Used Car Prices Have Increased 30 Percent

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

We’ve been covering the staggering increase of automobile pricing all year, starting with the second-hand surge created by rental industries sucking up used models to replace all the vehicles they dumped during the pandemic. A year of suppressed demand and prolonged restrictions absolutely crippled supply chains and placed the automotive sector in an extremely difficult position going into 2021. We wish we could say things were improving but the most heartening news we’ve come across was the possibility that select manufacturers might soon have a line on semiconductor chips — hopefully encouraging new vehicle production.

But the used market is still heading into uncharted waters. According to data collected by CarGurus, the typical price for a used automobile increased by about 30 percent against this time last year. Though more worrying is how much of that spike is consolidated within the last 90 days.

While no segment or brand has managed to avoid price inflations, used pickup trucks saw the largest increases with today’s average transaction swelling to 44.21 percent larger against 2020 rates. The rest hovered between 15 and 31 percent, with rates depending almost entirely on the popularity of the body style. Electric vehicles also saw an increase in value on the secondhand market, despite having one of the worst deprecation curves imaginable. Still, most data sheets we saw had used EVs trading at prices only a few percentage points higher (e.g. 6 percent for Tesla) than they would have been this time in 2020 while minivans had gone up in value by 22 percent.

While the list has some defunct brands (e.g. Saturn) seeing huge boosts in valuation, it’s likely more useful to keep tabs on existing brands. High-volume companies seemed to see the largest increases in pricing and pickup-centric nameplates tended to be at the top of the curve. Secondhand Ram, Ford, GMC, and Chevrolet products were all trading ownership at rates over 37 percent higher than this period in 2020. So was Aston Martin, which isn’t known for pickups and kind of mucks up the theory. The rest of the pack still saw sizable pricing increases over the same timeframe, with only premium Italian brands and Tesla managing to stay below double digits on the used market.

But not every study was as grim as the one furnished by CarGurus. Though it could be due to most of them not having figures from May and the pricing increase seemingly hitting the hardest over the last two months. In fact, valuations actually dipped slightly at the start of 2021 before commencing their ascension in the middle of March. We’ll be watching to see if outlets like iSeeCars and Cox Automotive paint a similar picture later this month.

Though we doubt they’ll be putting together a report that looks contrastingly sustainable. Pricing is getting out of control and if things don’t turn around soon, the big problem will be about things more immediate than how much money people are willing to spend on their next vehicle.

[Image: LM Photos/Shutterstock]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Dukeisduke Dukeisduke on Jun 08, 2021

    This has really screwed things up for our family. It's just about time to buy a first car for Daughter No. 3, and the Kia Forte that was $5600 a year ago is now $8000. The only upside at the moment is that Daughter No. 2's 2014 Forte is at the body shop for a driver's side sideswipe repair, and the estimate went from GEICO's $2000, to the body shop's estimate + supplement of $4500. I'm hoping that the value of the car has increased enough to prevent it being totaled - there's no structural damage, it's just that GEICO left a lot of stuff off of the estimate (what else is new?).

    • See 1 previous
    • Teddyc73 Teddyc73 on Jun 09, 2021

      How about giving your poor daughters a break and stop buying them cheapo Kias.

  • Teddyc73 Teddyc73 on Jun 09, 2021

    The man with dementia in the White House and his puppet masters will solve the problem. I'm SURE of it.

  • Glennbk Please Mitsubishi, no more rebranded Nissan products.
  • Wolfwagen What I never see when they talk about electric trucks is how much do these things weigh and how much does that detract from the cargo-carrying capacity?
  • Wolfwagen I dont know how good the Triton is but if they could get it over here around the $25K - $30K They would probably sell like hotcakes. Make a stripped down version for fleet sales would also help
  • 3SpeedAutomatic You mentioned that Mitsubishi cars had lost their character. Many brands are losing that that element as well. GM is giving up on the ICE Camaro and Dodge on the ICE Challenger. There goes the Bad Boy image. Might as well get your teeth pulled and dentures put in place. Would like to see a few EVOs with cherry bomb exhaust and true 4 cylinder BIG blower turbos; 4 wheel drift capacity is mandatory!!🚗🚗🚗
  • Tassos Here in my overseas summer palace, I filled up my tank twice in May, at 68 and 52 euros (a full 90+ liter tank fillup has taken 130-135 Euros in the past, and I am 23 miles from downtown here, while only 1-2 miles in the US)Still, diesel here is MUCH cheaper than gas. Yesterday, I paid 1,488 a liter while gas was at least 1,899 (regular).Multiply by almost 4 for gallons AND by an additional 1.1 for $.