Used car prices are starting to fall as new car inventory improves

New car keys exchange hands
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If you’re shopping around for a car, either new or used, you know by now that a huge lack of inventory is driving prices up. But the market is finally starting to show signs of improving.

Cheryl Lucas, like so many car buyers right now, is stunned by high prices for both new and used vehicles.

“It’s ridiculous, people can’t afford them anymore,” she said.

Ford dealer Matt Sander, though, sees some good news on the horizon at his dealership, Woody Sander Ford. While his customers still face long waits for hot sellers like the new Ford Bronco, new cars are finally rolling in again.

“We have Bronco Sports, Escapes, Edges, even F-150s,” he said.

After a year with very little for sale, Sander said, “there is finally quite a selection here.”

Good News for Car Buyers

One year ago, many new car showrooms were empty. That in turn sent buyers outside to the used car lot, causing prices to spike on those used cars.

Now though, as inventory begins to come back in and higher interest rates are causing some buyers to hold off, the pricing pressure is starting to ease on the used models.

According to the automotive site i-See Cars.com, used car prices have improved slightly since January.

But only slightly. The average two- to three-year-old, gently used vehicle costs just 1% less than the new model.

Analyst Karl Brauer of i-See Cars says the difference should normally be closer to 20%.

“Just to get that car, right now, people will take a used one that’s more expensive than a brand new one,” Brauer said. “Because the new ones aren’t around and the used one is sitting right there.”

The full-size Bronco is a prime example.

Since there are year-long waits for a new one, if you can find one at all, one- and two-year-old Broncos are selling for $10,000 over the price of a new one. (The smaller Bronco Sport does not have that price spread, however).

So what can you do? Brauer says:

  • Hold off a little longer if you can: Prices are expected to improve even more this fall.
  • Continue to invest in your current car until then.
  • Look beyond your local market for cars.
  • Always look up the price of the new version before paying a high price for a used model.

“The trick is to find the new one that’s even available,” Brauer said, “or this whole problem wouldn’t exist if the new ones were widely available.”

Dealer Matt Sander is hoping he’ll soon have even more new cars on his showroom floor, though I-See Cars says it could be a year before supply and demand are back to normal.

So start checking with your local dealers to see if they will soon get in the new model that you want, and that way you don’t waste your money.

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John Matarese

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