The UK’s bestselling cars – what cars were selling well in 2022?

    When you think of the automotive industry in the UK, you might think of iconic British brands, and car manufacturing in the Midlands. However, what you may not know is that the used car market alone contributes nearly £100 billion to the UK economy! 

    It makes up the majority of all car sales, too: of the 35 million passenger vehicles the UK has on the road, approx. 8 million are sold used every year (based on the pre-2020 average). To put that into context, annual used car sales are typically about four times higher than the number of new cars sold.

    Are used car sales up in 2022?

    Looking back on 2022, it’s been record-breakingly turbulent for the economy, after a few unpredictable years. So, what are the headline trends for the used car market? Are used cars selling?

    Read on for the 2022 market reports, which we compare with Motorway data to see if national statistics are consistent with our nationwide, online marketplace.

    What factors affected the number of cars sold in 2022?
    What are the most popular used cars in 2022?
    What brands are always popular on the used market?
    What are the used car electrification trends in 2022?
    The best place to sell your car

    are cars selling?
    The used car market has held strong throughout a turbulent time for the UK economy

    What factors affected the number of cars sold in 2022?

    The used car market generally has its busiest time during the third quarter of the year (July-August-September). When figures are published for that period, we can take stock of the year so far and have a good sense of the market.

    Although the second-hand car industry doesn’t always work in lockstep with the new car market, it’s useful to compare trends between the two. The number of new car registrations in the UK was down by about 5% from 2021.

    It’s important to note that these numbers have been in decline every year since 2016, so the global COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 was not the turning point for this trend. With fewer new cars being bought in the UK, we may start to see stock ramifications over the coming years in the used market.

    First three quarters of 2021First three quarters of 2022
    New car registrations1.32 million1.2 million
    Used car registrations5.9 million5.3 million
    SMMT data shows a small year on year dip across the new and used car markets this year compared to 2021

    Overall, new cars struggled in 2021 due to semiconductor and chip shortages impacting availability. While this helped to sustain the used car market in 2021, as people turned to nearly-new cars in the absence of new car stock, 2022 has been less resilient. The shortages and low levels of new car sales since 2020 may have led to depleted levels of premium and nearly-new cars on dealerships’ forecourts.

    Despite generally downward market trends, Motorway continues to grow rapidly. During the peak quarter of 2022, the number of used cars sold through Motorway more than doubled versus the previous year. 

    It will come as no surprise to frequent drivers that this year, the ever-popular Nissan Qashqai is the UK’s bestselling new car. It knocked last year’s winner Vauxhall Corsa into second place – both of them rank extremely highly every year. 

    However, the Ford Fiesta (another frequent top-5 car in the UK) had a surge of sales in the third quarter, following news that production will cease for the UK market in 2023. Once figures are released for the whole of 2022 including the fourth quarter, we might see the Fiesta ending up in second, or even first, place!

    It seems likely that the Ford Fiesta will stay popular on the used market for some time too, as drivers will be sad to see this reliable family vehicle phased out. In particular, Ford Fiestas in great condition, or with particularly high spec, or simply nearly-new new models, can all be expected to sell quickly and for strong prices.

    A ford steering wheel
    Though production of the much-loved ‘supermini’ Ford Fiesta will cease in 2023, this car is set to stay popular on the used market for some time.

    In fact, according to Motorway data, the Ford Fiesta is the bestselling used car model this year. Our findings seem consistent with the SMMT reporting that the supermini class (the Fiesta’s official category) kept its more than 30% market share in the 2022 used car market despite general downward trends in other segments.

    If the overall dip in sales numbers over the past few years had anyone worrying that mid-to-top-range car brands would suffer in favour of more affordable and budget competitors, this doesn’t seem to be the case. On the contrary, the most trusted car brands have retained their evergreen popularity.

    To learn more about how to sell your specific car, check out our ultimate guides to different car brands.

