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UK used car market ‘strong’ in 2017 despite dip, SMMT reports

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes

The UK used car market “remained strong” in 2017, dipping just 1.1% in sales volumes compared to the previous year, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders today.

Figures revealed that despite a 5.1% fall in the market in the fourth quarter, annual transactions were at their second highest level, following the all-time record set in 2016.

Model analysis

Smaller cars continued to be the most popular used buy, with superminis representing a third (33.5%) of all transactions, while demand for minis grew 4.3%.

SUV’s had the largest growth at 9.5%, apart from executive cars, up a marginal 0.02%, all other segments experienced declines.

In 2017, buyers continued to take advantage of the latest alternatively fuelled vehicles (AFVs), now increasingly available in the used market.

Growth was driven by demand for petrol-electric hybrid cars, up 22.2% to 73,864, and zero emission electric vehicles, which rose 77.1%, with 10,199 changing hands in the year.

Despite a -4.3% decline, petrol retained its position as the most popular fuel type with a 58.0% market share, while used diesel car transactions rose 3.3%, with more than 3.3 million motorists (40.8% of buyers) investing in one. 

Location analysis

The majority of UK used car transactions took place in the South East, with more than 1.2 million vehicles finding new owners in the region, followed by the North West and West Midlands.

Best selling models

The UK’s best-selling used model remained the Ford Fiesta, closely followed by the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Corsa. 


Silver remained the nation’s most popular used car colour, despite sales falling -6.5%, while black and blue took second and third places.

White, at number five, posted the largest increase of any top 10 colour, rising 10.7% and reflecting the increased popularity of this colour as new, while green experienced the greatest decline in demand as -16.9% fewer buyers chose the colour.


SMMT’s chief executive Mike Hawes (pictured) said: “Britain’s used car buyers are enjoying more choice than ever, and it’s great to see millions of people taking advantage of the low emission, safety and convenience technology filtering into this market.

“While such healthy demand is reassuring, to keep it that way and accelerate renewal throughout the fleet – the fastest way to improve air quality – government must now restore confidence to the new car sector.

“Given the recent economic and fiscal uncertainty, particularly over diesel, consumers and businesses need clarity to encourage them to move out of their older vehicles and into newer, lower emission cars – whatever their fuel type.”

UK used car transactions: Q4 2017 and % change on 2016

  Q4 2017 Q4 2016 % change Year-to-date 2017 Year-to-date 2016 % change
Used cars 1,774,832 1,870,992 -5.1% 8,113,020 8,200,084 -1.1%


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