2012 – Europe: Most Popular Used Cars

A BMW 3 Series is Europeans first choice when searching secondhand car databases. Europe-wide German cars and makes are the most popular too.

Black BMW 3 Series
What European Buyers Want – Black BMW 3 Series © BMW AG

In 2012, European used car buyers searched twice as often for BMW 3 Series car models than Audi A4 or Mercedes C Class cars according to online car-selling portal Autoscout24. The Volkswagen Golf, Europe’s best-selling car, is the second most popular model in searches for used vehicles while BMW is narrowly more popular than sales leader VW. Black is the most popular color choice.

BMW 3 Series – Europeans’ Dream Car

Pie Chart of Used Car Models Searched in Europe in 2012According to the Autoscout24 Europa Report for the second half of 2012, Europeans searched more often for a secondhand BMW 3 Series than for any other car model on the road. The Volkswagen Golf, easily Europe’s best-selling car is the second most popular while the BMW 5 Series came third. The direct competitors of the 3 Series, the Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C Class came fourth and fifth respectively with only half the number of searches for the BMW model.

Top Car Models Searched %
1 BMW 3 Series 6
2 VW Golf 5.1
3 BMW 5 Series 3.2
4 Audi A4 3.2
5 Mercedes C Class 2.5

The BMW 3 Series was the most popular car in searches in Belgium Germany, France, Italy and Spain and the second most popular in The Netherlands, Austria and Russia.

In Germany, 6% of searches were for the BMW 3 Series while only 3.4% of cars on offer were 3 Series models. Maybe BMW owners are selling their cars to cheap? The VW Golf had a more balances 5.5% searches with 5.2% cars on offer.

Average Prices Jul-Dec 2012 Jan-Jun 2012 % Change
VW Golf 12,798 12,713 0.7
BMW 3 Series 16,907 16,472 2.6
Audi A4 17,550 17,917 -2.1
BMW 3 Series 23,452 23,629 -0.8
Mercedes C Class 18,599 18,515 0.5

Also from Autoscout24, but not in the Europa Report, is that the best time to sell a second hand car is in autumn or winter and not in spring. The highest used car prices for the last three years were achieved in November, December and January.

BMW – First Choice for Europeans in 2012

Pie Chart of Top Five Used Car Brands in Europe 2012BMW narrowly outperformed new-car market leader Volkswagen in searches for used cars, although BMW may probably preferred a term such as pre-driven or pre-owned. The top five brands searched for on the secondhand car market were all German:

Top Car Brands % % New Cars
1 BMW 13.8 5.1
2 Volkswagen 13.6 12.8
3 Mercedes 11.4 4.7
4 Audi 10.8 5.6
5 Opel 5.5 6.7

% New refers to market share in EU+EFTA (as calculated by the ACEA) achieved by the respective brands in 2012. Interestingly, with the exception of Opel, all are more desired by the secondhand market.

BMW was the top choice in Belgium, France, and Italy while the Germans, Dutch, Austrians, Russians and Spanish stayed more realistic and went for Volkswagen first. However, BMW was the second choice in these countries too.

Black Remains Europe’s Favorite Car Color in 2012

Pie Chart of Europe's Top Five Car ColorsEuropeans search mostly for black cars, with over a third of used car buyers hoping to secure a black model. White is the choice of just less than a third while blue, grey, and silver have become much less popular.

Top Car Colors in Europe %
1 Black 35.4
2 White 12.7
3 Blue 7.5
4 Grey 7.2
5 Silver 4.8

Black was the top desired color in seven countries with only Spain going for white first.

Pie Chart of Optional Equipment Desired in Used CarsThe top choices for optional equipment were air-conditioning systems, four-wheel drive, navigation GPS systems, towing hook, and xenon lights. Optional equipment is usually paid for handsomely when a car is bought new but individually hardly add to the price on the secondhand market, although many options play a role in how fast a car will sell.

Top Options %
1 Airconditioning 8
2 Four-wheel drive 8
3 Sat Nav / GPS 6.6
4 Towing Hook 4.4
5 Xenon Lights 4.2

Interesting regional variations: four-wheel drive (33%) is ten times more important than navigation systems in Austria while double as many Spanish buyers specify a sunroof rather than air conditioning. Leather seats are a top-three option in Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Austria and Russia but do not feature at all in Germany.

Autoscout24’s six-monthly report shows interesting details on what European car buyers really desire. Of course, twelve-year-old surfers can also put together their dream cars online but it certainly shows that there is a wide gap between which cars Europeans really desire and which ones they can afford to buy new – see Top-Selling Car Brands in Europe in 2012.