Used Car Prices Are Going up (And It Doesn’t Look like They’re Going to Stop Anytime Soon)

October 6, 2021
Written by: Zach Shefska
Categories: Car Buying , Used Cars

Updated 10/23/21

Another week of data, and another clear-as-day sign that conventional wisdom no longer holds true; used cars are appreciating assets. For the past 18 months, used cars have increased in value rather than decrease. The old adage “you lease things that depreciate, and buy things that appreciate” (thank you for that Paul Getty) used to apply to cars quite easily, however nowadays it does not.

In this post we’ll run through the latest data on used vehicle appreciation. Which types of vehicles are increasing in value the most, what specific cars have seen the biggest increase in value as a result of the ongoing chip crisis, and when do we expect used car prices to reach their peak. We’ll touch on that, and more. Let’s dive in.

Overall Used Car Market Update

Let’s start with the big picture. Data form Black Book shows that wholesale used car prices are up nearly 40% from the beginning of 2021. In the graph below 2021 is the purple line. You can see the insane increase in price as compared to last year, 2019, and 2009.

black book wholesale used car prices 2021

Retail prices are increasing as well, but not as rapidly as wholesale prices. Retail prices are up 28% from the beginning of 2021. Again, you can compare this year to those in the recent past. The price increase is truly remarkable.

Black Book used car retail price chart 2021

A major issue facing car dealers is the fact that used car inventory levels are much lower than they should be. Again, the purple line shows 2021, and you can see that dealers have 17% fewer used vehicles listed for sale right now as compared to the beginning of this year.

Black Book used vehicle listing volume chart for 2021

Black Book, which produces a weekly report, has tracked seven straight weeks of wholesale used vehicle price gains. Weekly price increases have become larger in recent weeks, indicating that the supply and demand of used vehicles is again going “out of whack.”

Black Book weekly used car price increases October 2021
cars with the most & least inventory by brand

Recent Q3 earnings reports from the major automakers make it clear why used car prices are ticking back up. GM reported a 33% decrease in sales year over year for the third quarter. This is a direct result of chip shortage, and GM’s inability to produce more new vehicles. Other American manufacturers saw their Q3 numbers take a dive. Ford’s sales were down 27% for example.

So long as new car manufacturers cannot produce vehicles, used car prices will continue to climb.

What types of cars are increasing in value the most?

Used car appreciation has been uniform across all makes, models, and trims, however some body styles and classes of vehicles have seen the most aggressive price increases.

Black Book weekly used car price increases October 2021 broken down by segment

Mid-size and compact cars have seen incredible price appreciation over the past few weeks. This is because their price point is more “affordable” compared to everything else. We use the term “affordable” loosely here, because in the past you could find a decent used car for less than $15,000, however nowadays they are few and far between.

@zachshefska

##usedcar prices are through the roof … the ##mitsubishi ##mirage is up 50% year over year 🥵🤔🧐

♬ The Home Depot Beat – The Home Depot
Black Book weekly used suv and truck price increases October 2021 broken down by segment

Similarly to cars, we’ve seen rapid appreciation of compact crossovers and SUVs. The most aggressive appreciation has been seen amongst sub-compact luxury crossovers. Week over week Black Book shows a 1.06% increase in wholesale prices for sub-compact luxury crossovers. That’s insane! Vans also continue their rapid appreciation as well.

Thanks to research from iseecars, we know that the Mitsubishi Mirage is the car that has appreciated the most over the past year. Up nearly 50% year over year, the Mirage has increased in value rapidly due to the fact that it is one of the remaining few “affordable” (again we use that word loosely) cars in the market.

We recently published data on which brands have seen their new and used prices increase the most (and least) year-over-year: https://joinyaa.com/guides/which-brands-prices-have-increased-the-most-least-in-2021/

Which Brand’s Prices Have Increased The Most & Least in 2021?

Are any used cars depreciating?

No. From all of the data we’ve been able to get our hands on, it looks like there isn’t a single style of vehicle or particular nameplate that is not increasing in value right now. We know that certain vehicles are appreciating less than others, however all vehicles are increasing in value right now.

Luxury vehicles, and in particular luxury SUVs are appreciating much less rapidly than other vehicles. Take for example the Mercedes-Benz GLC, it has only appreciated 8% year over year. This further reinforces the theory for why the Mirage has increased in value nearly 50%; consumers need affordable and attainable used cars, not expensive and luxurious ones.

How long will used car prices keep going up?

Although our crystal ball has been notoriously cloudy here at YAA, we feel confident in saying that used car prices will continue to increase well into 2022. Even when automakers get production back up to speed for new vehicles, there will be lingering effects from this period of time where they have not been able to produce at expected capacity.

Also, the price to produce new vehicles has gone up. As a result of the chip shortage (and other supply chain issues), we expect MSRP on new vehicles to be considerably higher than before. Why? Because the manufacturers costs are increasing, and they will likely pass that along to the consumer. As a result, the demand for used cars will continue to be high because used cars (especially vehicles like the Mitsubishi Mirage) will be the only “attainable” price point vehicles for many people.

For these reasons, we think week over week, and month over month used car price increases will continue for at least another 12 months.

When should I sell my used car?

If used car prices are likely going to continue to appreciate, it would make sense to hold onto your used vehicle and wait to sell it. That being said, our best recommendation is to track the value of your used vehicle weekly. To do this we encourage you to use the “value my vehicle” section of your YAA account. You should also get quotes from Carvana, Vroom, CarMax, etc.

There may be small fluctuations in price from week to week, but we expect the price of your vehicle to gradually increase overtime. The indicator for when to sell will be when you see week over week declines in the value of your vehicle.

If You’re Buying a Used Car …

Our recommendation has been, and will continue to be to stop buying cars! We’re so passionate about this that we even made a website: http://stopbuyingcars.com/

However, if you need to buy a used car right now, here’s what you need to remember.

How to value if it’s a fair deal

The only way to know if you’re getting a fair deal is to get the out-the-door price from the seller and then compare that to the vehicle’s value. To get the out-the-door price follow this guide:

To know if the vehicle’s price is fair, we encourage you to run the VIN through the YAA vehicle valuation page and to also get a quote from Carvana to see what they would pay to buy the car right now. If the Carvana quote is close to what you are paying for the vehicle, then it’s likely a pretty fair deal.

Get a pre-purchase inspection

In today’s market, with “rougher” used cars for sale it is critically important that you get a pre-purchase inspection done on the vehicle you are thinking of purchasing. We have heard too many horror stories of people buying used cars “as-is” and then getting stuck with a piece of junk. Avoid that, and get a PPI!

Consider an extended warranty from YAA

Last but not least, consider getting an extended warranty on your used vehicle. YAA partnered with AUL Corporation to sell vehicle service contracts with a flat markup, transparent pricing, and free consultations with an Auto Advocate. If we can help you protect your use car, we want to. More on that here: https://joinyaa.com/extended-warranty/

Not sure where to begin?

Take a look at our curated 'Start Here' resources or explore and ask questions in the community forum

1 Comment

  1. Dave Nelson

    Can you tell us what buying programs like Costco and Sam’s Club are doing?

    Reply

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