    At Motorway, we get a huge range of car brands valued and sold on our site. All sorts of vehicles are represented: everything from Tesla to Smart cars, from Porsche to Dacia. We even help you sell mobility vehicles and financed cars

    With a nationwide network of more than 5,000 verified dealers, here at Motorway we’re confident that we can find a trustworthy and motivated buyer for your car, no matter what  brand or model. Get a free, instant valuation of your car at any time.

    In 2022, the car brands with the highest number of valuations and sales on the Motorway platform were BMW, Volkswagen and Ford. This is no surprise – as stated above, these brands have always enjoyed a major share of the used-car market. In 2021, Ford, Vauxhall, Volkswagen, and BMW accounted for the most-sold used cars in the UK.

    a vauxhall driving
    Vauxhall is one of Motorway’s top-ten car brands, and across the national used-car marketplace, Vauxhall Corsa is the second-most sold passenger car.

    Since these vehicles are known to be reliable and desirable, owners have confidence in achieving a good price for them, rather than opting to run them until they’re too old to stay on the road. This could account for high volumes of these vehicles entering the used market.

    With nearly 10,000 sales of Ford, BMW, and Volkswagen models respectively through Motorway so far in 2022, we can see a strong signal that dealers still have an appetite for buying the quality cars they’ve always favoured.

    Given policy changes such as low emission zones in UK cities, and other incentives to make the switch to EV, we can expect to see EV sales continually increase across the new and used-car markets.

    A en electric BMW charging
    EVs accounted for 7% of all sales on Motorway in September 2022.

    Although overall market figures are down, electrification has been pushing significant growth within the used-car market. EVs accounted for 4% of all used cars sold during the first three quarters of 2022. This is up nearly 20% from the proportion they held in 2021, a clear indication of the public embracing EVs, and, crucially, of people finding affordable routes to EV ownership through the used car market.

    Motorway kicked off 2022 with EVs accounting for 5.6% of sales in January. By September, 7% of all cars sold on Motorway’s network were EVs. Compared to the national level of 4%, Motorway has clearly been leading the charge in facilitating EV sales.

    By far the most popular used EVs in 2022 have been hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), accounting for more than battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) combined. For many drivers, these are the ‘happy medium’ between traditional petrol engines and EVs. 

    They represent better fuel economy than petrol or diesel cars, but don’t need charging like BEVs or PHEVs. The world’s bestselling hybrid car is the Toyota Prius, which was first launched in 1997. They’ve dominated the ‘eco-friendly car’ category for decades, largely because owners have confidence that they won’t run out of range mid-drive, without a charger available.

    However, hybrid vehicles will be phased out in the transition to zero-emission transport, so the distribution of different EV types across the coming years will be interesting to watch. Increasingly, leading car brands are producing plug-in hybrid versions of their existing fossil fuel engine cars, as a quick fix while they’re developing new, higher-performance BEVs.

    EV segmentSales in first three quarters of 2022: UK
    Battery electric vehicles (BEVs)48,000
    Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs)120,000
    Plug-in hybrids (PHEVs)45,000
    Total EVs213,000
    HEVs are leading used EV sales, but this is likely to change over the coming years as BEVs and PHEVs take over on the new car market.

    The best place to sell your car

    If you’re thinking about selling your car quickly and easily, at Motorway we offer a simple – and completely free – method of getting the best price when selling, whatever the model.

    Just enter your reg on the homepage and you will be provided with an instant estimated sale price based on up-to-the-minute market data. We’ll then ask you a few easy questions about your car and guide you through the photos you need to take to complete your vehicle profile. It can be done right from your phone – in a matter of minutes.

    If you choose to enter your car into a daily sale, it will be shown to our nationwide network of more than 5,000 verified dealers looking to add to their stock of used cars. Interested dealers will then compete to buy your car, offering you their best price.

    In as little as 24 hours you will receive your best offer – and, if you choose to go ahead with the sale, your car will be collected for free by the dealer and the money will be quickly and securely transferred to your bank account.

    Is it time to sell your car?

    Want to learn more about owning, maintaining, and selling your car? Check out more of our guides here, covering everything from finding buyers, to negotiating a good price, and completing payment safely.