2020 (Full Year) Britain: Used Car Market and Top Models

In 2020, used car sales transactions in Britain contracted by 15% to 6.75 million cars with the Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa the best-selling models.

In 2020, used car sales transactions in Britain contracted by 15% to 6.75 million cars with the Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa the best-selling models.

Second-hand car sales in Britain in 2020 were down 15% compared to 29% for the new car market. The Ford Fiesta was the favorite used car of the British in 2020 with black the most-popular car color. Used electric car sales increased but availability remained low in the UK.

Latest British Car Sales Data: 2023: Market Overview, Brands, Models, Electric; 2022-2008.

Used Car Market in Britain in 2020

In full-year 2020, the UK’s used car market declined by -14.9% according to the latest registration figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). 6,752,959 used car transactions took place, 1,182,146 fewer than in 2019, making 2020 the lowest-performing year since 2012 as lockdown measures to tackle the coronavirus pandemic and turbulent consumer and business confidence dented sales.

In comparison, new car sales in Britain in 2020 contracted by an even stronger 29% to only 1,631,064 cars — the smallest new car market in the UK since 1992

Despite used car transactions increasing 3.7% in October, a fourth consecutive month of growth, the combination of new lockdowns and tougher restrictions across the UK later in the year saw activity tail off, with declines of -18.3% and -4.2% in November and December respectively. Combined Q4 transactions fell by -6.2% to 1,693,138, rounding off a tough year for the sector.

Favorite Used Cars in Britain in 2020

The top ten used car models in the UK in 2020 according to the SMMT were:

The top ten used car models in the UK in 2020 were:

The Ford Fiesta has been the top-selling car model in Britain since 2009, so it is hardly a surprise that was also the best-selling used car model in the UK in 2020. The Vauxhall Corsa, Ford Focus, and Volkswagen Golf were similarly top sellers in Britain in recent years.

The Vauxhall Astra performed better on the used-car market than on the new — it has been out of the top ten mostly in recent months. Similarly, the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes C Class, and Audi A3 have not been in the top ten much recently. The BMW 3 Series cars are often the most-searched vehicles on second-hand car listings but dreams and purchasing don’t always match.

Current top ten new cars such as the Mercedes-Benz A Class and the Nissan Qashqai — the top car exported from the UK — still haven’t become available in large volumes but are likely to enter the top ten listing in the near future.

Increased Demand for Electric Used Cars in Britain in 2020

Alternatively fuelled vehicles (AFVs) bucked the trend, however, with 144,225 of these used models sold in Britain in 2020, an increase of 5.2%, with their market share rising to 2.1%. Second-hand battery electric vehicles (BEVs) transactions increased by 29.7% to 19,184 units, but still only a fraction of all activity at 0.3%. Electric cars are still relatively rare on the second hand market with availability usually lagging the new car market by three to five years.

The market for used hybrids (HEVs) also rose, by 4.7%, while demand for plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) fell by -5.0%. Used diesel and petrol car transactions also fell, by -15.5% and -15.2% respectively, yet combined were still equivalent to some 6.6 million units finding new owners.

Superminis remained the most popular choice for used cars with 2.2 million units purchased, accounting for 32.0% of all transactions. Lower medium cars were the next most traded segment, with 1.8 million sales to take 27.0% market share. Luxury Saloon (-5.8%), dual-purpose (-7.2%) and specialist sports (-8.4%) saw more modest declines with a combined 1,084,504 transactions.    

Top Used Car Colors in Britain in 2020

Top 10 Used Car Colors in Britain in 2020

Black was number one in the color charts for used cars sold in Britain in 2020, with just over 1.4 million models in the shade changing hands with silver and blue completing the podium line-up.

Grey, which was the top-selling new car color in 2020, only managed fourth place. Some buyers looked to add a brighter note to their used purchase, with 4,018 pink, 6,510 turquoise, and 23,427 gold cars snapped up during the year.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said, “These figures are yet more evidence of the significant damage coronavirus has caused the automotive sector. Market growth at the start of the year was welcome but quickly stifled by the first lockdown as showrooms closed across the country, a picture that was repeated with the subsequent lockdowns in November and, indeed, into 2021.”

Latest British Car Sales Data: 2023: Market Overview, Brands, Models, Electric; 2022-2008.