eg, Mazda6) continued to fall in sales, while sales of used cars classed as small (eg Volkswagen Polo) saw the first drop in sales since 2001.
#AM_ART_SPLIT# The lower medium segment continues to dominate the market in terms of sales overall. However, it is also the segment that has seen the biggest drop in sales compared to quarter three in 2005.
The biggest increase in sales, in terms of marque, has come from Volkswagen, which has continued to see year-on-year growth, increasing by 4% this year. Rover is still the sixth highest selling used car marque in the UK, but continues to see the highest fall in used car sales (18%), followed by Ford (6%), Vauxhall (2.8%) and Nissan (2.1%).
Overall, Volkswagen and Toyota are the only marques that have not seen a drop in sales during quarter three, for the last six years.