Auto Finance Market Data

Record used car sales, powered by fuel anxiety-induced EV popularity


Used car prices hit another all-time high in September, posting a 21.4% like-for-like increase, according to Auto Trader. Its analysis shows last month’s hike beats August’s 17.2% month-on-month increase, which itself was the largest single month of price growth on record. Based daily pricing analysis of some 900,000 vehicles, Auto Trader is now predicting a total of circa 7.75 million used car sales in 2021.

Auto Trader says the continued acceleration in prices has, in part, been fuelled by the massive levels of consumer demand in the market, which is reflected in a significant uptick in traffic to its site. This month saw 65.6 million cross platform visits, a 31% increase on the same period in 2019. The amount of consumer time spent on the marketplace held steady at 10 million hours, an increase of 20% on 2019. As a result, overall sales for the full quarter are likely to finish at, or very near, the same high level seen during the Q3 rebound from lockdown in 2020.

Commenting on the results, Auto Trader’s director of data and insight, Richard Walker, said: “Used car prices have continued their 18-month trend of posting record-breaking growth. While a mere 6.1% price growth was enough to set records in August 2020, this figure pales in comparison to September 2021’s mammoth 21.4%, currently the highest ever monthly price increase.

“A large part of this growth has come from growing demand for EV vehicles, which, supercharged by the fuel crisis, is now outpacing supply. The real story only becomes visible when applying a week-by-week analysis. While in the first week of September – i.e. before the fuel crisis – retailers were actually more likely to be cutting the price of their EVs, the increased demand arising from the fuel crisis saw retailers raise EV prices later in the month. On average, £156 was added to EV prices on 28th September, for example, and prices continued to rise as September came to a close.”

Like-for-like prices for both used petrol and diesel cars continued to perform strongly, with the average price of a used petrol car increasing 21.7% YoY last month (up from 16.9% in August) and used diesels increasing 22.7% (up from 18.7%). Average sticker prices were £14,793 and £16,082 respectively

Electric vehicles

As the fuel crisis arose towards the end of September, EVs share of new car advert views soared, hitting a record high of 26.5% on 28th September. On 1 September, this was 14.2%, clearly demonstrating the effect of the fuel shortage. This demand was also reflected in leads, with EVs share of new car leads also hitting all-time highs towards the end of September, peaking at 28% on 28 September versus 10-15% at the start of September.

EV volume brands saw significant price growth, rising from 13.2% in August to 18.2% (£24,720). Of all fuel types, this was the highest month-on-month increase in like-for-like prices last month. Used premium EV brand like-for-like prices remain negative YoY, but also saw a positive monthly movement, from -5.5% to -5.0% (£46,358).

The reason for this disparity is due to supply and demand: YoY demand continues to outstrip levels of supply in the EV volume market (135.2% vs 31.7% respectively) leading to positive price growth.

plummer ian 400

When the crisis at the fuel pumps first began at the start of October, Ian Plummer, commercial director, Auto Trader, noted: “We are all familiar with the idea of range anxiety, but the events of the past few days mean we are entering the age of fuel anxiety. A result of which led to a massive surge in consumer engagement for electric cars on our marketplace over the weekend. Not only did the number of advert views for new and used models increase a record 28% and 61% respectively versus the previous weekend, but we also saw a huge uplift in the number of people sending enquiries to retailers, with one sent every two minutes. This suggests that people aren’t simply flirting with the idea of electric but have been encouraged to actively pursue a purchase.”