Have the unique circumstances of this year brought a halt to seasonal fluctuations in used car values?
Traditionally, the used car market has moved in waves, with peaks and troughs of demand across the industry caused by holiday seasons, registration plate changes and the changing of the weather.
But is seasonality still a big deal for the used market, and to what extent should those looking to defleet vehicles be planning around it?
“Covid has changed everything this year,” says Aston Barclay managing director Martin Potter. “2020 has not followed any trend of seasonality, but generally the market has become less seasonal.”
He says that there is still “a slight increase in demand” for convertibles in late spring and early summer, while the company’s more rural locations see increases in demand for 4x4s in autumn.
Rupert Pontin, head of valuations at Cazana, agrees, citing “mild increases in demand” for convertibles in the summer and for 4x4s as winter approaches, while stronger demand and pricing on family cars and MPVs in particular is expected in the lead-up to holiday periods.
Looking ahead, the market could potentially soften due to a combination of Covid, Brexit, low consumer confidence and higher unemployment rates.
“Currently buyers and vendors are seeing the market slowly move back to a more consistent level,” says Potter. “But we won’t know for another few months.”
CHRISTMAS CAME EARLY FOR LCV
As a working tool, light commercial vehicles aren’t subject to the more emotive purchasing decisions of fleet or private cars.
“The proposed widening of low-emission zones across the UK has focused commercial vehicle buyers towards Euro6 LCV models,” says BCA’s COO UK remarketing, Stuart Pearson.
“Euro6 LCV examples are performing strongly in online auctions, reflecting the generally high levels of demand across the LCV sector in recent months, including for Euro5 and even earlier models.”
Although it’s not always easy to compare, because Euro6-compliant light commercials are by definition the newer models and are therefore likely to attract the highest prices at auction, Pearson said that “commercial vehicles under four and a half years old – where Euro6 vehicles sit – have seen the most significant year-on-year increases in value”.
But that doesn’t mean businesses remarketing their light commercials, or their cars for that matter, need to worry any more about shifting vehicles around the country to geographically favourable sites.
“While there are obvious and clearly defined business benefits for Euro6 commercial vehicles working in low-emission zones, the remarketing demand is nationwide, so the vehicle’s location at time of sale is less important than it used to be,” concludes Pearson.
One issue fleets will need to bear in mind when defleeting cars in the next few weeks and months is the potential impact of changes to furlough and job support schemes.
Cazana’s Rupert Pontin said that there is the possibility of increased wholesale supply as payment holidays end and the potential rises for voluntary terminations returning cars to lease companies. “An increase in supply of these cars may well impact on ex-fleet cars,” he tells Company Car Today.
Stuart Pearson, BCA COO UK Remarketing, gives his key points on the issue of seasonality in used car values
1. Pandemic pauses patterns.
Given the overriding effects of the pandemic on the current marketplace, the usual seasonal trends were only really seen at the start of the year, however it did feel like the market during October was starting to behave as it normally would… up until the new lockdown.
2. Slower periods replaced by acceleration.
Covid definitely changed the middle part of the year with a significant acceleration of demand from June onwards with record activity right through to September.
3. Pre-Christmas LCV demand comes early.
Typically, the pre-Christmas period is busy as dealers churn stock for year-end accounts and in normal years we would expect to see an upsurge in demand for LCVs. However these have been in high demand throughout the majority of the year due to the shift towards online retailing. Demand remains exceptionally strong, with average values continuing to significantly outstrip guide prices.
4.2020 is not the year for seasonal variations.
The immediate post-Covid period in the spring of 2020 saw lower-value and budget vehicles and LCVs in extremely high demand and once dealerships opened, the rest of the market accelerated. With the second lockdown upon us, it is likely to be different for many reasons. Businesses now know how to operate safely and dealers will be keen to avoid stepping out of the market.
5.Keep it in context
When it comes to remarketing their company vehicles, seasonality is just one of the factors that fleet managers should consider, but not at the expense of age, mileage and condition,which all have a far greater bearing on the price achieved. It is worth remembering that high-demand, popular models will sell strongly relative to the market whatever the time of year.