Britons are buying more cars than at any point this millenium as they look to spend cash that won’t quite stretch to buying property.
518,707 new cars were bought in the UK in March, the most since the bi-annual plate change began in 1999 — which meant the first letter age-identifier on car number plates updated twice a year instead of just once.
According to figures published this week by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) this marks a 5.3% year on year rise.
The figure rounded off a record quarter, which saw 770,000 new cars registered.
Demand for alternative fuel vehicles showed a notable increase of 21.5% in the month, the report added, as consumers continued to favour lower emission vehicles with lower running costs.
Meanwhile registrations of both diesel and petrol cars increased, meanwhile, with growing 4.8% and 4.7% respectively.
Ford Fiestas were the biggest selling cars in March, with sales of 23,467, while Vauxhall Corsas were second with 17,368 cars sold.
The public seem to have forgiven Volkwagen for its recent scandal involving software that lied about emissions. It sold 13,041 of its Golf series in March, the fourth most of any car in the UK.
Hinting at Britain’s upcoming referendum on EU membership, Mike Hawes, SMMT’s Chief Executive, said the figures demonstrated a recovering economy but much more growth shouldn’t be expected:
“The sector’s strong growth in March rounds off a robust first quarter as British consumers continue to demonstrate their appetite for new cars, especially ultra-low emission vehicles. This consumer confidence should see registrations remain at a high but broadly stable level over the year but could be undermined by political or economic uncertainty.”
But strong car sales are in contrast the consumer confidence in property.
As Business Insider previously reported, UK property funds saw a net retail outflow of £119 million ($171 million) in February, suggesting investors expected a slowdown or crash in the sector.
Meanwhile prices in the London luxury property market dropped in 2015 and are “unlikely to grow” in 2016.
Britons who are cash rich or able to borrow thanks to low interest rates may see buying a car as the next best thing to an unaffordable house, particularly as the average British home value crossed £200,000 for the first time last week.