Diesel cars are a much bigger and more stable part of the used car market, in contrast to the new car market, according to sales figures for 2019 released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

It reported that the UK’s used car market finished 2019 almost on par with the previous year, recording a 0.1% drop following two quarters of growth in the second half, with a total of 7,935,105 transactions, down 9,935 on 2018.

There was continued demand for used petrol and diesel cars, with sales of the latter down just 0.6% to 3,297,953 and a 41.7% market share. In the new car market diesel sales were down 21.8% and held a market share of 25.2%.

Petrol sales fell by an even smaller margin of 0.3% to 4,494,611 transactions. Demand for battery electric vehicles surged 21.8% to 14,112, but this made up just 0.2% of the market.

Combined, alternatively fuelled vehicles (hybrid, plug-in hybrid and battery electric) were up emphatically, increasing 23.4% with 135,516 changing hands and accounting for 1.7% of all sales. Meanwhile, transactions of the latest, cleanest Euro 6 models, available since 2015, were up 32.5% as more of them reached the used market, helping to address air quality concerns.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “It is encouraging to see used car sales return to growth in the latter part of 2019 after a prolonged period of decline, and we need to see a similar rebound in new car sales if we are to meet environmental targets. A buoyant used car market is necessary to maintain strong residual values and, clearly, it is now outperforming the new car market.

“This does, however, suggest that weak consumer confidence and ongoing uncertainty over possible future restrictions on different vehicle technologies are causing some car buyers to hold off buying new models. This is delaying the fleet renewal we need now if we are to deliver immediate and continuous improvement in air quality and climate change.”