Used Car Market Update- May 2021

Robert Redman | 25 Jun 2021

About the author

Robert Redman

Forecast Editor

Robert is responsible for forecasting Glass’s future car values right across the market. He has been involved in the motor industry for almost 30 years, most recently as Passenger Car Risk Specialist in the Residual Value and Portfolio Department at Mercedes-Benz UK. He has also held key roles at Leasedrive, Masterlease, Vauxhall Masterhire, Leasecontracts, GE Fleet Services – and has also worked as a specialist classic car restorer.

Used Car Auction Wholesale Market

The UK used car auction market continued to perform well in May. The first-time conversion rate increased, albeit slightly, despite an increase in sales volume. The overall average percentage of cost new achieved did drop a little, but that is not too surprising given the average age increased by twelve months from April. However, values of Fleet Profile and Late and Low vehicles rose markedly, continuing the trend seen in the previous month. This is likely to be due to lower volumes in these sectors – especially Late and Low due to the substantially lower number of new vehicles registered in the last twelve months or so. Overall, however, the auction market remained healthy.

First time conversion rate graph May 2021
Percentage original cost new graph May 2021
Average sale price graph May 2021

All sectors performed well, with SUVs and convertibles still very strong, although pretty much any car that was in good condition found a buyer pretty quickly.

Used Car Retail Market

Unsurprisingly, the used car retail market continued to improve in May. The number of observed sales and their average value increased from April, although at a slower rate compared with the movements from March to April. The average discount required to achieve a sale also reduced, down from 2.5% to 1.4%.

Observations graph May 2021
Average retail price graph May 2021

Average Days to Sell, or the amount of time a car spends on the forecourt, is generally a good barometer for the health of the used car retail market. This measure continues to decrease, dropping from 47.3 days in April to an average of 42.6 days in May, and is now back to pre-COVID levels. This is great news as it reflects strong used retail demand, even though we are yet to fully return to “normal”.

Average days to sell graph May 2021


Reports from the first part of June are of an even stronger used car auction market, with heightened demand and lower than usual availability driving values up. Glass’s therefore expects to see more improvements for the key metrics for this part of the market.

The big question is how long will this unusually strong market continue? Typically, we would expect a slowing as we passed from July into August, with summer holidays taking the focus away from the purchase of used cars, but 2021 is not going to be a typical year. Foreign holidays are going to be substantially down this year, so could we see this level of demand continue all the way into September? That level of sustained activity would be unprecedented, but if the last fifteen months or so has taught us anything, it is that almost anything could happen.

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