The 5 trends for the used car market in 2024
Undermined by the Covid crisis, as well as supply-and-price levels that have fluctuated to heights unseen for 30 years – the used car market has lost its characteristic stability over the last 3 years.
autobiz unveils the 5 major trends that will impact the used car market in 2024:
A “return to normal” for UC sales
An increase in the number of vehicles on offer
A trend towards high prices
Strong demand for older vehicles
And more and more electric vehicles
Sales back to 'normal'...
On first reading, 2023 will not have been an exceptional year for used cars: with 4.75 million registrations after 11 months, the market is at its lowest point in 10 years. Although this movement is limited compared with 2022 (-0.8% over the same period), the market is still a long way from the pre-Covid crisis levels reached (5.2 to 5.3 million registrations recorded between 2017 and 2019).
Nevertheless, the trend over the last few months has been much more positive. Since the autumn, the market has been slowly but surely returning to the ‘normality’ of the 2010s. In November 2023 alone, for example, there were 0.44 million registrations, 6% more than in 2022 as well as 2021, and above all quite close to the 0.45 to 0.46 million recorded in 2018 and 2019 respectively.
Building upon this momentum, autobiz forecasts that 2024 will see a return to historical average registration levels of between 5.4 and 5.6 million.
... boosted by an increase in supply...
This expected growth in the market is being driven primarily by the rebuilding of inventories. After being weakened by the pandemic, having faced supply problems with semi-conductors, as well as notable tensions over raw materials, it is important to note that deliveries of new cars are starting to pick up again. This movement is “freeing up” used cars through trade-ins or lease returns. The quantity of equipment necessary to meet demand in 2022 and 2023 was therefore insufficient.
To illustrate, in October 2023, French professionals had 529,251 used vehicles in stock aged 7 years or less. This represents a sharp rise of 33,317 used cars compared with October 2022, and a gap that is narrowing compared with 2021 (-37,343 used vehicles compared with October 2021).
autobiz thus predicts that professional dealers, in 2024, will see a return to vehicle stock levels close to those of 2021, i.e. a monthly average of more than 500,000 vehicles less than 7 years old and approaching the pre-Covid crisis point of 600,000 units per month throughout the year.
... but hampered by strong price momentum
As sales and offers progress, will the sometimes-heretical movements seen between 2020 and 2023 become a thing of the past as we move into 2024? Three fundamental trends run opposingly to this expectation.
The first one is regarding prices. Having gone up steadily since May 2020 – the first time this has happened in 30 years, as vehicles’ value traditionally depreciate over time – prices began to fall again from November 2022, with very significant corrections since April 2023. As a result, used cars entering the market in November 2023 were €400 cheaper than those already on the market (compared with €200 before the crisis).
autobiz anticipates that this meaningful price correction will continue into the first half of 2024, forcing professionals to pay particular attention to anticipate how long it could take for their stocks to be sold.
Strong demand for older equipment
Another notable tension is a certain mismatch between supply and demand. Looking at the figures for the first 11 months of 2023, almost 55% of used car registrations (54.8%) were for vehicles 8 years old or more. Before the Covid crisis, however, these sales oscillated at much lower levels (between 49.6% in 2019 and 52.4% in 2017). Faced with the price rises we have previously mentioned, and the overall problems of purchasing power, this subsequently means that households are being driven to choose older cars with higher mileage/kms than in the past.
As we have already stated, the growth in stocks is mainly concerning more recent vehicles, in particular older cars used for short or long-term hire, which are traditionally less than 6 years old.
These tensions between supply and demand should continue and even intensify during 2024, with two noteworthy impacts: prices for vehicles over 8 years old should hold up better than the rest of the market, and professionals will have to consequently make significant efforts to source these vehicle types, specifically, via cash-to-client repurchases.
And more and more electric vehicles
Thirdly and finally, we cannot look ahead to the 2024 market without shedding some light on the biggest change the market has seen in the last 50 years: the announced market switch to 100% electric vehicles (BEVs). Whilst the increase in sales of new BEVs is too recent to have had a significant impact on the entire UC market, used electric vehicles are becoming a reality regarding recent models.
During the third quarter of 2023, data shows that 7% of professional stocks under 2 years old were indeed BEVs. This is a speculative growth compared with the same period in 2020 (1% of stocks under 2 years old). These volumes are also large enough to calculate solid data. This data shows some very specific features relating to the sale of these vehicles: on average, they are 19% more expensive than their combustion engine equivalents and – on top of that – take 30% longer in which to sell.
autobiz forecasts a sustained increase in used vehicle BEV stocks for 2024, which should exceed 10% of UC stocks less than 2 years old. The difficulties in selling these used vehicles, linked to the increase in supply, are likely to persist. This should prompt professionals to continue their efforts to raise market awareness, and to adopt a very active pricing policy to cushion the impact of this market’s specific characteristics.
Since 2004, autobiz has been supporting all European players in the automotive industry with trade-in and trade-in solutions. This support is based on 19 years of data history as well as web, software, and the business know-how of the company’s 280 employees. Today based in La Défense (92), autobiz also has offices in Berlin, Valencia (Spain) and Milan. autobiz assists more than 20 leaders in used remarketing (manufacturers, bankers, leasers, bidders…) as well as 5,000 points-of-sale in 22 countries across Europe.