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Used car sales declined by 4.8% in Q1 2018, SMMT reports

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive

A reduction in the number of older used cars being bought from dealerships across the UK has been blamed for a 4.8% decline in sales during Q1 of 2018.

A total of 2,031,661 (2017: 2,133,956) used cars were sold during the first three months of the year – the third highest Q1 level on record – as the market saw a surge in demand for EVs.

Demand for petrol fuelled cars fell by 9.7%, as diesel registrations rose 2% and AFV sales grew 15.9%, with some 24,697 hybrid, plug-in hybrid and fully electric cars finding a new owner, according to the figure published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

Sales of used, zero emission cars up more than a third (33.8%), meanwhile.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “Despite the overall decline in demand, the UK’s used car sector remains at a very high level and it’s great to see millions of consumers benefitting from some of the latest, safest and cleanest models now filtering into the market.

“To maintain this choice and make the fastest possible improvements to air quality, we need stability in the new car market.

“That means giving consumers confidence to trade in their older cars for the best new, low emission model to suit their needs – whatever the fuel type.”

Ian Plummer, Auto Trader’s manufacturer and dgency director, said that there were “a range of factors at play” in the used car sales figures from Q1. He said: The majority of the decline this quarter has come from lower sales of older cars more than eight years old – this suggests that consumers are continuing to opt for younger second-hand cars where their budgets allow.

“Sales of used cars under eight years old, the segment in which Auto Trader is traditionally strongest, were down just 1.1%, and those in the three to eight year bracket were actually up 0.5%.

“The used car market is much more resilient than new - where sales were down a more dramatic 12.4% in Q1 – and the outlook for used sales, based on data from previous cycles, is more stable.

“However, this quarter we’ve also seen a slight decline in used sales of cars under 3 years old, as the recent reduction in new car registrations starts to impact on the used market – albeit more moderately.”

The SMMT’s data showed that superminis continued to be the most popular body type, followed by lower and upper medium, and then dual purpose – which enjoyed the fastest growth in Q1, up 12.8%, with more than 206,500 changing hands.

Elsewhere, trends closely followed the new car market, with black gaining ground to overtake silver/aluminium as the favourite used car colour, and blue, grey and white making up the rest of the top five.

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