Features & Interviews

Van auctions sector: A feeling of optimism

03 May 2023 #Features & Interviews

Despite the fact that the UK is currently experiencing challenging economic conditions, feedback from the auctions sector is that so far this year, demand for vans has been excellent, with transport operators keen to stock up.

Over the past few weeks, LCV auctions have continued to report booming demand, with large numbers of commercial vehicles being sold online or in the halls and auction houses optimistic about their prospects for the rest of the year.

For example, BCA said LCV values climbed during the first quarter of 2023, to reach an average of nearly £10,000 during March 2023, their highest point since July of last year.

Average LCV values rose by £126 in March compared to February, to reach £9,977, and sold volumes improved significantly as BCA offered about 700 LCVs daily across its online sales programme.

Performance against price guides also averaged 102.6% during March.

BCA’s weekly valuation reports for March show that average values climbed steadily above £10,000 for the first time since January, despite sold volumes being significantly higher in March.

Stuart Pearson, BCA COO UK said: “Our data shows improving average values, excellent buyer engagement and rising volumes of LCVs sold during the first quarter of 2023, a more positive sales performance than many might have expected given the difficult economic conditions that continue to impact the small business sectors.

“Retail demand remains upbeat according to anecdotal reports from professional buyers and this is helping to support stable values in the wholesale used LCV sector.”

Meanwhile, for Manheim, buyer feedback has highlighted key components that are underpinning current demand for vans through its auction halls.

It believes the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) rollout is having an impact on certain parts of the country, with a number of dealers reporting increased Euro-6 demand from customer enquiries.

Plus, as the financial year draws to an end and tax bills are settled, Manheim says many buyers are reporting a positive sentiment from their customers, with many now looking to upgrade or add vehicles to meet either compliance or business demand health for 2023.

Stuart Peak, National LCV Manager, Manheim said: “Overall, this was the perfect start to the year we had all hoped for, with increased stock levels and a very buoyant market.

“Physical and online attendance at all sales events remains excellent, and that has continued into April which traditionally can be one of the more challenging months of the year.”

Peak said that most sectors performed well in March, but that Manheim saw outstanding performance from panel van, minibus and fridge panel vehicles.

Half of everything the auction house sold in March was a panel van, with first-time conversions for these vehicles being 85%, and average prices at just over 102% guide.

On the other hand, fridge box vehicles achieved 80% of guide values throughout the month, but first-time conversions remained consistent at 80%.

Peak added: “We have also seen an abundance of small vans entering the lanes and we expect to see this trend continue over the coming months.

“Partner, Berlingo, Connect, Combo and Doblo all sold very well, and with stock in our sales to suit every budget, everyone was well catered for.”

The National Association of Motor Auctions (NAMA) says that as a whole, commercial vehicles are performing well, both in terms of price performance and conversion rate, with no immediate signs of this trend dropping off.

However, it does strike a note of caution that vans reaching 100,000 miles and more have been experiencing a drop off in value.

Paul Hill, spokesman for the organisation, said: “NAMA Members are reporting with sustained optimism.

“There are anecdotal references that demand has dampened slightly in the retail market, which is to be expected during the Easter holiday period. But overall, the market is still robust and sales are up.”

Aston Barclay returned to a 100% physical auction model for its 15 weekly sales from 1 February, following an increase in attendance in the halls.

It marked the first time the auction group had driven all used LCVs through the halls since March 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic began.

Since April 2021, the company had been running a hybrid physical and online option for buyers for LCV stock.

All used stock continues to be available for online buyers with one-third of vehicles predicted to be purchased digitally and two-thirds by buyers in the auction halls.

Tom Marley, Aston Barclay’s group chief executive said: “Our most recent buyer survey showed that our customers appreciate the choice of buying channels – either in person or online.

“This move to a 100% physical sales programme is a response to the changing needs of our customers, especially as the type of vehicle buyers seek may be changing.”

With regards to second-hand electric LCVs, these will take time to filter through to the used market, in line with the recent growth seen in new electric LCV uptake. During 2022, some 12,759 new BEV vans took to the road, a 5.9% share of the market, up from 3.6% in 2021. As of the end of 2022, around one in 100 vans in use are electric.

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