Dealer inventories fall to six month low in March as online used car searches remain high, reports eBay Motors Group

Used car stock levels hit a six month low in March as dealers grappled with the challenge of replenishing forecourts as buyer demand remained robust, according to eBay Motors Group’s latest Market View.

Average stock levels dropped to 50 units in March, down from 52 in February, marking the third consecutive monthly fall. This follows a series of month-on-month improvements dating back to last summer which resulted in the average peaking at 59 units in December.

The brunt of March’s fall was felt by franchised dealers who saw stock levels drop 12% from 78 to 69 units, contrary to the expected uplift from part-exchanges traditionally generated by the new car plate-change. For the same period last year franchised sites saw an uplift from 69 to 73 units.

Car supermarket stocks dipped at a slower rate, down 2% from 293 to 288 units, while independents averaged 33, a level that has remained static since January.

Although average advertised prices on dropped 1.6% month-on-month from £18,774 to £18,474, the fall was mostly driven by a change in the mix of cars on the site with proportionately more older cars exacerbated by the shortage of younger vehicles.

Price increases were seen in the 2-5 year (0.7% / £144) and 5-10 year (0.5% / £64) segments, with price drops seen in under 2 year old (-0.6% / -£191) and over 10 year old (-2.2% / -£162).

The biggest month-on-month price improvement was for the diesel-engined Peugeot 308 (6-8 years), which jumped 14% to £8,937. While price realignments for some electric vehicles (EVs) continued with the Volkswagen e-Golf (3-4 years) down 8.5% to £18,093, Hyundai Ioniq (2-3 years) down 7% to £18,606 and Nissan Leaf (4-5 years) down 7% to £16,652.

Days to sell reduced month-on-month from 42 to 39, with faster sales achieved across all three retail sectors. Car supermarkets improved from 31 to 28 days, franchised dealers from 32 to 30 days and independent dealers from 52 to 49 days.

“March saw dealers continue to sell used cars quickly, albeit from depleted inventories, with a slight softening in overall prices driven by the industry-wide shortage of younger cars,” said Lucy Tugby, Marketing Director of eBay Motors Group.

“Part-exchanges from the March debut of the 23-plate were not sufficient to grow franchised inventories, but we hope will provide a boost going into April.

“Demand has remained high in March with strong volumes of online searches but there are signs of consumer caution when making a lead; we believe this shows buyers are understandably waiting to see how the economy plays out, especially following another rise in interest rates.

“As we head into the Easter holiday period, traditionally a good time for car buyers to go online and visit showrooms, dealers need to factor in these consumer dynamics and consider dialling up their marketing messages around affordable monthly payments, the benefit of warranties and aftersales care,” said Tugby.