Britons face a cost of living crisis and used car prices escalating to unprecedented highs is yet another unwelcome financial burden on licence-holders.
The nation’s motorists are already having bank balances shrunk by record-high petrol and diesel costs, increasing insurance premiums and – with the hiked energy price cap from April – higher costs to charge electric cars at home.
Those considering buying a used car can now expect to pay 30 per cent more than they did a year ago, thanks to the ongoing supply shortage of new cars into the UK.
Earlier this month, we revealed which mainstream models have gone up in price the most in the last 12 months. But what about the cars we know are the 10 most popular second-hand buys in the UK?
Record used car prices: These are the 10 most-bought used cars in Britain in 2021, according to official data. We can exclusively reveal by how much they have gone up in price in the last 12 months due to the shortage of new vehicles
To see by how much the most-bought used cars have risen in value in the last year, we asked vehicle valuations experts cap hpi to compare average sale prices of the 10 most popular cars from last year, which were confirmed by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.
Cap hpi used their market data to check average sale prices today and compared them to figures from the same month in 2021.
The analysis we’re using here is based on three-year old cars with 30,000 miles on the clock. This reflects the common scenario of a financed new model entering the used car market after a 36-month contract has ended, with an average of 10,000 miles covered per annum.
The comparison looks at how much you would have been expected to pay for a three-year-old example this time last year, and how much a three-month-old version of the same car would cost in February 2022.
Below, we have listed the top 10 most-bought used cars in order of which have have gone up in value most on in the last year…
10. BMW 1 Series – 30% rise
Sales in 2021: 122,840 (tenth best-selling used car)
Avg price Feb 21: £16,950
Avg price Feb 22: £22,100
The average price of a 3-year-old BMW 1 Series has risen by 30% in a year, adding £5,150 to the price of buying one of the German family hatchbacks
Of all the models in the top 10, this is among the most premium – despite being a fairly modest family hatchback.
Having been on sale in the UK since 2004 and been sold across three different generations, there is plenty of availability in the UK, which is one reason why it sneaked into the second-hand motors top 10 last year.
A three-year-old example with 30,000 miles on the clock would have cost just under £17,000 a year ago, but today you’re looking at spending an average of £22,100 – a rise of 30 per cent.
9. Volkswagen Polo – 32% rise
Sales in 2021: 147,372 (eighth best-selling used car)
Avg price Feb 21: £10,130
Avg price Feb 22: £13,363
The average price of second-hands Polos (3-year-old versions) are up almost a third in a year, which means paying a £3,233 premium
The Polo has been a long-running model in the Volkswagen range, with the brand taking to the supermini market far sooner than its premium rivals.
The outgoing car (introduced in 2017) is similar in size to a family hatchback, which only extends its appeal.
If you bought a three-year-old car that had covered an average of 10,000 miles a year, it would have cost a smidgen over £10,000. But values of these motors are now 32 per cent higher, meaning an extra outlay of £3,200.
=7. Volkswagen Golf – 34% rise
Sales in 2021: 247,919 (fourth best-selling used car)
Avg price Feb 21: £12,443
Avg price Feb 22: £16,575
If you were after a 3-year-old Volkswagen Golf in February 2021, the average price you would have had to pay was £12,443. Fast forward to this month, and the same-age Golf is now up to £16,575 on average
A family hatchback that’s packed with appeal is the VW Golf, which was among the best-selling new cars as well as used in 2021.
Recent generations have all been exceptionally well-rounded vehicles, offering lots of premium feel, good driving dynamics, a host of strong and efficient engines and – traditionally – lots of value retention. No wonder over 245,000 changed hands last year.
And from the middle of last year, they would have likely cost buyers more than they might have expected. In the last 12 months alone, values are up 34 per cent on average, with a three-year-old example costing £4,100 more than it would have done if you bought a similar-aged Golf in February 2021.
=7. Audi A3 – 34% rise
Sales in 2021: 122,856 (ninth best-selling used car)
Avg price Feb 21: £14,174
Avg price Feb 22: £18,944
A 3-year old Audi A3 has gone up in value by more than a third in the last 12 months, which translates to almost an extra £5k outlay
If you’re in the market for a used premium family hatchback, you’re probably choosing between the BMW 1 Series or an Audi A3. The latter has been around longer, with the first-generation A3 launched in the late nineties and there still being plenty examples of that car on the road today.
The appeal of badge kudos, a premium interior and pretty slow depreciation makes the Audi, across all four generations, an attractive second-hand buy.
A three-year-old car with 30k on the clock would have set you back an average of just over £14k a year ago. But fast-forward to February 2022 and cars matching this criteria are £4,770 pricier – a rise of more than a third.
6. Mini Hatchback – 37% rise
Sales in 2021: 167,828 (seventh best-selling used car)
Avg price Feb 21: £10,819
Avg price Feb 22: £14,874
If you buy a 3-year-old Mini Cooper Hatch today, you will have to pay £14,874. Buying a 36-month-old version a year ago would have cost an average of £10,819, says cap hpi
Whether you love or hate the BMW-era Mini hatchback, since it returned to the market in 2001 it has been a big seller. It historically holds its value exceptionally well, such is demand from used buyers. But the recent spike in demand for second-hand motors has seen prices soar.
Cap hpi used data on best-selling Cooper versions of the hatch, which show that an average three-year-old motor a year ago would have cost just shy of £11,000. But if you wanted one this month, expect to fork out over £4,000 more to get your hands on one.
That translates to a 37 per cent increase in value for the nation’s seventh most-bought used car.
What has caused used car prices to spike in recent months?
The rising cost of second-hand vehicles is a consequence of the semiconductor chip shortage that’s been hammering the motor industry since Covid-19 lockdowns were first a thing.
