The rise represents a hike of more than 5%, even though during the final quarter of the year, sales fell 1.9% to 1,645,411 units.
Also during the year, used light commercial vehicles sales surged 8.4% to 761,497 units, the highest year-end total on record.
It came after fourth quarter van sales rose by 2.6% to 172,918 units.
For the year-end, heavy commercial vehicle sales beat 2002 figures by 5.8% at 77,864 units.
Used heavy commercial vehicle sales remained stable over the past three months rising 0.5% to 16,920 units.
SMMT chief executive Christopher Macgowan said: 'The year has ended on an all time high with used sales soaring above 2002's record levels. Success in the used car sector mirrors growth in the new car market and with used LCV and HCV markets also increasing above 2002 records, buyers' confidence in the economy is increasingly evident.'
The figures were provided by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders and revealed the number of transactions of used vehicles in Great Britain, so Northern Ireland sales were not included.