Get ’em while they’re hot, they’re lovely…
Everyone loves a bargain – conversations from Aberdeen to Ashby de la Zouch and beyond are frequently overheard concerning the used car game. Bought for a song! – maybe the deal included floormats, a tank of fuel (or these days, electricity.) Considering almost eight million used cars were documented as sold in the UK during 2019 – large numbers by anyone’s reckoning. Those pie slices get ever slimmer, according to the thousands of dealers attempting to bolster profit margins.
Figures mislead as easily as they inform, and our eyes can be better employed as judges of fact. Stroll down any high street or check out the car parks of those blighted areas used in the contrivance of retail therapy, and you’d be forgiven for considering those vehicles with an aspiring bent towards utility and sport as the ruling class. But are they?
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) figures suggest otherwise. Superminis were the leading shape of used cars for 2019 with 665,489 sold. What the SMMT term the Dual Purpose segment happened to enjoy the largest percentage growth of 9.1, equating to almost 230,000 vehicles.
The lower and upper medium segment cars took 27% and 11.8% respectively but these figures include falls from 2018 set at a barely noticeable -0.8% and smidgen more -5.8%. My highly scientific interpretation sees that fewer people are shelling out for Five and Seven series (or XJ’s), although local COVID-19 walks have garnered the sights of recently purchased five to seven year old Five and Seven series parked on driveways, kerbside, etc. Including my hometown, London and Birmingham were the three so-called centres of used car sales.
Onto fuelling: combustion engined sales remain robust. The buying hordes prefer to see MPG before Range, emission scandals notwithstanding. With 4.5 million sales, petrol is king. The black pump user snapped up 3.3 million with both dropping by tiny margins. The reasons: accredited to battery electric, zero emission vehicles which surged the charts to the tune of 21.8%. In reality, a paltry 14,112 were sold – 0.2% of the used market. The oil providers must be wiping beaded brows.
Hybrid and PHEV type vehicles, known as Combined produced much stronger used results. 135,516 nabbing a 1.7% market share. Once more, my take is hardly representative but I know no-one who has or is about to change to a car powered by electricity. If anything, it’s the diesel powered PCP or Bangernomic criteria which comes to the fore – hard times out there in reality.
We shift (ahem…) focus to the most popular of those second (or more) hand jalopies, and in similar vein to those buying new, the Ford Fiesta rides high with 351,767 sold. Second and third are very close, with the Corsa just pipping the Focus. Even down in tenth position, the Clio comfortably saw sales of 127,000. That’s a large amount of blue ovals, griffins and rhomboids swapping hands with equally large helpings of propellers, four rings, along with Mittelandkanal roundels thrown into the melting pot.
The top ten sellers total 2.2 million, so what on Earth make up the remaining 5.7 million? Multiple sales of the same vehicle? And, whilst you’re asking, the average price of the 2019 UK used motor was £12,800. That will include just about everything from the (very few sold) Bugatti Veryon to the category-C crash victim sold for spares at £50.
Steering away now from financial considerations toward a favoured subject – colour. In those eight million used car sales, would it surprise you that black came out top? A cool 1.7 million (all types) came in Henry’s favourite shade. Those wearing argent tones taking second at 1.49 million, followed by blue at 1.37 million. Grey is but fourth. However, this figure will increase for the battleship hue is currently in vogue with new car sales. Whites and reds are mid-table. Positions seven to ten feature green, orange, beige (or buff, neither surely offered as such) where forty four thousand signed on the dotted line, believing that jaune/gelb/custard could bring forth motoring sunshine.
Bizarrely, pink was 2019’s fasting growing used car colour. Up by 14.2% and weighing in at 5,098, one wonders at what shades of red, but not quite are sold and to whom. A cerise Golf, anyone? Fuchsia E-Class? How’s about a Jaguar XF in Raspberry or maybe the temptation of that Blush Volvo XC90 being too much to ignore. Especially when the salesperson throws in a rose scented air freshener…
Somebody bought these pink cars, new – stump enough hard earned and the manufacturers will paint the body any shade you wish. Nevertheless, it could not be ascertained if this meant the whole car being pink or perhaps simply highlights such as wing mirrors, bumper areas, door embellishments, etc. In the past year these eyes have widened at seeing an entire Micra, an Evoque and a Bratachian in what could be described as candy pink. Other descriptions are available.
Suitably armed, you may find yourself empowered to eschew the crowd, and instead channel Arthur Daley’s spirit – the UK’s king of used car salesmen lingers on, as a raft would on the open sea. Buying second (or more) hand can be a decidedly choppy experience. Steer carefully.