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Some popular used cars are no longer affordable to average buyers

Prices up sharply on some of the most in-demand used cars.
Ford
Posted at 5:00 AM, Jan 13, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-13 07:13:51-05

Used car and truck prices are dropping according to the latest government data however, a new report says some popular models once considered to be "affordable" are now anything but.

Robbie Marx is looking for a used van and said one he was looking over for $16,900 will probably sell fast.

"When you do find them, they are gone," he said.

Auto dealer Gary Heflin, owner of Courtesy Automotive, said used car prices remain frustratingly high due to continued new car shortages and higher prices on new cars.

"With limited supplies and higher new car prices, that pushes more people back into that preowned market, keeping demand up," he said.

The online search engine iSeeCars.com recently looked at affordable used-car options, comparing 2019 prices to 2022 prices of 3-year-old cars in good condition. It found 33 vehicles no longer meet its affordable threshold.

They include:

  • The Toyota Rav-4, which increased from $20,000 to $32,000 in three years.
  • The Nissan Maxima, which is up from $20,000 to $30,000.
  • The Honda CR-V, which zoomed from $19,000 to over $30,000.

Other cars on its less affordable list include the Jeep Wrangler, Ford Edge, and Chevy Traverse.
Average buyers frustrated by high used car prices

Karl Brauer of iSeeCars said average Americans can't keep up with those price hikes.

"All these cars that you wouldn't think of as special, unique, expensive cars are technically becoming non-affordable," he said.

In many cases these days, the price of a used 2- or 3-year-old car can rival the price of a brand-new version of the exact same car. In some cases, you might be better off buying a new vehicle if you can find one, and there is no markup or surcharge placed on it.

And with fewer new cars on the lot, iSeeCars said many shoppers are forced to buy 5, 6, even 10-year-old models.

"Maybe they're also putting less money down or they're making a longer loan, taking out a longer loan on a used car," Brauer said.

Worse, Heflin is not expecting many 3-year-old lease trade-ins this spring, because three years ago, we were all in COVID lockdown.

"We're not seeing those lease returns coming back in right now," he said.

Some hope for the future

So what can buyers do? Heflin says don't be afraid of a higher mileage car if the CARFAX report shows it has been well maintained and is accident-free.

He also suggests you get to know a local salesperson who can be on the lookout for used cars coming into their dealership, and let you see them before the ad goes up.

One bright spot: December's Consumer Price Index shows that used car prices are down 2.5% compared to November.

Experts say if car demand drops in 2023, prices should ease a bit.

And that way you don't waste your money.

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