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Used car search data reveals that tomorrow belongs to hybrid cars - but supply must improve

Used car search data reveals that tomorrow belongs to hybrid cars - but supply must improve

INSIGHTS into the minds of motorists have been revealed by contrasting what visitors to a major online used car supermarket look for – and what they end up buying.

Analysis of up to one million searches per month on reveals that hybrid models are now the only type of car showing consistently increasing interest across every one of Britain’s 10 biggest urban areas.

But, in a sign of cost-consciousness and limited availability, the vast majority of used car buyers are still settling for petrol – and diesel sales have even shown an increase on 12 months ago.

Meanwhile, the size of the challenge for electric vehicle (EV) adoption is revealed by a still ‘patchy’ level of interest across different geographical areas – although Glasgow stands out as the place where interest in evs has risen more than that for hybrids.

Buyacar analysts looked at the contrast between the lockdown-beleagured market of May 2020 and the soaring recovery market of May this year, when demand began to outstrip supply.

They compared two key figures; the absolute increase or decrease in searches for particular fuel types and the change in overall share for fuel type searches.

Britain’s 10 biggest centres of population were chosen for the analysis*, with smaller town and rural areas still to be studied.

Headline findings include:

  Hybrids have seen the biggest increase in search-for-fuel-type share everywhere except Glasgow, where evs have risen most

  Petrol is still the go-to fuel choice everywhere, maintaining a share ranging from 34.5% for searches by Sheffield motorists to 46.1% of Londoners

  Searches for diesel cars have increased more than for petrol models in Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, Newcastle and Bristol

  Hybrid is the only fuel type to have seen an increase in searches across the board – ranging from an 18% rise in London to a jump of 111.8% in Manchester

  Searches for used evs vary more widely than for any other fuel type, ranging between a reduction of 25.6% in Liverpool to doubling or rising by even more than that in Nottingham, Glasgow and Manchester

Buyacar analysts also note a continuing gap between searches for fuel type and eventual purchases but point out that hybrid sales have shown the biggest increase over the past 12 months.

In the depressed market of May 2020, hybrids accounted for just 0.5% of sales on, jumping to 4.2% in May of this year. However, this share of less than one in 20 sales does not reflect the huge increase in searches for hybrids. Analysts suggest that the majority of motorists who arrive on are eventually tempted by the typically lower prices of today’s highly efficient petrol and diesel cars.

They may also be conscious of government plans to phase out new internal combustion engine (ICE) cars, but calculate that this is too far ahead to influence their choices today.

However, the rapidly growing interest in hybrids, revealed in millions of searches by motorists shopping for their next car, strongly indicates an initial intention to buy one. This leads buyacar to suggest that an increase in supply of used hybrids would unleash a wave of buying by increasing availability while helping to reduce the price premiums they typically command.

Christofer Lloyd, Editor of, said: “This unique analysis opens a window on the initial intentions or hopes of online used car customers, while our actual sales data reveals that what they eventually decide to buy is almost always different.

“While it’s easy to suggest that the way to boost hybrid sales is an increase in choice along with greater availability, we cannot ignore the fact that the current market is facing unprecedented challenges in supply across the board.

“There are simply not enough cars of any type to meet demand in this fast-recovering used car market, which means that a sufficient boost to hybrid supply remains somewhere over the horizon.

“The other interesting aspect of our search data to note is the volatility we see in EV searches, which appear to follow no particular pattern. With the exception of Glasgow and Nottingham, the increase in searches for evs is still outstripped by those for hybrids.

“This suggests that for most motorists looking to move away from the traditional petrol or diesel car, a hybrid is the most likely next step before the eventual adoption of a full EV.”

Changes in searches by fuel type on between May 2020 and May 2021* 










% of most popular fuel type

Biggest increase in % share










Petrol 46.1%











Petrol 38.7%











Petrol 37.9%











Petrol 34.8%











Petrol 36.9%











Petrol 34.5%











Petrol 40.5%











Petrol 45.1%











Petrol 45%











Petrol 40%


*Figures exclude searches where fuel type was not specified

*Article Source

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