Used Car Prices are Dropping

Posted: Apr 23, 2008 10:03 a.m.

Amid rising gas prices, a tightening credit market, a shaky economy, auto industry strikes and crashing sales figures, we haven't had much good news to report to car shoppers recently.  But this morning, we can offer you one encouraging development: the prices of used cars are declining.

In a press release, the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) revealed late yesterday that "the average prices of used vehicles sold at auctions declined in the first quarter of 2008 from the fourth quarter of last year."  The auctions in question are where used car dealers buy the cars they later try to sell to you.  If they are paying less for the vehicles, then they should be asking less money from buyers as well.

Of course, the news comes with an asterisk.  While prices of used SUVs, pickup trucks and crossover utility vehicles are all declining, used cars are getting more expensive.  The average price dealers paid to buy a passenger car at auction rose 0.4 percent in the first quarter of 2008. 

NADA didn't release sales volume numbers alongside the price data, but if you've paid attention as you drive by the used lot recently, you probably know what's behind the trend.  Drivers are trading in SUVs and other fuel-hungry vehicles as they buy smaller, more fuel-efficient cars -- there is a glut of less-efficient, larger vehicles on used car lots.

Still, if you're interested in an SUV, pickup or crossover, this is a great time to look at used vehicles.

Car shoppers can do efficient research with U.S. News.  We've collected everything published by the automotive press and condensed it into easy-to-use reviews of every make and model at www.rankingsandreviews.com.