Digital used car sales in UK soared during pandemic

07 September 2021 3 min. read
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Second-hand car app heycar has enjoyed a strong year, with the coronavirus crisis pushing many consumers online in the hunt for their next vehicle. A new study has shown the number of enquiries to dealers made through heycar in the UK rose by more than 200% in the first months of lockdown.

The UK’s second-hand car market exploded as a result of the pandemic, according to the most recent figures. Second-hand car sales ballooned by 108% in the second quarter of 2021 alone, more than doubling amid a shortage of new models. Shortfalls in production linked to supply-chain disruption played a big role in this, but so did the economic havoc wrought by the Covid-19 crisis, with many consumers now looking for cheaper alternatives when purchasing their next vehicle.

As a result, more than 2.2 million vehicles changed hands in recent months, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). So drastic was the boost that the number of second-hand car sales was even up 6.6% on pre-pandemic levels in 2019.

Heycar Timeline and Geographical Expansion

Amid this resurgence in popularity for used cars, second-hand automotive app heycar is thriving. Designed and developed by Volkswagen in collaboration with BCG Digital Ventures, the digital arm of Boston Consulting Group, heycar was created to compete with the large existing car websites who previously dominated the market, by offering quality control for consumers and secure lead generation for dealers. After early success in Germany, the app moved into the UK market in 2019.

Now, a new report from heycar and BCG Digital Ventures has surveyed 1,000 people from across the UK, to find that the app is ideally positioned to make the most of the current boom in used car trading. The lockdown months saw more and more customers turn to online platforms to do their shopping for all kinds of products, and cars were no exception to that. Among the findings, the study revealed that 38% of those to buy a used care in the last year did so on a website, compared to 37% who went to physical dealerships.

Speaking on the shift online, Mark Zaleski, UK Managing Director at BCG Digital Ventures, said, "heycar paved the way for the digitisation of the used car trade long before the pandemic. The platform allows customers to manage the entire purchase process online, enabling retailers to explore the digital market and to communicate their offerings online to more customers."

heycar‘s Strong Performance After the Onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic

heycar is already reaping the rewards of the changes it helped facilitate, too. Between March and June 2020, the company enjoyed an 84% increase of number of sessions on its platform, as well as a 247% boost to the number of enquiries to dealers made through heycar. Both these figures were more than double the growth rate of heycar’s German operations – illustrating the unique opportunity the digital used car space in the UK now represents.

Even after the end of lockdown, it does not look like consumer behaviour will revert to old habits, either. While more than 25% of those polled in the UK said they would consider buying cars online in the future, 31% added that they could imagine making a decision to buy a car based on a virtual inspection, even if the pandemic was to end.

Florian Schlieper, CEO of the heycar Group, commented, "Last year, we were able to further expand our position as a leading digital platform for high-quality used cars and services... The growing customer base allows us to further strengthen the quality and quantity of our leads for action. The survey results underline the relevance of our offerings, which cover both online and offline sales.”