You Would Be Crazy to Buy a Used Car Right Now

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey
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you would be crazy to buy a used car right now

I touched on it in the newsier post about used-car prices down below, but in normal times, scribes like us sometimes advise our family and friends who are car shopping to buy used, because a lightly used car can be in like-new condition and cost significantly less. And someone else has taken the initial huge depreciation hit.

These are not normal times.

If someone came to me right now and said they wanted to buy a car, I’d advise them to wait. Let inventories recover from the supply tightness caused by the semiconductor chip shortage. And if they were unable or unwilling to wait, I’d tell them to consider buying new. Especially, of course, if they wanted any of the 16 models that are averaging higher prices used than new that we discussed earlier today.

*To be clear, we’re talking mostly about mainstream metal used for daily driving. This discussion doesn’t apply to classic and/or collector’s cars, used cars more than a few years old, or late-model cars that are desired by enthusiasts (especially hard-to-find ones). Those types of vehicles aren’t part of this discussion for obvious reasons.

And if my hypothetical acquaintance insisted on buying used, I’d tell them they’re crazy (unless, of course, they couldn’t wait to get a car). Even if the car they’re targeting is generally cheaper used.

It’s not just about the cost of new versus used. The constricted supply of new cars is driving the price of used cars up, even if that price doesn’t cross the threshold of what a new car stickers for. Simply put, used cars cost more than they normally would due to temporary market conditions.

Analysts say that the market should return to normal within the next year or so, as the pandemic (hopefully) continues to recede, the chip shortage eases, and other production problems get solved. The number of new-car sales could get back to 16 or 17 million units per year again — that’s where it was not just before COVID, but also way back in the day before the Great Recession hits.

One doesn’t need to be an economist to understand that if that forecast holds true, there will be plenty of new cars that soon become used cars. Thus increasing supply. Not only that, but those who have older cars might finally buy new ones, further increasing supply. Yes, it’s true that older used cars can’t be directly compared to ones that are under three or five years old — the older ones will have more wear, higher mileages, they’ll be more outdated in terms of features, they’ll be out of factory warranty, they will be too old to be certified pre-owned, yadda yadda yadda — but since not every used-car buyer is looking for something of recent vintage, the increased supply could still drag down prices across the board.

Look, we all love new cars around here. Many of us also love slightly used cars. But right now seems like a terrible time to buy.

The good news is that the market should improve, from the buyer’s perspective, soon enough. Patience, in this case, is likely to be rewarded.

[Image: Mikbiz/]

Tim Healey
Tim Healey

Tim Healey grew up around the auto-parts business and has always had a love for cars — his parents joke his first word was “‘Vette”. Despite this, he wanted to pursue a career in sports writing but he ended up falling semi-accidentally into the automotive-journalism industry, first at Consumer Guide Automotive and later at He also worked as an industry analyst at Mintel Group and freelanced for, CarFax,, High Gear Media, Torque News,,, among others, and of course Vertical Scope sites such as,, and He’s an urbanite and as such, doesn’t need a daily driver, but if he had one, it would be compact, sporty, and have a manual transmission.

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  • 28-Cars-Later 28-Cars-Later on Jul 12, 2021

    The start of Q4 would put things a little over a year since this "shortage" started, if by mid Q4 there are not signs the "shortage" has been abated expect it to continue through all of 2022 because it is being made to happen deliberately.

  • Ayliniemi Ayliniemi on Jul 31, 2021

    Yeah been looking at this Ford Ranger with under 10 miles on it getting dusty on the lot. $40,xxx We looked at it about 2 weeks ago. Not exactly flying off the lot? Sales man sent us a picture of it in the E-mail. I'm wondering when these dealers are going to crack. Did you hear about that Mirage they marked up 6k? LOL

  • Carsofchaos The bike lanes aren't even close to carrying "more than the car lanes replaced". You clearly don't drive in Midtown Manhattan on a daily like I do.
  • Carsofchaos The problem with congestion, dear friends, is not the cars per se. I drive into the city daily and the problem is this:Your average street in the area used to be 4 lanes. Now it is a bus lane, a bike lane (now you're down to two lanes), then you have delivery trucks double parking, along with the Uber and Lyft drivers also double parking. So your 4 lane avenue is now a 1.5 lane avenue. Do you now see the problem? Congestion pricing will fix none of these things....what it WILL do is fund persion plans.
  • FreedMike Many F150s I encounter are autonomously driven...and by that I mean they're driving themselves because the dips**ts at the wheel are paying attention to everything else but the road.
  • Tassos A "small car", TIM????????????This is the GLE. Have you even ever SEEN the huge thing at a dealer's??? NOT even the GLC,and Merc has TWO classes even SMALLER than the C (The A and the B, you guessed it? You must be a GENIUS!).THe E is a "MIDSIZED" crossover, NOT A SMALL ONE BY ANY STRETCH OF THE IMAGINATION, oh CLUELESS one.I AM SICK AND TIRED OF THE NONSENSE you post here every god damned day.And I BET you will never even CORRECT your NONSENSE, much less APOLOGIZE for your cluelessness and unprofessionalism.
  • Stuki Moi "How do you take a small crossover and make it better?Slap the AMG badge on it and give it the AMG treatment."No, you don't.In fact, that is specifically what you do NOT do.Huge, frail wheels, and postage stamp sidewalls, do nothing but make overly tall cuvs tramline and judder. And render them even less useful across the few surfaces where they could conceivably have an advantage over more properly dimensioned cars. And: Small cuvs have pitiful enough fuel range as it is, even with more sensible engines.Instead, to make a small CUV better, you 1)make it a lower slung wagon. And only then give it the AMG treatment. AMG'ing, makes sense for the E class. And these days with larger cars, even the C class. For the S class, it never made sense, aside from the sheer aural visceralness of the last NA V8. The E-class is the center of AMG. Even the C-class, rarely touches the M3.Or 2) You give it the Raptor/Baja treatment. Massive, hypersophisticated suspension travel allowing landing meaningful jumps. As well as driving up and down wide enough stairs if desired. That's a kind of driving for which a taller stance, and IFS/IRS, makes sense.Attempting to turn a CUV into some sort of a laptime wonder, makes about as much sense as putting an America's Cup rig atop a ten deck cruiseship.