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The rise of electric vehicles

One exception to the trend of falling sales is electric vehicles. Battery electric and plug-in hybrid car sales grew substantially to account for more than one in 10 registrations. Demand for battery electric vehicles almost tripled compared to the previous year.

Data from carwow showed that the Volvo XC40, a hybrid-engine car was the most-sold vehicle on the site in September; the Ford Puma, another hybrid, was the sixth biggest seller.

There are cost-saving benefits to an electric vehicle. Running costs on an electric car are lower, as refueling is cheaper and there is no road tax to pay, which does pay back some of the additional cost over time.

However, the combination of solid demand and fewer cars means discounted electric and hybrid vehicles are harder to find. Lee Griffin of GoCompare, the online comparison site, said that he expected the price of electric and hybrid cars to come down to match those of conventionally powered vehicles over time, but they remain more expensive.

Dan Hutson, of price comparison site comparethemarket.com, added: “Given how comparatively new electric vehicles are, there remains less choice and they can often be more expensive.” In addition, many potential buyers are put off due to ‘range anxiety’, the fear being short of energy and unable to find somewhere to charge the car. 

Buying second hand

While new car sales have fallen, the used car market has been buoyant. In September the AutoTrader Retail Price Index recorded the largest ever monthly increase on its website. 

The online second-hand marketplace looked at sales of vehicles in September and found the average price of a car sold had risen 7.6pc compared to the previous year.

Petrol and diesel car prices rose faster than electric vehicles. In September, the average price of a used petrol car was £12,480, an increase of 8pc on 2019. Diesel cars cost on average £14,710, a 7.8pc rise.

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