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Used car sales grew by more than 11% in 2021

Despite the sales disruptions caused by the pandemic, more than 7.5 million used cars changed hands in the UK in 2021

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According to data released by The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), the UK used car market grew by more than 11% last year, despite the turbulence caused by Covid-19 lockdowns and consumer uncertainty.

More than 7.5 million used cars changed hands in Britain in 2021, an increase of 750,000 sales (or 11.5%) when compared to the 2020 figures. While these sales numbers are promising for the motoring industry, the used car market is still not as strong as it was pre-pandemic; on average, nearly 8 million used cars were sold each year from 2014 to 2019.

Breaking down the latest used sales figures by region, the SMMT says that the most used cars were sold in the South East of England during 2021 with over a million transactions, while the used car market was weakest in Wales, with sales numbers settling just below 400,000.

A strong showing from Ford

While the semiconductor chip shortage meant that Ford’s performance in the new car market was nothing short of a disaster in 2021, the same certainly cannot be said for the mainstream brand’s showing in the used market.

With over 325,000 used sales, the Ford Fiesta finished 2021 as Britain’s most popular used car. This of course comes as little surprise – the supermini was the UK’s top-selling car for 12 consecutive years from 2008 to 2020, and those buyers set on getting the latest iteration of the Fiesta no doubt turned to the used market when supply shortages meant they could not get their hands on a new showroom model.

With over 250,000 models changing hands last year, the Ford Focus also recorded a strong showing, while 2021’s best selling new car, the Vauxhall Corsa, sealed 2nd place in the used car sales charts.

The top ten used best-sellers also includes two Volkswagen hatchbacks – the compact Polo and mid-sized Golf, as well as two BMW models – the highly-regarded 3 Series saloon and the 1 Series hatchback.

As the best-sellers chart suggests, the most popular body type on the used car market last year was the supermini, small cars accounting for a third of all used transactions.

Battery power on the charge

Mirroring the growth of the new electric car sales in the UK, the used EV market also recorded impressive sales growth last year with a year-on-year increase of nearly 120%.

Inevitably, 2021’s used EV sales figures are still tiny in comparison to combustion power. Petrol and diesel models made up roughly 97% of used sales last year, while electric cars only accounted for a mere fraction of a single percentage point.

But the demand for used EVs is growing rapidly – the Nissan Leaf was the fastest-selling used car in the UK last year, taking just 17 days on average to sell once it had arrived on a used car forecourt. The sales of used electric cars is expected to grow exponentially in the coming years, as more EVs become available on the second-hand market.

The latest from The Car Expert

Sean Rees
Sean Rees
Sean is the Deputy Editor at The Car Expert. A enthusiastic fan of motorsport and all things automotive, he is accredited by the Professional Publishers Association, and is now focused on helping those in car-buying need with independent and impartial advice.