Technicians examine a used car in a contest at the 2017 China Used Car Assembly held in Wuhan, Hubei province. (Photo provided to China Daily)
The used car sector is speeding along the fast lane in China, as hurdles that affect its development are disappearing one by one, according to industry insiders.
Statistics from the China Automobile Dealers Association show that just under 1 million used cars were sold in May, a 19 percent increase year-on-year.
The performance brought overall car sales in the first five months to 4.8 million vehicles, up 20.7 percent from the same period last year.
The CADA expects the growth rate to hover around 20 percent, with sales to reach 12 million vehicles this year. China saw 10.39 million used cars sold last year, a 10.41 percent growth year-on-year.
Shen Jinjun, president of the CADA, said one driving force behind this growth is favorable policies.
"By the end of February, local authorities in 135 cities had removed trade barriers on used cars and the results are starting to show," said Shen at the 2017 China Used Car Assembly held in Wuhan, Hubei province.
A survey by Youxin, an online car dealer, shows that over 60 percent of potential buyers in smaller cities would like to choose cars outside their cities because of the limited choice available at home.
Shen said the lack of information transparency, for which the used car sector was notorious, is also improving.
"I once recommended my friends to buy used cars but they would not because they could not get real information about the cars' conditions."
Now things are different, said Shen. Starting from 2015, his organization has been promoting used car certification by third parties to change the situation.
"Credibility is the most important factor for the used car sector to see sustainable development," said Shen.
Many brick-and-mortar markets and internet companies are making their own efforts too.
The Shanghai Used Car Trade Center is home to about 100 car dealers. To attract customers, the center has introduced its own quality system with the help of third-party quality assessment organizations.
"Each day, the cars are examined before they are admitted into the center and the information is made public on our website," said Cai Zhongmin, general manager of the center, adding that some 2,000 used cars are displayed online.
Youxin is doing a similar job but on a much larger scale. Dai Kun, CEO of the internet company, said it is verifying information about some 300,000 used cars a month.
The rise of car evaluation companies is helping customers to know whether used cars are fairly priced, due largely to their vast amounts of data.
Just typing some parameters－including the vehicle's marque, model, age and place of registration－into apps such as Che300, will provide a ballpark price. The website now receives about 3 million visits a day.
Xu Wei, CEO of Che300, said he is planning to offer a function that will help visitors to find what cars they need by asking them several questions.
"The main function of big data is the ability to find out what you want based on information you provide."
Luo Lei, deputy secretary-general of the CADA, said the market itself is becoming more mature.
He said China has 200 million cars on its roads, which means abundant supplies. He added that on average passenger cars in the country are four and half years old, which happens to fall into the age range of most popular used cars in China: three to six years.
Quoting PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates, Luo said used car sales are expected to hit 20 million vehicles in 2020, doubling the 2016 level.
Luo said the market potential has attracted some 1,500 participants in this year's China Used Car Assembly, almost double the number of people at the 2015 event.
Xiao Zhengsan, the CADA's secretary-general, believes that the booming used car sector can also help to stimulate new car sales, which have been slowing down in the Chinese market, as people will be able to buy new cars after they sell their used ones.
Statistics from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers show that passenger car sales totaled 9.42 million in the first five months of the year, edging up 1.5 percent year-on-year.
In the same period, used car sales surged 20 percent year-on-year.
"When it was a seller's market, new car sales stimulated used car sales, but it is now a buyer's market, so used car sales could in turn boost new car sales.
"We now have some 200 million cars on the road. If used cars don't sell, we are not going to see rises in new cars. They are very closely related."