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Used cars sell faster in May than at any point in 2021, as stock levels fall to new low, reports eBay Motors Group

  • Days to sell dip below 40 days for the first time this year
  • Used car stocks down over a third on pre-Covid May 2019 levels
  • Average prices for Top 50 makes and models drops 2% to £12,356

Used cars sold faster in May than at any time this year, averaging 39.3 days on dealer forecourts, compared to 42.5 days in April.

This speed of sale is now more closely aligned with the pre-Covid average of 36.3 days in May 2019, according to the latest Market View from eBay Motors Group.

The fastest selling cars in the UK were recorded in Scotland, averaging just 31 days, followed by Northern Ireland and the Midlands, both averaging 35 days. The slowest selling region was the south west of England where cars averaged 50 days to sell.

However, dealers found themselves with fewer cars to sell with average stocks per dealership dropping month-on-month from 46.6 to 42.3 units, the lowest level recorded this year. This equates to a 37% shortfall on the pre-Covid level of 67.2 units in May 2019.

The average price of the top 50 makes and models advertised on Motors.co.uk dropped 1.9% in May to £12,356. This is the first drop in advertised prices this year, following a 4.3% rise in April.

The fall was led by the franchised sector where prices dropped 1.4% to £14,297, followed by a 0.9% dip at car supermarkets to £12,772. While prices in the independent sector bucked the trend by increasing 1.7% to £9,126.

"Our May Market View shows the impact of the diminishing volume of used cars being wholesaled, with dealers selling cars faster than before but from depleted inventories," said Dermot Kelleher, head of marketing and research at eBay Motors Group.

"Furthermore, the 1.9% drop in the advertised prices of the Top 50 makes and models, will see some dealers face the prospect of trading on tighter margins. We believe franchised dealers retaining more part-exchanges for retail, in the absence of higher priced nearly-new cars, could also be a contributing factor.

"However, with buyer demand still high, as demonstrated by increased leads, and stocks low, dealers are in a position to hold firm on their advertised prices to achieve better returns," said Kelleher.

The fastest selling used car in May was the Vauxhall Mokka, spending just 23 days on dealer forecourts, followed by the Jeep Compass (23.8 days) and Mercedes-Benz GLC (24.6 days).

Although the top 10 fastest sellers were once again dominated by SUVs and 4X4s, May also saw the Mazda MX-5 selling in just 26 days, making it the eighth fastest seller with demand driven by buyers looking for a summer treat.

Dealer leads for the month reached their highest level since August 2020 and were up 6% year-on-year.

Petrol continues to dominate online searches (52.2%) and dealer stock (52.8%). However diesel cars sold faster, averaging 37.5 days, compared to 40.1 days for petrol and still a long way ahead of hybrid (47.7 days) and EVs (53.9 days).

Data source: Motors.co.uk data, eBay Motors Group Data Warehouse, May 2021 vs. April 2021 and May 2019.