Profile of used car demand likely to change in winter, says Startline

06 Oct 2020

The profile of used car demand is likely to change as we head towards winter, with increasing numbers of buyers entering at the lower end of the market, says Startline Motor Finance.

CEO Paul Burgess said that as the issue of commuting during the pandemic became more acute and as weather conditions started to worsen, the focus was likely to shift increasingly towards finding alternative affordable, practical transport.


He said: “At Startline, we’ve previously talked at some length about the post-lockdown used car sector being split into ‘like to spends’ and ‘need to spends’ but the truth is that the former have very much been powering the market. Average vehicle prices have markedly increased and there’s been high demand for prestige vehicles, sports cars and convertibles.


“Conversely, ‘need to spends’ have only been buying a used car when it was essential - but what we believe will probably happen now is that we see more of them entering the market as winter begins to bite and what looks like being the second wave of coronavirus increasingly makes itself apparent.


“People who have been using public transport to get to work through the last few months may well become increasingly worried as the risks of infection appear to grow, while others who have been cycling or even walking to work during the spring and summer will want an alternative once conditions become darker, colder and wetter.


“The only practical solution to these needs in the majority of cases is a used car and there is some feedback appearing from retailers to suggest that demand in this part of the market is already picking up.”


Paul said it was clear to Startline from its underwriting activity that the coronavirus crisis had hit these lower earners much harder than people with disposable income.


“From what we can see about their financial situation, it is obvious that many of these people have seen their income fall, sometimes substantially, and often their expenses have risen at the same time. They very much fall into the ‘just about managing’ category.


“As car buyers, their priorities will tend to be much different from the ‘like to buy’ sector. They want low cost, reliable, value for money transport that will not spring unexpected expenses. Retailers who are able to create propositions that meet their needs are likely to be successful in the next few months.


“From a motor finance point of view, there is a something approaching a responsibility to help these people. While some lenders have tightened their criteria and may have made it trickier for ‘need to buys’ to borrow, we find that, in the vast majority of cases, their budgeting and money management is very good. The economic times may be full of greater uncertainty, but these car buyers remain reasonable credit risks.


“I’d stop short of suggesting that the industry has a moral responsibility to lend to people in this position because responsible underwriting must always be at the core of any motor finance business but our view is that, even if it means slowing the application process down, it is worth taking a really good look at those who find themselves in these tricky positions during the pandemic, even talking to them, and gathering as much information as possible in order to make a really well-informed final decision.”