The short supply of chips has bottlenecked car production, with outputs slumping by more than a third as manufacturers struggle to get their hands on the much-needed components.
To put the scale of the problem into perspective, approximately 40 chips of varying capabilities are needed for the average family motor today, such is the substantial reliance of electronics in the latest vehicles.
As a result, car makers have simply been unable to build enough cars to meet demand from customers. Used car marketplace, Auto Trader, estimates that 1.5million new sales alone have been ‘lost’ since the semiconductor shortage hit.
A shortage of semiconductor chips has caused huge vehicle production disruptions. And with extended waiting times on new cars, many drivers have turned to the used market. This surge in new demand has now pushed prices to record levels…
With manufacturers now quoting waiting times of 12 months and more for the most in-demand motors, drivers have been forced to turn to the used market to replace their finance-ending and ageing cars.
With attention switching to second-hand cars, used vehicle transactions were up 11.5 per cent to 7.5million purchases in 2021, which is 778,000 more than the previous year, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders confirmed.
This has decimated dealer stocks of second-hand cars, meaning increased competition for available used motors, which also means higher prices.
In its latest used car prices report, Auto Trader says the average price of a used car for sale on its website had hit £20,340 by the middle of February, marking a 29 per cent year-on-year increase. It says prices have grown week-by-week for 93 consecutive weeks, sending second-hand prices into unchartered territory.
=4. Ford Fiesta – 39% rise
Sales in 2021: 326,436 (the best-selling used car)
Avg price Feb 21: £9,417
Avg price Feb 22: £13,042
The Fiesta held its crown as the most in-demand used motor in 2021, with over 326,000 changing hands over the course of 12 months. Such has been the growth in demand due to a short supply of new vehicles that second-hand values are up 39%
It’s not surprising to see Ford’s Fiesta topping the second-hand sales charts – it has been the nation’s most-bought new car every year from 2009 to 2020 and has been around in one form or another since 1976.
Examples produced by Ford in the last decade or so have been worthy top sellers, being incredibly good to drive, hugely practical, relatively dependable and pretty much better than anything else on the market at a similar price point.
And demand for three-year-old examples which Ford is being hit by semiconductor shortages are clear to see. A 2018 Fiesta with 30,000 miles on the clock would have cost £9,400 a year ago; a 2019 Fiesta with 30k on the odometer today is £13,042 on average – an increase of 39 per cent.
=4. BMW 3 Series – 39% rise
Sales in 2021: 175,190 (sixth best-selling used car)
Avg price Feb 21: £14,687
Avg price Feb 22: £20,369
The price of a used BMW 3 Series has increased by almost two fifths in the last 12 months, according to valuation data reviewed by cap hpi for ThisisMoney
With demand for saloon cars falling by the wayside in recent years, one example that seems to be lasting the test of time is the BMW 3 Series, with the long-running rep mobile taking the sixth spot in the used car best sellers list of 2021.
Such is the demand for BMW’s junior executive model that used prices are almost two fifths higher than a year before.
A three-year-old, 30,000 mile, model in February 2021 would have cost just under £13,700 on average. Today, to get the same age car with that mileage, you’ll have to pay over £20,000.
3. Vauxhall Corsa – 42% rise
Sales in 2021: 262,448 (second best-selling used car)
Avg price Feb 21: £6,023
Avg price Feb 22: £8,550
The Corsa was the second most-bought used car in Britain last year, but if you want a 3-year-old example you will be paying 42% more on average than you would have done in February 2021
The Vauxhall Corsa was 2021’s best-selling new car but it wasn’t the top choice second-hand model, despite over a quarter of a million changing hands last year. More used Fiestas were sold.
Traditionally, the Corsa suffers from relatively rapid depreciation, which means they are usually the cheaper option than rivals.
Yet, even with a track record of losing value quickly, the huge demand for used models means a three-year-old example has gone from costing £6,000 a year ago to £8,550 today – a rise in value of 42 per cent.
2. Ford Focus – 50% rise
Sales in 2021: 251,265 (third best-selling used car)
Avg price Feb 21: £9,716
Avg price Feb 22: £14,528
A three-year-old Ford Focus has gone up in price by 50% in the last 12 months, which means you’ll have to pay £14,500 to get your hands on one at the moment
The Focus was the UK’s most bought new cars every year between 1999 and 2008, so there are lots of examples around, which explain why it was the third best seller last year.
It is, traditionally, the best-handling medium-size family motor on the market, though not always the most premium inside – which is why it has fallen behind the Golf in new car sales in recent years.
Yet it has still accelerated in used value more than the Volkswagen, with a 50 per cent rise in the price of three-year-old cars in the last 12 months. It means you have to pay an average of £14,528 for a 2018 example today compared to £9,716 2017 car in February ’21.
1. Vauxhall Astra – 53% rise
Sales in 2021: 200,911 (fifth best-selling used car)
Avg price Feb 21: £7,154
Avg price Feb 22: £10,957
Surprisingly, the Vauxhall Astra – which tends to depreciate rapidly – is the 3-year-old used car that has risen in price most in the last 12 months, increasing in value by 53%
Of the top 10 best-selling used cars in Britain, the one that has increased in value (in percentage terms) is the family favourite Vauxhall Astra.
While it might not drive as well as some of its closest rivals in this list – or offer premium appeal – it is a practical and spacious family model. While depreciation is usually more crippling than other models in the same segment, the shortage of new motors has seen second-hand prices sky-rocket by more than half.
A three-year-old example a year ago would have cost a little over £7,000, but today you will be expected to pay almost £11,000 for one – a spike of 53 per cent in just 12 months.