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Record levels of demand and values were both features of last year in the used car sector, but as always there were winners and losers within that strong marketplace

Records tumbled last year in terms of average values of cars going through auction halls, with December bringing another record of a £10,141 average value, and £11,790 for fleet and lease disposals in particular, according to auction giant BCA’s monthly Pulse report. That was the third-highest monthly figure on record, and £1186 or 11.2% up on December 2017.

“Average used car values at BCA remained at or near record levels for much of 2018 as buyer demand continued apace both in-lane and online,” says BCA COO UK Remarketing Stuart Pearson.

“The year was widely reported to be the year of the used car, and this is an assessment with which we largely agree,” comments Philip Northard, Vehicle Remarketing Association vice-chair and customer insight and strategy director at Cox Automotive. “Demand and prices were high, with the best stock in short supply.”

He says that led to an interesting shift towards cars with a lower condition grading. “We saw values hold strong for ‘ready to retail’ cars but the industry also saw a shift towards lower grade vehicles simply because the high prices of grade 1 and 2 vehicles drove buyers to consider lower grades requiring higher levels of preparation,” he says. “As vehicles with the best condition increased in price, buyers had to extend mileage and age parameters to ensure maximum stock capacity was maintained.”

Glass’s chief car editor, Jayson Whittingham, says “significant premiums” were achieved on cars with lower auction grades, with vendors investing in refurbishment benefiting the most.

 

USED DIESEL DEMAND STAYS STRONG DESPITE DROPS IN NEW SALES

Used diesel cars are remaining popular despite the political, financial and social pressures that are driving down sales on new diesels, according to residual value expert Jayson Whittingham, who is chief car editor at Glass’s.

“The frenzy for petrol cars seems to have abated, partially because of the volumes coming back,” he says. “Used diesel perception hasn’t changed, it’s still strong and looks excellent value for money.” Whittingham says the situation is likely to continue into 2020, as the reducing volume of three-year old diesels into the market will begin to kick in from the 2017 plunge in new diesel sales.

 

PREMIUM BRANDS AND KIT WITH VISUAL PRESENCE PROVING POPULAR

The growth and popularity of premium brands remains strong, with changes to how buyers finance them as part of the driving force. “With the drive to PCP on new and now, increasingly, in the used sector, these finance methods offer an affordable monthly cost for a vehicle that otherwise wouldn’t be in reach for many buyers,” says VRA vice chair Philip Northard.

As far as equipment goes, it’s all about what drivers can see, according to Glass’s chief car editor Jayson Whittingham.

“Options that have a clear visible presence continue to be appealing. For example, leather upholstery, larger-diameter alloy wheels, panoramic sunroofs and upgraded satellite-navigation systems sell well,” he says.

 

BIG NEWS FROM A BIG YEAR

BCA Managing Director UK Remarketing, Stuart Pearson Stuart Pearson picks through some if the interesting points from a busy 2018 in the remarketing sector.

Stuart-Pearson - MD - BCA UK Remarketing

Stuart Pearson – MD – BCA UK Remarketing

 1. 2018 was a big one

The past 12 months have seen significant demand for used vehicles, and average used car values at BCA remained at or near record levels for much of the year. Remarketing centres around the UK network have set new performance benchmarks.

 

2. Premiums paid for premium

We have seen increased choice in the large premium SUVs and luxury high-end executive models. Prestige and premium marques remain aspirational, but it is important that vehicles have an attractive combination of specification and colour to draw interest. The key differentials between brand perceptions of premium and mainstream are increasingly blurred as buyers look for any car offered with a good level of specification, in an attractive colour and presented in ready-to-retail condition.”

 

3. Be specific with specification

Generally, models with a good level of specification do well in the used market, with buyers increasingly looking for connectivity and driver assistance. Safety and security features are expected because used car buyers perceive them as being ‘part of the package’. Never skimp on spec when putting premium models on the fleet, but equally be aware that the investment is not always going to be returned in full.

 

4. Automatically of interest

Vehicles with automatic transmissions generally demand a premium. Automatics from premium and executive brands are very much in demand and the growth of hybrid and electric vehicles is introducing a wider audience to this choice of transmission.

 

5. Diesel still in demand

While the decline of new-car diesel sales is well documented, it’s clear that the used buyer doesn’t share the same concerns. Used buyers like the driving characteristics of diesel, and there are real benefits in fuel consumption, reliability and longevity.