A sharp rise in home deliveries triggered by public movement restrictions and self-isolation measures in the Covid-19 crisis has led to a boom in online LCV sales, according to digital vehicle retailer Buyacar.co.uk.
Urgent demand for replacement vans from tradespeople and key workers has also driven up volume, the firm claims.
Buyacar revealed van sales increased 20-fold as a proportion of total vehicle sales in March while searches for LCVs rose 30% as a proportion of website enquiries about vehicle types.
It says daily applications for vehicle finance from the self-employed currently represents almost a quarter of customer activity on the platform, despite the fact that overall, just 15% of the UK workforce is self-employed.
Buyacar says while total vehicle sales are down, with much of the retail motor industry shut down and discretionary purchases grinding to a halt, essential purchases are continuing, with the stronger performance of vans driven not only by the boom in home delivery services but also by demand from parcel couriers and those carrying out essential or emergency work, such as plumbers and electricians.
BuyaCar chief executive Andy Oldham said: “These figures reveal a very different market than normal and provide a stark illustration that for many people a new vehicle is not a discretionary purchase but a necessity.
“In 18 years of operation we have never seen much change in the proportion of van sales compared with cars, but to see a 20-fold increase in just one month shows just how Covid-19 is currently changing everything.
“To be clear, this is not a boom in commercial vehicle sales but a massive realignment in their significance to many of our customers, the people for whom a reliable vehicle is a necessity rather than a want.
“As one of the few national [vehicle] suppliers remaining open, we continue to review our operations daily and pledge to help those who need to change their vehicle for as long as we can do so reliably and safely.”