Press release

Petrol closes in on diesel as UK’s most popular fuel type

Petrol and diesel were neck and neck for the top spot in consumer searches on Auto Trader in June, according to the Auto Trader Retail Price Index.

  • Petrol is close to overtaking diesel in popularity on Auto Trader, the UK’s largest digital automotive marketplace
  • Searches for petrol vehicles hit 46% in June as searches for diesel fell to 47%, continuing a long-term decline
  • Hybrid and electric popularity remains low, despite a 67% annual increase in listings
  • The average price of a used car in the UK held flat in June at £12,675

Diesel continued a long-term decline to hit a low of 47% of all searches by fuel type. Petrol, meanwhile, crept up to account for 46% of all searches. This marks a dramatic shift over the last two years; in June 2016, diesel accounted for 71% of searches and petrol just 27%. 

Hybrid and electric popularity remains low despite an increase in listings

Hybrid and electric vehicles are still failing to gain traction with consumers, with searches for alternatively fuelled vehicles (AFVs) totalling just 4% in June.[1] This figure has increased by only two percentage points in the last two years (Jun 2016: 2%), despite growing publicity around electric vehicles and the government’s pledge to end the sales of conventional petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040.

However, the volume of AFVs listed on Auto Trader increased by 67% between June 2017 and June 2018. Petrol hybrids and petrol plug-in hybrids are by far the most common type of AFV sold on Auto Trader, accounting for 85% of all price observations.

Commenting on the findings, Karolina Edwards-Smajda, Auto Trader’s Director of Commercial Products, said: “These figures underline the lack of momentum in electric and hybrid take up to date. Consumers are hearing negative noises around diesel, but confusion and a lack of clarity means they’re responding with either inaction, or by shifting to another fuel type that they know and understand - petrol. Petrol is the clear winner so far from the campaign to ‘demonise diesel’.”

"In the new car market, if current sales trends continue it should only be a few years until AFVs overtake diesel in sales volumes. But to reach this tipping point there is still a lot of work to do to convince consumers that AFVs are a practical and accessible option.”

Average used vehicle prices flat in June

Average used vehicle prices remained steady in June, with a decline in diesel prices balanced by an increase in petrol. The average price of a used vehicle was £12,675, a £1 decrease month-on-month but a £1,016 increase on June 2017. This represents a 7% increase year-on-year on a like-for-like basis (stripping out the impact of changes in the mix of cars being sold[2]).

Used diesel prices pulled down by mid-age vehicles

The average price of a used diesel vehicle listed on Auto Trader was £14,416 in June, a £32 decrease on May but a 6% increase on June 2017 on a like-for-like basis. The month-on-month decrease was driven entirely by vehicles within the five to ten year old age bracket, with month-on-month increases for all other age categories.

Petrol continued to storm ahead, with the average price of a used petrol vehicle increasing by £27 month-on-month to £10,760, 9% up on June 2017 on a like-for-like basis.

Karolina continued: “Prices of younger diesel vehicles continue to rise – the average price of a nearly-new diesel shot up by £107 in June - but this month we’ve seen a drop in price of diesel vehicles in the five to ten year old age bracket.

“Diesel will continue to play an important role for consumers for a long time to come, and it’s important that the government balances its messages on this to avoid alarming and confusing consumers further.”

The Auto Trader Retail Price Index combines and analyses data from c.500,000 trade used car listings every day, as well as additional dealer forecourt and website data (OEM, fleet and leasing disposal prices, in addition to pricing data from over 3,000 car dealership websites and data from major auction houses across the UK), ensuring the Index is an accurate reflection of the live retail market. Auto Trader is the UK’s largest digital automotive marketplace, with more than 450,000 cars listed each day.

Searches on Auto Trader by fuel type graph 

Auto Trader Retail Price Index graph

- ENDS-

About Auto Trader

Auto Trader Group plc is the UK and Ireland's largest digital automotive marketplace. Auto Trader sits at the heart of the UK's vehicle buying process and its primary activity is to help vehicle retailers compete effectively on the marketplace in order to sell more vehicles, faster.

Auto Trader listed on the London Stock Exchange in March 2015 and is now a member of the FTSE 250 Index. The marketplace brings together the largest and most engaged consumer audience.

Auto Trader has around 90% prompted brand awareness and attracts circa 55 million monthly cross platform visits each month, with over 70% of visits coming through mobile devices.

The marketplace also has the largest pool of vehicle sellers (listing around 450,000 cars each day). Around 80% of UK automotive retailers advertise on autotrader.co.uk.

For more information, please contact Amy Hurnell | amy.hurnell@autotrader.co.uk   

[1] On average, 20% of all searches that take place on Auto Trader each month are based on fuel type

[2] Mix is determined by Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders segment, age of vehicle and fuel type

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