Europeans bet on used cars  

France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK – some of the largest used car markets in Europe – have seen a positive start to 2024. The increase in demand for these vehicles has translated into increased sales in many countries on the Old Continent. This trend may signal the growing appeal of the aftermarket among European consumers looking for more affordable mobility options. It may also indicate an increasing environmental awareness among the public.  

The first quarter of 2024 saw an impressive 7.9% increase in used vehicle registrations compared to the same period in 2023. These optimistic figures were provided by the Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt (KBA). The KBA does not analyse transactions by drive type, which makes it difficult to assess the health of individual technologies.   

Earlier, the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs announced that it will not accept any new applications for subsidies submitted after 17 December 2023.  Thus, the purchase bonus for buyers of electric cars in Germany has become history. With the expiry of the purchase subsidy for new electric cars, it is likely that more and more private buyers interested in zero-emission vehicles will turn to the used car market, which may contribute to an increase in the number of car registrations in this category.  

The National Association of Motor Vehicle, Repair and Spare Parts Dealers (Ganvam) reports that the used car market in Spain grew by 2.7% in the first quarter of 2024, while the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) reports that by the end of 2022, the average age of cars was 13.9 years. By contrast, in the first quarter of 2024, more than 40% of transactions involved models over 15 years old. This is what makes Spain have the oldest car fleet in Western Europe. A key factor in lowering the average age and increasing the proportion of cleaner, low-emission vehicles in the country’s fleet is the greater supply of younger used cars, which will gradually appear on the secondary market at authorised dealers.  

Diesel vehicles accounted for 53.8% of the Spanish used car market. Electric vehicles, on the other hand, accounted for only 2.1%. The country is struggling to encourage buyers to choose BEVs and PHEVs, and new model registrations are also lower than the EU average.   

AAA Data reports that the French used car market grew by 1.9% year-on-year. In 2016, the country introduced mandatory environmental badges and divided them into six categories – from Crit’Air 1 (cleanest vehicles) to Crit’Air 6 (most polluting), with Crit’Air 0 reserved for zero-emission vehicles.   

The first quarter of 2024 has seen an increase in demand for used cars with lower emissions, which has translated into an increased number of transactions of such vehicles on the secondary market. For example, cars with domestic ‘Crit’Air 0’ stickers saw a 92% increase in transactions in January. In contrast, transaction levels for ‘Crit’Air 1’, including plug-in hybrids, Euro 5 and Euro 6 petrol models, increased by 15% in January 2024.   

From 1 January 2024, new regulations on electric car subsidies came into force in France. The new regulations covered more than 70 car models and almost 65% of all electric cars sold in France. The French subsidy programme for the purchase of electric cars, known as the ‘bonusologique’, strongly favours vehicles manufactured on the Old Continent. This may provide an incentive for consumers to buy electric cars, which in the long term may contribute to an increase in demand for this type of vehicle on the aftermarket.  

How do the figures for the first quarter of 2024 look in the UK? The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) reports that the market achieved growth of 6.5% compared to the same period in 2023. Petrol cars accounted for the most transactions (up 7.9%). Diesel engine sales fell by 1.2%. BEV cars (58.1%) and PHEVs (42.2%) scored significant growth.  

Italy’s ANFIA reports that used car transactions increased by 8.5% in the first quarter. New model registrations in the same period recorded an increase of 5.7%. As a result, the growth rate in the domestic used car market proved to be higher than in the new vehicle segment during the period.  

It is worth mentioning that in the first quarter of this year, used vehicle sales increased in all five key European automotive markets for the first time since 2021.   


*source: Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt, Ganvam, AAA Data, SMMT, ANFIA, Autivista24

Anna Celmer
Content Specialist
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